You don't see many JRPGs that have you driving around a post-apocalyptic desert in a tank. Metal Max Xeno is a sequel to the long-running Metal Max series so let's see if it was worth localizing for western audiences.
About a decade ago, I played a PlayStation 2 game called Metal Saga. Little did I know that it was actually a spin-off of a series that debuted in 1991 on the Famicom. So, when I saw that another game in this mildly enjoyable JRPG franchise was releasing, I just had to play it. Metal Max Xeno has you pilot a tank through a desert wasteland while fighting all sorts of strange monsters that can resemble various animals as well as an assortment of vacuum cleaners for some strange reason. Before commencing a fight, you have a chance to shoot your foes which may wipe them out thus allowing you to continue without actually entering battle. This is a great mechanic as it lets you avoid battle when you're more powerful than your adversaries. The battle system itself is super-simple and reminiscent of classic menu-based JRPGs so overall, it's a very easy game to pick up and play.
One of the best aspects of Metal Max Xeno is its party customization systems. You can configure both your characters and their tanks. Doing so is necessary because you'll have to ditch your tanks whenever you enter most dungeons. Anyway, optimizing your party isn't overly intricate as you mostly just equip different weapons and such. However, as you progress, you'll gain the abilities to make custom parts as well as remodel tanks so they can equip different weapons, etc. When it comes to characters, certain achievements are earned in the Road to Ace system that grant you points which you can use to provide permanent stat boosts. It all comes together to make a rewarding party growth system but the menus can be quite frustrating to navigate. You'll often find yourself going through too many menus to accomplish simple things and flipping back and forth to compare stats which is info that should be readily available.
The campaign is set up so you basically move from point A to point B within the moderately sized world map. Along the way, you'll find many treasure chests and optional dungeons. However, these aspects are far from optional because conquering dungeons and uncovering treasure is basically essential if you want a chance at taking down the next boss. That being said, it is rewarding to amass more treasure and increase your base's technology level which unlocks new features. I just wish the campaign wasn't so linear. It gives the illusion that there's a lot to do but you'll still find yourself traversing the sands to get to the next dungeon, clearing it, and repeat only to fight the next boss then begin the process all over again. It gets extremely monotonous after playing for 10 or so hours.
Finally, I should discuss the aesthetic aspects of Metal Max Xeno. For starters, it looks like a PlayStation 2 game. Although this isn't necessarily a bad thing, there aren't any redeeming or unique qualities that set apart its visuals from a generic early 2000s RPG. The audio doesn't fare much better with its unmemorable soundtrack, generic sound effects, and forgettable Japanese voice cast. On the plus side, the sound of the tank's engine whirring as you move around the map is well-done and the character portraits are decent.
I'm glad to see the Metal Max series make a comeback in the west. However, Metal Max Xeno's simplistic nature, monotonous campaign, and archaic presentation definitely detract from its more satisfying elements.
- + Simple gameplay and battle system make it easy to pick up and play
- + Involving character and tank customization
- + Rewarding exploration and mini-dungeons
- - Linear and tedious campaign
- - Menus are extremely cumbersome
- - Dated PS2 era visuals and subpar audio