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Sky Mercenaries Redux Switch Review: Drones For Hire

Sky Mercenaries Redux, out now on the Switch where you can level up three characters and ships in this retro shmup.

Sky Mercenaries Redux Switch Review
Source: Nintendo

Ever hear of Sky Mercenaries Redux? Me neither, but Polarity Flow got in touch to let me know that it’s available on the Nintendo Switch, and kindly gave me a review code too so that I could give my opinion.

What is Sky Mercenaries Redux? I’m glad you asked. You did ask, didn’t you? It’s a vertical scrolling shmup. Some may say it’s bullet hell, but I think it’s pretty reasonable, but that’s not to say there isn’t a lot on-screen at one time.

For those of you who read the first bit of a review then skim to the bottom for the verdict, let me say that this game took me by surprise. First of all, it was the fact that it exists, secondly, it’s actually quite good.

Sky Mercenaries Redux Switch Review

It’s a typical shmup affair, and admittedly I glazed over any story and preferred to get straight into the action. Not that you have much of a choice as Sky Mercenaries Redux is pretty vague and leaves you to work things out for yourself, save for a pointer on the colour system. Which didn’t entirely help.

Sky Mercenaries Redux - SWIV
SWIV. Source: Nintendo

There are two distinct colours in the game, blue and red, and you can swap out your craft on the fly to match the enemies (and projectiles) on screen. My misunderstanding was needing to shoot red enemies with red ammo, but it’s the opposite.

I didn’t notice the difference in the damage I was causing (not that there was much time to look at health gauges), so kind of winged it. A quick note on gauges; you can see the enemies overlayed on their ships, but tracking your own is too distracting. Just don’t die, right?

But here’s the real trick in Sky Mercenaries Redux: if you switch the colour of your ship to match the incoming missiles, plasma – whatever, you absorb the damage and can even pull off a rather devastating laser beam to clean up the area.

The Path To Self Development

What Sky Mercenaries Redux is lacking, when compared to similar vertical shooters, is the arsenal. There aren’t bombs to wipe out everything on screen or readily available changes in your guns. To counter that, however, is the inclusion of RPG elements and drones.

Drones accompany you in the game, and they will fight or defend for you. As you progress, you can improve on their abilities or choose a character and ship that suits your style. Correct: there are three playable characters, each with their own traits, as well as the ships.

there are three playable characters, each with their own traits, as well as the ships

Choose a more offensive or defensive character and mix up with the opposite when it comes to the ship. It’s quite a unique approach, and while it won’t be to every purist’s stringent demands, I welcomed it like the ginger stepchild it had become.

Levelling up does take a while, so you may end up grinding levels for the maximum benefits. One pretty frustrating thing was having to restart a level on death instead of a checkpoint. Then again, it’s classic vertical shooting territory here, and the levels in Sky Mercenaries Redux are relatively short, so a checkpoint is a bit pointless.

Modern Retro

Aesthetically we’re looking at the old arcade shoot ’em ups like 1941 and the like and to be honest, I was pretty satisfied with my experience. The visuals won’t blow you away, but do you know what? You can see what you’re doing instead of focusing on pretty explosive techniques.

One of the bigger letdowns of Sky Mercenaries Redux was surprisingly the sound. Explosions and the sounds of the weapons were a bit flat and uninspiring. Equally, the music, while good, felt out of place and was probably better suited to a strategy title rather than a fast-paced.

Sky Mercenaries Redux - Overload
Overload. Source: Nintendo

It’s worth mentioning here that there’s also an editor built-in to the game and you can create your own levels. This is often omitted for the Switch, with games like Terrorhythm TRRT, so it’s refreshing to see this addition here, adding to the longevity to the title.

In summary, Sky Mercenaries Redux is a good shoot ’em up. For a retro-inspired title, it’s not going to reinvent the wheel, but the RPG elements are a good addition and work in its favour. If that’s not your cup of tea, you don’t have to play it, but if you like the classic shooters with a slight twist, give it a go.

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