I’m just here for the gasoline
During the game Metal Max Xeno Reborn, I reached the point where I could make a move on a female party member. I did, and the game told me that the two protagonists lived happily ever after while the rest of humanity died. It then rolled some credits and sent me back to the main menu. Cool.
Later, I had the opportunity to make a move against one of the male party members. I was curious so I did this and got the same result. And that’s how my rampant bisexuality ended the world.
Like many in the West, I had never known a long match Metal Max front series. If the series exists since 1991 on the Famicom, it has only rarely reached our shores: metal saga in 2006 for PS2 and Metal Max Xeno in 2018 for PS4 and Vita. Xeno didn’t go so well, so the teams at Kadokawa, Cattle Call, and 24Frame went back to the drawing board and revamped it into Metal Max Xeno Reborn. Sorry if you bought the original just a few years ago I guess.
Metal Max Xeno Reborn (PS4 [Reviewed]computer, switch)
Developer: Kadokawa Games, 24Frame, Cattle Call
Released: June 10, 2022
Metal Max Xeno Reborn is certainly unique in the JRPG sphere, set in the shittiest future imaginable. Humanity developed a super AI called NOAH to help us with all the destruction we were causing to the natural environment. NOAH decided humanity was the problem and set to work to wipe us out. I have to say that’s fair enough. That would probably be the most efficient way to fix things.
AI has absolutely stomped on the collective buttocks of humanity. Then he stomped some more. Just when he’s lined up to put his foot all the way in, Talis (or whatever you call her) shows up and suddenly becomes the savior of all mankind. What’s left of it, anyway. Which isn’t much.
Your goal is simple; NOAH’s ultimate weapon, the Catastropus (I’m not making this up at all), is ready to take down Iron Base, one of humanity’s last strongholds. Talis must find weapons and people to use them, and stop him.
We are not intelligent creatures
Refreshing, Metal Max Xeno Reborn is rather light on the narrative. I’ve gotten used to JRPGs beating my head with exposition, so it’s nice to find one that gets its message across and leaves you to your own devices. In Metal Max’s case, your devices are tanks. Forget magic and enchanted swords, you have tanks.
You find a tank in the next room you start in, and while there are plenty of sections where you have to get your boots dusted, most of the action comes from the armored safety of a tank. Some of the most exciting moments in the game are when you encounter new tanks in the desert and most of the battle strategy is about putting the right armaments on your ship and finding the most efficient way to fill the air with them .
Indeed, in the midst of battle, there is little flexibility. It’s a cross between real-time and turn-based, but hiding behind things never really got me far. Instead, it’s best to gear up for your enemy’s weaknesses, then try to inflict as much pain on them as possible before they take the steel out of your tank.
Where the legacy of the past slumbers
It’s largely a linear RPG. As you progress from area to area, you hunt down and battle “wanted” monsters, which are basically bosses. Some block your path directly, some can be bypassed, and some need to be discovered. All of them fought and you can easily be sucked in by one without preparation. You don’t always know how to prepare without throwing first. Fortunately, the death penalty is practically nothing. This takes some of the tension out of combat, but it means you won’t pay much to bite off more than you can chew.
The combat system is kind of a mess, but also very neat. Enemies that roam the desert only replenish if you take time to rest. Otherwise, if you clear a safe route, it will usually be safe if you need to backtrack. You alert enemies by crossing their line of sight, which is unreliable and weird. I faced enemies who didn’t notice me. I was in the middle of a fight and suddenly the enemy decides he can’t see me anymore and the battle ends abruptly. They don’t replenish their health, so it’s not much to get back into the fight, but it’s kind of clunky.
In many ways, Metal Max Xeno Reborn is incredibly basic. The graphics are more suited to the Switch or the Vita, and even with that in mind, they’re not terribly impressive. The UI is also a bunch of butts. Much of the game involves simple crafting and upgrading your weaponry, and many details are simply not available or easy to find.
It’s safer here in my armored belly
You have a lot to figure out on your own. While I frankly prefer that to being overloaded with information right from the start, I have to wonder how many things I overlooked because the information provided to me about them was insufficient. Some weapons look underpowered or harmless, but maybe that’s just statistically and they have a special function that isn’t listed. The arsenal in Metal Max Xeno Reborn is dizzying, and I just have no interest in testing everything individually.
The storyline is going to be off-putting to some. The narrative itself is incredibly basic and doesn’t feature much in the way of twists and turns. Much of the heavy lifting is done by the backstory, which you pick up in chunks. Although it’s pretty to the point, I found it oddly engaging. An apocalypse caused by human pride is not a new prospect, but there is this resigned “we probably deserved it” underlying everything. It is a dark, almost humorous cynicism. It tickles me immensely that the overall backstory is a story of one colossal mistake, and then when we had our backs against the wall, we kept on getting it wrong.
There’s an assortment of party members to pick up, but while some of them are quite interesting, interacting with them isn’t. As you work with them, their lines of dialogue in the base change and you get more of their story. That’s about it, though. There is very little interaction, you just talk to them until there is world ending sex.
Everything is better with a dog
As for the improvements Metal Max Xeno who gave him the reborn nickname, I can’t say for sure because I never played the first one. Apparently the art style has been redone. Originally, the character art was handled by hentai artist Non Oda, and they were toned down for this one by Takeshi Oga. Don’t worry, there’s still a soldier figure wearing panties and a garter belt, so it wasn’t completely painted in the prudish color, but it might be more in line with many others anime games.
The biggest addition, however, is a dog. Yes, someone looked at the game and decided the best way to improve it was to add a dog, and they’re absolutely right. Yes, you can pet him, and yes he helps you in battle. You attach a cannon to its back, cover it in armor, and it blasts enemies alongside you. He even has his own range of skills, so you can use his experience to make him the best boy.
I always found it hilarious when these big, hulking enemies would stare at a row of three tanks and then decide to focus their attention on the little Shiba Inu biting his toes. Don’t touch my dog, though. I will blow you up.
The translation is a bit twisted. I noticed quite a few typos, but these could be fixed in the release patch. It happens. But even with that, there are some weird word choices. On the one hand, your dog has the ability to weaken his enemies by barking, at which point the word “down” cuts through them. That’s the word you went with? Maybe they feel discouraged because they can’t be friends with your dog. It’s reasonable, I guess.
I really didn’t expect to like Metal Max Xeno Reborn as much as me. I took it because I was curious. A tank-focused JRPG? It’s like the devs read my diary. Of course, I could even see his joviality in the screenshots that caught my eye, but that only deepened my curiosity. It’s definitely not a short game, at least 30 hours, but I absolutely ate it alive without slowing down.
It’s unique. Even though JRPGs always seem to try to outdo each other on show, nothing beats a trio of tanks unloading their combined ordinance on a hulking monstrosity of flesh and metal. And Metal Max Xeno Reborn seems to know. He gets out of your way and lets you go.
It sometimes feels antiquated; a latecomer to a bygone era of JRPGs. An amalgamation of the SNES RPG franchise and the PS2 flavor pump. I can only dream of what the show would be like with a bigger budget and staff. But even with what we have now, Metal Max Xeno Reborn is something special. Now you’ll have to excuse me while I go to work delving into the show’s past. I need more, and I need it now.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]