Maken X

   Maken X is a game that is easy to misclassify. Screens of the game scream "first-person shooter," while the art evokes images of "another Megami Tensei game." In actuality, it's neither.

   Atlus' famous Research and Development 1 team, best known for Persona and Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, has taken aspects from many different genres and blended them together to create Maken X. The normal heavy artillery of a first person shooter has been replaced with a evil, morphing sword (the Japanese word "maken" can translate to demon sword; it can also translate to magic clock-hands, but that's beside the point) named Deus Ex Machina, which is controlled by a 16-year old schoolgirl named Kei. The straight-forward level-to-level approach that a first person shooter would normally take has been thrown out the window, being replaced with an extensive map screen and selectable areas, much like an RPG. Throw in a few minor puzzles (including the ever-popular jumping kind), add upwards of 20 playable characters from the very normal looking to the odd and over-the-top, and base it all around a story that revolves around what appears to be the Fourth Reich, and you've got Maken X.

That is your tongue. No, really.

   While many games have had good character design, few have taken it to the level that Maken does. Not only does the game feature artwork in the same vein as the Megami Tensei (Revelations) series, but it incorporates well into the game. Basically, the polygon models have had anime art mapped onto them, giving the game a CG / cel-animation hybrid look. Combined with detailed levels, a smooth 60 fps redraw rate, and a story presented in full voice acting, Maken promises to highlight the 128-bit power of the Dreamcast nicely.

   Of course, no adventure or RPG would be complete these days without its systems. Maken X features a lovely one called the Brain Jack (BJ) system. Upon defeating enemies, they will drop a glowing sphere called an Image. Grab the Image, and your BJ rank gauge increases. Fill the gauge, and you increase in rank (i.e., you level up). Then, upon finding Brain Jackable characters (who can be either friends or enemies, but tend to be unconscious), you can access one of the Maken X's niftier features: taking your consciousness and "Jacking" it into the other character, effectively allowing you become the other person. Of course, each character is unique, with their own statistics, special attacks, and weapon (some of which are extremely unusual, such as a bladed, rotating artificial hand). You can freely Jack from character to character on the map screen, making Kei a rather schitzophrenic little schoolgirl. This multitute of personalities plays quite heavily into the storyline as well; Maken features 8 different endings, all of which depend on whom you Jack or don't Jack.

The Man Without a Face

   Maken has become quite a controversial game since it was first made public. The game's enemies are neo-Nazis, and the swastika is featured quite prominently (not the Japanese good-luck manji, but the full-blown reversed and tilted swastika). Not only are you fighting neo-Nazis in the game, but it turns out that the President of the United States is in league with them. Combine this with lovely enemies such as the machine gunner that has his weapon attached to a certain area that makes him look rather, er, studly, the ESRB should have a heyday with this game when it comes across the seas in 2000.

   Controversies aside, Maken X promises to be one of the highlights of the Dreamcast schedule next year. The Japanese release features some of the most solid gameplay that has been seen in quite a while, and, simply put, is just plain fun. Keep a watchful eye out for this one when it hits North American shores.

Preview by J.T. Kauffman, GIA.
Maken X
Developer Atlus R&D1
Publisher Sega
Genre Adventure
Medium GD-ROM (1)
Platform Dreamcast
Release Date  11.25.99
11 screenshots
24 character designs / 6 weapon designs / Maken X wallpaper
U.S. box art