Metal Saga, known as the Metal Max series in Japan, is the third in this popular franchise, and the first to be lovingly localized by Atlus for the US. As a reviewer, I try to remain impartial and refuse to look at the reviews of others, however, since I read quite a few trade mags, visit sites, and talk to others who play RPGs, one thing became clear to me. The opinions were literally all over the place, some very good, some, well, not so good. Which intrigued me all the more. Thus begins my Metal Saga experience, and a rather enjoyable experience at that, if you go into it with an open mind.
Metal Saga begins in a desolate, post apocalyptic world. Human creates computer to combat pollution and other humanity created ills, computer becomes convinced the best way to do this is to make mankind go the way of the dodo, thus great destruction ensues, leading to what is known as The Great Destruction. Humans being the adaptable sort, adapted, survived, and once again began the rebuild. They employ “Hunters” to combat the leftover machines from the destruction-which is where the story begins. You have the option to name your character. I’ll refer to him as Max to keep things simple. Max’s father Eddy is a famous Hunter, and Max leaves to follow in this footsteps-not literally-he needs a ride!!
At this point in the game, you can boogie over to the next town, and enter into a sequence of events that lead to End Game, and a very funny one at that-see what I mean?
So how does Max travel around this immense, barren world? You have the choice of walking, or taking it upon yourself to hook up with one of many highly customizable vehicles. I was able to find a vehicle in the first 20 minutes or so-no big deal. You can also rent a tank in many towns. I also received information that I can find a bus-which I will prompty equip with a couple of huge guns, but I digress. To add to the fun, everyone in your party can drive one, and they all appear on the map when traveling like a proper kickass convoy. On the overworld map, battles are random, and turn based, and the encounter rate is normal-not too many-not too few. You can choose to stay in your vehicle, or hop out (without sacrificing a turn) to dispense justice.
The enemy design is a high point for Metal Saga, they are some of the most original I’ve seen. A revolver with beefy human legs? It kicks me?? Nice! The battles also go very quickly most of the time, so battling enemies isn’t a chore-in fact, it can be damned fun, particularly when you find the dog!
While I’m on the subject of party members, this is another area where Metal Saga shines-the characters are well drawn, can fight capably, and have witty dialogue-when they interact with each other and Max, which isn’t very often. The dialogue with the NPCs is also usually very witty and funny. The decisions Max makes affect the flow and outcome of the game, so choose wisely. I should point out here as well, I have yet to hear one of the characters speak-.you must read the dialogue. Which is possibly a blessing in disguise-I didn’t have to address bad voice overs in this review!!
While the character designs and the tanks are nice, then environments are just average, not groundbreaking next gen, but not awful. Lush environments would look out of place in Metal Saga anyway, and blah overworlds I can live with. , however I would’ve liked to see more design love of the towns. Also, I loved the anime intro, a couple of animated cutscenes in the story would’ve been nice.
o make the travels over desolate wastelands more enjoyable, Metal Saga has an incredible soundtrack, from Hard Rock riffs to Irish/Celtic tunes. The songs are available for Max to illegally download onto his laptop device from most jukeboxes found in bars/inns. The laptop also allows Max to read e-mail, check his diary, peruse monster information, and play minigames. The laptop info can be accessed by you at any time.
To summarize Metal Saga, if you require your RPG to be your mother, to take you by the hand and walk you from point A to Point B, explaining plot points at every sidewalk square, this is not the game for you. Metal Saga allows you the complete freedom to roam about in your vehicle of choice (bigass tank, dunebuggy, etc), equipped how you choose, with whomever you choose, to pretty much do whatever you want. I even have a dog with a rocket launcher on his back for crying out loud-what’s not to love?!? Metal Saga will never leave you bored, there is always something to do, such as visit towns, play minigames, enter your dog in the coliseum battle, attack one of the many sidequests, it’s up to you.