Are you a fan of Metal Slug or Mega Man? Are you down for a rough and dirty sport? Tribute Games has recently released Mercenary Kings on the PlayStation 4, filling that niche, and it packs a considerable punch. While by no means revolutionary or innovative, Mercenary Kings builds upon a legacy of 2D combat action in the vein of SNES or other 8 to 16Bit side-scrollers. It’s always fun to have a fresh take on an ancient ideal and Mercenary Kings brings that mindset to the PlayStation 4. With mixed results, Mercenary Kings is still a recommendable, albeit not universally–appealing, action romp.
What Is It?
Its cartoony graphics harkening back to an era of gaming long-gone immediately attract you into Mercenary Kings. It has a limited narrative which doesn’t waste time trying to accustom you to its universe. You play as either King or Empress (male or female), set against an evil military organization called CLAW. Previously, your character had died
;. Thanks to advanced science, you have been brought back to life so that you can do glorious jungle battle.
The Mandragora Project, which is the experimental science program bringing King or Empress back to life, is situated front and center in the narrative. While your organization has already utilized it to bring the characters back to life, CLAW also seeks to use it for its own evil ends. Their desire, not unlike Hydra in Marvel’s Captain America or other evil organizations in games and movies, is to bring about a new world order. One in which the population is enslaved and serves the power base, trading individual freedom for total security.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stop CLAW by any means necessary. Doing jungle battle in this 2D side-scrolling shooter is a lot of fun. Though the narrative tropes are a little cliché, it is still an interesting enough plot
to keep you interested in playing.
Why Should I Care?
Mercenary Kings has exciting combat and gameplay. It also has interesting level design. What makes Mercenary Kings feel like a current game rather than just a repeat of something from twenty years ago is its expansive design. It is true that you will do a lot of backtracking and replaying of the same areas, but these levels are hardly linear and allow you to push forward in your own ways.
Each level has a boss that King or Empress have to hunt down and take out. If you do not kill them fast enough, they may actually leave the level all together, which makes it feel as if time is against you. This, in theory, is interesting but it also can make it quite frustrating. For example, let’s say you are fighting the main boss and you have almost killed them only to find the boss leave or escape slightly before you finish the deed. I guess it’s your fault for not being more effective, but it’s frustrating nonetheless!
Generally speaking, each level is about thirty minutes long and the game has about forty hours of total gameplay provided you wish to accomplish everything. That’s pretty substantial for a game of this type. You will have some sort of main objective: infiltrate, neutralize, capture, etc. Beyond these basic objective types you might also want to rescue hostages imprisoned by CLAW. Bringing down the boss in each stage allows you to get a key item and, most certainly, that’s a crucial element of the game.
In fact, where Mercenary Kings really shines is in its item–collecting and weapons–upgrading. Something that is original or at least well–designed in this game is how you can essentially make any kind of weapon you desire. It’s not only about
firepower, but also about other attributes such as accuracy and speed. So imagine you make a shotgun and sniper rifle hybrid so that your weapon can have high accuracy and high power. You can do that if your heart desires!
What Makes it Worth My Time and Money?
Basically, the reason Mercenary Kings is worth your time and money is because it’s free
. , at least if you are a member of the PlayStation Plus service. For the time being, you can download Mercenary Kings and play it regardless of your proclivity for this genre of gameplay. That said, if you aren’t in to combat–heavy, pattern-based action you might want to hold off.
It’s a hard game and that alone will keep people from wanting to play it. Most action games today are very charitable in how they allow you to progress. Mercenary Kings keeps it old school and that’s precisely what makes it so interesting.
If you like that style of gameplay, Mercenary Kings is recommendable. If you don’t, just steer clear and download or purchase something else. The story isn’t going to blow your mind and the gameplay itself isn’t particularly original. But even with these negative critiques in the air, it’s still well–made and it’s a fun throwback to yesteryear when games were a little harder, and a little darker.