In the heady days of the SNES, a ton of franchises were created that survive in new iterations to this day. A ton of the series we love got their start on Nintendo’s 16-bit marvel, but even more quality titles never got past their first entry before drifting into the sands of time. One of these games, Metal Warriors, had everything going for it. With its fresh take on platforming, LucasArts developing it, and Konami publishing it, this should have been the first game in a series.
Unfortunately, Metal Warriors was a one-off deal, and its lack of notoriety despite receiving positive scores means a lot of gamers never heard of it. It’s entirely possible that in a time full of flashy packaging and advertising, and with the internet in its infancy, the relatively non-descript box art just didn’t catch players’ eyes. Whatever the case, Metal Warriors was forgotten pretty quickly, just like hundreds of other SNES platformers that failed to make a lasting impression.
I believe the first time I played Metal Warriors was probably not long after it came out. I was seven or eight, and my infatuation with the Power Rangers’ Megazord had bloomed into a love for mecha in general — though I wouldn’t learn that there was a whole genre dedicated to these fighting robots until a few years later when Gundam Wing premiered on Toonami. In these days I didn’t have to read multiple reviews and watch videos of a game before I pulled the trigger on it. I saw a neat red robot, and that was all it took to get me hooked.
One of the aspects of Metal Warriors that fascinated me the most, and something that wouldn’t be replicated for years, is that you’re not stuck in one robot. The side-scroller play fairly traditionally, with power-ups for your weapons and multiple attacks, but it deviates in you not having to be tied to one vehicle.
The robot on the cover, Nitro, is a mid-ranged, jack-of-all-trades mech. However, if you take command of the mighty Prometheus, you’ll gain powerful artillery, but a much slower bot. Each mech’s shield, ranged, and melee weapons work differently, but you have to find them scattered throughout the levels. This added a lot of depth since you needed to be skilled with all of the robots to survive.
The game gives a sense of scale that wasn’t matched by its contemporaries as well. To take over other robots, you have to leave the safe confines of your mech. When you do, you just have a little pea-shooter and a jetpack. Pretty much any hit from an enemy mech while you’re outside of your robot is lethal, but you’re incredibly fast with your jetpack.
In specific areas, you have to dismount to get to switches or power-ups, so there’s a lot of suspense as you try to accomplish your objective and get back to your bot as quickly as possible. Another cool related aspect is that you can kill enemy pilots outside of their mechs too. If you take them out before you mount up, you can steal their bot and avoid fighting altogether.
It’s a shame Metal Warriors didn’t get a sequel. The next time I remember seeing similar gameplay was in MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf, another series in need for renewal. Unfortunately, the game has become somewhat of a cult classic (though nowhere close to Earthbound levels), so it can be hard to find on the cheap. If you run into a cheap copy though, snatch it up quick and prepare for one of the best action-platformers the SNES has to offer.