Metal Saga for PS2 is a lot better than no Metal Max at all

Metal Saga for PS2 is a lot better than no Metal Max at all

Full Metal Max

Getting into the Metal Max series has been one of the most exciting experiences to come my way in this hobby recently. I picked up Metal Max Xeno Reborn on a whim, and the next thing I know, I’m hungrily trying to consume everything from the series I could get my hands on. That’s unfortunately not a lot. Most of the series has never left Japan. While there are some fan translations landing for some of those titles, there was only one official release for the series in North America before Metal Max Xeno. That was 2005’s Metal Saga on PS2.

Don’t let the name fool you. This isn’t some spin-off. Metal Saga is a whole-fat entry in the series. There were some trademark issues resulting from Data East going bankrupt, so the developers at Crea-tech couldn’t actually call it Metal Max for a time, but that’s the only disruption. It takes place in the same world as the previous games, making reference to those narratives, and the mechanics all follow the formula set out by the previous two titles. It’s the true Metal Max 3 in everything but name.

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Unfortunately, the shift to the 3D perspective wasn’t an effortless one.

Metal Saga Mobster
Screenshot by Destructoid

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The stupid end of the world

Metal Saga starts out in much the same way that the original Metal Max does: the protagonist tells his parent that he’s setting out in the world to become a hunter. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic future, Hunters travel around and take down the various monsters that roam the devastated planet.

Like the original Metal Max, the actual over-arching narrative isn’t clear from the start, and only takes shape at the very end. Largely, you’re let loose on the world and left to do whatever you feel like, and Metal Saga just trusts that you’ll eventually find your way to the conclusion. It’s up to you to just travel around, get stronger, and make money by defeating Wanted Monsters. In tanks.

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I can’t stress this enough: Metal Saga, like the series before it, is a game about tanks. There are vehicles in there that aren’t tanks, but everyone talks about tanks like they’re mankind’s greatest achievement. If you want to actually complete the game, you’ll need to scour the world for the best tanks, then outfit them with the best equipment. It’s amazing.

Metal Saga Elderly Care
Screenshot by Destructoid

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You remind me of my grandson

The post-apocalypse of Metal Max is a tale as old as time. Humans were starting to get a little panicked about how they were destroying the planet. Rather than take personal responsibility, they created an AI called NOAH to help them fix it. NOAH decided that the best way to save the planet was to get rid of the source of the problems: humans.

That’s pretty realistic. Humans would definitely try to take a shortcut for solving their problems, and an AI would almost certainly follow a request right down to the letter.

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Not a lot of people in Metal Saga know what caused humans to get pushed to the brink of extinction. Furthermore, the plot of Metal Max involved the protagonist finally shutting NOAH down, but since no one knew the world was even still in peril, few people really know that even happened.

But while the Metal Max series is incredibly on the nose for something that was created in 1991, it’s incredibly lighthearted about the whole affair. If The Last of Us is a finger wag and Fallout is a head shake, then Metal Max is a roll of the eyes. It’s not just about man’s inhumanity to man; it’s about man’s baffling, ceaseless stupidity.

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While you travel the world, you keep bumping into survivors who just have the strangest priorities. There’s a cult that worships bodybuilding. You might find a retirement home full of elderly people driven to crime by neglectful grandchildren. Your primary rival in all of this is a rich heiress who is more interested in collecting tanks than taking down the monsters that threaten the remnants of humanity. It’s nowhere near as ridiculous as Metal Max 2 could get, but it certainly doesn’t wear a straight face.

Dr. Mortem
Screenshot by Destructoid

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Tasty corpses

This sort of leads to Metal Saga’s biggest issue: it’s empty. Metal Saga has a huge world, and a tonne of Wanted Monsters to hunt, but not a lot in between.

It’s always been a series standard to kind of just let you loose on the world with a few gates to keep you from wandering straight to the end of the game. Metal Saga is much the same, but there’s less to distract you. There’s a dearth of side quests, and they’re actually difficult to bump into. There are so many rooms in the dungeons and towns that are just empty, and that takes a lot of the fun out of exploration.

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Those empty rooms might be by design rather than just an indication of unfinished content, but that’s actually worse. I don’t want to check each and every room in case one of them might have a fridge to loot.

There was one dude credited with monster design, Masato Kimura, and he went absolutely nuts. This big empty world is absolutely packed with different monster attacks, including howitzers wearing fishnets and a stealth bomber that is actually just a big manta ray. According to a guide I found, there are 232 types of regular monsters. While some of them are mostly palette swaps, a huge number of them are unique. It also doesn’t lean too hard on just recreating monsters from past games. It’s an impressive effort.

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Screenshot by Destructoid

Optimus Swine

At this point, I’ve played a decent chunk of the Metal Max series. I have to say, Metal Saga currently sits near the bottom of my list of favorites. The core gameplay that I love so much about the series is still there. Everything built around that isn’t anything too insulting, but it’s a lot weaker than anything that came before it.

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On the other hand, before Metal Max Xeno, this was the only game in the series that came West. Even now, the only way for hardcore anglophones to experience the other games is to use fan translations. In no small way, Metal Saga is way better than no Metal Max at all. If fan translations aren’t your thing, then this is absolutely something you should play.

My eyes are constantly peeled for any news on the series. Cygames bought the rights up in 2022 directly after the release of Metal Max Xeno Reborn and the cancellation of Metal Max Xeno: Wild West. The series director (who actually didn’t have a creative role in Metal Saga) is even on board. Currently, it looks like we’re getting a remake of the first game of the series, but I have my fingers crossed that they’ll also look to finally localize previous games in the series. At the very least, re-release Metal Saga.

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The series has had a mess of ownership issues. It has never really received the attention or the love that it deserves. I’m hoping Cygames winds up being the parent it really needs. I just want someone to love Metal Max as much as I do.

For other retro titles you may have missed, click right here!

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About The Author
Zoey Handley

Staff Writer – Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.

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