Ratalaika’s latest Vita release is METAGAL, which previously came out on Steam. It’s now available on the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4 as well – the latter of which comes bundled with the Vita version as part of a cross-buy purchase.
Metagal (I’ll refrain from using the all-caps title from now on) doesn’t waste much time showcasing its source of inspiration. From the visuals and gameplay right down to the title itself, this is Megaman-inspired with a retro flavor – echoing the 16-bit era of that franchise. Plenty of reason to get excited, since the Vita never got the often-promised release of Mighty No. 9 for the system.
The game starts off with a somewhat lengthy introduction sequence, in which the evil General Creeper tries to force Dr. Ray to produce weapons for him. He refuses, but this causes Creeper to abduct both Dr. and a small team of cyborg girls that were built by him. His evil plan is to turn them into battle cyborgs and pursue world domination, so things aren’t looking good. Shortly after, Dr. Ray reaches out to you – a cyborg girl called Meta – and helps you transform into Metagal, giving you extra powers and abilities.
This is the starting point for Metagal’s campaign, which takes you through eight different stages and starts off with a brief tutorial. The controls are fairly standard and work well on the Vita, though that doesn’t help much in preventing a good number of cheap/frustrating deaths. Obviously Mega Man itself is quite a challenging title as well, but in Metagal there are too many moments where the outcome feels out of your control just because there is no way of seeing what’s coming.
As you progress, you also regularly face off against your fellow cyber-sisters in boss battles. When you defeat them, you also gain weapons and abilities from them and the ability to play with different characters. Eventually, you also fight General Creeper himself, to make sure the world doesn’t fall prey to his evil plans.
What’s nice about Ratalaika’s port of the original Steam version is that all of the fixes and enhancements that were applied since the original 2016 release have been included in the Vita version. Because of this, Metagal is a solid retro action platformer where the biggest issue lies with its sometimes frustrating (level) design choices). Visually this is an excellent throwback to the 16 bit era and the music’s nice as well (if a little unremarkable), and the performance is excellent on the Vita. The intro felt a little slow-paced, but things quickly pick up after that.
The character design in Metagal is excellent, with a ton of diverse enemy types to battle with as well as a cast of bosses to fight (though most of those look alike with different color schemes, as they were all built by Dr. Ray). Some are frustratingly hard to beat, but those looking for a casual platformer should never look in Mega Man’s direction anyway. The colorful and detailed backdrops and sprites elevate the game above the standard retro approach with pixel art as well, so the game definitely scores points there.
Metagal has a lot of ingredients that should make it a great Mega Man clone for the Vita, and a welcome alternative to Mighty No. 9. The occasional frustration that comes from so-so level and enemy design stand in its way, but I’m hoping the development team will eventually do a sequel that fixes these issues. Let’s hope that also finds its way to the Vita.