Evening, all! Last week, I wrote about a fast, insane Platinum Games shooter.
This week, seeing as how I'm a Dreamcast junkie who has yet to write about one Dreamcast game, I figured I'd pick something a bit obscure.
(Fun fact: this article was originally going to be about Xbox cult favorite Breakdown, but I changed my mind. Breakdown is still "on the list" however)
Maken X was developed by Atlus and published by Sega, waaaaay back in 1999. (Of course it was; it was for the Dreamcast.) Immediately, you're thrown into a unique plot, as you don't play as any of the human characters. Rather, you play as Maken, a scientifically, genetically created weapon.
As Maken, you play as different characters via "brainjacking" which is defined as "a fancy buzzword that looks cool on the box and lets you swap characters." But in game, Maken possesses characters you come across. For example, you first start the game as Kay Sagami, the girl on the cover. You then fight a boss by the name of Hakke Andrey, who shoots scalpels from his tongue (!), then you brainjack Andrey and play as him for a while. Scalpel-spitting and all. (!!)
Maken X is hard to classify, but most simply call it a first-person-slasher. There's no guns here, which made it stand out a bit against the games of the day, like Perfect Dark and Half Life. (Both great games, but even then, the shooter market was crowded.) You use only melee weapons in Maken X, aside from Andrey's scalpels, but even those are of limited range. Each character has just one weapon, but there's a large variety of characters, and thus weapons, to choose from.
Combat, like any good sword combat game, is all about attacking and defending, blocking and countering, and dodging and parrying. You have a basic attack and a stronger, chargeable attack. You can also use the jump button to dodge left and right. But one of my favorite things to do is leap over an enemy as he attacks, landing behind him or her (or it) and delivering a crushing blow to the back. It's a neat tactic you never got tired of back then, despite flanking your enemies being par for the course these days.
There's a ton of replay value, thanks to the multiple playable characters, and seven endings. But replaying Maken X is a bit rough these days, much like playing any first-person game with only one joystick. We've taken the ability to move and aim independently for granted today (as well we should; it's a better, more realistic way to do things), so playing on the Dreamcast can be a bit clunky. Didn't feel like it back then, of course, but that's rose-tinted glasses for you.
Maken X still looks pretty ok, though, especially because, again, it was in 1999 for the Dreamcast. The game has a striking 3D anime art design, and there's some neat character designs. Levels are, um, mostly corridors, but what FPS wasn't back then? The game does, however, run at a silky-smooth 60 frames-per-second. Which was crazy back then. It might've been the first game I played at 60 FPS, and I still remember how it looked. It stood out. Check out the random YouTube video I found. It runs smoother than this normally.
Like I said, replaying Maken X today is pretty rough. But back then, it was really cool, and a neat look at an earlier, obscure Atlus game that isn't Shin Megami Tensei. (Though you can see a similar art style here.) There was a PS2 remake in Japan called Maken Shao that puts the game in third-person, but I feel like it loses something special that way. Check it out if you find your Dreamcast and you're feeling a bit nostalgic.
Questions, comments, and future game suggestions are always welcome!
Next week, I'll cover a game in an overdue tribute to the late filmmaker Harold Ramis.