Mad… No, Metal Max.
It is said that there are no new ideas afloat in our world. Creatively, everything under the sun has been thought of and, perhaps, created. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course. Take a look at Star Wars and Star Trek, for example. Similar ideas and creative expeditions are often great and often inspire each other. Enter Metal Max Xeno, a post apocalyptic desert wasteland RPG that feels like pulled a chapter from the epilogues of Mad Max. If you’re unfamiliar with the title, that’s okay; not many westerners have heard of the Metal Max series (the original Metal Saga for the PS2 was the only game released in the US before this), which debuted in 1991 and has seen 14 releases or updated releases in its time, with Xeno landing at number 14. So how does this game hold up in the west?
Before we delve into that, let’s take a look at what Metal Max Xeno is all about. You play as Talion, an orphaned monster hunter seeking revenge on the mechanical beasts that killed his mother and brought an end to mankind. His arm serves as a powerful weapon, and most of his body is deteriorating from the wear, tear, abuse, and reparations he sustained in his battles. Early in his venture, Talion finds himself quickly allied with the last remaining people on Earth (in the Tokyo region, anyway).
Gameplay in Metal Max Xeno is a mixed bag of turn based tank combat and on foot combat. A good majority of the boss battles are fought in your tank party, which continues to expand as you play. Your tank equipment is pretty customizable, and you can change out just about any weapon or engine as you please. Some tanks you find later in the game have some parts locked in, but engines are always upgradeable. By changing weapons or parts, you can increase your tank’s power output, elemental or weapon type (per weapon), speed, hit points, and more. Some of my favorite time spent within Metal Max Xeno was customizing my tank strategically to face the next big battle.
Ground battles are fought in a similar fashion, though each character can interchange any three weapons, and each character can use any number of accessories. Mostly, I kept my characters equipped with an elemental weapon (each had a different type), a regular ranged weapon, and a melee weapon. This way, I could wipe out swathes of enemies in the shortest amount of time, as ground battles are randomized, and they felt like they occurred rather often. Either way, the turned based combat is a pretty fun classic system that does, unfortunately, grow stale over time. Each boss fight is unique and poses its own challenge, but the enemies in between the big fights are a pain, and definitely dull the experience.
Visually, Metal Max Xeno isn’t a great looking game, nor is it graphically advanced. It is, however, cel shaded, so much of the graphical woes can be forgiven with its unique facade. Most of the time, however, I was able to ignore any glaring ugliness in lieu of a usually beautiful soundtrack. At the same time, the game was filled with speaking dialogue with no option for English – and we all know how I feel about that. In this case, it’s a negative. The only time both visuals and sound failed me was whenever I was exploring a dungeon. The interior of just about every dungeon is identical to the next, regardless of the setting. Of course, there were the occasional few dungeons or explorable zones that changed its aesthetics, but even those tended to repeat each other.
Ultimately, Metal Max Xeno comes down to one main idea: Do you want a very standard turn based JRPG with anime/cel shaded visuals? If your answer is yes, then you’ll most likely enjoy your time with Metal Max Xeno; if not, you’ll want to steer clear of this one. There are certainly better and more original RPGs on the marketplace already, but the tank aspect of this game adds an extra level of intrigue. On the whole, it’s an average turn based RPG with neat visuals and standard-ish combat with little visual variation but a lot of real estate to explore. The narrative concept is always intriguing, but much of that is lost without an option for English dubs (there’s value lost if you’re reading and not seeing what’s happening). If you’re a fan of this niche, though, you’ll most likely find it a treat.