While I'm generally not a fan of the fighting game genre, those weird type of games that occupy the same space as the 2.5D fighting-brawler Super Smash Bros. feel especially foreign to me. While fun to goof around with for a bit, any serious play or competition in Super Smash Bros. games immediately turn me off. Everything from the mere controls to how damage is handled discourages me from any thoughtful engagement with Super Smash Bros., including everything else that follow in its footsteps.
Enter Megabyte Punch, a game that takes fairly heavy inspiration from Super Smash Bros and, oddly enough a game that I have some nostalgia for, Custom Robo. While my root problem of disliking the Super Smash Bros. style of arena combat bothered me throughout my very, very long review process for the game, it's impossible to deny that Megabyte Punch doesn't just solely lean in on that aspect of its design. There's a very interesting game somewhere in Megabyte Punch, but it stumbles too much to fulfill such potential.
Despite myriad cutscenes and having the ability to walk across levels and talk to various NPCs, the story in Megabyte Punch is minimal at best. You are a robot which is created by a godlike being known as the "Heartcore" to protect its robot people whom reside with the physical manifestation of the Heartcore in the village of Venu. There's a brewing war between two different robotic factions who wish to have the Heartcore's power as their own, and your job is to stop them.
There are things one can call "plot twists" and "characters" in the adventure mode of Megabyte Punch, but they breeze by fairly quickly. In addition, the story lacks any sense of thematic potency, so the story events will fly out for your mind as swiftly as my own. But that's OK, because Megabyte Punch is much more concerned with the act of punching bad robots really, really hard until they explode.
As I'm sure you are now probably very familiar with, Megabyte Punch controls and fights like a Super Smash Bros. game. Your character locks in place when they attack, you can activate a slowly decaying bubble-like shield to block attacks, special attacks are locked to what direction you move in, you don't have a health bar but a percentage meter which makes you easier to knock out the higher it is, and so on and so forth. I'm not especially interested in crucifying Megabyte Punch for this fact, I just fundamentally dislike this combat system. It's clunky and unsatisfying, but Megabyte Punch does accomplish it about as well as any other game in this weird sub-genre does.
And in fact it tries goes beyond that with its customization system. Since you are a robot, you have the ability to change out your various parts including your head, arms, legs, and more to gain new special abilities which you can help in platforming (getting extra jumps or a teleport move) across a level, but more importantly also giving you opportunities to murder other robots in more interesting ways (machine guns, a giant drill, a leg sweep attack, giant missile launchers, etc). You can purchase these parts from the store in your homebase of Venu, but primarily you'll earn these parts by slaughtering other robot men and cannibalizing their equipment.
It's nice to have some more depth in one of these types of games. But while the games boasts about having over 150 different parts, most of them do the exact same thing. There's a ton of them that are dedicated to getting extras jumps, teleporting, doing slightly extra damage, and so on. Very few of the parts are truly unique, and the balancing of these parts are wildly off. Early on I found a machine gun that is a long-range weapon that fires a few shots which stun enemies for a brief period of time, and not to mention that it's incredibly spammable, allowing me to deal easy damage from a safe distance. When I went online to look at other robot builds to see what others were building, that same machine gun immediately came up. It's so effective that I found no point in experimenting with the few other more interesting, yet riskier weaponry.
This is important because Megabyte Punch has a pretty intense difficulty in terms of its progression, so taking the boring way out was preferable. When you enter one of the adventure levels, the structure is that you fight through three large levels before you face down with a boss. The problem is that I found no way to heal your character, and if you run out of lives before you reach the boss fight, then the game sends you back to the very first level. It's an incredibly frustrating experience that made me just skip most of the optional fights and marathon it to the next level. It's not especially fun, and is antithetical to everything that Megabyte Punch is all about.
Once you're finished with Megabyte Punch's short 5-hour story mode, there really isn't much to come back to it for. There are some optional side quests if you're compelled to hunt down some obscure collectibles, which I wasn't. The most baffling aspect of Megabyte Punch though is the lack of online play. There is a versus mode and co-op in the game, but it's local only. Games like Super Smash Bros. really shine when you're fighting against other people, and the complete lack of online multiplayer is incredibly disappointing as someone who doesn't have a lot of local game playing friends.
Though, I do like Megabyte Punch's production values quite a bit. It's a nice looking game with a cool blocky artstyle, with a really exciting special effect where if you do enough damage to enemies they will fly through destructible terrain, wrecking it before dying. It's incredibly satisfying, but the game forgets this at every boss fight, which are just traditional Super Smash Bros. open floating areas where you just have to knock the boss off of them instead of smashing them through the environments. Though the true standout in terms of its production is the soundtrack. It's quite good with some really driving electronic beats which fit in with Megabyte Punch's fighting and adventuring very well. There's nothing really to complain about it, with about every track being very strong.
While I quite dislike the Super Smash Bros. combat system, I can't hold that against Megabyte Punch. Objectively it does accomplish that design well, and it's to be praised that Megabyte Punch doesn't simply rest on that, taking the effort of adding a customization system and a cool visual design which actually enhances the gameplay (The whole smashing characters through destructible terrain thing.) Not to mention a great soundtrack that made playing the game much more exciting than it sometimes was.
The problem is that Megabyte Punch can't seem to pull it off completely. The customization element is unbalanced with some truly overpowered weaponry and you'll stumble upon way too many items that while they look different, do the exact same thing as other parts. The game ditches its cool destructible terrain feature in its bland boss battles, if you even get that far if you keeping dying right before you reach the big baddie itself and having to play through the long 3 levels over-and-over again. Not to mention that the complete lack of online play in one of these types of games in the modern era is utterly baffling, really reducing its replay value in my eyes.
Megabyte Punch has a lot of potential, but it never completely cured my avid distaste for its style of gameplay, and is rarely completely successful in succeeding with the things it sets out to accomplish on its own. But it certainly does try to become something more than just another Super Smash Bros. clone, and I appreciate it for that. And maybe you will too.
THREE OUT OF FIVE
(A balanced game that has a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, meaning that it alternates between being good and bad in mostly equal measure.)