Panzer Paladin Draws Inspiration From 8-Bit "Black Sheep" Like Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

Panzer Paladin Draws Inspiration From 8-Bit "Black Sheep" Like Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link

Tribute Games reminds us there's a lot we can learn from weirdos.

It's very common for indie game developers to deliver elevator pitches by referencing other games, particularly beloved retro titles. "Our game is like Mega Man," they might say. Or "our game is like Castlevania."

Tribute Games pitched its upcoming action-platformer Panzer Paladin as both those games to me—and then named several more 8-bit classics, including Sunsoft's Blaster Master and the not-technically-8-bit-but-close-enough Shovel Knight. Indeed, there's so much "retro love" going on in Panzer Paladin that I was initially worried there'd be no room left for its own voice, its own creative expression.

Interestingly, something about the way Panzer Paladin picks and chooses mechanics from so many old games made the demo I played at PAX East feel unique. I guess it's a bit like how Mr. Burns from The Simpsons carries so many deadly diseases that there's no room for any of them to manifest fully, so he enjoys good health as a result.

What a wonderful night to curse at fools. | Tribute Games

It might also help that Panzer Paladin doesn't hesitate to take inspiration from the "black sheep" of beloved 8-bit series. Justin Cyr, one of Tribute Games' founders, named some of these oft-criticized games as he walked me through my session. Two notable titles are Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest and Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. The latter's influence is clear in the upward- and- downward-stab attacks you can perform while you're riding your titular Panzer armor (you can eject from the armor at any time to fight as a lither but less-powerful warrior. There's that Blaster Master shout-out). I also fought a heavily-armored enemy who attacks and defends much like an Ironknuckle from Zelda 2. If you've ever tried to break through one of those metallic bastards' shields, you know exactly what I mean.

It's intriguing to see how Panzer Paladin takes inspiration from lesser-loved entries in long-lived series. Castlevania 2 and Zelda 2 are huge risk-takers, and while some of their design decisions miss the mark, their differences still make them special in an industry that generally favors "safe" ideas. Zelda 2 takes us to the far northern reaches of Hyrule, a place we haven't explored since. Castlevania 2 favors narrative and adventure over tricky platforming, and its "slower" pace inspired Koji Igarashi to pitch Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to Konami.

Good things come from strange ideas, and Panzer Paladin might offer us another example when it comes out in spring 2020. The demo I played was short, and there's a long way for Tribute Games to go, but if it remembers what makes black sheep games so interesting while refining said games' oft-clumsy mechanics, we're in for a cool ride next year.

Disclosure: USG is owned by ReedPop, which runs PAX East.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

Read this next

League of Legends is Coming to Mobile and Consoles Next Year

League is going mobile over the next year with the slightly different League of Legends: Wild Rift.

Why The Division 2 Is Still Hard to Jump Back Into

With the new Title Update and Episode, The Division 2 should be easier to get into, but it's not.

G2A Representative: "Do You Really Think You Could Illegally Obtain 100,000 Keys?"

Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, G2A's head of communication Maciej Kuc fires back at critics of the key selling marketplace.

Blizzard's Overwatch Team Says the Nintendo Switch Port Has Been "Eye-Opening"

Bringing the hero shooter to Switch took more than just a visual overhaul.

Rhythm Game Avicii Invector Will Donate Some of Its Royalties to Mental Health Foundation

Owners of the original 2017 release of Invector on PS4 will receive the new version as a free update.

The Good Version of Sonic the Hedgehog Is Coming to Super Monkey Ball

The HD remake of Super Monkey Ball's Wii installment is getting a classic, blue-quilled bonus.

More Opinions

Why The Division 2 Is Still Hard to Jump Back Into

With the new Title Update and Episode, The Division 2 should be easier to get into, but it's not.

Starting Screen | Blizzard's Troubled 2019 Finds the Once Invincible Studio at a Crossroads

This past year has found Blizzard embroiled in one controversy after another. What does it say about its future?

"It's Hypocritical for Blizzard to Punish Blitzchung but Not Us"

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Activision Blizzard has always been a vigorous advocate for freedom of expression.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint is Still Lacking the One Thing Fans Truly Want

Hardcore fans want Breakpoint to be a harder survival experience.

More on PC

Why The Division 2 Is Still Hard to Jump Back Into

With the new Title Update and Episode, The Division 2 should be easier to get into, but it's not.

G2A Representative: "Do You Really Think You Could Illegally Obtain 100,000 Keys?"

Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, G2A's head of communication Maciej Kuc fires back at critics of the key selling marketplace.

Rhythm Game Avicii Invector Will Donate Some of Its Royalties to Mental Health Foundation

Owners of the original 2017 release of Invector on PS4 will receive the new version as a free update.

The Good Version of Sonic the Hedgehog Is Coming to Super Monkey Ball

The HD remake of Super Monkey Ball's Wii installment is getting a classic, blue-quilled bonus.

Control Gets a Free Photo Mode Update Tomorrow

Document your time as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control.

Divinity: Fallen Heroes is On Indefinite Hiatus Due to Lack of Time and Resources

Larian Studios and Logic Artists were originally targeting Fallen Heroes for a November 2019 release.

Fortnite Upgrade Bench - How to Upgrade Your Weapons

Here's how to use the new Upgrade Benches in Fortnite, so you can upgrade your weapons.

More Action Adventure Games

Starting Screen | A Great Port Is Always Worth the Wait

Whatever time it takes to make a game feel just right on a new system is well-spent.

The Lineup for Awesome Games Done Quick 2020 Includes Sekiro, Final Fantasy 8, and a Destiny 2 Raid

It will no doubt make any future raid time of mine look embarrassing.

Kamala Khan Stretches Her Way Onto the Playable Roster for Marvel's Avengers

Marvel's Ms. Marvel is here to get the Avengers back in action.

Shenmue 3 Looks Modern, but its Dialogue is Vintage Dreamcast

Don't forget to buy tokens if you wanna play.