Release Date: March 29th 2019
Price as of Article: $4.99, £4.99
Game code provided by Ratalaika Games
The story sees a Doctor Ray being ambushed outside his laboratory by an old adversary who then proceeds to kidnap and brainwash his lineup of robot gals when he refuses to help him build machines of war to take over the world. Yeah, the plot doesn’t really take itself seriously in any way and is thus straight and to the point in your face about this. It’s a personal preference, of course, but I really do not like games that don’t take themselves serious, with very few exceptions, as this breaks my immersion. I mean, the main bad guy is even called General Creeper.
Thankfully, the story is largely forgotten after this introductory sequence. After which, our main heroine, a plain robot girl named Meta, gets contacted by Dr. Ray and told to undergo a transformation that unlocks her hidden potential to become the titular Metagal. She then sets off to rescue her creator and take down her fellow siblings.
As she dons her new battle outfit, Metagal even comments on how ”impractical” and ”embarrasingly exposing” it seems, with Ray defending his design as scientific and having absolutely nothing to do with sex appeal. This immediately made me think of the anime Kill la Kill, which I found a bit funny, where the same response is uttered by the main heroine when she acquires a skin-tight, highly exposive battle suit of her father’s questionable design.
So, how about that gameplay? Metagal is basically MegaMan if he was a she, so following that formula, you go through all the same bells and whistles as the Blue Bomber. Your sisters have been high-jacked, like stated earlier, and so after creating your save file and watching the intro cutscene, you are then given a list of stages to choose from, each featuring its own theme and robot girl to go after. You’ve got your fire stage, ice stage, forest stage, city stage, and etc. The stages are technically numbered though, as they feature the name of the gal you are to be fighting as well as the weapon they are named after e.g. Gal.01 Shield, Gal.02 Dash, Gal.03 Buster etc.
I should mention that although there are 8 stages in total, you are only allowed to choose between the first 4 from the offset, which gave me a bit of MegaMan 8 flashbacks. I did find it weird though, why you would set the stages up like a list, numbered even, if I was only allowed access to half the selection initially. I might as well then just be limited to one, and then unlock each stage as I went along – this was my initial thought, but the reason why soon revealed itself.
You see, you are promised 8 stages, and that’s what we get. But in a traditional MegaMan game, we would get 8 regular stages, followed by a multi staged final boss fortress. In Metagal however, we get to fight 4 of Meta’s sisters, plus one who has turned to the dark side. The three remaining stages are then so-called Fortress Zones, spanning four, of which Gal.0X: Chaos, your rogue sister, lurks in the first one. So essentially, half the game is regular levels, with the other half being the final level split in 4 chapters. So, again, we do ultimately get the 8 promised levels, but this setup makes the game feel shorter than it technically is. This also means that you only get 4 new boss weapons, not counting the 4 auto-powers you unlock later.
Once you are in a stage, it is classic MegaMan as you know him. You run with the directional buttons, shoot your… MetaBuster (?) on Y, jump with B, perform your special attack (of which you will, of course, collect more as you defeat the game’s bosses) with A, change between special weapons with the shoulder buttons, and… dash by double tapping the directional button? Okay, while the rest of the moves are fairly standard, I was really not a fan of this decision. Why not dedicate a button to dashing? I guess double tapping works with a flat d-pad that just requires 2 presses in one direction, but in tight situations, it is really unwieldy with an analogue stick. This especially becomes an annoyance if I accidentally press the stick twice in a pressured situation, only to have Metagal overshoot a jump leading to her death.
That aside, the controls flow and are on point. You never feel a death is the game’s fault, (aside from the rare occassions where you swear you jumped) and the stages themselves boast very colourful and original level design. Now, I have hardly any of the classic MegaMan games under my belt admittedly, quite frankly, despite loving platformers, I suck at them, but I have seen my fair share of them in action, and thus from what I can gather, Metagal seems to certainly look and feel the part. It certainly doesn’t feel like just a cheap knockoff. The creators were clearly and dearly attached to the source material.
The intro boss was laughable though, and only some of the stages have a mini-boss, which felt inconsistent.
Tried and true to the formula, Metagal being an obvious MegaMan clone, she also comes with his weaknesses. Spikebeds are instant kill, although in some instances, you can barely escape them if you are suffering from invinciblity frames. Knockback is a thing too, though that is more of a universal gameplay feature of the NES era. Unlike our blue predecessor, Metagal’s weapon energy replenishes automatically at a rapid pace, making them more convenient, especially seeing as one use of most weapons drain the meter completely. But admittedly, it also takes away from the strategic aspect of the genre, where you often have to be mindful of your ammunition and use it sparingly. I shouldn’t complain though, as one of the reasons I always stick to the MegaBuster in MegaMan games is because I hate wasting ammo. The catch to this, however, is that all of your special weapons share the same energy bar, so you can’t use one and then just use another immediately after.
Oh, by the way, you don’t have a Charge Shot. Well, not in the traditional sense anyway by holding down the shoot button. You do have one, but it uses up the special meter like all your other weapons.
Another thing Metagal also carried over from its blue big brother is that enemies respawn the second you veer just a bit away from where you initally killed them, and then go back. You know guys, there is such a thing as being too faithful.
You don’t have lives in Metagal, so you can retry the stages as many times as your heart desires, and there are checkpoints within each stage, from which you can also restart infinitely. You will also come across cogs dropped randomly by enemies and found throughout the stage that, if you die to a particular obstacle and don’t feel like restarting the entire stage, paying one cog will grant you an instant rebirth at the start of the room you died in.
Speaking of, you get ranked after each stage, taking into account how many times you died, how many enemies you killed, how many times you used your powers, and of course, how long you took. I did horribly in one stage and was rewarded a D, thinking that might be the lowest, only to play the next stage and be granted an F. Like I said, I suck, but I had fun while doing it… with minor intervals of frustration, not gonna lie.
The music in Metagal is retro-inspired chiptunes and thus fits the theme exceedingly well. We’ve got some catchy tunes here as well. I found myself bopping my head to quite a few, and the boss themes especially are rock hard!
I do wish the game had a stage start theme though, as choosing one from the menu just abruptly ends the menu music and puts you directly into the game. A smoother transistion here would have been appreciated, but that is a minor quality of life complaint.
Visuals & Performance
With its 16-bit, colourful graphics, the game most definitely looks like a modern MegaMan game, and while I feel the artwork could have used some polish, the in-game sprites, level design, and backgrounds look gorgeous. The team behind Metagal may be your typical small group of enthusiasts, but the work put into this product is undeniable.
Also, and I’m going to slightly contradict myself here from what I said in the Story section, but as much as I, as previously mentioned, don’t like games that break the 4th wall and make fun of themselves, I do wish the story had extended beyond just the intro. Sure, in MegaMan games of the olden days you were given nothing aside from the intro and ending, but we expect more of games today, or at least I do, and even newer entries in the Blue Bomber’s history, like most games in the X series, had the blue dude converse with the boss he was about to face.
Seeing as how Metagal is on a mission to best her robot siblings, I would have much wished that we were given context to their relationship before showing off. Even if such dialogue would have been played for laughs. But we don’t get any dialogue between characters between the intro and when you beat Gal.0X: Chaos in the first fortress stage, and I think that’s a shame.
At $4.99/£4.99 you can hardly go wrong, even if the game had been of questionable quality. It isn’t however. Despite a few shortcomings I listed above, Metagal is deeply rooted in MegaMan love, and is a very competent run ‘n gunner in its own right with a selection of fun and flashy weapons to unlock as you progress, and the ability to unlock more playable characters for added replayability. We already have the classic MegaMan games on the Switch, and a more modern incarnation in the form of MegaMan 11, but if you have already played those to death and want to see someone else take a crack at the form, then Metagal is surely one I can recommend.
A well put together run ‘n gunner
Original level design
Catchy chiptune music
Multiple characters and abilities to unlock
Some bone headed design choices