‘Mercenary Kings’ from Tribute Games already seems destined for success. After being backed on KickStarter, there is no arguing that gamers truly love retro shooters, and would welcome the game with open arms. As the name Tribute Games suggests, Tribute hold an interest in solely developing retro-themed games that serve as tributes to some of the true classic of gaming. While most people are getting familiar with the newly-released Mercenary Kings, Tribute Games already found a release for one of their games on the Xbox LIVE Indie Games service. A tribute to the wall-smashing pong-inspired game, Arkanoid, ‘Wizorb’ was an ambitious RPG that was a lot of fun, and definitely deserved a greater audience. Mercenary Kings, is Tribute’s tribute to retro shooters such as Contra and Metal Slug, with lovers of both games certain to feel the love and label it an instant classic.
As mentioned before, Mercenary Kings is a retro-designed shooter, with 2D gameplay. Players assume the role of King or Empress, two Mercenaries in a fight to liberate an island from the menacing organisation known as CLAW. The story itself is usually delivered through text between characters, either in the base camp or via a codec, similar to the Metal Gear series. There isn’t too much depth in the story, but it hardly matters, as the rest of the gameplay more than makes up for it.
Players begin in base camp, with a few other characters present. There’s the shop, the gunsmith, the colonel, your pilot, and a few other characters who offer some small service or gameplay hints. When the player is ready, they can talk to the colonel to get a new mission, and there are a lot of missions to choose from. Most revolve around one of the gameplay features of Mercenary Kings, whether it’s kill a unique enemy, such as a boss, or its rescue a number of hostages or even gather so many resources, which can be used for crafting. Yes, crafting.
Completing a mission rewards the player with money to spend on a number of things as they see fit. Visiting the gunsmith allows players to build new weapons from a staggering amount of options, should the player have enough resources gathered. You are also able to build and install mods, which can do a number of things, from improving item drop rates to slowing a player’s falling speed. Most improvements require various resources that are gathered in missions, with some items dropping frequently and some items being quite rare. The brilliance of a more modern gameplay element like item drops and crafting really add so many more fun hours into a classic game. If Tribute were to make a purely 1980’s game with no modern features, certain things we would come to expect that weren’t present would surely leave us with a feeling of missing out on something. Thankfully Tribute added the different missions and crafting mechanics, meaning that every single mission played is accomplishing something greater than the immediate goal. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
Of course, another popular feature of modern games is the ability for online matchmaking. Something which wasn’t present in the glory days of the NES, and certainly not something that Mercenary Kings needs, but does in fact have, and very much benefits from. Mercenary Kings is already a great deal of fun, but add the ability to play with friends is an absolute blast. Some of the maps are huge, and the ability to split up and tackle a particularly lengthy or difficult mission is a ton of fun. One particular mission tasked a friend of mine and me with tracking down a very illusive boss, who would be in one of eight different areas on the map. My friend and I were constantly shouting “here he is!” or “I got him!” and shooting him for thirty seconds before he disappeared again.
As we all know from the very presence of chiptunes and sid chips, the music found in games from the NES era in particular hold a very special place in gamer’s hearts. Tribute Games are also aware of this fact and have created a beautifully retro soundtrack to accompany the action in Mercenary Kings. Bleeps and bloops are met with modern guitars and drums, and every song is written in a way that compliments each other. I’m particularly fond of the soundtrack in Mercenary Kings, and it will absolutely be making its way into my gaming playlist. Every single piece of music from the game’s title screen track to the various missions is an absolute treat to listen to for any retro gamer, and the music is both a tribute to older games as well as an unique and enjoyable listen.
- Tons of missions
- Multiplayer is an absolute blast
- Rewarding gameplay
- Missions with a time limit can be difficult
Tribute Games have outdone themselves with Mercenary Kings. The game not only stands as a tribute to the glorious shooters of the NES and arcade era, but also as a fantastic game with enough of its own unique characters, levels and gameplay to call it an instant classic. If you love Contra, Metal Slug, or are even just after a great multiplayer arcade game, do not hesitate to pick up Mercenary Kings.
Score – 8.5/10