If there is anything the Dreamcast is lacking games-wise, apart from a decent football game, it's a first person shooter. With Half-Life, Quake III: Arena and now Unreal Tournament due for release on the DC, we need not worry, but surely any game in the genre released now would just be a stop gap until these "Big 3" come along. Or would it? Cue : Maken X. So it's not really a first person shooter, I lied. It's a first person slash 'em up in which you are possessed by the Maken. The Maken (meaning "Demon Sword" in Japanese) is a sword which has the ability to take over anyone that touches it using a process known as "Brain Jacking". Maken X has twenty or so levels in which to cut people's throats in, and a whole host of characters that you can choose to possess and control for as long as you wish. There is a nice degree of variety between your different alter-ego's, some like Bruce Lee, some just like a nut with a sword, but all great fun. The special moves (which DO vary from character to character) are a real pain. Instead of helping your character, they take up his/her health with only a small amount of damage to the enemy. A strange system that detracts from the game somewhat. Along with this, the control system used when you aren't locked on to one of your enemies is little short of ridiculous. Many a time will you find yourself walking into a wall, not being able to turn away from it or do anything other than scream at the screen. Graphically, Maken X does a pretty good job of setting the scene. There are, however, a few glitches which seem to occur at the most annoying of times. For example, enemy jumps out, you swing the sword, enemy disappears, you die. Very disappointing. That said, the game moves along with all the speed you could wish for, and some of the special effects are just amazing. Overall, while Maken X is a good idea, it seems that it's destined to b
e a stop gap until Quake etc. due to the fact that it has quite a few unforgiveable errors. If you can learn to ignore the problems, a solid game awaits, but that is a lot harder to do than you'd think.
Right, hopefully you've recovered your breath from the sheer humour of the title, so now I can begin. For those of you have have stumbled onto this review without knowing where you are, let me intoduce the game! Maken X is a title that's a cross between a beat 'em up and a FPS (that's a first person shooter children...). Sounds weird doesn't it? Although this game might sound lame to a few of you, it's a surprisingly fun, detailed and exciting game. Where do I begin? Don't be mistaken into thinking that Maken X is anything like a beat 'em up - it's not. However, it is more like a FPS - the only difference being that the weapons used are more suited to one on one close combat. Because of this unique style of gameplay, it's hard to compare the game to any other title on the market. That means that I'm going to have top put a lot of hard work into making this review understandable. Oh well... In case you hadn't already guessed from my insane ramblings, Maken X uses the idea of close combat but in a FPS form. That means that you see the world through the main character's eyes, resulting in an original style of gameplay that we, or at least I have never seen before. So, what's this Maken thing all about? The Maken (meaning "devil sword") is the main weapon in the game - it's Goldeneye's Golden gun, Perfect Dark's Farsight and Turok's...well... generally big gun. In case you didn't pick up from my handy translation, the Maken is in fact a sword - no fancy projectiles in this game! As in all good violent games the major weapon always has a twist - in Maken X's case it's the fact that the sword doesn't just slash enemies to ribbons, it takes their lives by using a mental process called "brain jacking". Now, now, don't be scared! When it comes down to it, the Maken really does live up to the job of the "main weapon". Anyway, d
on't be fooled into thinking that you get to use this sword all the way through the game - you play different people who have been possessed by it through 20 exciting blood-bathed levels. You'll be pleased to hear that you yourself can brain jack characters, allowing you to control them - even become them. Different characters have different attacks and powers - some are fast and weak, others are slow and powerful. One of them even has a projectile attack for those of you who can't do without! Overall, this character switching system is a good way of introducing changes in the game, making the whole thing generally more exciting and addictive. Even though each of the characters have different powers, they are all operated in basically the same way. Each character has a basic attack, as well as a lock on feature and even a special move that steals one of your lives to execute. In general the attacks and different moves are well thought out, and they provide a refreshing change to the likes of Half-Life and Quake 3. Although there are loads of good things about Maken X, there is one aspect of the game where it slips up. The game control system has it's good points and bad points - unfortunately there's more bad than good. Although when you've locked on things are fine, but locking on is a difficult process. This difficulty is what lets the system down, as well as a tricky style of navigation. The reason why the locking on system lets you down is because without it, it can be difficult to kill anything - let alone two enemies at a time! Despite this problem, Maken X is a very playable game. The reason for this is that it's nothing like anything else on the market - if you like the game's style you'll be playing it forever. On top of the excellent combat system, gamers are promised one of seven different endings making the whole experience more unpredictable. The wide variety of character
s also adds to the fun and excitement, as if a character is too fast or slow to your liking you know that you won't be stuck with it all the way through the game. Levels are not too complex, but they offer a little challenge for novice gamers. Of course, in a game based around close combat fighting levels aren't too important. Maken X's graphics are what you'd expect from any Dreamcast game, and everything runs at a smooth 60 fps. However, sound in the game isn' what it could be. Sound effects can be tacky and poor quality, and in general the sound doesn't match the quality of the game and the graphics. Overall, Maken X is an original game - when it comes down to it you won't find another like it. Despite the control problem, it has loads of replay value and will keep you entertained for a long, long time!