What It Will Take for Me to Give the Metal Max Xeno Remake a Passing Grade
Around the middle of last summer, I wrote an impression for an upcoming release, and it was the hardest thing not to damn the game with faint praise. What if my feelings were wrong? I wondered. What if I’d let my experiences with previous games of the series bias me? Perhaps others might feel differently about it, and so I tried my best to be impartial. Unfortunately, it seems like most folk shared my opinion on Metal Max Xeno. The game was a robotic turkey — all electronic stuffing and precious little meat.
As it turns out, a lot of Japanese fans of the series shared those opinions as well, and some of them seem to have carried enough clout with Kadokawa Games that it gave the green light to have another go at things. This would not be the first time a Metal Max game got the remake treatment; the very first title of the series was a less than stellar NES game that was remade into a pretty good SNES game. Metal Max 2 was a pretty good SNES game that got remade into an awesome Nintendo DS game. There is precedent for good things here, though I still suspect that the results of a Metal Max Xeno remake will be more like the first game of the series than the second.
Having played just about every game ever officially released for the Metal Max series (except for one or two cell phone spin-offs), I’m in an interesting position here. There’s little doubt that I’m going to get Metal Max Xeno Reborn once it’s available this spring in Japan, but what would it take for me to give it a passing grade? That is the question, and so I have made an informal list of demands which Kadokawa is never likely to see. The inevitable second impression will be scored against this.
We the fans of Metal Max, realizing that there is more to the series than its most recent iteration may show and willing to place our faith in the developers’ ability to make things right, have the following list of demands for the upcoming remake:
- That Pochi be restored to his proper place as Man’s Best Kick-Ass Mascot Good Boy. This should be easy to fulfill, seeing as everyone’s favorite pooch was brought up in literally the very first remake announcement, so we shall go on to add that we wish to be able to pet the doggy as well.
- That the ruins of post-apocalyptic Tokyo be worth the effort of exploration. We want variety; we want architecture. We want a sense that each of these locations is functionally different from the previous ones in some way. This is a series known for its insane approach to everything to do with engineering, and that includes infrastructure. Show us what you’ve got. The most recent screenshots are tantalizing, but they’re just a taste, not a full course.
- In that vein, we further demand that at least some of the WANTED monsters that Xeno turned into random encounters be returned to their rarefied status, and that the aforementioned improvements upon ruins include WANTED encounters which do not require heavy artillery (though that may be sorely wanted in its absence).
- That the story be fleshed out, and the characters have more character. The heavy and the grim, the metal and the dark, this is all fine, but it needs to have more of a point to it than simply being heavy-metal grimdark. There are plenty enough games which do this better. Metal Max is a series renowned for its bat-guano gonzo insane post-apocalyptic world, and we want that back.
- To further add to item #4, please allow there to be more settlements, more humans to have avoided destruction at the digits of the S.O.N.s than in the original game. What story previous games of the series had was often predicated upon the interactions between survivor groups, the things which people were willing to do to survive the wastelands and each other. A game where every settlement is reduced to a recent, large blast crater before the action even begins is a game which has cut off one of its own legs. We want oddballs and nutcases. We want fortified sushi restaurants and rain cisterns made out of parabolic antennae. We want buried shopping mall bunkers and automated resorts and giant Buddha heads sticking out of the sands.
- Continuing on, that there be a better face of antagonism against which to fight. This could be a rival group of survivors, a tribe of gangrel Mutts, a more personifiable AI villain, anything we can focus our hatred upon besides that traveling factory of catastrophe that does nothing more than roll over everything like a juggernaut.
- And finally, to stretch the limits of possibility with this list, we want there to be a more fulfilling endgame and resolution for the protagonist. Make that factory of catastrophe the literal final level, where you have to defeat its exterior defenses before infiltrating its innards. Do something with the heavy implications of the hero’s cybernetic bits. Heck, make the hero the true final boss as those implants finish their job. Nothing at all is really done with them in the original story, so use it or lose it. (We would also accept this being an element of the announced Metal Max Xeno Reborn 2, but that’s a rant for another day).
So, how about it, Kadokawa Games? Are you up to the challenge of changing everyone’s opinion on what has to be either the second- or third-worst entry in an otherwise outstanding series of oddities? Only time will tell, but I know that my clock is ticking. It’s only three months or so till the moment of truth…