Developed By: RETRO Revolution
Published By: Ratalaika
Category: Arcade, Action, Platformer
Release Date: 03.29.19
I love Mega Man. The record will show that the more Mega Man I get, the happier I am. I think I’ve got a few kindred spirits in the developers over at RetroRevolution and their graciously prolific publishers, Ratalaika Games. Their latest offering, Metagal, is so obviously heavily influenced by Mega Man, both in terms of story and gameplay, that it feels like Capcom’s lawyers should already be pumping out C&Ds at an alarming rate. Luckily, that’s not how copyright law works (probably? I’m not actually a lawyer, I have no idea), and I got a chance to play Metagal and review it for you fine folks. Let’s get going.
Gal Numbers Are Legally Distinct From Light Numbers
General Creeper is back! I mean, this is the first game in the series so I didn’t know he was a problem in the first place, but with a name like General Creeper he’s probably not here for morally upright reasons, y’know? Anyway, he arrives at Dr. Ray’s lab with bad intentions and kidnaps four of the five Gal androids Dr. Ray has invented to help mankind. He reprograms then for evil, but luckily, one Gal was absent at the kidnapping; Gal.05, AKA Meta. Dr. Ray uses the secret communicator hidden in his glasses to instruct Meta on how to activate her hidden potential and become… METAGAL! Meta sets off to use her new powers to save her sisters and creator in a series of stages and then one final castle fortress with multiple stages. As she defeats/rescues her sisters she gains their weapons and abilities to aid her in defeating/rescuing her other sisters. So, it’s pretty familiar territory for Mega Man fans, but… I love Mega Man. So everything works for me.
Meta Busters and Meta Bombers
Metagal’s gameplay is basically the same as the OG Mega Man games. You can move with the D-pad and you can jump and perform a basic attack. There’s no charging up your Meta Buster; instead there is a separate special attack button which is used for both the basic super attack (equivalent to a fully charged Mega Buster attack) and all of the special attacks you acquire throughout the game. The special attack has a cooldown meter under Meta’s health bar, which is an interesting twist on the Mega Man formula. Instead of having a limited number of uses for each of your special weapons, you instead have unlimited access, just with a small cooldown window. This is a bit of a problem during boss fights because you can’t just spam the enemy’s weakness, but then again you’ll need to dodge frequently enough that spamming the attack button isn’t always the best option. You can also dash by using the special dash button or double-tapping a directional button.
The platforming aspects of the gameplay are well-designed and provide a satisfying degree of challenge. Obstacles sometimes pop up unexpectedly the first time, but follow a discernable and learnable pattern thereafter. Enemies – all of them, random mob baddies and bosses alike – also follow certain attack patterns, and learning them is the key to success; like any good action-platformer, really. Despite a fairly balanced difficulty curve, however, Metagal adds a new safety net in its gear system, which replaces both extra lives and energy tanks from the Mega Man template. Whenever you die, you can choose to use a gear to restart your game at the beginning of whatever section you died playing instead of at the beginning of the level. It made for a way less frustrating experience than you can sometimes have on challenging platformers – or at least a less frustrating experience for me. I love action platformers, but I do tend to suck at them. It’s a known issue; I am working diligently to patch it out. Anyway, you can also select gears as your special attack and use them to heal a few health bars in your meter. It doesn’t heal that much, but it can keep you alive for a few more seconds during a boss fight and sometimes that’s all you need.
And, finally, as if eight levels of run ’n gun platforming action weren’t enough to keep you satisfied, Metagal offers some pretty cool options for replayability, too. You can unlock all four of Dr. Ray’s Gal units for play, meaning there are five different ways to make your way through the levels. Each Gal has her own abilities and skills, making for a fairly unique experience each time you play through the game. I try not to focus on price too much in my reviews, but all this for five bucks is a heckuva good deal.
We got us another game with a nostalgia-fueled, retro-influenced design here. Metagal recreates the SNES experience so perfectly it’s scary. This isn’t a pixel art game like, say, Superbrothers or its ilk, which takes the humble pixel and creates something undeniably modern-looking that would have been impossible on an older platform for its aesthetic. No, Metagal adopts all the trappings of the true 16-bit era; there isn’t anything here visually that the SNES couldn’t replicate. That’s not to say that it looks dated or bad in any way; in fact the game manages to create a vibrant, active, attractive world working within its self-imposed limitations. The audio lives up to the standard set by the visuals. The music is jazzy, upbeat, and intense; a perfect companion to the action.
Metagal doesn’t use either the touch or motion controls available on the Switch, so you can play it whichever way you choose. I preferred playing it undocked myself; I just find that the Switch’s screen doesn’t make pixel-based games look as stretched out as my TV does. Still, it looks and plays great no matter how you prefer to play it, so there’s no wrong choice here.
TL;DR: It’s technically not Mega Man, but if you like Mega Man, you’ll like this.