Back in the day, c.1993 or so, I was managing a video game store called Master Player. It was pre-Playstation, and the games industry was sort of wondering what it was going to do next as the kids started to get tired of their 16-bit consoles, and so we had a lot of spare time to play games in the store.
One of these games was Konami’s Metal Warriors, a sort of spiritual (not actual) successor to their very well regarded Cybernator. This new game was a very solid mech combat platform game with a decent single-player story mode and a fantastic two player VS mode. On one particularly slow day in my store we played over a hundred consecutive head-to-head rounds, and with match times ranging from a handful of seconds to several minutes, this was no small feat.
But the game was that good. The question now though, is: how is it now, nearly twenty years later?
(note: this is part of a series of Rediscovering old games. For the rest, click here!)
Well, years later, it’s still brilliant. I picked up the controller and all the controls were instantly remembered. This game makes full use of the SNES controller, and every mech has different actions for every button. Where possible, the same ones are used, for shooting or mêlée attacks for example, but some mechs are so radically different there’s just no way to do this, and so learning the controls is a primary goal.
The creativity in this game is striking. There are six different mechs to choose from, and they’re not just the same unit with adjusted stats and a new skin. From the slow and plodding Prometheus with its devastating cannon and airmines to the flying Drache with fast with unlimited mobility and 8-way shooting, the game offered crazy variety. And it was variety that was still very well balanced. When we played VS mode we’d use random mech and stage selections, and there was never a time when we would expect a loss or victory based on the mech we’d been assigned.
Throughout the single player game the level provides you with appropriate mechs, and sometimes you’ll pass empty ones which you can either destroy or commandeer. If you choose to swap mechs, your current mech will stop, open up and a little man will jump out, complete with little jetpack, and you’ll be incredibly vulnerable until you’re safely back in another one. This move is used to great effect throughout the single player game when you need to fly through tiny human-scale corridors and pilot ships or disable barriers. And it leads to remarkably tense times in multi player when you’re throwing away one mostly-ruined mech and racing to get into a shiny new one before the other player notices you’re vulnerable and annihilates you.
Note: The Rediscovering series updates as the games are played, so this is not a complete article… yet! How exciting!