Release Date: 2002
As a hardcore gamer, it is my sworn duty to advocate the “good ol’ days” of my hobby as often as my carpal tunnel issues allow. Thus, it should not surprise anyone that the proposition of a new feature here at WorthPlaying took little to no time to formulate: a bi-weekly jaunt into the videogame offerings of the past – specifically, an impossible quest to find The Perfect Game (that nobody’s ever heard of). And if you, too, are a hardcore gamer, you may have already assumed that I would peruse products only of the two-dimensional days gone by, ignoring the newfangled-bump-mapped-over-produced-trash-that-has-made-up-the-past-two-generations-of-console-gaming-and-besides-that-garbage-control-as-tightly-as-the-old-stuff-anyway. But I’m one of those so-called “New Game Journalists.” I preface every article with anecdotal commentary, fill the body with unfounded references to boldly unrelated and often obscure releases, and close with what seems to be an impressive multi-tiered segue that ties every loose end into a neat little bundle, but in reality makes sense only to the kind of jerks who used to read Insert Credit but don’t anymore because New Games Journalism is so passe, the assistant manager of the GameNutz Videogame Store in Orange, Maine, and me.
So here we are. Welcome to New Games Journalism World. As per the New Games Journalism Rulebook, I must now make a loose – preferably post-modern – transition into the actual subject of this article. Is writing about the writing process itself, in a videogame article, no less, a “po-mo” kind of statement? Either way, phase two of the article is the subject, and I’ve spent far too much time (or too little, depending on whether or not you’re an Insert Credit fan) avoiding putting any thought towards an actual videogame.
I’m here to write about Maximo: Ghosts To Glory.
And there’s the hard-to-accomplish phase 2.5 of the article: Surprising subject matter! This is a feature about games from the past that deserve a second mull-over. Audience thinks, Yes, this feature will be written about a game that is very old. But no. As of this writing the year is the fifth after the millennium, and it’s not late fall yet, so the Xbox 360 hasn’t come in to rain on the PS2/Xbox/’Cube parade just yet, so we’re looking at a current generation release, aren’t we?
(I swear to god, the next one will be on a game from the mid-eighties just to make up for this. Please continue to read WorthPlaying in the meantime.)
But after picking up Maximo for exactly $5.25 USD, and popping it into my PS2, I realized that a great many people have missed out on this shining gem of an action game, along with its not-as-good-but-still-nice sequel, Army of Zin.
Maximo is a fantastic, slightly obscured little release that deserves more attention than it received. Despite this, I still see the game as somewhat problematic in a number of regards, and, to assuage those of you who have heard more bad than good about this game, yes, I am in pristine mental condition and am aware of Maximo’s issues, and no, I am not going to give up on this game because of them.
The basic movement engine is not as forgiving as it should be. The presentation screams “PSOne.” The game is almost too hard. But there is so much fun to be had that these issues can be easily swept aside as long as we keep our eyes focused on just about everything else there is to be done in this game.
The most important place in history Maximo has for me is showing us how 2D sidescrollers should be re-done in 3D. While it is primarily a new brand,Maximo is also the spiritual successor to the Ghouls ‘N Ghosts series (there’s a reason for the subtitle Ghosts To Glory). Those games were characterized by their merciless difficulty, recognized as “freakin’ hard” even during the 8-bit days, when the most popular titles carried rich histories of embarassing the best gamers around with ridiculous skill requirements. Unlike most franchise transitions to the third dimension, Maximo holds this reputation of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, not just a similar art style.
It is hard to make a 3D game play with the same exacting grace that a 2D experience allows. When the Z-axis is involved, developers tend to lean away from coaxing players into mastering controls, which usually tosses the game into the adventure/platformer pile. Almost every platformer/action game since Mario 64 has gone this route, and while we’re finally getting away from that rut as we make our way towards the next generation of consoles, a bitter taste still lingers, with gamers increasingly turning to more mature genres with the simple intent of finding a game that doesn’t tout item collecting as its main “adventure.” We now have the phenominal Xbox experience known as Ninja Gaiden (another great 2D to 3D transition) filling in the action game gap, but years before its release, we had Maximo, a game that still stands as one of the few light-hearted 3D action games that has any hopes of presenting a challenge for the modern gamer. Ninja Gaiden is incredible, but it is also straight-faced. Maximo’s quest may be just as weighty as Ryu’s, with many lives, including the hero’s own, at stake, but Ryu will never make the player smile. His calculated tactics may be “cool,” but he will never be the silently overbearing, head first into action kind of hero that Maximo is. And most importantly, Ryu will never, ever run around in polka-dotted boxer shorts. Maximo has filled a gap that no other game has ever filled in the same manner.
Is Maximo the greatest 3D action game ever? God, no, we would have to look over to Sin and Punishment, Resident Evil 4, etc. But it is a classic action game done right on current hardware, with all of the features inherent to an older game completely intact, from sword-slashing to spot-on platforming. If I could find it for five bucks, maybe you can, too.