Community Discussion: Blog by Mike Moran | Gemnalysis: Maken X, the missing Atlus gameDestructoid
Gemnalysis: Maken X, the missing Atlus game - Destructoid


click to hide banner header

Episode 07: Duke Nukem 3D - PC
Episode 06: Resident Evil 2 - PS1
Episode 05: Deus Ex - PC
Episode 04: Mega Man Legends - PS1
Episode 03: Jet Grind Radio - Dreamcast
Episode 02: Mega Man 4-6 - NES
Episode 01: The Neo Geo Pocket Color - NGPC

Nostaljourney is a retro gaming podcast that features an new cast every episode. Each episode is based on discussing a particular game or series, then finding people who are nostalgic for it and people who have never played it before. If need be we go so far as to donate all the necessary gaming hardware to the newcomers. We compare the experiences of the two groups to find out how well a game has really aged as well as discuss its history.

For younger community members it may be a chance to learn what gaming was like in the past. For older community members it may be a chance to discover what games are truly classic and what games are not. In general the show exists to evaluate and discuss the nature of nostalgia and for everyone in the community to get to know each other better. Because the show involves giving out free games, it only records once every couple of months.

Recent changes to the game plan will hopefully entail the show recording every 2 weeks.

Shadows of the Damned - Multiplatform
Alice: Madness Returns - Multiplatform
Dead Rising 2 - Multiplatform
Radiant Historia - Nintendo DS
Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks - Nintendo DS
Ace Attorney Investigations - Nintendo DS

Wryviews are my personal review series where I try to do things different from the norm by asking myself how well the game achieved its goal, instead of if I liked the game or not. Wryviews are a personal challenge to stay objective and identify who would enjoy a certain game, rather than complain about who wouldn't. I feel that being a good reviewer entails being able to identify each game's audience.

Mega Man and Bass - Gameboy Advance
Maken X - Dreamcast

Gemnalysis is a series where I hunt down lesser known or neglected games and make a case for playing them despite the fact that they're older. Instead of flat out reviewing these games I look at them from the perspective of a collector and go over the game's history, and special trivia it may have.

Boss Battle - Mark of the Wolves
Boss Battle + Final Match - King of Fighters 98

Fatal Impact is a series of community tournaments revolving around SNK fighters; rather, it was. I happen to host the tournaments, but only once in a blue moon when I have the free time. I accept any and all callers, though I am not an entrant. Instead I am a trainer who organizes my entrants and helps to improve their game while introducing them to new and lesser appreciated fighting games.

The Fatal Impact tournaments will likely not continue until SNK releases games with better netcode. With recent promises from Atlus, King of Fighters XIII is likely to become the next big Fatal Impact game.

King of Fighters 94
King of Fighters 95
King of Fighters 96
King of Fighters 97

The King of Fighters Love Letter is a series dedicated to the storyline and history of SNK fighting games. Many people don't know anything about SNK in general, and with King of Fighters XIII on its way I'm going to bring everyone up to speed on the story in the series thus far.

Now that King of Fighters XIII has an actual release date this series may continue beyond the first story arc (Orochi Saga), but it's difficult to find solid information on the series' backstory.

Podsumaki Episode 09: Mortal Kombat Special
Podsumaki is a fighting game podcast that I hosted on and organized. There was a lot of random smack talk but it was a fun show. Currently it's on hold and none of the hosts are sure if it will ever come back. Our last episode was our highlight, where we spoke with three of the best Mortal Kombat players in the US and discussed the Mortal Kombat community and the upcoming game. If you were to listen to any one episode of Podsumaki, I'd recommend it be this.

The Top Three Things "Gamers" Should Care About Less
Somebody on Call of Duty: Black Ops screamed at me for not being good enough at the game, even though I wasn't on his team. Thanks to that I decided to write an article on some of the biggest problems with the gaming community, mostly their inability to care about things that actually matter.

Tainted Beauty: The Death and Rebirth of a Genre
What we have here is an article revolving around the 2D fighting game genre, the path one must go through to become good at the games, and all the obstacles in the way of this that I feel eventually led to the temporary death of the genre prior to the release of games like Street Fighter IV and BlazBlue.

Wry Guides: Goozex Training Manual
Wry Guides are a series where I try to educate the people of the community by writing about something that I in particular know a lot about. More than anything else though, it's just me unleashing a bad pun upon the world.

Top 11 Dreamcast Games You Probably Didn't Play
In this article I recap my experience as a guy who loved the Dreamcast, because he grew up with it as one of his primary forms of entertainment. The games listed aren't the popular and trendy choices so much as the lesser played B-list and C-list games that only true Dreamcast veterans touched.

Hey, I liked it: Mega Man VII
Hey, I liked it was a series where I reflected on games that I'm fond of that weren't appreciated by many people. As opposed to Wryviews which are meant to be impartial, this was a much more personal series. This series might continue some day but I could really not think of a bigger black sheep game than Mega Man VII.

Wry's Dreamcast Homebrew Guide: Pre-Brewed
There was a time when I was extremely, extremely into my Dreamcast. I didn't just play tons of regular games that I found on sale, I also researched the wealth of bootleg Dreamcast programs. These days I'm a collector and I'm not concerned with unofficial software. I'm too busy playing games I actually own. Still I created a quick guide to some of the easiest and best programs available for the Dreamcast that can be used with no hassle.

Untapped potential: Stop breaking my balls
I suck at games: But not forever
My Expertise: The Grand Jackass of Obscurity
Nothing is sacred: Sequels
Groundhog Day: Can you feel the sunshine, Sonic?
I started writing about games roughly a year and a half ago, and since then my viewpoints and my writing style have changed. Destructoid's Monthly Musings were a good way for me to get started when I didn't have many article ideas. These are all the ones I wrote that were promoted to the front page. I'm not super proud of them anymore, but if you want to see my writings evolve a little bit you can compare these to my more recent articles.
Player Profile
Follow me:
Mike Moran's sites
Following (30)  

[Welcome to Gemnalysis, a new series dedicated to examining games that never quite caught on. The series focuses on the history behind the game and company who made it as well as examining if the game is still worth giving a shot or not.]

Atlus is a company with a lot of street cred in the gaming circuit, but oddly enough a great deal of it is misguided. People like to give Atlus credit for a variety of games they never made, because most people don't realize that Atlus plays a much larger role in the industry as a publisher than a developer. In the past decade there have only been three game series that Atlus has personally released games for: Shin Megami Tensei, Trauma Center, and Etrian Odyssey. They're all incredible series that live up to the companies' reputation but almost anything else you see with the Atlus label on it wasn't made by them. Almost. Before the year 2000 hit Atlus did develop a few "side" games, the last of which was Maken X for the Dreamcast. It shares a lot in common with the Shin Megami Tensei series and in my mind may as well be considered a spin-off. SMT fans in particular ought to give this game a shot.

Now like most Atlus games Maken X is an aquired taste, so if you asked me if it was good I'd say "It's one of the coolest games on the Dreamcast if you can stomach a little frustration." There's two kinds of people who should stay away from this game: People who like to whine about flaws and people who don't have a high tolerance for weirdness. How weird is this game you might ask? The main character of the game is a living sword with psychic powers. Imagine if you were playing The Legend of Zelda but found out Link was a mindless puppet carrying the Master Sword around. Now imagine the game is first person. Now imagine one of the bosses is the United States President with a robot body and you fight him in an electric USA themed boxing ring. Yeeep. Takes a lot of imagination to actually visualize what this game is like.

Trying to describe Maken X in too much detail really fails to convey the experience because at its heart the game is very simple. The crazy plot and concept make the game sound a lot more complicated than it actually is. The concept behind the game can make it sound kind of intimidating, but it really shouldn't be. I can't believe in all the time I spent researching this game that nobody tried to make the comparison to Doom because the level design is extremely reminiscent of retro first person shooters. Each level is compact, contains one or two hidden areas, and has health and power up items scattered at key points. Maken X is actually a really solid fit for the Dreamcast library because at its heart this is an arcade game. At a glance you wouldn't think it but this game actually has a pick up and play sort of quality to it.

The game begins with you being introduced to Maken, an artificial lifeform with psychic ability that builds a sword around itself to protect its body. Maken has the ability to use humans as hosts to move around as well as steal the memories and knowledge of anyone that falls victim to it. The game's characters really play Maken up as "Having the power of a God." This is your character. You even name it at the beginning of the game. After waking up you quickly discover there is an organization hellbent on stopping you and your Godlike power from becoming a threat to its plans.

As the lab where you were created falls under attack by a single powerful assassin, a young girl named Kei Sagami picks you up and becomes your very first host. After defeating the assassin with Kei Sagami's body a mysterious old man confronts you claiming to be responsible for your creation, asking that you stop this organization from destroying mankind. This old man implores you to do the right thing, but admits that he cannot force you. From this point on the game follows a globetrotting theme where you wander around 20 levels all over the world, slowly making your way to the game's final encounter.

By the second level of this game you'll have already learned three things: This is a first person action game with an emphasis on 1-on-1 melee, you have the ability to obtain new characters by stealing their bodies, and the voice acting can be quite cheesy. Atlus is a company that's known for stellar localization and translations, but back in 1999 they'd only just started publishing a lot of games. This was right around the time Atlus started making a name for itself by putting its logo on a lot of niche Playstation 1 titles like Guilty Gear and Tactics Ogre, but oddly enough Atlus didn't publish their own game. Sega was responsible for Maken X's localization and the translation is only a couple notches above a House of the Dead game. While the game has some awesome concepts, don't go into this one for the narrative. You'll get a basic skeleton of a plot, which if you look at this as an arcade game is enough, but trying to figure out the finer details of the story will prove difficult.

Basically you wander around some quick but challenging levels, fight various enemies, and try to find all the hidden characters that allow you to make the game easier and get to new levels. Some levels can only be accessed if you use the right character while other levels are just a lot easier if know who to use. Like I said, this game is pretty simple at heart even if it has some complex ideas. Something that's gonna fly over most peoples' heads is there's actually a morality system in this game. During conversations with the games' characters simple "Yes" or "No" answers will determine the order you beat the levels, what characters become available to you, and what ending you receive. There's a lot of little touches in this game that most people won't find out about unless they play the game several times, and considering the branching paths the game does lend itself to replay value.

A really nice example of how your choices can affect the game is at the very beginning: After the first stage you steal the body of the assassin I mentioned earlier. The second stage takes place on board a crashing airplane. At the end of the stage there's an escape pod and a pilot. If you steal the pilot's body you will fly the escape pod to your intended destination and have to play the next stage with the pilot's weak body, but you'll also be led straight to an important character whose body you can steal. If you run straight to the escape pod in the assassin's body you will go off-course and end up at a different stage, but you will have a better body. Normally you can just save up all the bodies you've stolen and get them back later, but if you use the pilot the assassin's body is gone forever (the plane crashed after all.)

Considering the game does cool things like this it would have been really nice if this game had gotten a better translation. The story had a lot of potential and was probably much more engaging in its original form, but what we have is still a very enjoyable first person action game. Once the globetrotting theme starts you travel from level to level and a lot of them can be a pretty considerable challenge. The levels themselves are straightforward but the enemies and obstacles between you and the exit can be pretty rough. You can actually start getting new characters almost immediately and it's highly recommended. In theory you can play this game whichever way you want, but some levels will seem impossible with the lower level characters. Skill can get you pretty far though; the individual enemies all follow simple patterns that you just need to figure out. After you have the enemies deciphered it's just a matter of timing your strikes properly. That's hard to do when the game throws a new enemy at you, though. Things become a lot tougher when you have to fight more than one enemy too, but it's rare and can actually be managed with the simple controls. The controls in general are what's going to turn a lot of people off about this game: they take getting used to.

Frankly the game itself is a good fit for the Dreamcast considering how weird it is, but not necessarily the controller. The face buttons are needed for locking on to enemies, attacking, jumping and brain jacking (stealing bodies) and there's only one control stick. A control scheme like the one found in MDK 2 (the face buttons are used to move while the stick is used to aim) probably wouldn't have been all that great, since that would have required using the D-Pad to lock on to enemies. In Maken X you use the control stick to move around and the triggers to strafe and turn. It's jarring at first for anyone who's used to dual analog these days, but it actually does work. Not perfectly, but considering the game's simple level design it's passable. You don't need absolutely perfect controls to navigate the stages, and once you actually lock on to an enemy the control scheme works perfectly since you circle around them automatically. Someone who really wants to enjoy the game will think of ways to make it work. I developed one technique where I would alternate between turning and using the strafe button so I could navigate circular corridors fluidly, and I would frequently use the Y button to lock and unlock targets when I was fighting multiple enemies. The game itself is something to experience and it's not that great a sacrifice to make.

Patience is the name of the game. The tougher levels will require a several attempts and the controls take getting used to. If you can stomach a little frustration you're in for a treat: especially if you enjoy crazy character designs. Kazuma Kaneko is running the show on that front: a man so talented that other (bigger) companies ask him to do guest designs for their games on occassion. He developed Dante's Devil Trigger for Devil May Cry 3 and a couple of the mecha for Zone of the Enders 2. Shoji Meguro also did the soundtrack. While the music isn't quite as insane as something like Persona 3 and 4, there's a few really cool songs in the game.

At first glance you'd think this game would get by on its original gameplay ideas and unique story, but that's not really how you should look at it. While the game itself as a whole is extremely unique, the individual features aren't super creative in themselves. Even the famous "brain jacking" feature is just a different way of getting new characters, which is something many games have done in the past even if not in the exact same way. Maken X should really be viewed as a complex arcade game. The levels all last about 5-10 minutes a piece. While you can die often, the stages don't have very much wandering around. That much is very refreshing. I like to regard this game as a Shin Megami Tensei spinoff because it has so much in common with the series. It features the same artist and composer, has a silent protagonist whom you name, features a morality system, and contains dark imagry and insane character designs. If nothing else this game's got style and trust me when I say nothing else plays like it. I wholly recommend it to someone looking to pick up a new Dreamcast game. Consider it a history lesson. This was the last side projected that Atlus had produced until Catherine and Radiant Historia hit the shelves soon.

Is this blog awesome? Vote it up!

Those who have come:

Comments not appearing? Anti-virus apps like Avast or some browser extensions can cause this.
Easy fix: Add   [*].disqus.com   to your software's white list. Tada! Happy comments time again.

Did you know? You can now get daily or weekly email notifications when humans reply to your comments.

Back to Top

All content is yours to recycle through our Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing requiring attribution. Our communities are obsessed with videoGames, movies, anime, and toys.

Living the dream since March 16, 2006

Advertising on destructoid is available: Please contact them to learn more