I love Mega Man, but not as much as a lot of indie developers. For the past decade, there have been plenty of people trying to recreate the Mega Man experience in an original IP, with greatly varying degrees of success. For people who grew up on these games, each release comes with the hope that it will be the one to bring that nostalgia into the modern day.
Developer Domesticated Ant may have finally pulled it off with Gravity Circuit, a platformer that hearkens back to the Mega Man Zero (MMZ) subseries. It's fast, stylish, and really nails the feel of the classic platformer franchise.
Decades ago, a mysterious structure known as "the Ark" abruptly appeared and began discharging waves of hostile robots - the Virus Army. When all hope was lost, a group of nine robots known as the Circuits stood against this army. Though the Virus Army was ultimately defeated, all of the Circuits were lost save one: Kai, the Gravity Circuit, who emerged with a damaged body and damaged memories.
Now the threat has returned, and worse than ever. Not only has the Virus Army reemerged from the scrap heap, but they are now led by the other eight Circuits, long thought to have been destroyed. In one attack, this revived army has all but wiped out the Guardian Corps that was established to protect the planet. In a moment of desperation, the remnants of the Corps call upon Kai to once again save the planet.
It's a classic action game plot, though there are a few twists and turns to be had. Of course, all one needs for a game like this is a bit of direction: Find the bad robots and break them.
As I mentioned, Gravity Circuit is heavily inspired by Mega Man Zero, from the GBA-inspired graphical style to the fundamental mechanics. Kai doesn't have a Mega Buster - he's a pugilist who fights up close and personal.
Kai's standard attack is a flurry of punches that's enough to take down most enemies, but he has a number of other tricks up his sleeve. He has a hookshot that is used for moving through the levels, but it's also an offensive tool that can be used to grab an enemy projectile or even an incapacitated enemy and use it as a weapon. Defeating enemies also releases Burst Energy that can be used to power Kai's Burst Attacks - super moves that range from fighting game-esque specials to long-range energy attacks and powerful buffs.
With a little practice, it's easy to chain these various attacks together to defeat enemies quickly and with style. The whole system is fast and fluid and can be very satisfying.
Speed is definitely the running theme of Gravity Circuit. Kai is fast, and clearing levels often entails moving with haste. This is definitely one for the speedrunners out there.
The level design is one area where things vary from MMZ, though it still has a very Mega Man feel. The platforming is very technical compared to most Mega Man-like games and is easily the hardest part of the whole experience. The game is forgiving in certain ways (i.e. pits and spikes aren't instant death) that tend to balance out the difficulty, but a lot of it comes down to mastering the flow of the game. Move fast, act on instinct, and even the hardest challenges aren't too bad.
Don't move so fast that you miss out on the game's secrets, though. Each level contains hidden upgrades and lost bots who can be rescued to earn long-term bonuses.
But when we're talking about a game based on the Mega Man franchise, all of the other details are secondary to whether the bosses are any good.
The fights against the Circuits are definitely the highlight of Gravity Circuit. Each boss is a two-stage fight (a bit of a leitmotif in platformers - Pizza Tower and Bat Boy did the same thing). They all have access to their own standard attacks and Burst Attacks that make them feel like mirrors of Kai, but once they fall to half health they start unleashing screen-clearing super attacks that aren't easy to dodge. In Mega Man fashion, Kai can purchase and use the Burst Attacks of any defeated boss, though there's no weakness chain.
Gravity Circuit is a must-have for any fan of old-school platformers, especially anyone who grew up on Mega Man. Sure, there are similar games, but none with the speed, flair, and panache that this one brings.
Gravity Circuit is available for PC via Steam. A copy was provided by the developer.
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