Multiple Direct Hits, One Spectacular Miss

HIGH Taking down a massive boss in seconds with a tiny, overpowered ship

LOW No continues.

WTF Seriously, no continues.

The past few months have seen me take a break from the game review world to focus on life events that have been keeping me plenty busy, not to mention stressed out. While I wasn’t writing about videogames, they were still one of my main modes of relaxation, if even for brief moments.

Recently, two types of games became my go-to for relieving the weekly stresses of life – fighting games and shmups. So, it was a little serendipitous when Brad, my editor, emailed asking if I would like to review Mecha RitzSteel Rondo, an indie shmup released on PC back in 2016, now receiving a release on the Nintendo Switch. Glad I said yes, as Mecha Ritz is a solid shmup, with just one minor issue.

Set in the future, Mecha Ritz is the story of a brilliant young scientist who invents “mecha” then destroys humanity to create a more perfect, mechanized world. Players pilot one of 14 Mechas (fighter ships) that have been infused with the last drops of human will. Additional story is told between each stage, but I usually don’t play shmups for the story, I’m more concerned with the gameplay – the star of the show.

Players guide flying Mechas across 15 different stages, blasting hostile robotic enemies and destroying over 40 gigantic boss ships, all while dodging an onslaught of enemy bullets. Each Mecha is unique but has three main attacks – normal shots that tend to span the screen but are weaker, charged shots that vary from each ship but tend to be very powerful, and bombs. Players will need to get comfortable using all three, as different scenarios require different strategies.

Mecha Ritz straddles the line between simple shmup and bullet-hell – things start off relatively easy, but as players progress enemy attacks become more numerous and difficult to dodge. While I found this to be an excellent balance, players looking for more challenge can ramp up the difficulty right from the beginning – easy begins at level zero and can go all the way to the most challenging level, 360!

Mecha Ritz also excels with how it tackles the shmup life system. One hit can still destroy a player’s ship but scattered throughout each stage are shield power-ups. A shield acts as a hit bonus and each Mecha can carry up to five shields at once. This allows for extended play times, as I found myself losing and regaining shields quite frequently.

As much as I enjoy the shield system, I am perplexed by the lack of continues. Mecha Ritz explains the lack of continues is so players enjoy “making gradual progress” until finally beating the game. With later stages (and especially some of the later bosses) becoming extremely challenging, I can only see the lack of continues preventing most players from sticking with the game – and I was able to beat it twice! The year is 2022, continues should be part of all games.

Continues aside, Mecha Ritz excels in other areas. Controls are smooth and precise. Graphics are stellar and would feel right at home on the original PlayStation. And I don’t talk about soundtracks often, but the one in Mecha Ritz is top-notch – energetic, electronic beats feel right at home in a world-ending robot clash.

Hopefully I am wrong about the lack of continues scaring players away, because Mecha RitzSteel Rondo is a solid shmup in all other aspects. It fit right in with my small rotation of shmup games and has become a great way to relax after a stressful day of work and life commitments.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by HEY and published by Hanaji Games. It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was beaten twice. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E. No official description is available, but this game is safe for most younger gamers. This is typical shmup gameplay – player’s ships explode in a burst when defeated and there is no bloodshed. The story references the extinction of humanity but is not graphic in description.

Colorblind Mode: There are no colorblind modes available, however there are options in the menu to change the bullet color and explosion color.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles – the story is told completely through text. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. Another important note for the text, a few story screens have text rotate through multiple colors instead of keeping the font a consistent, single hue. 

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. This game does not offer a controller map diagram, but movement is on the left stick or left directional pad. Tapping the A-button fires a normal shot. Holding the A-button fires each ship’s unique special shot. Pressing the B-button fires a bomb, while holding down the B-button detonates a bullet-clearing bomb. In Training Mode, the Y-button changes the ship mid-training, rather than having to exit and reselect a new craft.

Brian Theisen
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