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Video Game: Mercenary Kings
Mercenary Kings is a retro 2D action platformer, created by Tribute Games and released in 2014. When scientist Doctor James Neil develops the Mandragora Serum, a potent elixir that bestows superhuman strength and regeneration, he is kidnapped and his facilities on Mandragora Island are taken over by the terrorist group known as CLAW, who plan on using the serum to Take Over the World. In response, a mercenary group called the Mercenary Kings are dispatched to the island to stop CLAW and rescue Dr. Neil, but something goes horribly wrong. CLAW has already used the serum to mass produce a giant army of super soldiers, robots, mechs and mutated wildlife, and the Kings are ambushed and almost immediately cut down. Only two of the mercenaries survive, King and Empress, and even then they have to be given doses of the Mandragora Serum to survive their wounds.

Now, empowered by the serum and armed with a plethora of weapons, King and Empress are redeployed to Mandragora Island to deliver some well deserved payback to CLAW and save the world!

The game was designed to recapture both the spirit of the action films of the 1980's and of retro games of the same era, but update it to modern times. Thus, it includes the ability to upgrade your character's weapons and armor, bio-mods to directly implant into the character's body and the Item Crafting mechanic, which allows you to create dozens of weapons for your character. The game's website is here.

Mercenary Kings provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abnormal Ammo: The elemental types, which have specific properties and work well against certain targets:
    • Incendiary - does extra damage against most human types.
    • Caustic - melts shields and does extra damage against armored targets.
    • Electric - does extra damage against machine type enemies.
    • Cryogenic - has a chance to freeze targets of all types.
  • Ace Custom: All of the Kings' guns, as they're 100% certified "Lawless Originals".
  • Ace Pilot: Bobby Ryack, your transportation specialist.
  • Action Girl: Empress, should you choose to play as her.
  • Affectionate Parody: The games whole theme and setting is a tribute to 80's and 90's action movies, such as Commando, Predator, Alien and the like. Some events in game are even direct references to scenes from those films.
  • A God Am I: When Commander Baron calls the Kings to face him directly, he tells them to fight him men-to-GOD. Dr. Neil gets in on this as well, though it's far less comedic.
  • Airborne Mooks: Several. They're generally very weak, but extremely annoying.
  • A.K.A.-47: One of the assault rifle bodies is named Reyder-47 and looks just like old Kalashnikov. Another, named, Patrol Rifle, is identical to M-16.
    • For regular handguns there are Colt and Beretta expies, named Bolt Six-shooter, Bolt 45, Frazetta and Frazetta 93S, respectively. German weapons also get in on the act, with Jager and Klein P8 taking hints from Luger and Walter P8.
    • Magnums (i.e. large pistols) have the Clint 500 and Jackal, which are a Smith and Wesson and Desert Eagle respectively.
    • Averted with the Tommy Gun submachine gun receiver, mainly since the name is not patented. Played straight with Jackal Automatic.
  • All Or Nothing Reloads: Played with. If youíve run out of all bullets from your current weapon, you will eventually reload automatically. However, itís also possible to reload at any time with a minigame where a tri-colored bar scrolls above your head and you need to stop it at the right moment. Stopping at yellow simply reloads it, stopping at grey inflicts a reloading cooldown, while stopping at green makes the reloaded bullets inflict 10% more damage.
  • Amazon Brigade: Driller drivers are always female.
    • In a literal example, all of the Temple People's warriors are women.
  • An Axe to Grind: The Violence Axe weapon, which is one of the more powerful melee implements.
    • One of the Violence Kings wields the aforementioned axe as well.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Armor Piercing ammo, which negates the damage reduction of armored enemies and passes through objects.
  • Ascended Fan Girl: In-universe, your supply officer, Golden Gate, is a huge fan of the Mercenary Kings and is excited to get a chance to work with them.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Most of the Sniper Rifle weapon parts. They provide better range than any other parts and are always compatible with armor piercing ammo, but are also ridiculously heavy and only have mediocre damage.
    • The Violence King melee weapons have very high damage for their level, but are incredibly heavy.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Thaddeus Bonaparte, aka T-Bone, the chef.
  • Awesome But Practical: Magnum weapon parts. High damage, quick reloads, compatible with jumbo ammunition and they're all revolvers.
  • Back from the Dead: King and Empress, who were revived after sustaining lethal injuries thanks to the Mandrake Formula.
    • Late in the game, The Prime Soldiers are revealed to King and Empress' slain comrades, similarly brought back via the Mandrake Serum, only in their case blindly loyal to CLAW.
  • Bad Boss: Commander Baron is completely willing to execute his own troops if they fail him, or if he's just in a bad mood.
    • The Company isn't much better, as they're ready to kill off the Kings the second they stop being convenient.
  • Battle Aura: Many bosses will glow when they perform their respective charge attacks.
  • Battle Boomerang: Boomerang Billies will use these against you. They can even deflect bullets!
  • BFS: The Panzer Splitter knife, which is bigger than your character.
  • Bittersweet Ending: CLAW has been stopped, the world is safe, the Ark of Samsara is returned to the Temple People, the mandrakes are free to go back to their natural place in the Mandragora ecosystem and Rajah, Majestic and Royal are alive and kicking, but Tasker, King and Empress are forced to say goodbye to their team and go on the run, as they are now fugitives and hunted by the Company.
  • Blade on a Stick: The Glaive, Capy Spear and Golden Spear weapons, all of which are also wielded by enemies.
    • Ironside muses that spears are just knives with really long handles.
  • Bonus Boss: The Blitzhound K9, Munsterlander and Metal Woof are all completely optional and only serve as guards to the mission's actual objective.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The vast majority of CLAW's soldiers are conditioned into obedience using cybernetics, the Mandrake Formula, or both.
    • ALL of the mandrakes that you fight have been brainwashed into serving CLAW, they're normally quite docile.
  • Came Back Wrong: CLAW used the Mandrake Formula to revive and control Rajah, Majestic and Royal, turning them into the Prime Soldiers.
  • Chainsaw Good: Subverted with Electric Knife, Raid Saw and Twin Raider. Theyíre all variations of the chainsaw theme, yet none are actually very good.
    • Played straight with the actual Chainsaw weapon, which is relatively easy to make, not very heavy and one of the stronger knives.
  • Chiptune: Most of the soundtrack is like this to fit with the gameís retro atmosphere.
  • Collision Damage
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Elemental versions of enemies and bosses.
    • Incendiary: Red/Orange and brown
    • Electrical: Yellow and grey
    • Caustic: Purple and green
    • Cryogenic: White and light blue
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: By the end, the Company, the Kings employers, are revealed to be little better than CLAW. This is what prompts Tasker, King and Empress to rebel and go on the run in the ending.
  • Creepy Twins: The Runway Brothers, who speak in perfect unison at all times, are never apart and own a big floating monolith that emanates an unknown power and talks to them. Fortunately they're on your team.
  • Critical Existence Failure: In effect for both you and your enemies. So long as you have at least 1 health left, you can do anything.
    • Averted with the Doomsday Harrier and Hellfire Harrier bosses, which begin to break down as they get low on health, forcing them to land so the pilot can take potshots at you with a grenade launcher, or just crush you with the aircraft itself.
  • Deadly Lunge: Some Mandrakes hop around at rather leisurely pace, than rapidly jumps towards you once youíre close.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: T-Bone, who joins your team as a chef after you throw a shock grenade in his face.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: In another retro element, the player is only allowed to shoot straight left, right up or down. Some enemies, like snipers, are allowed to shoot diagonally, however.
  • Drop the Hammer: The mace variety. Snail Mace, Thorn Mace and Violence Razor are all blunt spiky weapons that rely on their weight to inflict damage.
  • Dual Boss: The Violence Kings.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Dr. Neil turns himself into one using a mix of the Mandrake Formula and the power from the Ark of Samsara.
  • Elemental Powers: There are four elements in the game, which are applied to weapons. If an enemy is strong to a specific element, it gets 20% damage reduction (50% for bosses). If it is weak to an element, then it receives anywhere between 20% and 100% increased damage from that element, depending on the element and the enemy in question.
  • Elite Mooks: There are elemental versions of basic CLAW enemies (Patrol, Guard, Riot) that have much greater health and inflict bonus damage of their element with each shot. There also similarly elite electric turrets, which have doubled health.
    • Abductors are beefed up versions of the Riot Grifs that use a hostage for a shield, meaning you have to be careful or risk failing an objective.
    • Electrocutioners. They've got 5500 health compared to most enemies' 500 - 1200 and fire damaging electrical bolts in a rather complex pattern. Fortunately they are immobile and serve more like obstacles.
    • Grenadiers. Lots of health, armored, and throws lots of hard to dodge, area-effect grenades.
    • The Auto-Carriers. Very durable, extremely persistent, and difficult to hit due to how high they jump and their tendency to fire on you whenever they're vulnerable.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: The Munsterlander has rainbow-based laser weaponry and the Blitzhound K9 flashes in rainbow colors like it got a Starman when it charges.
  • Evil Knockoff: CLAW attempts to clone King and Empress, creating dozens of Monarchs and Marquesses...who aren't intelligent enough to use firearms and just blindly charge you with knives.
  • Expy: Cadillac looks a lot like The Spy without his mask.
    • The basic Steel Soldiers bear a striking resemblance to Power Loaders
  • Eyepatch of Power: Your Mission Leader, Colonel Tasker, has one. For CLAW, Commander Baron's dog, Alpha, also has one.
  • Fanservice: Why else would there be such an abundance of cleavage and bouncing in a sprite game?
  • Fastball Special: When piloting the Munsterlander, Alpha will occasionally launch himself at you.
  • Fast Tunnelling: Drillers, which will charge in and out of ground to attack you.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Runner enemies have very little health, but will rapidly charge you with knives once provoked. Same applies to Creeper robots.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The terrorist group you fight is named CLAW, which apparently stands for Cybernetic Loyal and Active Weapons.
    • Also, your Communications Specialist lives not on Earth, but in space, aboard the Big Orbital Space Station.
  • Gainaxing: Empress's boobs bounce. A lot. Constantly. Probably a shout-out to Angel from the old Neo Geo game Shock Troopers, who did the same.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The Hazmat Patrol enemies.
  • Gatling Good: The Minigun weapon parts. It is functionally identical to other machine guns, however.
  • Genki Girl: Lawless and Miss Zero. Lawless loves building, shooting and talking about guns. Miss Zero is just generally very excitable, especially when it comes to messing with CLAW.
  • Giant Mecha: The Steel Soldier and Titan Trooper bosses.
  • The Goomba: The Patrol enemies, which have little health, donít do much damage and cannot do anything beyond crouching down to avoid some of your shots.
  • Goomba Stomp: Since Collision Damage is in effect, many enemies will try to kill you by just jumping on you.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Colonel Tasker uses silly insults and coffee-based exclamations in place of profanity.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: One of the mid-tier melee weapons is a broken bottle.
  • Ground Pound: One of the Titan Trooper's attacks.
  • Hand Cannon: The Magnum weapon type is all about large, powerful pistols with small clips and slow reloads. One of them is actually called Hand Cannon.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Armored enemies. Include Armored Runner and Sniper as well as more unique variations.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Violence Kings. A pair of ancient warriors clad in turtle shells that channel some bizarre elritch power.
    • Dr. Neil, after he turns himself into The Synthetic God.
  • Human Shield: Abductor enemies use them.
  • Hammerspace: Played with. You can only carry your gun and up to two different item types, they all have weight and themore weight you're carrying, the slower you move. However, you still seem to pull all your equipment out of thin air.
    • Completely averted with King, who is never without a rather large backpack. Empress however, keeps everything in her shorts.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: You can deflect bullets with your knife.
    • Runner type enemies are also capable of using their knives to deflect bullets fired at them from the front.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The accuracy with which the Grenadier enemies can hurl grenades almost feels like they're homing.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Given the colorful variety of gun parts and melee weapons at your disposal, it's entirely possible to make your character one.
  • Item Crafting: One modern feature of the game that complements its Retraux roots is item crafting and customisation. It is possible to find or purchase more than 300 distinct weapon pieces that can be mixed and matched at will.
  • Joke Weapon / Lethal Joke Item: Many.
    • Fish Knife and its larger cousin Big Fish, which are literally dead fish, made by combining lots of bone, fiberglass and meat together. They are on the lower end of power spectrum, but far from the worst.
    • The Panzer Splitter. A ridiculously huge knife that dwarfs your character, requires 20 Steel and lots of other materials, weighs 3.4 kg Ö and does 5 points less damage than Big Fish, which requires a lot less materials and weighs three times less.
    • The plunger. Itís one of the worst melee weapons overall, though it still beats pickaxe somehow.
    • The Mew Grey and Mew Orange firearm receivers, which are a fat kitty holding a small assault rifle and small shotgun, respectively.
    • The Peashooter pistol receiver, which is Mega Man's arm cannon. It's very weak, but its biggest advantage is that it doesn't run out of ammo or need to be reloaded!
    • The Flusher submachine gun, which looks like a complete toilet somehow converted into a gun. The Trombone shotgun receiver (which is literally a Trombone) goes even further).
  • King Mook: The Mega-Looper, which is just a bigger, beefier version of the common Looper enemy.
  • Knife Nut: Your bladesmith, Ironside, who has apparently "not used a non-knife utensil in the past 15 years".
  • La Rťsistance: The Resistance, of course.
  • Lesser Seen Species: Among commonly known animals like boars, rabbits and foxes, the devs took the trouble to add in capybaras.
  • Living Weapon: The Company describes King and Empress as this, post-Mandrake Formula.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Some ranged attacks of the K9 Blitzhound and the Doomsday Harrier.
  • Made of Iron: King and Empress, thanks to the Mandrake formula.
  • Mooks: Over a 100 versions of them!
  • Monster Compendium: Kept by the Intelligence Agent, Cadillac.
  • More Dakka: What this game's all about - make your own escalating Frankenguns. Machineguns, Submachine guns and Assault Rifles all have high rates of fire. However, the more rounds a magazine has, the lower the weapon's base power will be, which is balanced out by pure DPS for the higher firing rate weapons.
  • Motion Blur: The melee attacks of Steel Soldier bosses are rendered in this way.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Tasker's obsession with coffee is a frequent Running Gag.
  • Nice Hat: Ironside wears one. It's got a two way radio built in and covers up his bald spot.
  • One Hit Poly Kill: Armor piercing ammo, when equipped to a sufficiently powerful gun, can tear through huge groups of enemies with ease.
    • When combined with a sniper rifle barrel, it's possible to kill packs of enemies that are an entire screen length away.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most of the residents of Camp Crown, including the player characters.
  • Organic Technology: The Caustic Avenger magnum, Mandragora submachinegun and Mega-Smasher assault rifle are all built of living components and writhe and squirm in your hands.
  • Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: The Steel Assault assault rifle receiver has looks at the milder end of this spectrum.
  • Palette Swap: Nearly every single enemy has at least one alternate colored version with slightly altered stats. Even the rabbits.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Most of CLAW's non-combat personnel are just trying to make a living and don't care about Commander Baron's plans.
  • Psycho Electro: Electrocutioner enemies, who always has an insane grin on their faces, even as they electrify themselves.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Colonel Tasker. As hot-headed and heavily caffeinated as he is, he genuinely wants to make the world a better place and do the right thing, rather than just following orders or enjoying the war with CLAW.
  • Recurring Boss: Commander Baron's dog, Alpha, pilots the Metal Woof, Munsterlander and Blitzhound K9 bosses, all of which are encountered multiple times.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Seems to be a side effect of the unfinished Mandrake Formula, as all of CLAW's Grif soldiers have them.
  • Retraux: The graphics, sounds and a lot of the gameplay are very retro, but there are also features like Item Crafting and story that actually goes beyond Excuse Plot.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: There are cute, tiny baby boars, which you can kill and loot for meat and bones. Donít feel too bad about it though, because there are also full-grown boars around.
    • The capybaras are also pretty cute. Especially when the Temple People use them as battle steeds.
  • Rocket Punch: Steel Soldier bosses have it as their ranged attack.
  • RPG Elements: Besides Item Crafting, there are also direct upgrades to your character's armor and the bio-mods. It is also possible to converse with support personnel at the base and receive side quests from them.
  • Sequel Hook: The ending has Tasker, King and Empress leaving their team behind to go underground and fight the Company.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Colonel Tasker pulls this on the Company, when they order him to terminate the Kings, all the mandrakes and the Temple People so they can sell both the Mandrake Formula and the Ark of Samsara's power at their leisure.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: Riot Grifs, who are only vulnerable if you get behind them or when they take time to shoot. Weapons with corrosive damage can also corrode their shields, which causes them to panic and shoot rapidly.
    • Grif Chargers are equipped with spiked shields.
    • Thereís even a shield-equipped Mandragora turret late in the game!
  • Shoot The Fuel Tank: One of the more effective ways to deal with the larger robot bosses.
  • Short Range Shotgun: Largely played straight.
  • Shout-Out: Dozens. Far too many to list in their entirety.
    • The radio conversations are straight from the Metal Gear series, more specifically Metal Gear Solid's "talking heads" Codec chatter.
    • King looks a lot like a gruffer, scruffier version of Metal Slug's Marco, down to the bandanna and backpack.
    • The Wooden Sword. "It's dangerous to go alone. You should take this."
    • The "Peashooter" reciever is Mega Man's arm cannon. It works on multiple levels: In the first three games (and Game Boy games) it's denoted in the Weapon Menu as the "P" weapon (or P-shooter, if you will), and the description itself is a dead giveaway (designed by Light Industries, made to fight for everlasting peace).
    • The "Bolt" (read: Colt) 45's description references Billy Dee Williams' commercials for Colt 45 beer: "Works every time".
    • One knife in the game is named Corvo. Itís decent, but nothing special.
    • Another knife is just called "Snake". It's described as being solid.
    • Thereís also a pickaxe that is visually identical to one in Minecraft. Itís nearly the worst melee weapon available.
    • The Pheasant is quite similar to a full-grown bird from Tiny Wings.
    • The Violence Kings come from Robertson's animation Kings of Power: 4 Billion%.
  • Sigil Spam: CLAW sure does love their skull emblem.
  • Smash Mook: The Pikeman, who is quite large, slightly tougher than the basic soldiers and just tries to jab you with his spear.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Dr. Bluebell is by far the most collected and reserved member of the team, but when Dr. Neil reveals his true intentions for her and the Mandrake Formula she starts spouting some rather childish insults mixed with more eloquent rebuttals.
  • Spin to Deflect Stuff: The spinning drill on the Drillerellasí machine will deflect all bullets.
  • Spikes Of Doom: Every environment has them in some form or another.
  • Spread Shot: Pellet-type ammo fires in this way.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Dr. Neil is one for for Bluebell. She's understandably horrified.
  • Take Cover: While thereís no formal cover system in the game, you can go prone and hide behind objects to keep yourself alive.
    • Grif Guards will compensate for their low health by crouching behind any chest-high object they can find.
  • Temple of Doom: The Temple, fittingly enough.
  • This Is a Drill: The Diamond Drill weapon. It is absolutely huge, being much larger than your character, weighs 2.4 kg, but only does 600 damage. There are tons of far lighter weapons dealing more than this. The Snail Drill is smaller and better balanced, but still isnít very good.
  • Timed Mission: Side quests often have 10 to 20 minute time restrictions, but these are usually very generous.
    • Some missions on the other hand have anywhere from a 2 to 6 minute time limit, and speed is of the essence.
  • Turns Red: The Shield Guards and Abductors will panic if their shield is corroded away/killed and begin to shoot rapidly with their pistol.
  • Underground Monkey: Almost every single enemy type has a palette swap version with more health and increased damage.
  • Universal Ammo: The soft-point and hollow-point ammo will fit every weapon. Other ammo types can only be equipped if thereís 100% compatibility with a certain ammo type.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: You can perform one to avoid some attacks. It can also be used to break your fall.
    • Armadillon enemies will attack you by performing a combat roll in an attempt to crush you.
  • Wall Master: Looper robots, which will do nothing but continually go in circles around whatever surface they're attached to and damage you on touch.
  • Weak Turret Gun: Averted. All turrets have respectable 2000 health and deal plenty of damage. Elemental turrets are even stronger and more durable.
  • Weaponised Exhaust: One of the Doomsday/Hellfire Harrierís attacks is to try and burn you with its exhaust.
  • Western Terrorists: CLAW.
  • Wham Episode: Near the end, it is revealed that the Company, the Kings' employers, orchestrated the entire conflict so they could take the Mandrake Serum and the Ark of Samsara for themselves. Also, Dr. Neil is revealed to be Evil All Along.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Very late in the game, Dr. Bluebell is kidnapped by Dr. Neil and forced to create clones of everyone at Camp Crown. Despite being shown to be at least somewhat intelligent, they are never heard from or referenced again.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Empress does!
  • Wooden Katanas Are Even Better: Averted. The wooden sword here has no advantages besides being easy to make, as it requires no resource besides wood.
  • World of Buxom: Golden Gate is just about the only female character without a pronounced bust and visible cleavage.
  • World of Ham: Between Commander Baron, Colonel Tasker, Valhalla and Dr. Neil, it's a shock the game isn't called Mercenary Hams.
  • Wrench Wench: Lawless, the gunsmith.
  • X Meets Y: It's Metal Slug meets Monster Hunter, with the art style of Scott Pilgrim.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: One mission later in the game has the Kings rescuing CLAW archaeologists because CLAW decides to kill them after the Kings steal the stuff they were working on.
    • The Company tries to pull this on the Kings once CLAW is defeated because they don't want genetically enhanced super soldiers running around free. Fortunately, Tasker doesn't let them.

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