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Mercenary Force is a side-scrolling shooter based on 19 century Japan wherein the player controls four mercenaries of their choosing. Each level starts with a screen where the player can hire up to four of the five mercenary characters (multiples can be chosen) to fight through the level with. The five different mercenaries have differing Yen costs although the more expensive mercenaries are not necessarily stronger than the lower end mercenaries.
The gameplay primarily consists of moving the group of mercenaries around and shooting their various projectiles at the oncoming hordes of enemies. In standard fashion, once the player successfully moves through the level they encounter a boss which ends the level.
When the player has more than one mercenary under control then they move in a formation that can be changed by the player to help avoid being hit by oncoming projectiles. The default formation has one in front, one in back and one on each side. The second formation features the characters bunching up in a square, the third has two in front with two in the back and the last formation lines up all the mercenaries vertically.
Yen & Stores
Every enemy defeated drops at least one ten Yen coin with a fairly short despawn timer so the player is encouraged to grab the coins as fast as possible. Each level in the game has several stores that the player can walk into and buy various foods to replenish health or an item called a Scripture which will turn the leading mercenary into a monk. Players might also find a store-front that has a luck based game and another building where a man restores health to all mercenaries for free. The Yen that the player has collected is persistent through levels to it can be used to hire mercenaries at the beginning of the next level.
The first mercenary in the player’s formation can be sacrificed to transform into a large form that scrolls faster through the level and will destroy any enemies in its path. The downside to the use of the super form is that the character that transforms is killed at the end and the player is left with less mercenaries to fight with. The servant, however, does not have a super form. He explodes and clears the screen of all enemies.
There are five nameless mercenaries that can be hired by the player.
- Servant: The servant is the cheapest mercenary costing only ¥400 to hire. He has 6 HP and uses a rifle to shoot slow, long-range bullets forward. The servant does not have a super form, but he sacrifices himself to clear the screen of all enemies.
- Samurai: The samurai has 12 HP making him the most durable mercenary. He costs ¥800 to hire and throws two slow short-range throwing knives forward. His super form is a slow moving oni.
- Ninja: The ninja is well-rounded with his fast medium-range throwing stars, 10 HP and ¥1000 price point. The ninja’s super form is a wind elemental with throwing stars circling him.
- Monk: The monk has 9 HP and at ¥1200 he is the most expensive mercenary to hire. His advantage lies in the two diagonal lightning bolts that he shoots. They are slow, but he is the only character that can shoot diagonally. His super form is a fast moving large version himself. .
- Mystic: The mystic costs ¥700 and has 8 HP. She shoot two large, fast fireballs to the sides making her perfect for support but very hard to play on her own. Her super form is an enlarged version of herself with bullets flying all over the screen.