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A Tale of Flame and GRIT
If you couldn’t tell by my handle, I’m a bit of a fan of retro and retro-inspired games. And Tribute Games have proven themselves to be quite skilled in making some great retro-inspired games. Panzer Paladin is no exception to this.
Drawing inspiration from several games, Panzer Paladin truly is a Tribute (see what I did there?) to vintage platformers. You play as Flame, a rescue android who pilots a giant mech named GRIT. Weapon shaped asteroids are falling to Earth and are acting as portals for occult monsters. You must defeat ten bosses (similar to the 8 robot masters from Mega Man, but with no “golden order”) across ten different countries and retrieve the weapon shaped asteroids from them. After doing so, you must make your way through the Inverted Tower (the “Wily’s Castle” of the game) and defeat Ravenous.
The gameplay is pretty straight forward. Attack, jump, throw, and a Castlevania: Symphony of the Night-esque back-dash. Pressing the select button allows Flame to jump out of GRIT and traverse the levels on foot (think Blaster Master). Flame wields an energy whip to attack enemies. She can also use the whip to swing from certain points to cross spike pits and other hazards. There are also walls that can be destroyed to reveal hidden areas.
Some enemies will drop weapons when you kill them, which come in three different classes: cut (swords), impact (clubs), and pierce (spears). Weapons are the main focal point in this game. Each weapon has limited durability and once you break it, it’s gone for good. You can throw any weapon, dealing massive damage but also breaking the weapon in the process. Every weapon has a “spirit burden” attached to it. If your burden level is too high, it puts you in a risk of danger. Personally, I haven’t figured out what this does. It seems to be kind of pointless.
The most unique gimmick in the game is breaking weapons yourself to unleash spells. These range from buffing your attack power or defence to giving you wings allowing you to fly to temporarily shooting long-range blasts from your weapons. Each stage has two checkpoints (one midway and one before the BOSS BATTLE) that you activate by plunging a weapon into the ground. You lose said weapon, but more than likely, you’ll have a couple weak, disposable weapons sitting uselessly in your inventory that you can sacrifice.
At the midway point of each stage, you fight The Horseman who (much like Protoman) is neither really a good guy nor a bad guy. After defeating The Horseman, he drops a random weapon that has been created and uploaded by players from all across the world. This is where the Blacksmith mode comes in. You can create, design, and spec out your own weapon and upload it to the server, allowing it to be obtained by other players after they defeat The Horseman.
The music in this game is absolutely phenomenal! The amazing chiptune soundtrack will bring memories flooding back of games past. My personal favourite tune is the Scotland level, which is also one of my favourite levels as far as design goes. The controls are tight and easy to master. And the graphics are a blast from the 8-bit past and work perfectly for the game.
After completing the game, you unlock a remix mode that changes up the stages and adds more difficult enemies and bosses. You also unlock a “Tournament mode” that is essentially a boss rush that allows you to compete for the top spot on the global leaderboards. And if you enjoy speedrunning, there’s also a speed run mode.
There’s also a levelling system that uses weapons to increase your health bar. Honestly, this feels a bit tacked on since you only increase it four times and after that, there’s no use for it. They could have simply added collectable health tanks hidden throughout the stages to increase health or added more to the levelling system (increase attack, defence, weapon durability, etc.).
For $19.99/£16 this game has a good amount of content. It’s a fairly straight forward and simple game, which isn’t a bad thing at all. If you’re looking for something similar to Mega Man but without the incredible difficulty, it’ll scratch that itch. Or if you’re just looking for a great platformer that pays tribute to its predecessors while adding a couple unique mechanics, go ahead and pick it up. I definitely recommend it!
TBG Score: 9.5/10
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 21/07/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Platformer
Developer: Tribute Games
Publisher: Tribute Games
Download link: eShop