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(This game is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch for $19.99)
I have come to terms with the fact that I have not been doing enough game reviews as of late. I used to do them on a weekly/bi-weekly basis, but after a bit, I found myself slowing down on them. If I want to be a good game reviewer, I have to put out more reviews more often. To start us off with this new rebooting of reviews, let’s take a look at the newly enhanced rerelease of Tribute Games’ Mercenary Kings for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (the version I got), PlayStation Vita, and PC. In terms of what I think about Tribute Games, I find their games full of personality and charm, but I haven’t always enjoyed their lineup of games. I know many people like Curses ‘N Chaos and Ninja Senki DX, but I just couldn’t get into them. Not bad games, but not my cup of tea. Luckily, I had a lot of fun with Mercenary Kings, even if I found some flaws with it.
Mercenary Kings follows the exploits of a ragtag team of resistance fighters called The Kings, who are on Mandragora Island to stop an evil force known as CLAW. The story is nothing special, but more or less in the same vein as the 80s G.I. Joe cartoon with goofy villains and over-the-top lead characters. Yes, it’s one of those games that puts more time into its gameplay than the actual story, but the interactions are decent enough for you to care about the characters.
Mercenary Kings is a 2D action shooter that is like most 2D shooters you have played, like Contra and Metal Slug. The unique aspect of this game comes in the form of its design layout. Like in Monster Hunter, you will have a base camp, where you can take on missions that will be set in different levels, in which you are timed to either kill certain soldiers, rescue rebels, take down a boss, or find materials to craft new weapons, bullets, knives, and upgrades for your characters. You have a slew of different gun parts to craft that will give you more ammo, more damage, light or heavy weight, different bullets, more bullets, less bullets, poison bullets, fire bullets, and so on. Your knives also have different stats, but not as complex as the gun customization. Outside of the gun and knife weapon, you can jump, dodge roll, use C4s, grenades, rations, riot shields to block bullets, and health packs to make sure you don’t die. This can be a rather tough game, with different enemies, the fact that you lose reward money if you die during the mission, and a timer is set so you had better get the mission done in that amount of time or else you fail. It’s a game that demands that you go at the right pace around the levels. You don’t want to take too much time, due to the clock going down, but you don’t want to rush it and end up getting rushed by enemies. Outside of the gameplay, you can play this game online or in couch co-op with friends in online or local multiplayer. Plus, since I got a code for it on the Switch, you can make it portable and play it anywhere. You can definitely sink some hours into this game with all of the crafting, grinding, shooting, and replayability with friends, and trying out different gun combinations.
Tribute Games is well-known for their sprite art, and that’s no different here. The sprites are big and expressive, which is no surprise, since one of the founders of the studio worked on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. It’s the same style as that game, where it’s all thick, and the character designs look like they were from a Scott Pilgrim graphic novel. The music is fast-paced and energetic as it keeps you pumped while you stay with the mission and get it done.
The biggest problem I have with this game is that while difficult, sometimes, it comes off like it’s not your fault. Enemies will have movement patterns that won’t match up with where you can shoot, and I ran into a few cheap hits due to how large the sprites are. I also didn’t care for a few of the mechanics, like farming materials and the timer. I don’t have all the time in the world, and while the game itself was addictive, and I wanted to play it a lot, it feels fairly artificial with its length, due to you harvesting different crafting materials and replaying missions. I know some people being put under the firing line with timers, but I could never get into them. The timers aren’t terrible, since I was able to get the missions done on time with minutes to spare, but if I can get it done before the timer is up, then why have it? Just let me take my time, and I’m already going to lose money if I die, and enemies hit hard. The game also does get repetitive, since you go through the first location quite a lot. There are definitely several missions and some decent variety, but it’s still going on a timed mission, and I don’t remember too many of them. You wonder if they should have cut down on the 100+ missions, and instead made 20-30 with memorable sequences or levels.
In general, even with its hiccups and flaws, I still had a lot of fun with Mercenary Kings. I can definitely see myself playing this game more, and with my friends or family when we want something that involves lots of action. It’s available on all consoles right now, and I would definitely recommend checking this game out. I got it on the Switch, and I’ll definitely be using the console’s portability as the sole reason to get the Switch version, but you do what you want. It’s a blast of a time, and I can’t wait to try out Tribute’s other offerings.
This game gets an 8 out of 10