The underrated Zelda 2/Mega Man mash-up is finally getting the cross-platform love it deserves


Some games make my heart burst with joy. They remind me of flipping through stunning little books and fighting tough bosses with my friends. Not everyone had an basic, uncomplicated and ecstatic childhood, but each of us has moments in our lives that we remember fondly, and games that briefly evoke them. Armored Paladin is one of them for meand the retro action platformer is finally getting a second chance on PlayStation and Xbox.

It was created by Tribute Games, the independent team behind the game Candidate for GOTA 2022 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. Previously, they were best known for their puzzle RPGs Wizorb and a run-and-gun side-scroller Mercenary kings. All of the studio’s projects showcased top-notch pixel art and a zeal for transforming the basics of senior classics into homages that looked great and felt pioneering. After 2017 Flint hookdescribed at the beginning as “Spider-Man with a gun”, released by Tribute Armored Paladina 2D platformer in which you pilot a mech and collect giant medieval weapons.

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It is organized like Mega man with a stage selection screen and boss fights at the end of each level. Borrows from Blaster Master in that you can get out of your mech and move around the levels as a little pilot with a grappling hook. Plays like Zelda II, Nintendo’s one-off side-scrolling experiment that threw Link into tense 2D duels with armored knights. What Armored Paladin what these games don’t have is a sophisticated destructible weapons system where you collect swords, spears, axes and other deadly tools as you play, or even create your own and share them online with other players.

There are plenty of spike holes, but no Castlevania-style knockback that hits you on them, and each level has optional checkpoints. The combat is energetic, the levels stimulate the imagination, and the graphics exude love, respect and appreciation for the 8-bit era. But the boss fights are challenging and there are definitely some controller-throwing platforming sections. The balmy, fuzzy feeling that accompanies retro nostalgia never ends Armored Paladin from being, all things considered, a pretty hardcore throwback.

GIF: : Tribute Games / Kotaku

Its development has also now followed an unusual trajectory. Announced in early 2019 Armored Paladin was created in just over a year and released in the summer of 2020, a few months after an unprecedented pandemic that no one expected. It released exclusively on PC and Switch, with a free content update in the fall that added a leaderboard and challenge levels. At the time, Tribute reported that there were no plans to port the game to PlayStation or Xbox, leaving retro enthusiasts on those platforms out of luck.

WITH Shredder’s Revenge was completed and the DLC was released last year, it’s finally time to bring Armored Paladin to other platforms. If the port had been as uncomplicated as copying and pasting some code, it could have happened much sooner, but Tribute runs on a proprietary game engine and had to exploit outside developers as well as go through a byzantine platform certification process that included making sure that server support for user-generated game content – player-created weapons – did not break on PlayStation or Xbox.

“You go through the certification process and you get bug reports on certain things, and there’s always a temptation to say, ‘Oh, we could improve this in a particular way, or we could add a new feature to it.'” Ray, a producer who helped coordinate the process, said me in a recent video interview. “But there’s also this little voice that says we need to keep everything as simple as possible, so we’ll go through certification and introduce less risk of something breaking because we’ve changed something else.”

With this task completed, Tribute can now focus on the next project. Will it be a studio dedicated to one game or is there room for more? Armored Paladinlarge-scale experiment in the future? “We have a lot of projects in the pipeline right now, including some ports,” publishing manager Eric Lafontaine told me (several of the studio’s older games, such as Wizorb are not available on current consoles). He added that the team is currently growing, which is reassuring at a time when many other independent studios are at risk of extinction.

In the meantime, Armored Paladin it’s ready to be rediscovered like a long-lost NES cartridge infused with current technology. There’s no shortage of great-looking retro games on PC and consoles these days, but they only take a few minutes to play Armored Paladin to discover that it is much more than just another pixel game with the ability to play GIF files. And one of the things I love most about it now is the way it crept into my brain and made me nostalgic for the summer of its original release. 2020 was an absolutely shitty year in so many ways. Game Armored Paladin I offered brief moments of retro respite that I still haven’t forgotten. And now he’s back Platinum Trophy on PS4.

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