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ups: tanks, bazooka dogs, snarky dialogue
downs: confusing & bland plot, repetition, graphics

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A Boy and His Rocket Dog: Metal Saga Review
game: Metal Saga
two star
posted by: Amanda Bateman
publisher: Atlus
developer: Success
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ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 11:52 AM Fri Jun 2nd, 2006
last revision: 11:51 AM Fri Jun 2nd, 2006

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Click to read.Metal Saga is the first of two nonlinear PlayStation 2 RPG titles that Atlus has released this year, with Steambot Chronicles being the second. You may be asking yourself, \"If Steambot came out second, why did you review it before Metal Saga?\" I hope, through my review, this question will be clearly answered.

In Metal Saga you play a silent nameless protagonist in a post-apocalyptic world where man and machine duke it out for dominance. After an incident called the Great Destruction, individuals called Hunters roam the land in search of bounties, hoping to make a lot of money after killing them off. The hero has just joined the ranks of these Hunters, much to his mother\'s dismay, and he must start from rock bottom and work his way up to the best of the best. Basically, you\'re a Hunter, and you\'re out to kill robot monstrosities! It\'s pretty simple.

To become a great hunter, the hero must equip himself with weapons, armor, and healing items. Once this is done, it\'s time to venture out of the safety zone and look for a vehicle, the only way to travel in a world as large as this one. The majority of the gameplay consists of buying and equipping better armor and weapons, finding vehicles and customizing them, and fighting monsters for experience. The further you move away from your home in Junkyard (not to be confused with Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga\'s Junkyard), the tougher the enemies get and the more money you\'ll net for whomping them.

Enemies consist of monsters and outlaws. Monsters are any enemy you encounter on the field. Plain and simple: you kill them to improve your levels and stats. If you happen to kill the weekly target, you\'ll get a small cash prize for each one you\'ve killed. You\'ll have to be quick, as the monster to target changes pretty regularly, but not too quickly. Outlaws are like the bosses of the game, and you\'ll have to search them out yourself using the clues and information you\'re given. When you find and defeat an outlaw, you\'ll earn a huge monetary reward for your victory back in the town that the bounty was issued.

Your party consists of four characters: the hero, a mechanic, a fighter, and a... dog with a cannon strapped to its back. The hero can choose from two mechanics Kiriya and Misha, two fighters Charlene and Rashid, and four different dogs as the story progresses. The party can be rearranged if you find you don\'t approve of one of your party member\'s styles, but you can only have one of each at a time for a party of four. All characters are customizable, but your dog is CPU-controlled, which is a little annoying at times since your canine companion has the chance of standing around and doing nothing, or even running away.

As you locate and take in a variety of different vehicles in the game, you\'ll be able to take them to the garage and customize them to suit your needs. Various cannons and guns can be equipped, and special elemental types of ammunitions can be installed on the vehicles as well. It\'s difficult to go crazy with the customizing at times due to the vehicles\' weight restrictions. If your vehicle is overloaded, it won\'t move, and a stationary tank just doesn\'t cut it. Modifications can be given to improve its load size, but it can be hard to deal with in the beginning. Customization can also be really confusing when you start out. Paint jobs can also be given to vehicles to make them more appealing. You can do this yourself and make your own designs, or you can choose pre-made patterns like animal prints and other designs. If you don\'t have enough tanks for your party, or find yourself in some sort of jam, cities also have tank rentals, but a percentage of your earnings during battle is taken away to cover the cost each time you use it.

There are other fun extras to Metal Saga aside from just battling. There is a dancing game at some bars which plays like a D-Pad version of Simon, gift-giving, \'illegal\' music downloading, arcade games, and more. Metal Saga also has several different endings, with some more surprising (and silly) than others. One ending can be obtained almost as soon as you start playing, based solely on your responses.

The gameplay isn\'t anything too special. One thing the plot has going for it is the snarky humor of your protagonist\'s responses. It\'s quite enjoyable, and makes him look smarter than everyone else in the game. I haven\'t played the original Japanese version, but from my impressions I think the writers had a lot of fun with the in-game conversations. The music is bland and pretty generic, but overall the sound is good. The CG illustrations are very nice and the game starts off with a beautiful animated opening movie, but the sprites and backgrounds don\'t do much for me. It felt like a late PSX/early PS2 title. And with a weak and confusing plot with little to no hints of where to go next, playing the game became frustrating and repetitive.

But Metal Saga needs a little something more. The tank aspect is creative, but for me it was a chore to work my way through the game. There could have been some dubbing or a little more activity. More character development would have been nice too. There isn\'t much about it that screams \"Play me!\"

Fans of the Metal Max series, and those who really like the idea of driving and fighting inside of giant tanks, will probably enjoy this title best. As for the rest of us, again I pose this question: If you\'ve got the money and time, give it a shot. But really, you\'re not going to miss out on much if you pass this one up.

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