Seething Cauldron of Pop Culture Talk

Irascible Analysis of Popular Culture

Hidden Gems: Metal Max Returns

In 1991, development team Crea-Tech developed a game called Metal Max, a futuristic RPG where the player controlled and tweaked their own tank which they rolled out against a series of monsters. It was followed by a sequel on the SNES, Metal Max 2, and eventually a remake of the original, also for the SNES, called Metal Max Returns in 1995.

The game starts with your character being tossed out of his own home by his own dad for having the audacity to want to be a bounty hunter, which is apparently the hot job in the post-apocalyptic world of the future. With no place to call home, the player character set out to a nearby cave, after hearing that a super-awesome tank is hidden there. After some fighting, the player character is eventually saved from certain death by a professional bounty hunter who’s also looking for the tank. Unfortunately, the tanks isn’t really that great. The pro tanks one of the tank’s guns and then leaves the rest to you, since his own tank is better anyway. So begins the player character’s journey across a broken landscape beset by twisted mutants and renegade machines from a time long past.

The graphics are reminiscent of Final Fantasy V and have that RPG Maker-look that so many early to mid 90’s JRPGs had. There’s nothing particularly special in the world or the characters or the city, but there is one area that’s better than the norm: the monsters. These are some seriously messed up monsters, such as a giant worm with a drill for a head or a hippo with a cannon grafted to its body. They’re all very strange mutants and add a bit of humor to the affair, although I’m not entirely sure it’s on purpose.

The sound is a bit tinny, as in the tank’s guns don’t really sound that much like tank guns, but that’s pretty standard for older games like this. But the music is okay for the most part, with a few tunes being fun to listen to over and over.

The gameplay isn’t much different from the standard turn-based RPGs that have flourished in Japan for the past two decades. You have a party, you have gear, you fight monster in turn-based combat, and you level up. The only real difference between this game and all the others is that this one has a TANK. That’s actually a pretty big difference, because tanks are awesome and provide you with an edge in combat thanks to their increased power and armor. It also add another layer to the game since you have to care for you tank and upgrade it just like the player character and the other party members.

Overall, the game is pretty easy. If you end of getting killed somewhere, your dad comes to drag you back to your hometown where a crazy scientist goes all Frankenstein on you and zaps your corpse with electricity, with the intent of bringing you back to life. How your dad finds you, or even knows your got “killed”, is a mystery as if how you can constantly be brought back from the beyond so many times with no ill effects. There are some tough boss battles scattered around to make things interesting.

It’s a very non-linear game with only minimal storyline, so it’s the gameplay and exploration that are going to keep you coming back. Keep that in mind before you start playing.

Specs: Developed by Crea-Tech, Published by Data East, Released in 1995 for the SNES. Japan-only.

Upsides: Lots of tank customization, a breezy experience that starts quickly and keeps going, a weird post-apocalyptic world to explore, lots of bizarre monsters, and some decent music.

Downsides: insane encounter rate [two steps between battles?!], very easy, very non-linear to the point of tossing out story altogether, and overly complex menu system.

Verdict: A fun little game. Nothing amazing, but it’s a good way to waste a dozen hours. 7.5/10

Where to find: Just about any ROM site. A translation is also available. Google will show the way.

Random Note: Metal Saga on the PS2 is actually the fourth entry in the Metal Max series and the only entry to make it out of Japan.

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April 15, 2010 - Posted by | Games, Hidden Gems | , , ,

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