I’m so happy about the deluge of ports the Switch is getting. Yes, they’re games that came out before. Yes, I already played many of them. But putting them on the Switch means I can play them at home or on the subway, and that’s really convenient. If the ports have new content, that’s a bonus! While I wait with ‘bated breath for Bayo 1/2 (and eventually Bayo 3), I’ve been revisiting a fantastic run-and-gun shooter/hunting game that largely passed under the radar when it was released for PC. Mercenary Kings Reloaded is the new enhanced edition of Tribute Games’ Mercenary Kings, and Tribute Games sent me a code to try it out (and, since I enjoyed it so much on Steam a few years ago, I did).Mercenary Kings is about a group of mercenaries who set up camp at a mysterious island to thwart the biological experimentation plans of Evil group C.L.A.W. It’s a paper-thin and incredibly self-aware premise that exists to give you reasons to go into different parts of the island and kill tons of enemies. You choose one of four characters: action guy King, action woman Empress, hunter/resistance-styled action woman Frigg, or C-ZAR the robot. Frigg and C-ZAR are new to Mercenary Kings Reloaded. There aren’t any mechanical differences between the characters, and you can unlock lots of palette swaps for them as you play. You’re then assisted by old eyepatch guy Colonel Tasker, handler Miss Zero, pilot Bobby (and his sentient helicopter Choppy), blacksmith Ironside, gunsmith Fearless, and a half dozen other fun and helpful NPCs who provide services at the camp.AdChoices广告Visually, this is one Metal Slug-ass game. The sprites are a bit more 8-bit than 16-bit in their structure and palettes, but the bouncy, personality-filled characters with lots of expressions and copious amounts of blood feel like they could be straight out of a Megal Slug game. That’s thanks to animator Paul Lawrence Robinson, who you might know as the creator of Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006, a short film made with sprite art that depicts an increasingly insane arcade brawler playthrough. He also worked on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Gravity Falls.Every character and enemy looks active and interesting, with loads of animation frames. Tanks and mechs look massive and cartoonish, like G.I. Joe vehicles. Enemy soldiers wear constant grimaces and smirks. Cute little animals run away from gunfire (and drop items if you murder them). Explosions are big and bright, and blood splatters are hilariously massive as enemies crumble into piles of gore. Paul Robinson is one of the most talented pixel artists out there, and Mercenary Kings drips with his style.At first glance Mercenary Kings looks like a Contra or Metal Slug game, mechanically. That isn’t exactly the case. It’s a run-and-gun game, but there’s a lot of mechanical depth underneath the flying bullets and bleeding sprites. You have a Mega Man-like health bar and have access to a variety of items that let you heal, destroy obstacles, and even capture enemies. You can also make a lot of guns. I mean hundreds, if not thousands.The big mechanic in Mercenary Kings is gun customization. Fearless can craft gun parts from the items you collect and money you make completing missions. You can build guns from different receivers, barrels, stocks, magazines, sights, and ammo types, and each component affects how the gun behaves. Handguns are light and reload quickly, but aren’t very powerful and can’t hold many bullets. Shotguns can hold even fewer shells and are slow to reload, but can fire spread shots with the right ammo. Submachine guns can spray small, weak bullets quickly. Machine guns can spray big, powerful bullets quickly, but are so heavy they limit your speed and jumping ability and take a long time to reload. Consider all of those factors, then consider how you can mix and match different parts to make your ideal gun.Most gun parts add to an ammo type percentage. You can build any gun with any combination of parts as long as it includes a receiver, but you’ll only fire regular, small bullets unless you bring an ammo type stat to 100% or higher. The stat is usually dictated by the receiver, but you can mix and match different parts to bring any ammo type to 100% even if the receiver doesn’t seem like it would work. We’re talking sniper rifles that can fire shotgun shells, machine guns that fire magnum bullets, and even pistols that can fire missiles. Finding the right balance means making compromises like firing speed, weight, and ammo capacity, but it offers lots of options. Oh, and you can also use elemental ammo that can freeze, electrocute, or burn your targets (I like caustic ammo, since it eats through shields).Your weapon choices trickle steadily out as you play through the game and rank up by completing missions. You’re also limited by your budget and the materials at hand, because you need to go out and collect those materials on each mission, earning money in the process. Missions can include reaching a certain part of the level, killing a certain number of enemies, capturing an enemy with a shock bomb, rescuing hostages, or destroying equipment. Or, in terms that might be more familiar, quests to kill bosses, kill a certain number of smaller enemies, or collect a certain number of raw materials. So you can get new weapons (and upgrade your armor, which increases your life bar).Yes, underneath the Metal Slug exterior and gameplay, Mercenary Kings is actually a hunting game. This is 2D, sprite-based, military-themed Monster Hunter. And that’s pretty great. It’s a reason to keep coming back to different missions to unlock as many different weapon parts as you can and try out new things. It adds an addictive sense of progression to a genre that is usually just about running through levels and completing objectives. There’s more to do because there’s so much to collect, including rare materials and extra money by completing extra objectives in each mission, along with finding secret objectives and beating the fastest clear time to get even more rare materials.Add excellent controls that feel responsive, with a dodge roll and melee attacks (and you can craft different knives) and active reloading that makes your bullets more powerful if you press the R button when the meter is over a green area. It might feel strange if you just build the biggest gun you can and then find yourself with a short, floaty jump, but that’s the point. You actually move differently depending on how heavy your gun is. With a fairly generous amount of mercy invincibility when you get hit and the tendency of enemy fire to take Dark Souls amounts of life bar chunks and you get a very satisfying 2D gameplay experience that provides just enough challenge to feel worthwhile.I’ve been having fun playing through Mercenary Kings Reloaded on my Switch, and considering how much content and variety it offers in a genre that is usually reserved for short, direct playthroughs and speedruns, its $20 price tag is pretty reasonable.It’s real good you guys. Stay on target Real There You Guys: Ready Player One and Nostalgia as Generational PoisonReal Good You Guys: ThinkGeek’s Bags of Holding (Fast Travel and M… Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.