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Retro Review: Maken X

Maken X debuted in the U.S. in 1999 and Europe in 2000 as a localised effort for the Dreamcast. Heavily censored on release, the game is a great first-person action game set in the MegaTen universe from Atlus.

You play an AI that fuses with the psyche of those who are genetically compatible with it, on a quest to stop the destruction of the human race. Along the way, you meet allies that assist you by lending you their bodies and open alternate paths towards your goal.

Core gameplay consists of hacking and slashing, locking onto and then leaping dramatically over enemies to hit them in a critical weak point and then unleashing a powerful special attack by holding down the attack button and releasing it. You can level up your character by collecting experience dropped by enemies and collecting coins that are almost, kind of hidden around environments.

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Is it just me, or does this airplane look like a giant toe?

To add further depth to gameplay, you can brain jack certain characters throughout the game allowing you to take advantage of their particular brand of combo and special attack; this is almost always a benefit as each occurring character will almost always be more powerful. This will often unlock a new level on the world map as well allowing you a fair degree of freedom and discovery in how the game flows. This is incredibly refreshing as even though the game feels decidedly linear in approach to level design, it really allows you to explore your own way through the story.

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I have no idea what’s going on.

That said, the majority of your gameplay sessions would not be coloured by these lapses in fluidity. Normally, the game is fast and furious with exciting combat and pretty well designed levels.

I love the visual style that Maken X exudes. From the crisp, detailed textures to the gorgeous environmental effects like heat haze. Level geometry is varied and always unique from level to level which is a grand achievement and every new location in the game will contain some element that will surprise and delight you, whether it’s a solid model or beautiful texture.

Maken X is never spotty, it is always consistently good looking and it runs at a very solid 60 fps. It really is a hallmark Dreamcast game and one of the best looking games of the early 2000s.

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Look at that detail!

Character models are a particular highlight with every one of them oozing personality from their outlandish costume designs to their fluid animation. That is one thing Maken X does well, it is incredibly visually engaging from every perspective.

Sound design is a weak point in the game though. Music is fairly generic and rarely inspiring. It is a procession of samey techno tunes with little variation and oft-repeated rhythms. Some levels do stand out, like India, with unique substance to its soundtrack but generally it’s very flat.

Voice acting is also very flat. It is, however, fairly competent so while it’s not as good as the voice acting in a game like Grandia 2, it is still engaging enough to progress the story.

Summary

Maken X is a great addition to the Dreamcast library and yet another title that showed how much extra grunt the console had left to show us. Engaging combat and a unique branching world map are hampered somewhat by spotty lock-on and awkward turning and although the graphics are outstanding the soundtrack and voice acting leave a lot to be desired.

While Maken X is an excellent game, there was definitely room for improvement.

 

Andrew Pine

Hailing from Australia, Andrew is a budding games journalist with years of experience and a hefty collection. He's a PAL collector and Sega Saturn obsessive who is aiming at collecting every PAL released Saturn game. Yes, even Deep Fear.
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