It has been a long while since I’ve played a side-scrolling run-and-gun like this. I’ve dabbled in a few, but “really played”… it’s been some time. Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition takes me back to the days I played Metal Slug in the arcade. (Anyone remember going to an arcade?) Either way, Mercenary Kings doesn’t simply stop at creating something in the same genre, there is so much more depth here and while I’m improving, it’s not very nice to me. Is it worth picking up though? Let me break it down for you.
So while there is a story here and they did put some thought into it (I’m not trying to make a dig here, but I’ll admit it sounds like it), like Jackie Chan in The Foreigner, it doesn’t come off as necessary. Or… it’s about as important as a 80’s/90’s action flick plot-line. Don’t overlook it though as there is some good information in it. You’re the good guy and there’s some really unfortunate bad guys that are in desperate need of some bullets and you’re in charge of the charity. It gives you a reason to go and rescue people who will help flesh out your base and upgrade your weapons. While we’re here to spread some peace with a knife, the writing is humorous and gets a giggle out of me quite often.
*On a “family friendly” note, there is a fair bit of graphic violence with heads exploding which means I’m choosing to not play in front of my kids.*
Speaking of shooting, the gameplay is pretty solid. Everything works well together when you work with it. That is to say, there’s a lot to work with in Mercenary Kings. It’s not like Metal Slug where you get weapons throughout the game and lose them over time, but rather you will craft your weapons in your base. There are multiple parts to every gun and there are a plethora of ways to craft your “perfect” one. It’s all a balancing act though. You will usually gain in one area and lose in another. A lot of different weapon parts will either increase your damage, accuracy, bullet count, elemental effect… you (almost) name it and it’s there. I’ve opted to make a rifle that only has a two round magazine, but reloads quickly because I love that I can get over 2k+ damage hits in with little fuss. When you’re fighting bosses, you’re not getting a lot of consistent shots in unless you’re doing multiplayer so I like to make my shots count. However, even in multiplayer, I’ve found myself still using the same weapon. I’ve recently tried a few different variations and just can’t get over my one true gun love. (However, it’s an open relationship if I find something better.) I can’t help but feel that there aren’t enough options though. I know they can’t do much other than make a bunch of unbalanced options which would be lame. You’ve got to have pluses and minuses. If you want a larger clip, you’re getting less damage. Plain and simple. (Slow reloads suck horribly though.)
The difficulty can seem pretty crazy at times. Up front it might be. Obviously the bosses will seem a bit rough at first. If you read everything about everything some objectives are made “easier”. At the same time, I would put Mercenary Kings on almost the same level as Ghost & Goblins. It is easier, but the method of making the game difficult is the same. It’s all about patterns. There is a small penalty on death with the loss of money, but you can always get more of that by repeating some of the many, many levels available. You’ll probably need to end up doing that anyway for resources to craft better guns or armor as you progress. The difficulty is all about patters as I said. Duck, move and shoot. The platforming isn’t as difficult as juggling the dodging of bullets and reloading. Stick with it and you’ll get it. Time can get short, but I have run out of time only once because I was busy hunting resources instead of the mission goal. Remember, you can always get more resources, just remember to have time to finish your objective.
Speaking of multiplayer, I’ve got mixed feelings about how they implemented the split-screen. I’m mostly glad they did it the way they did because it could always have been worse, but I would have loved a two-player split-screen option. You know, where the screen would have been divided horizontally once giving more viewing room to each player. As it stands, the map is always up on two-player co-op directly below each player. I’ll grant them that it is pretty convenient, but I always like having more “play” room. While I love the co-op between four players, Mercenary Kings looks so good running solo. The pixel graphics look super-sleek full-screen. It’s nice in handheld mode, but I only play single-player undocked. I’m not about to split the Switch’s screen into four. Resources gathered seemed to be shared. I swear I’ve seen other players receive different materials when another player loots something, but it mostly seems to be the same. (I could be imagining things again.) The player who starts the match picks the missions and sets what levels and sets of guns are unlocked, and each player buys his own upgrades with his/her own resources.