When it comes to the Mega Man franchise, I cannot hide that I’m a big fan. Despite the Switch containing over thirty different titles from the Blue Bomber, I just can’t get enough. That’s why I’m determined to play every single game inspired by the lemon lobber that I can.

Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril sparked my interest in particular by offering a platforming experience similar to that of the NES classics, but also introducing a Metroidvania style structure.

Considering Mega Man has always had great potential for this structure (and had partial successes with the ZX spinoffs), I was quite eager to give this one a try to see just how well it plays.

Many thanks to 8 Bit Legit for the review copy.

MEGA TIMMY
The story opens with Chester and Timmy getting ready for their combat training test at the Disch Training Facility. They’re both pretty enthusiastic and confident that they’re going to do well. They both passed, but their elation is cut short when Dr Byers accuses Chester of cheating. With the answers to the test found on his computer, he’s cast out from the facility never to be heard from again.

That is until one day the alarm sirens at the facility go off after a hole gets blown into the side of the building. It appears that someone has stolen the secret plans for a Supermech, and it is none other than your old friend Chester! (shock, horror). Of course, as his old friend, you task yourself with heading off to the titular Fortress of Peril with the hope of retrieving the plans and stopping his nefarious deeds.

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I WANNA BE THE KID
From the offset, you are given the option to select between ‘story’ and ‘arcade’ game modes. The latter removes both the cutscenes and the prologue section, allowing you to jump straight into the action. It’s a nice alternative as the cutscenes drag on for quite some time in an effort to tell a complex narrative that never really ends up being as compelling as it is clearly trying to be. Honestly, before I had even cleared the prologue section I started wishing that I had chosen the arcade option instead.

That’s because the real crux of the gameplay lies in the platforming. It harkens back to the first couple of Mega Man titles, with only a jump and shoot button. No sliding or fancy moves here, just tight movement and fast shooting. The button placing is unfortunately rather clumsy, but considering there are only two buttons, it’s something you can reluctantly deal with.

Solid character control allows for the challenging platforming to always feel doable, even though the game opts for the classic NES level of difficulty. There are spikes (and lots of them), disappearing blocks, and even I wanna be the guy inspired apples falling from trees (complete with the occasional rising one, just to complete the homage). It all feels very familiar but works so well, even if some of the enemy designs seem a little too simple and bright at times, making them feel a little out of place on occasion.

What further aids the accessibility of the game is the addition of multiple levels of difficulty, which grant you things like unlimited lives and extra hearts, and also a very generous save system. These save rooms are scattered around fairly frequently and will restore you back to full health and provide you with a password to restore your progress – one that unfortunately has to be input manually if you end up quitting out of the game. The frequency of these rooms allow for the platforming sections to offer short bursts of challenge for you to overcome before you reach the next save point. It really makes even the hardest of sections feel more achievable knowing that you won’t get put back too far should you fail.

These are especially useful prior to the excellent boss fights, as they all offer a decent challenge whilst still having very fair attack patterns. Bosses typically fall on the Metroidvania style, however, opting for bigger foes with extravagent attacks over the smaller opponents typically found in a Mega Man game.

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But what sets the game completely apart from Mega Man is that everything is one huge world for you to explore. There are no selectable stages, only obstacles for you to overcome by acquiring the relevant ability to do so. This means that backtracking is a thing, but the inclusion of warp points help to alleviate unnecessary stress…

… but unfortunately not by much, as the game is completely devoid of any kind of map system. Without a map to help remember where you found that high wall to pass, you’re left just wandering around randomly until you stumble upon it again. It’s irritating design, especially as map systems existed back in the NES days (even if they weren’t particularly commonplace). There is a pickup that allows you to see your co-ordinates, meaning you could theoretically draw your own map, but very few people are likely to consider that an option.

It’s an irritance, but thankfully it doesn’t take too much away from the game. Whilst a map system would have been welcome, there’s little much else to fault with regards to the game as it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play from start to finish. Sure, the soundtrack isn’t the most memorable and the odd enemy looks a little out of place, but otherwise this is one of the best Mega Man style titles I’ve played in a while.

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It’s a shame then that 8 Bit Legit have learned nothing from their previous releases, as the same issues brought up from previous entries continue to plague this game. Whilst console versions do have extra additions compared to the NES versions they released, such as borders and a great in-game instruction manual. the one thing they refuse to add is control options and proper save functionality. Having the jump and attack buttons mapped to A and B, respectively, just feels wrong; and the archaic password saves may be fine for a NES game, but there should at least be an option to continue from the last time you saved. They’re small additions that would greatly enhance the experience if added, but ultimately spoil it without. It’s not enough to stop me from recommending it, but it certainly continues to be my major grievance with all of their releases.

VERDICT
Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril is a great attempt at a ‘MegaManVania’ that feels extremely rewarding to play regardless of the difficulty setting you choose. It’s hampered by the lack of any kind of map system, as well as the usual pitfalls from 8 Bit Legit published titles, but otherwise fans of platformers should absolutely give this one a purchase.