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by Capcom

07copy-01.jpg (6406 bytes)What most Game Boy games lack is longevity. Most are pretty entertaining for a couple of hours. After that, most games fall into two categories: Games you’ve beaten and games you will never, ever want to beat. Brevity is sometimes the major culprit, but just as often a game suffers because of mundane, clumsy, or just plain incomprehensible gameplay. The fact of the matter is that most GBC titles become reduced to repetitive motion endurance tests under hardcore gaming conditions.

To some extent, that’s understandable. After all, we can only do so much with the GBC, and repetition in some ways allows a game to be longer. And if we extrapolate just what we think of as repetition, it could be said that a vast number of games are just repeated motifs – games like Quake, NFL 2K1, the Sims and Mario Kart come to mind. Games that usually don’t suffer from highly repetitive gameplay (and don’t get me wrong, some repetitive games are a whole lot of fun) often rely on a narrative to pull them along – I’m thinking of titles like Oddworld and Grim Fandango.

08copy-01.jpg (5509 bytes)A happy medium that is not explored often enough on the GBC is the Role Playing Game. RPGs are perfectly suited to the platform for a number of reasons: They don’t have to rely on graphics; they maximize the effect of repetitive elements such as fighting and exploring; they tell a story to distract from the repetition and provide a constant forward momentum. When done properly, such as in the Pokemon games, these titles become phenomenons. And although we love our CG-sprinkled next-gen RPGs, the fact of the matter is that a good story in a good RPG can carry incredibly primitive graphics.

Such is the case with Metal Walker. Capcom’s latest for GBC is a pretty standard RPG that borrows some successful conventions from the Pokemon titles, mixes in a really innovative combat system, and ties it all together with a storyline that, while still not great literature, succeeds at not annoying the gamer to death (or boredom). Add to that the inherent goodness of a long-lasting game, easy to start and stop, on a portable platform, and you’ve got a really fun title.

23copy-01.jpg (6025 bytes)In Metal Walker you assume the role of Tetto, a boy looking for his father. In the not-too-far future, you work with your father on Rusted Land to find Core Units, a powerful metal/energy that allows you to use and build cool robot servants. While mining for Core Units, you and your father are attacked by evil Metal Busters looking for Core Units themselves. You become separated, and, accompanied by your robot pal, Meta Ball, you begin the search for your dad, counselled that he’ll appear near the Core Units. Of course, as things go along you find out about a history of sketchy research, ghosts in machines, the ultimate robot, Metal Walker, and meet various baddies in need of a good thwarting.

Like I said, it’s not an original story, but it does follow the conventions of the RPG narrative pretty closely. And in line with the RPG tradition, you spend most of your time randomly encountering monsters, moving from location to location, using the facilities at various refuel/restock shops, and increase your experience. It feels very much like almost any other RPG in those regards.

28copy-01.jpg (6876 bytes)What makes this game fun is Meta Ball. He follows you around like a little Pikachu, but kicks much more butt. As you progress you encounter enemies, and Meta Ball fights for you. The fighting system is pretty interesting – a lot like marbles. Enemies and Meta Ball show up in an arena, and most arenas have an exit. Items you have are randomly thrown into the arena when it is your turn to move. On your turn, an arrow shows up over Meta Ball. You rotate the arrow to point the direction you want to move, then press A. That brings up a power bar that fills and empties, as in a golf game or on your Virtua Tennis serve, and you try to press A again when it’s full. Meta Ball then shoots off in the direction you’ve aimed, bouncing off the walls, objects, and enemies as he goes. You damage enemies by running into them.

These battles vary widely in difficulty according to the strength of the enemy. It is crucial to become skillful at shooting Meta Ball around the arena so as to make optimum use of the power-up items and hit as many enemies as possible, while leaving yourself in the best possible position. It’s a bit like pool, too, in that respect. Overall, quite a bit of strategy can be used to ensure victory.

Add to the innovative combat an ever-evolving Meta Ball and you’ve got some good gameplay. As you collect Core Units, you can evolve Meta Ball into quite a few different robots – everything from a tank to a sexy female mecha are possible. These different incarnations give the robot different stats and abilities, so you’ll find yourself actually using this function fairly often.

In addition to the evolution of Meta Ball (suspiciously Pokemon-esque), the game is enhanced by the variety of items you can earn. To get items you must aquire the data for the item shop to build them. You do that by purchasing analyzers, which are then thrown into the battle arena. You must bounce an opposing robot into the analyzer during battle, and you will acquire the "scan data" to make their particular item. This is another element that seems derivative of Pokemon gameplay, but nonetheless increases the play value of Metal Walker.

Overall, Metal Walker is a must-play title for GBC RPG fans. The combat system alone is worth the cash – without a doubt the most original and fun system out there. Add to it the various "collection" and "evolution" elements, and you’ve got a really solid game. Metal Walker offers meaty gameplay and long-lasting entertainment value.

Shawn Rider


Ups: Innovative combat system; cool evolution and collection elements; good story; nice and long.

Downs: Possibly too many random encounters.

System Reqs:
Game Boy Color or Game Boy


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