Released in Japan late last year, Maken X was a surprise effort from the creative team behind many of Atlus' hits: Devil Summoner, Soul Hackers and Persona 1 & 2, to name a few. With the power of the Dreamcast, they decided to try to expand upon their previous 2D experience and venture into uncharted territory. Venture they did, emerging with not only something completely 3D, but something that had never really been attempted before, a first-person slasher. Centering around a magical creature named Maken X, Kei (spelled "Kay" in the U.S. version) ends up in a symbiotic relationship with the shape-changing sword. Through a technique called brain-jacking, Maken X can assume control of numerous characters in the game, enabling the game designers to experiment with different attacking styles. The basic control consists of strafing, lock-on functions and a charge-up attack. You can also jump and duck, and while there are some platform elements, they are not too frustrating to complete. Your game experience, minus the cinemas, usually consists of navigating hallways and slashing whomever attacks you. It's pretty standard, except that the enemies all have fairly different attacks, meaning your approach to each one had better be different, or you'll be pushing up daisies in no time. Something you won't find in Quake III or Unreal Tournament anytime soon is the "high-jump over your opponent and slash him in the back of his head" move. Once you get this little technique down, you'll save yourself a lot of agony.
Often feared lost to the import world only, Maken X was wisely snapped up by Sega, who slapped it up with some dodgy voice-over work. Aside from that little flub, it remains to be seen if Sega/Atlus will implement an edit-controller function that would allow swifter turning in the game. When multiple enemies gang up on you , a mouse/keyboard PC-style method of pivoting on the spot would be a great help. The build we've played does not have such a feature.
Nevertheless, anyone looking for a stylish action game need look no further. With multiple characters and endings, Maken X looks like it has the ingredients to keep you coming back. We'll reserve final judgement until we have a reviewable copy, but from here, things look good.
Download Maken X
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
While most first-person games strive to perfect a realistic 3D world, Maken X seems content to offer a bare-bones variation of the genre, albeit with some pretty visuals. You can run, jump and look around, but there is very little interaction with the levels, save hitting really obvious switches over and over. I really would have liked to see much more interaction with objects and scenery. The graphics look pretty good, but it only makes you wish for more complexity. That is definitely a shame, given that the Dreamcast hardware is the most powerful box of chips out there right now. On the positive side, the game offers a few interesting twists, such as being able to leap into the minds of different characters, thus giving you new abilities and interesting weapons to toy with. The controls stay roughly the same for each one, making the transition a painless one. Also, you can build up your character over time (through kills) to increase his strength during battle. The RPG-ish character-building elements of the game and the ability to control new characters gave Maken X a good chance to present an interesting story, but here it also falls short. The cinematics are helter-skelter, never really delivering the punch necessary to give you the feeling that Maken X is more than a sum of its parts. Moreover, the repetitious (and often droning) music and sound do little else but punctuate Maken X's mediocrity.
The plot in Maken X is ambitious to the point of absurdity. With so many little twists and turns it becomes more humorous than intriguing. Factor in the generic voice work and it's something fit for ridicule on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Well, maybe not that bad. To be fair, I did eventually warm up to the game but it felt similar to playing Doom with no guns. The environments look great (lots of nice reflection effects, among other things) but are a bit short on interactivity. Multiple paths and endings are a good idea however. In the end, Maken X is interesting to a point but patience is required. Definitely rent before you buy.
There's no doubt Maken X is a pretty game--awesome character and weapon designs, with a silky-smooth frame-rate--but there's just not enough technique to the gameplay. Outside of some interesting boss encounters, it's mostly killing enemies over and over in a similar fashion each time, and maybe flipping a switch or two along the way. The brainjacking feature is a good idea, but it doesn't really end up mattering enough which character you play as. An interesting story (what's up with those voices though?) and multiple paths and endings help, but more variety in the levels and gameplay is what Maken X really needed.