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Super Alloy Ranger

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Neverland Entertainment
Developer: Alloy Mushroom
Release Date: Sept. 22, 2022


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PC Review - 'Super Alloy Ranger'

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 23, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Super Alloy Ranger is a 2D side-scrolling action game. Play as Marksman Kelly or Combat Robot No.2 to challenge different levels within the dangerous machine empire and unlock new weapons.

Between Azure Striker Gunvolt, Legend of Dark Witch, Metagal and 20XX, it's easy to find a game that tries to emulate the Mega Man X series, especially since Capcom doesn't seem too keen on reviving the series anytime soon. The quality of the games may be mixed, but some are certainly good enough to carry the mantle while leaving room for others to join with their own spin. Super Alloy Ranger looks to do just that, and it does so convincingly well.

You don't get that impression initially, as the game tries its best to start off on the wrong foot with the story. The actual narrative isn't too bad. On one side, you have Combat Robots No. 2 and No. 3, two sisters looking to leave behind their lives on the planet Tanwda, away from the evil robot forces. On the other side, you have Kelly and Rambos, two bounty hunters that are trying to pay off the enormous debt from acquiring when their spaceship, the Alloy Ranger. On the way to Tanwda to get a large bounty on a wanted criminal, the duo finds its ship stuck between the planet and a force field that keeps them in orbit. Their teleporter works well enough that both No. 2 and No. 3 are able to warp on board. They all strike a deal to cooperate and satisfy both groups' goals.

While the story is fine, the delivery is terrible. The static character shots that punctuate the scenes are good enough, but there's no audio. Music is completely absent, and the electronic typing quickly fades away after only a few characters are shown. The scenes go on for a long time, and the dialogue is rife with awkwardly written sentences and needless meandering. It can be skipped, which is a godsend since the opening goes on for over five minutes but feels much longer before reaching a title screen. Later scenes are much shorter, but even if you are interested in the plot, the energy-draining delivery makes it so you'll try to skip the scenes.

If you're familiar with Capcom's classic 16-bit series or any of the other titles that have tried to emulate the formula, you'll know exactly what to expect in Super Alloy Ranger. You start off by choosing to play as either Kelly or No. 2, with that choice being permanent until you start a new save file with difficulty level. The former is pretty much Mega Man, as you have a blaster with infinite fire while the latter is more like Zero, with her bevy of melee attacks. Both are extremely mobile; they have moves like a double-jump, wall-grab, dash, and can even crawl to get into tight spaces. You can select the order in which you want to beat the levels, but you'll only be able to select from a small pool of them until more levels are unlocked. Reach the boss at the end of the stage, and you'll be awarded with a new weapon before you return to your ship to restart the process in a new area.

From here, the changes to the core formula are numerous. When it comes to attacks, the game demonstrates some real versatility, since both characters can perform vertical attacks directly above and below themselves. You can simply hold down a button to deliver rapid-fire attacks, which is great for accessibility and injury prevention. Attacks can also be performed while crawling, and although you don't have a means of performing diagonal attacks, this is already more than you'll get in other games of this type.

Another big change comes from an overhaul of the secondary weapons system, which pretty much defines the sub-genre. The weapons only loosely correspond to the boss you just defeated. For example, you get the fire element when beating the boss of The Sunken City, but the only correlation is that the boss uses dual columns of fire for part of their attack cycle. Secondary weapons aren't finite. Both Kelly and No. 2 can use secondary weapons as special attacks that run on a cooldown versus a finite energy meter, while No. 2 has the added benefit of using those secondary weapons as augments for her primary melee attack, such as switching out her attack claws for a fire sword. Finally, the blue dots you collect throughout a level have a purpose; they power up your weapons for more devastating attacks.

The weapon power-up system feeds into the level design, which still has its fair share of tricky traps but emphasizes secrets and alternate paths. Each stage is filled with breakable walls and false floors and ceilings that hide secret rooms that are usually filled with power-up orbs and some coins. Stages also hide keys that unlock optional challenge levels for those who want to test their skills outside of the campaign. The multitude of secret rooms and paths is nice, and while they don't lead you to wildly different ways to reach the end boss, they showcase some great level design that telegraphs dangers without letting enemies get in some cheap hits. Pits and traps are easy to spot, and the teleporting brick patterns are easy to figure out and easy to circumvent if you have the right character for the job.

What may be surprising for genre fans is how forgiving Super Alloy Ranger can be. Fans of the blue bomber know that spikes are a recipe for instant death, and the same goes for pits. Laser traps should pose that same sort of danger, but the game doesn't subscribe to that ethos. Falling into a pit respawns you to the previous platform with some health loss. Hitting a spike or electrical trap is treated the same way as you getting hit by enemy fire, and the same goes for getting hit by a laser trap. Upping the difficulty drains more energy from you per hit, but the game never reaches the point where you need precision platforming. Purists might scoff at this, but it makes the game more accessible while retaining a high amount of challenge in the back half.

The presentation is a well-done mix of 8- and 16-bit styles. The characters are small in stature but animate well to the point that you can see their robotic tails twitch constantly. They're also not so small that they get lost when the action gets chaotic, and those same traits apply to the enemies. The backdrops sport a good amount of detail and color depth but not at the level of the Capcom classic. It's not a real knock against the game, but it emphasizes how this is more of a blend of 8- and 16-bit, rather than leaning into one style over another. The sound effects are solid, and the music is excellent; it's a good sign considering that the virtually silent opening might have caused concern that the entire soundscape would be subpar.

If you're planning to play on the Steam Deck, you'll be more than pleased with the overall experience. The resolution might only be at 1280x720 instead of the full 1280x800, but the game looks very nice on the device's screen with very legible text and a smooth 60fps throughout. With the retro presentation, a full charge easily yields five hours of gametime. The only downside is that you'll need to specify which version of Proton you want to run on, as the default settings boot you back to the Steam game menu. In this case, we ran it fine with GE-Proton 7-24, so other versions might produce the same results if you want to tinker.

Super Alloy Ranger is a solid game. The story may be a bit of a snoozer, but everything else — action, controls, level design, movement and presentation — are good examples of what makes the genre tick. The easing of things, like one-hit kills, introduces newcomers to this style of adventure, while the variable difficulty, including the presence of challenge levels, grants more experienced players a chance to test their mettle. Super Alloy Ranger is priced well ($10 USD), so fans of 2D action games should pick up this title.

Score: 8.5/10

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