Maximo: Ghosts to Glory
Platform: Playstation 2
Back in the 16-bit days of video gaming, 2D side-scrolling-action-adventure games dominated the console software scene more than any other genre. The predominant storyline of the era went something like this: roam the countryside, collect power-ups, kill the bad guys, and restore the kingdom to normalcy, or save the damsel in distress...or both. No question, by today's standards, the graphical and game-play design of those games was rather simplistic. But hey, they were challenging and they sure were a helluva lot of fun!
Through the years, the gradual increase in console horsepower from one generation to the next, has simultaneously led to a global sophistication of software. With the added processing muscle of today's consoles, developers have indeed taken gaming to new levels of graphical prowess and game-play complexity. And it doesn't take a genius to recognize that all of our favorite franchises representing sports games, fighting games, RPGs, and flight-sims have all been the benefactors of this evolution in technology. At the same time, 2D platformers have gone the way of the dinosaur. Instead, they've been replaced with games incorporating huge polygonally-generated 3D worlds and intricate storylines. And while we as gamers may not all agree on whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, nonetheless, it is a fact...and we as gamers must deal with it!
However, in an effort to return to the good ol' days of classic video-gaming, our friends over at Capcom offer a compromise of sorts with their recently released, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory 'a one-player action-adventure game for the PS2. Sporting the latest in 3D technology, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory takes a trip down memory lane, with a storyline based loosely upon their Ghost N' Goblins/Ghouls and Ghosts series. The game places you in the role of a young knight who has returned from war only to find his kingdom in shambles. Achille, your once trusted advisor, has wrought evil on the land, imprisoned four beautiful sorceresses and kidnapped your girlfriend, Sophia, with intentions of forcing her hand in marriage. Battle hoards of undead, collect power-ups, defeat the evil Achille, save your sweetheart, and restore the kingdom. Sound familiar? It should. So, grab your shield and sword...it's time to swing into action!
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Make no mistake about it; despite its conversion over to 3D, this is a platfomer through and through. Unlike a lot of other similar games in the genre, this is not a go-anywhere, do-anything type of game. The game consists of five main levels, with each level broken up into smaller sections. Complete each section in succession by jumping and slashing your way through hoards of enemies and collecting power-ups. With each hit from the enemy, Maximo will lose a part of his armor until he's down to his boxer shorts. A couple of hits after that, and Maximo pays a visit to Mr. Death himself'the Grim Reaper. You may convince the Grim Reaper to let you continue, but it's gonna cost ya "death tokens!"
Within each level, you'll find an assortment of items hidden inside headstones, treasure chests, and statutes, that'll aid you in your quest. Among them are "koins," which can be used to buy other items and save games, red hearts that give you an extra life, iron keys, which are used to open locked chests and gates located throughout each level, and gold keys, which can be used to unlock special doors. As you traverse each level, you'll come across other special items. These include Magic Pools that allow Maximo to save his progress and travel back and forth between lands you've already conquered, and Trigger Stones, which are small statues that when destroyed, will give you access to previously unreachable areas, and the Wheel-O-Prizes that's full of surprises. If that's not enough, be on the lookout for spirit objects that contain good spirits. A whack of your sword will free them from their resting places. Hurry and collect them all. For every fifty spirits you collect, you're rewarded with a death token.
The game's control mechanism is tight and responsive. There's a decent variety of moves at your disposal, including the basic sword slash, overhead slash, block, jump, and double jump. There are also some more advanced moves, such as the downward strike and the spinning 360 attack. If you have a shield (which is not always the case), you can hurl it at your enemy, which is great for inflicting damage from a distance. Of course, all sorts of sword and shield power-ups are available, that is, if you can find them.
Game play is fairly straight forward, but a word of warning: it's not easy. Like most every other platformer, excellent eye-hand coordination and fast reflexes is what'll get you through the game. A little (no, maybe a lot of) memorization can't hurt either, as the more you play each level, the more you'll become familiar with item locations and enemy attack patterns. Even so, it'll take patience and perseverance to see it to completion. Thankfully, there are check-points throughout each area'without them, this game would be next to impossible. I can still remember playing Ghouls and Ghosts on the Genesis, and how it would sometimes take me hours to complete a level'frustrating for sure, but rewarding nonetheless. You get the same feeling when playing Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. The game constantly begs you to try just one more time. Soon, one more try becomes ten, then a hundred, then...well, you get the idea.
I imagine it was no easy task for the developers to convert the look and feel from their 2D predecessors to such a wonderful 3D world, but somehow they've manage to do just that. The graphics, in all of its 3D glory, are a thing of beauty. Character models, as well as environmental effects, are clean and colorful, and the animations are as smooth as glass. The game lights up the PS2, with a steady stream of earthquakes, explosions, and other such pyrotechnics flashing around every corner. There's a decent variety of enemies to dispose of, however, after a while, as you progress from one level to the next, they can get to be somewhat repetitive. FMV sequences, interspersed throughout the game, are equally impressive, without bogging the game down.
If I had to nit-pick, the one area that could've used some help is in regard camera tracking. The default camera follows Maximo from behind (there is a first-person view, but I wouldn't suggest it) and for the most part, nearby platforms and enemies are clearly visible. However, once in a while, the camera will lag behind, especially when you're quickly turning around. This will occasionally result in missing a crucial jump or taking several hits from an enemy that, as of yet, is nowhere on screen. Considering that this is a platformer, where quick reflexes are needed to survive, this can be a source of frustration. However, with repeated play, you can minimize this effect.
Capcom's 2D forebearers to Maximo: Ghosts to Glory were considered classics in their own right for several reasons. Those games not only delivered great graphics and addictive game play, but they also featured an audio package that simply sweetened the pot. On many levels, the same can be said for this game, and then some. Combined with a mesmerizing musical score, the game offers eerily provocative sound effects, which provide the appropriate atmosphere to the task at hand. The moans and groans of attacking enemies, the cling and clang of your sword, along with the boom and bang of environmental effects, such as earthquakes and various explosions, bring the game to life.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory offers up a great mix of cutting audio/visual splendor with tried and true platforming game play. If your heart craves a next-generation platformer with a slant towards the nostalgic, I wouldn't hesitate to buy it'this game is a dream come true. On the other hand, if platformers were never your thing, chances are, this game will do little to convince you to depart with your hard-earned cash. Nonetheless, even if you do fall into the latter category, I strongly urge you to give it a rent. It's one piece of entertaining software, that'll give ya a heck of a ride...for at least a couple of days, anyway!