Developed By: Tribute Games Categories: Retro, Platformer Release Date: 07.21.20
If you’ve been paying even the slightest attention to games in the last decade, you’d notice that retro throwbacks have became rather popular. Nostalgia always sells, Capcom proved this with the Inti Creates developed Mega Man 9, a return of the classic Mega Man series after over a decade being in the style of the original six NES games, that is to say 8bit. Inti had previously worked on the Mega Man series internally at Capcom, and outsourced, but never in an attempt to make an authentic throwback. This would be something that would end up sticking with them even to the current day. Years later though, it wasn’t just Inti making these great accurate retro games, you’d have developers like Yacht Club, and the developer of Panzer Paladin, Tribute Games, who seemed to really understand the intricacies of retro games, partocilarly NES games, while taking away more of the archaic issues the games would have. Something all three developers have in common though with designing their games, particularly retro inspired ones, they all take a rather obvious inspiration from the games of Capcom or Konami.
Panzer Paladin, is best described as if you combined The Legend of Zelda with Mega Man, and sprinkle in a tiny bit of Blaster Master. To clarify this, you’ll go through nearly 20 stages styled much like a Mega Man game fending off a space born occult invasion, giving big Mighty Morphin Power Rangers feels, but unlike Mega Man, everything is done with close range combat as opposed to shooting. You chose stages in a Mega Man format with a location on the map, and a creative boss known as a Weapon Keeper waiting for you at the end. Each stage has it’s own unique style and theme, very much in line with the country it takes place in. Within these, majority of weapons, enemies, and even a hidden one up will all be one with the stage. Nothing feels lazily or hastily placed in as filler, which even beloved retro games did back in the day in regards to enemies and items. While unique enemies probably is something I should expect, I was surprised by the unique one up items in each stage, it’s the little things. Around halfway and right before the end of a stage, you’ll find a checkpoint which requires you drop a weapon in it. This is all optional if you feel courageous enough to try a stage in one run, but I always post a checkpoint right before a boss. Getting though the stage gets you to the previously mentioned Weapon Keeper, who are the stand in for a pattern based bosses of older games. Upon first glance, the bosses don’t seem to put up too much of a fight, especially the introduction stage’s boss, but I was finding myself winning by the mere skin of my teeth nearly every time. Brute Forcing your way can only go so far, and I learned this the hard way with a few of the later bosses.
As opposed to getting new abilities from bosses, you’ll find yourself weapons from the common enemies, or even yes, the bosses. Baseball bats, a pipe, tomahawk, kunai, a Witch’s Pestle, the game doesn’t have any shortage of variety when it comes to weapons. There’s three styles, Cut, Impact, and Pierce, each of which fits together in a weakness chain. Outside of noticing a boss taking more damage that normal, I never once actually noticed a big difference between each style outside of specific stats each weapon has. Say you don’t want just any weapon though, these swords or hammers are all boring. This is where the Blacksmith comes in. The Blacksmith option allows you to create your own weapons by drawing them. If you want to even use a retro sprite of your choice to beat the life out of all that cross your path, by all means go right to it, the game won’t stop you. This honestly affects the gameplay in a very minor way, but the fact it’s even there at all is a welcome inclusion.
All that aside, how does the game actually play. You’re going trough each stage in a big bulky mech suit named Grit. It’s slow, it holds the weapons you pick up, and it kicks ass. You can hit up, down, and duck to get a lower hit, if blocked. For the most part, it gets the job done, but occasionally you’ll need to leave the suit to fit into tight areas or to swing from hooks, somewhat reminiscent of Bionic Commando swinging with your character, Flame’s chain whip. You’re not defenseless though, while she cannot aim up or down, Flame’s chain whip does decent enough damage on it’s own, and she’s rather nimble, jumping higher, and running faster than Grit. If one is inclined and feel, they can do an entire stage as her out of Grit, and even fight a boss. While under normal circumstances, the only chance you’ll control Flame is when forced to in a stage, you’ll also take control when Grit’s health runs out, ejecting her and thus making her a desperate last chance to finish what you came to do. This is how most boss fights end for me.
While the goal is to be authentic to NES games, I find a better comparison to be a PC Engine CD game. The music is fantastic, but closer resembles something that you’d hear from a CD game than one using the NES soundchip. The graphics do feel genuine to the inspiration, but animation also feels a bit too good to be an NES game. None of these are complaints or issues, I’d rather retro inspired games be like this. Issues like sprite-flicker, and slow down deserve to stay and die in the past and the fact that some retro inspired titles, including the previously mentioned Mega Man 9 include these, even as options is truly baffling to me and comes off a having rose tinted graphics for everything about the past, and not just the good things. There are so many retro styled or inspired games, Panzer Paladin as a whole is what I want in one, it takes what’s good from it’s inspirations, and cuts the crap that plagued games as a whole back in the day. If this was released in the 90’s, it’d definitely be one of the best games released in that time. It’s not a game that tries to feel retro, it’s a game that is full ingrained and is retro.