Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 20.02.2018

Review for Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition on Nintendo Switch

The aptly named Tribute Games knows how to craft stylish throwback games that are rich with character. This Canadian-based studio was formed by many of the developers of the long lost Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, the recent roguelike hit, Flinthook, and Curses 'N Chaos. Before those games, Tribute Games' first major title was Mercenary Kings, a run-and-gun type action title that gave lip-service to the classics, such as the Contra and Metal Slug series, but with a loot and weapon crafting system. Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition is an expanded version and comes with some new extra features and, of course, the natural Nintendo Switch advantage of portability.

Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition makes an amazing first impression thanks to its impeccable art and music. Character design and animation was handled by none other than the indelible Paul Robertson, pixel artist extraordinaire. There is a staggering amount of detail to the characters and animation that is almost on par with the majestic work seen in SNK's Metal Slug games... almost. Mercenary Kings' background art and level design are more obviously assembled with an editor system and standard tiles as opposed to unique backdrops and level design. Still, the art direction and work that Paul Robertson is known for is here in full force: it was amazing in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game and it is still impressive here. Characters have real bounce and force to them and neat little expressive qualities that make them so endearing. Female characters, especially, have an extra bit of cute flair to them and keen eyes might catch a bit of fun fan-service. Robertson's talents truly elevate what would otherwise be an average game.

Screenshot for Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition on Nintendo Switch

The thing with Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition is that the extra features and content do not address the existing shortcomings of the vanilla version. As magnificent as the pixel art is, sadly the core design falls short and is just passable. Basic movement and controls are rudimentary and actually not as polished or tight as something like Metal Slug, the game that Mercenary Kings is influenced by the most. For some reason, jumping is very sticky and unresponsive. This leads to many missed jumps, which is extra insulting since every mission is timed. It is not game-breaking, but it is noticeable enough that it does feel off. The inclusion of the active reload system from Gears of War is a good idea in theory, but in practice it proves to be a liability in single-player when doing later missions, since there are just too many threats to negotiate.

Screenshot for Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition on Nintendo Switch

Playing Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition is like karaoke: it's only fun with friends. Playing solo is dullsville and rarely enjoyable thanks to the uncreative missions. The objectives rarely deviate from find the X amount of coupons that are hidden in the stages or randomly dropped from enemies. This is the heart of the problem with Mercenary Kings and it is only when playing co-operatively with others that the utterly boring mission parameters fade away into the background. Playing in multiplayer changes the dynamic and makes things much more interesting since now the action is allowed to take focus as players are able to sweep the stages at a much faster rate. Enemies can respawn much too quickly to deal with while playing alone, yet when there is a buddy to serve as back-up, the pacing develops an ebb and flow.

Screenshot for Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition on Nintendo Switch

The loot system was meant to make Mercenary Kings unique from other run-and-gun shooters, but it feels wasted. This sort of experience just does not really mesh well with RPG-style stats and modifiers, since the focus for games of this ilk was always skill, not grinding. Being able to assemble some absurd guns with a fairly wide variety of parts is just not as enjoyable as grabbing a power-up as seen in something like Contra. Getting materials and money can take a bit of time and when that new weapon is finally earned, it totally sucks. Power-ups do not need any commitment and in some run-and-gun shooters, can even be swapped out on the fly. Credit has to be given for attempting to try something new by adding some RPG elements, but after a while it becomes apparent why that it has not been done in the span of the 30-plus years since the genre appeared. Perhaps with a bit more finesse, more varied objectives, and nuanced balancing, RPG mechanics could work in a shooter.

Screenshot for Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition adds two new characters and expands the weapon building but the missions are not balanced for an enjoyable single-player experience. The amazing sprite art and animation is the real star here, but sadly not so much the gameplay. The co-operative mode is definitely how Mercenary Kings was intended to be experienced. The visuals and characters just barely keep this engaging enough to keep people playing solo.

Developer

Tribute Games

Publisher

Tribute Games

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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