As much as I love video games, and really I LOVE video games, there are many other things in this world of ours that I enjoy as well. One of those things is anime, and one of my favorite series is Mobile Suit Gundam. Giant robots fighting each other and stuff blowing up everywhere, I’ve loved it ever since I was little and still love it today. I also love sword fights and there are tons and tons of anime that have great sword fights. Now there are a multitude of Gundam games and games with great melee mechanics, and Panzer Paladin meshes the two together beautifully. Developed by Tribute Games Panzer Paladin (currently available for the Switch and Steam) is a single player action platformer thats part Gundam, Mega Man, and a little dash of Metroidvania. The best part it includes two of my favorite anime tropes, giant robots, and awesome anime battles.
The story of Panzer Paladin is pretty straightforward, mystic weapons fall from space and famous mythological monsters such as Medusa, Baba Yaga, and Anubis. These monsters (10 in all) are lead by Prince Ravenous who wants to take over the world. It’s up to Flame, a rescue android, and her mech Grit, to fight the forces of darkness and save the world. The story may be something that we’ve all heard before, but its still a fun romp even though the game doesn’t start off the plot until after the first level. Of course what really makes this game interesting is the gameplay and weapon mechanics.
Unlike other robot games there isn’t a gun in sight. Grit’s main weapons are melee weapons which range from swords, clubs, spears, and a popsicle. Yes you read that right, a popsicle is a weapon in this game. Frozen treats being used to beat your enemies to a pulp aside, every weapon has a different range. Spears and staffs of course reach farther, small knives are best for throwing, and swords are great medium range weapons. Now instead of just sticking to the weapons you like there is a downside to each weapon. Weapons break after a certain amount of uses. However all is not lost when a weapon breaks, because each weapon has a spell attached to it. These spells vary from bringing your attack, defense, and weapon durability up, some also have attack spells like absorbing an enemies HP for your own, making lighting rain from the sky, or having projectiles deflect off your shield. Of course the better weapons yield the better spells and to activate a spell you have to break your weapon. The good news is that enemies drop weapons like candy and you can find them in hidden spots throughout a level. Grit can hold up to 4 weapons at a time and you can switch between them on the fly thanks to the shoulder buttons. You also hold multiple weapons in your storage so when a weapon breaks you can hit the pause button and put a new weapon in the empty slot. In the off chance you have no weapons on you or they all break in a boss fight, Grit can still fight by punching enemies. One thing was was bothering me was there were times I wanted to cast a spell right before a weapon broke. I was able to catch it a few times but there were times where I missed a chance to cast a healing spell because it broke right as I killed an enemy. Of course one way to avoid that is to just cast the spells when you need them but then you’d be wasting good weapons doing that.
Now most of the time you will be controlling Grit, while playing I can feel his weight and there were a few times I messed up a few easy jumps. Grit doesn’t have a double jump but he does have a upward attack that does give him a little extra height than a normal jump. Now if Grit looses all his HP that isn’t a loss of a life, instead you would take control of Flame who is quicker and has a higher jump. She can defend herself with a energy whip but her HP is drastically smaller than Grit’s. It’s when she dies then you will loose that life. Now Flame’s parts of the game are pretty obvious, there are these hoops that she can grab with her whip and get across gaps that Grit wouldn’t be able to traverse. Flame’s whip can grab onto things and help her traverse the levels. However there were times when I couldn’t get the timing right and fell into a pit of spikes. I almost raged quit because of that but after a while you do get used to it and Flame can swing on a hoop for as long as you need to. As a bit of a bonus these areas usually have a tank that can heal Grit and they always have a way to summon him so you wouldn’t have to backtrack. Flame isn’t held to these spots, she can eject herself from Grit anytime she wants to, and there are hidden ladders that hold 1ups that only she can get to. If you want to challenge yourself there is an achievement in the game where you have to play the whole level as Flame, and that includes beating the boss at the end.
Now the bosses could be attempted in any order, there isn’t a Mega Man order to it which for me is nice. Like any of these old style games rushing into a boss swinging like a madman is a recipe for certain death. Each boss doesn’t require a certain weapon or spell to defeat it, but there are certain strategies that will make the fight easier. I was fighting Baba Yaga and kept dying until I stumbled across a way that made the fight easier for me. Anubis truly felt like a duel between master swordsmen and finding his Achille’s heel was fun and challenging.
Like Mega Man you do get the bosses weapon when you beat them. However like every other weapon in the game these will break too but they have some of the most powerful spells in the game. However there is a way to farm them, you can do that by simply replaying the level and beating the boss at the end. These weapons are very strong and can help you take down the other bosses better than the other weapons can. Replaying levels also of course gives you more weapons to upgrade Grit’s health bar in the laboratory but thats sadly all it does. More heath is great of course but it would have been nice to upgrade other parts of Grit. Like his attack, defense, speed, stuff like that.
As much fun as I’ve had with this game there are a few things that made me scratch my head. The way the game’s characters tell me about certain mechanics is one of them. After you beat a few bosses, one of the characters will tell you about how you can break a weapon to cast a spell, something that the tutorial tell you about, and even later it tells you about the lab where you can upgrade Grit’s energy. I found this early on when I was checking out the stage select screen. When the commander came on screen to tell of a new sword move I got excited but it was just the parry move that I performed a few times already. Enemies are mostly the same with very few of them truly being different and requiring different ways to beat them. There are a few really cool enemies in the game, but I came across more annoying ones that killed me mid air than enemies that required patience and pattern recognition. However I did like how all the weapons and (most) of the enemies were dressed appropriately to the country of their stage. Even if most weapons were re-dresses of the other ones, it was nice seeing the detail of the different weapons.
There are other modes to Panzer Paladin beside the main story. A remix mode where all the levels of the story are different. Speed Run with online leaderboards, and my personal favorite, the Blacksmith mode. Where you can make 8-bit versions of your own weapons. It’s not just making a design either, you also set the durability, spell, and how much damage it can dish out, and what type of weapon it is. These weapons can be used in the game and are uploaded online for other players to use, but you have to get them by fighting the Horseman. He’s the first boss you fight in the game and when you redo a stage he shows up right after the halfway checkpoint. He’s very easy once you get the hang of the game and when you beat him he’ll drop a weapon that you made or someone else made. It’s a bit a crapshoot on which weapon you get. I got one of the weapons I made twice and I also got some crazy weapons that other players have made. It’s actually really fun seeing what other players have made. I’ve gotten sprites of anime characters, a folding chair, and a fish. Really the sky’s the limit on what you want to make.
As a whole, I love this game, there may have been a few times I almost raged quit but after I took a little break, I was right back in the thick of it having fun. It ticks all the boxes that I personally love in fiction and the game is gorgeous. The 8-bit art is beautiful and I may have missed a few jumps because I was admiring the art of the stage I was in. It does bring a bit of challenge and you can change the difficulty as well. I’ve been playing on Normal difficulty and even after I’ve shook the rust off my platforming skills it’s still a fun game. I would definitely recommend this game for those who loved games like Mega Man, Metroid, and those who love giant robots with swords.