Y'know what today is not? Today is not April first - and Tribute Games tweeted this..!
Mercenary Kings is coming to Vita (and Xbox One) Fall 2016! Woooo!
100% Excited Steve!
If you've been following things, you're aware that they tweeted out much the same message on Friday - which was April 1st. So it may well have just been a bloody joke. Those monsters. But today is definitely not April 1st, so I'm prepared to go right ahead and say Mercenary Kings is back on track for a Vita release woooo!
What is Mercenary Kings? It's the third - and highest-profile - title from retro-style studio Tribute Games, which enjoyed a just-past-its-goal-but-hey-it's-still-successfully-funded Kickstarter back in 2013. They asked for $75K and got just over $115,000. It launched on PCs in 2014, and was announced as coming to PS4. In April 2014 Tribute announced it would be out later that year on Vita as well.
It did not come out in late 2014. Or late 2015. The best information we got on why was when Tribute admitted that the programming language the game is written in - C# - doesn't play nice on Vita. They said they were working on a solution in late 2014, and that was pretty much the last update we got on the Vita version. Occasionally people would check in on it, and Tribute would just say they were still working on it, and offer no more detail or hope for its eventual release. The studio went on to release two titles on Vita - the excellent, simple retro brawler Curses 'N' Chaos and the very simple-and-retro platformer Ninja Senki DX.
I held my breath and hoped it meant they had somehow mastered Sony's little handheld - but they said nothing. Until April 1st, 2016. And now it's on. Mercenary Kings is coming to Vita fall 2016.
Why should you care..? Well... imagine if Metal Slug, Monster Hunter and Borderlands had a sticky threesome one night, and you walk in on it, and the lights are out so you can't really see who's who in there, and for a horrible, beautiful moment your brain can't distinguish one game from the next, and you believe you're actually staring at a single undulating being of 2D sidescrolling sprite-based platforming shooting and charming presentation, near-endless boss-hunting mission style content and a ridiculous amount of weapon customization and RPG-style progression?
You just saw Mercenary Kings.
Now, I'm a fan of Tribute - though none of their games have ever done much better than an 80 on Metacritic (which is actually pretty impressive, in and of itself). Their highest-scoring offer, so far, is the PC version of Wizorb (which preceded Mercenary Kings) at 81 - Mercenary Kings sits at 76 - but I would suggest you don't let that turn you off. Unless you're Chamberlain and you need to knock a game out in a week or so.
Hang on, let me drop some hot, hot soundtrack action in here...
If you're more like, say, me, and you enjoy playing games because the act of playing the game is fun, and you find yourself lolling around in your favorite games, just fooling around in inFamous leaping from rooftops and using super powers, just chillin' out in Dragon's Crown beating the crap out of an army of goblins for the thousandth time, just zoning out while playing DOOM: Knee Deep In The Dead because you've played it so many times you've memorized every single thing in there, but you keep playing because it's just a fun game..? If you play games in that way,
Because the primary complaint about Mercenary Kings, if you read its reviews, is that is has too much content - kinda' like Alice: Madness Returns. You're fired back into the same mission areas, over and over, with slightly different mission parameters - kill four of these enemies and collect five of this crafting material. Kill this boss in that location, and also finish him off with a stun grenade because we need to capture him/her alive!
"Mercenary Kings is a testament to the idea that you can get too much of a good thing. The slick art, old-school shooting, and deep customization options are immensely fun, as are the stages that you play through – the first few times. As it is, this style of shooting action feels like it’s stretched thin over such a lengthy campaign, and some of the missions might have been more fun if I hadn’t already explored the maps so thoroughly. That tedium certainly isn’t enough for me to warn people away from such a richly illustrated tribute to the roots of the shooter. "
~Game Informer (8/10)~
The side-effect of this design, of course, is that you become deeply intimate with each of the game's environments. You learn them inside and out, like the corridors of the Mars station in Knee Deep In The Dead. And I'm not about to suggest that a small, tightly-designed game is a bad thing. It's not - it can be a wonderful thing, and Portal, Bastion and Shovel Knight will attest to that - but between you and I, I principally enjoy a game via enjoying the act of playing the game. Story is good, and story can be great, but the highest heights a game can achieve in my book is being fun, in the hand, always and consistently (see: Dying Light).
Mercenary Kings is absolutely a disciple of this, and it has dozens upon dozens of little missions, giving the player the gentle excuse they need to return to its well-trod paths to run and jump and shoot some dudes with a tricked-out minutely-tuned ultra-pistol or super-cannon of their own design.
And man. That's a good time. And that repetition doesn't usually work particularly well on your living room console - it works a teensy bit better on a PC, for some reason - but it works real well on a handheld. When you're able to slip a gaming platform out of your pocket, tune around its world for five or fifty minutes before snapping it off and getting back to life, you'll find yourself doing that more and more.
I said on the podcast a while ago - when we were talking about the ridiculous amount of games that are available on Vita - that a game's presence on the platform can vastly improve the gamer's experience of it. That a great game of a certain type - Don't Starve and Dragon's Crown are great examples - will be elevated from merely 'excellent' to flat 10/10s, just by virtue of being on a handheld. I was dying to have this game on Vita from the moment I saw it.
For months after the PS4 announcement, every time I saw a new trailer, a new press release, a new little announcement, I would sigh inside and imagine the thing on my Vita - because yeah, maybe on PCs Mercenary Kings is a 7.5/10. And maybe it's a 7/10 on PS4.
On Vita it's gonna' be something dangerously close to a ten.
Mercenary Kings. Coming Vita, fall 2016.