Review by Will Smith
"Reviewers Who Scored It Low Probably Have Social Lives...."
Maximo is a one player Adventure game that is developed by Capcom Digital Studios (and is published by Capcom Co. Ltd). It was released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 on December 27, 2001. This review is based on the Japanese version.
Maximo was originally supposed to be a Nintendo 64 title, but was scrapped to due to the console's inevitable demise. The Maximo project was resurrected onto the PS2 console, and the developers really took advantage of the advanced hardware. The game is really beautiful, and Maximo's strong visuals are it's best aspect.
The graphics are incredibly vibrant and colorful. The scenery is not that detailed (and at times looks incredibly simplistic), but a lot of work was put into creating the atmosphere of the game (Stage 2's Jungle area is truly amazing). I must give credit to Capcom Digital Studios for their amazing lighting techniques. Maximo's character designs all have a unique visual style since they were designed by the renowned Japanese artist Susumu Matsushita (readers of Famitsu will appreciate the art style).
The main character, Maximo, is nicely detailed and animates smoothly. The bosses are huge and sport nice aesthetic details. However, the more common enemies (Skeletons and Zombies to be specific) animate jerkily, and pale in contrast to the rest of the game. Maximo also has excellent animated FMV cut scenes that further enhance the game's visuals. While games like Onimusha 2 and the stylishly cel-shaded GioGio's Bizarre Adventure have far more impressive graphics, Maximo's visuals are excellent in their own right. The developers succeeded in creating a cartoonish fantasy atmosphere that completely envelops the player. Unfortunately Maximo's positive aspects are short lived.....
Sound Effects: 4
The sound effects are good for the most part. The effects from the sword making contact with the enemy is satisfying. When Maximo swings the Armageddon Sword, it produces a truly ominous sound that is pretty cool. However, the enemies all make corny sounds and have cheesy voices. The Zombies sound pathetic, and the squeaky noises the skeletons make is annoying as hell. The bosses all speak nonsense, and their voices are lame. The only good sound is when the characters speak Japanese during the animated FMV cut scenes.
Maximo's soundtrack is boring. It is atrocious noise that has no unique quality. Wait, actually, that's not true........Stage 2's music is very well done. It fits the atmosphere and is somewhat memorable. Unfortunately, the rest of the game doesn't have that same standard of quality. The first Stage's theme is really annoying, and that's mainly because you'll be replaying it because death is so frequent. Maximo's BGM has no adrenaline pumping, heart pounding ''adventure music'' to keep you motivated in your quest. It is just a corny tune that keeps looping over and over. Stage 2's theme is really nice, so that's basically the only thing that's keeping the Music category from getting a rating of 1.
The control is very inconsistent. The control is excellent........as long as no enemies are present and you are on solid ground. Attacking enemies and jumping on platforms is another story. It is hard to get Maximo to face a specific direction. It is also incredibly difficult to keep Maximo lined up with an enemy.
A perfect example of this is when using a sword thrust or overhead slash. Maximo has poor aim, and it is difficult to have him hit his intended target. An enemy must be directly in front of Maximo in order for the sword thrust or overhead slash to connect. Aiming your shield at an enemy is another chore. If Maximo's aim is off by a micron (and it ALWAYS is), his shield won't connect. And since aiming at anything is based more on luck than skill, you will most likely point Maximo toward the general vicinity that his enemy is in and mash the attack button like crazy, praying that you'll connect. For the love of God, even having Maximo guard an attack is frustrating. He'll usually face the wrong way and be left vulnerable to attack.
Gameplay is what made Makaimura enjoyable to a degree, and it is in this category that Maximo meets his downfall. Maximo clearly illustrates that what works fine for a 2D side scrolling game does not translate well into a 3D game.
First of all, let me address the game's infamous difficulty: it is absurd. It is all about cheap shots, low blows, sucker punches, etc. 90% of the time the enemy will always get the first hit. The enemies utilize these ghetto tactics until you are drained of your all your vitality. Unless you have died and have repeated a particular stage about 50 times, and have memorized the exact moment and location when a skeleton will leap out of the ground, you will always take a cheap shot before you can react. Let's not forget that these devilish enemies you fight have a gang mentality, and will usually attack you in groups of two or more. To make things worse, a ghetto ass raven will steal your money while 3 skeletons are pummeling the crap out of you. WTF? Where did these enemies come from, the worst projects in NYC?
If that wasn't bad enough, even the coffins the enemies pop out of can harm you. Flaming and spiked coffins will whittle down Maximo's health gauge. The only thing worse than the enemy's cheap and dirty tactics are the enemies themselves. They are boring in design and are extremely repetitive. From the first to the last Stage, all you'll ever see are Skeletons. Skeletons, skeletons, and more skeletons. Skeletons that attack with fists. Skeletons that attack with swords. Skeletons that attack with bombs. Skeletons that attack with axes. Skeletons that attack with spears. Skeletons with shields. Pirate Skeletons. Frozen skeletons. The designs are so mundane that it makes me want to puke. Sure, you'll face the occasional Ghost, Zombie, Wizard, and Black Knight in later levels, but they are all boring, also. Everything is repetitive and shoved down your throat in heavy doses. If I'm going to play through an obnoxious, frustrating, and poorly designed game, at least let interestingly designed enemies kill me.
The bosses are even worse. They all have corny designs and voices, and they all have lame attacks. Did I mention that they are invincible? Yes, it's true. Unless you read an FAQ or a strategy guide, you will never defeat them. You see, all the bosses have a corny ''weak spot'' that you must exploit in order to kill them. If you don't hit them in their vulnerable spot, they will be virtually invincible.
Let's take the Stage 1 Boss for example. You may jump and strike at his head and upper body, and he won't even flinch. He will take absolutely NO damage and he will perform a lethal counter attack. However, in order to defeat him, you must have prior knowledge of the weakness in his left leg, that upon being hit, will cause him to hop on one foot. Then you must know to perform a downward strike on the exposed toe on his right foot in order to stun him. When he is knocked down, THEN you finally have the opportunity to hit him in the head, which will damage him. The whole process is silly and exhausting. A lot of players will die many times in vain, trying to defeat these invincible bosses while struggling to discover what their weakness is. Once you discover what their weak spot is, it becomes disgustingly simple to defeat them.
The boss fights are longer than they need to be. That's usually because the boss has about four or five mundane attacks that it cycles through. You must patiently endure this display until the boss exposes his vulnerability and allows you to hit the weak spot, takes a bit of damage, and then the whole boring process repeats itself from the beginning. It's a really long ceremony that is tedious to sit through.
Upon defeating the boss, you are given 3 choices: save your game, accept a kiss from the princess you have rescued (which helps unlock a Gallery Mode), or receive a suit of armor and continue onto the next stage. No matter which decision you make, you are screwed.
If you are heavily damaged in the boss encounter, you could save, but it's pointless since your vitality isn't restored when you start the next level. If you accept the kiss, it helps unlock the Gallery Mode, but it is useless (it has no special power and it doesn't do anything to aid Maximo in his quest). It is actually a liability since it utilizes one of the precious locked slots in your inventory, which could be used for other useful abilities.
If you choose the suit of armor, you replenish some of your vitality, but saving is no longer an option. You will automatically be sent to the next stage and you must complete the level in order to get the next opportunity to save. Saving itself is a chore since it requires 100 coins to save your progress. If you want to travel back to a previous Stage that you have already completed, it will set you back an additional 100 coins. I know for a fact that Capcom Digital Studios did this intentionally to screw over the gamers.
If you happen to survive all the crap and boring enemies thrown at you, you won't be able to save unless you have 100 coins. I'm not saying that the developers should have employed a ''Save Anywhere'' feature (that would have been stupid), but if the player did have the testicular fortitude to make it to a Save Pool, why charge them for it? And if you have to charge the player, at least make it 25 coins, not 100.
The platform jumping portion of the game is beyond annoying, and I'm confident that the good folks at Capcom Digital Studios were doing smack when they thought of most this stuff. All of the platform jumping you do in this game is obnoxious. Sure, in the original G N' G there was platform jumping, but that was somewhat tolerable because it was 2D side scrolling. In Maximo the jumps are excessively annoying because you can't judge your distance properly because of the stupid camera. When you are standing with your back to a wall, or if you are on an extremely narrow ledge, and you need to make that critical jump onto to that tiny platform, that would be the ideal time to adjust your camera.
Unfortunately, you can't. You will find yourself in many situations when you need to adjust the camera and it simply won't work. You will furiously mash on the L1 and R1 buttons and nothing will happen. So you are forced to make a jump at an odd angle and hope that you will make it. The camera is the absolute WORST and never aids you in the least. I guarantee that there would be 75% less accidental deaths and frustrating moments if the faulty camera were given a complete overhaul. When you jump, there is no margin for error, and the penalty is always death. Miscalculate landing onto a platform the size of a Tic-Tac and you'll fall into lava, brown sludge, green acid, freezing water, and in later levels, into nothingness. I forgot to mention that this ridiculous platform jumping is further complicated by lethal traps and coffins bursting from the ground. It is not rare to make a blind leap of faith onto a small Tic-Tac sized platform, only to have a flaming coffin erupt from beneath the earth and knock you off the platform. Either that or a swinging blade knocks you off. Pure BS.
The level design is trash. There are so many ridiculous jumps that you must make that it is absurd. Most of the levels don't make any sense, and it seems that the designers wanted to see how many obnoxious jumps they could squeeze into each level. There are spontaneous ground eruptions that drop you into lava, cursed ground with bony hands grabbing you, unstable platforms that sink under your weight after a couple of seconds, etc.
After surviving all of the crap in a level, you must search for an ''Exit Crystal'', an object that you must smash in order to exit and return to the Area Select level. However, the Exit Crystal is protected by a stupid energy barrier,and the energy barrier won't disappear unless you destroy the legion of enemies that surround the crystal. These Exit Crystals are usually found on narrow platforms or in extremely confined areas, so if you foolishly run in hoping to smash the crystal in order to leave, you will get jumped by gangs of skeletons, and you won't even have enough room to turn around and defend your self.
And what does Maximo have in order to defend himself against all of the obstacles he has presented to him? Absolutely nothing. He has an incredibly weak double jump that takes him virtually nowhere. His vertical jump elevates him off the ground by 2 inches. Actually, Maximo doesn't even jump; it's more like a half assed hop. Maybe skip would be a better description. Regardless, his complete lack of athleticism will leave him dead on many occasions.
Maximo is also incredibly SLOW. Although you can control the speed of his movement with varying pressure on the analog stick, it really makes no difference. Maximo moving at full speed is a joke. He doesn't even run; rather he does a half-assed jog. It doesn't help that Maximo is the size of a hobbit and his puny legs carry him at half the speed of a drunken tortoise. Maybe one of the reasons the game seems so long is because it takes Maximo forever and a day just to run to the nearest checkpoint. If you plan on outrunning enemies, think again. Your standard skeleton has no problem catching up to Maximo and punching him in the back of the head. Maximo's lack of speed is really evident in the boss encounters, where the huge bosses can catch up to Maximo's position with no problem. Maximo's slow arse makes him a sitting duck for projectile attacks, which is why it is almost mandatory that Maximo takes damage in a boss encounter.
Maximo plans on dispatching enemies with a 3 inch butter knife, aka his default ''sword''. In this case, size DOES matter. You will miss many an enemy as your ''sword'' strikes thin air. The range is so short that it is hilarious. In later stages Maximo can grab a power-up to elongate the length of his ''sword'',but that should have been it's default size to begin with. The Long Sword improves things slightly, but not enough to make fighting any easier.
There are extra swords that Maximo can pick up to replace his default ''sword''. They include the Firebrand, Icebrand, Lightbringer, and Armageddon Swords. Some swords are better than others, but each are useful, and each possess a unique ability that can be performed if they are paired with correct power-up. Sounds good, right? WRONG! In the grand tradition of screwing the player over, CapcomStudio 8 has placed limits on the usefulness of the enhanced sword. Each enhanced sword can only be used for 20 strikes. After all 20 strikes are used up, you are returned to the pathetic default ''sword''. Since enemies randomly cough up power-ups upon defeat, you may have went through a lot of trouble to get an Armageddon Sword, only to slash a Skeleton and have the weaker Firebrand sword thrust upon you. Not cool.
When it comes to defense, Maximo is also at a loss. His bootleg default Shield can sustain eight attacks (the Gold Shield can take twice as many hits, but it is rare). So it's pretty obvious that Maximo has to be offensive rather than defensive. Once your Shield damage gauge has been whittled down to zero, you lose your shield. Unfortunately, replacement shields are few and far between. Guarding is especially important when fighting skeletons with shields (they guard all of your attacks, and they can only be defeated by counter-attacks) and in boss encounters. In Stage 3, guarding the attacks of pirates is dangerous, since Bone Pirates can whittle your Shield gauge down to nothing in less than 2 seconds. Basically, if your gauge runs dry and Maximo has no shield, he is screwed worse than he already is. There are enhanced Shields that Maximo can collect to replace his current Shield, and they offer the ability to attract coins, knock enemies back with a gust of frozen air, and shock enemies with the power of lightning. Some are more useful than others, but overall each can adapt to a given situation.
Maximo starts off with two lifebars at default and he has a suit of armor. If he finds an extra suit of armor he gains a helmet and a third lifebar. If he happens to find another suit of armor after that, his armor will turn gold and he will be invincible......for all of 20 seconds. The 20 seconds is in real time, and it is incredibly short. Considering how insane the difficulty is, a full minute's worth of invincibility wouldn't have hurt. If you happen to get the Mask of Sorrow power-up, you will turn into a Revenant, and bring death to anything that you touch. Unfortunately, you usually turn invincible at inopportune times when they are no enemies around or when you need to hop platforms.
When Maximo gets damaged he loses his armor, and when he is on his last lifebar, he is in his boxer shorts. When I first saw this feature in Makaimura it struck me as a bit odd, and at the most, mildly amusing. After the first time I saw it, the gimmick seemed old. I don't know if it's the new generation of gamers out there or what, but whenever I see Maximo or Ghosts N' Goblins mentioned someone always says ''OMG LOL ROTFLMAO hE's iN HiS UnDeRwEAr!!!!! OMG LOL ROTFLMAO hE's wEAriNg bOxEr sHorTs WiTh tHe HeArTs oN iT!!!!! OMG LOL RFLMAO hOw kEwL iS tHAt LOL HA AHAHAHAHAHA!!!!'' Geez,....... The Makaimura series always had the corny boxer shorts gimmick. If you think something this lame is hilarious you probably would die of a heart attack watching The Original Kings Of Comedy......
Fortunately, the only thing going in Maximo's favor are the power-ups. He can gain extra abilities that are dropped from enemies that he has defeated, The abilities are by far the coolest aspect of Maximo's gameplay, and are really creative. These abilities are stored in slots in the bottom of the screen. Now the bad part: you lose abilities when you die. That's right, you may have scoured an entire level looking for a rare and useful power-up, and upon dying, you lose it forever. The only way to keep an ability you have gained is to ''Lock'' it, which means to place it within the first three slots in your inventory. It is up to you to choose which abilities are worthy of being locked. You gain additional ''lock spots'' as you clear stages (you start off with 3 and near the end of the game you have 7). There are a total of 16 different abilities, so no matter how much you prioritize you will ALWAYS be missing useful abilities when you die. And usually once you lose that precious power-up (that you foolishly forgot to lock) you will almost never find it again.
The main problem I have with Maximo's character is that he NEVER evolves. In other games like Devil May Cry, Onimusha, and even Rockman, the characters gain new techniques and skills as the game progresses. They gain increased vitality, they jump further, they gain more special attacks, they move faster, they have greater defense and stamina, and their attacks have greater strength. Overall, they become more versatile, and they have shown development. They are much more powerful near the end of the game than they were in the beginning.
Unfortunately, that never happens with Maximo. The same crippled gimp that Maximo is in Stage 1 is the same crippled gimp that Maximo remains in Stage 5. He never learns to perform a triple jump, he never gains extended vitality, he never learns to be agile, he never learns to do a wicked 6 hit sword combo, etc. He doesn't learn anything. He never shows any versatility. Sure, he may have many abilities to collect that help him out, but if those abilities aren't locked, than you are royally screwed. The abilities he collects aren't permanent and they disappear upon the player's demise (which is way too often). It's really depressing to play as Maximo since you know you have nothing to look forward to.
Maximo's gameplay boils down to this: Perform lame jumps onto platforms. Get attacked by enemies. Grab keys. Defeat horribly designed and incredibly annoying boss. Repeat. You do this on each poorly designed level.
Like I said earlier, the cut scenes which explained bits of the story were very well done. The stage design is pretty interesting. The design of Maximo, Achilles (the main bad guy) and the four princesses are excellent. Susumu Matsushita's drawing style is refreshing and lends a lot of personality to the game's atmosphere. However, the lame stages, the incredibly boring and repetitive enemies, and corny end stage bosses ruined what could have been a potentially excellent game.
Replay Value: 1
Yeah right. After beating this awful game once, I would not subject my self to the torture of playing through it again. There is just no point to this game. There is a Gallery Mode that you can unlock if you collect all 4 Kisses from the princesses you have rescued. And there is a Mastery Mode that can only be unlocked after getting 100% completion on every stage, which requires that you kill EVERY enemy (you MUST kill them; if they fall off of a cliff it doesn't count), grab EVERY Coin, grab EVERY available item, open EVERY regular chest, open EVERY hidden chest, and smash EVERY spirit stone in EVERY level. Your reward for this preposterous feat? Having the privilege of playing the first Stage backwards, but with more enemies this time. Give me a break. It takes a friendless geek with no social life AT ALL just to complete Maximo's first Stage. Now to try and complete every Stage to obtain 100% Mastery is a task way beyond your average anti-social loser. I am a nerd of epic proportions and I don't even want to unlock Mastery Mode. No thanks.
It is amazing how the gaming press have brainwashed legions of gamers into thinking that this is a good game. The only reason why it got so much praise from gaming mags and players is because it is thriving off of the legendary reputation of it's predecessor, Makaimura. To the other reviewers who have been misinformed, let me correct you: Maximo is NOT a sequel to ANY version of Makaimura, aka Ghosts N' Goblins, Ghouls N' Ghosts, Super Ghouls N' Ghosts, etc. Maximo is not an indirect sequel either. Arthur and Maximo have nothing to do with each other.
Maximo is inspired by G N' G and was developed by Capcom Digital Studios (Studio 8), an in-house division of Capcom USA (according to a reliable source, Capcom Digital Studios is the same development team that created the truly awful Final Fight Revenge for the arcade and Sega Saturn. If there any reasons why Maximo is of poor quality, there is your culprit). The number of times I saw the phrase ''old-school'' and ''hardcore'' used in reviews to describe Maximo were ridiculous; I lost count after number 500. It received excellent reviews in gaming mags simply on the fact that it had an ''old-school feel'' to it. What a load of crap. A lot of gamers out there pride themselves on being ''old-school'' gamers, but what these egotistical dweebs fail to realize is that being an ''old-school gamer'' means that you have been deprived of a social life longer than the rest of us.
Apparently if you don't like Maximo or you complain that it's too difficult, than that means that you are a newbie, or casual gamer. ''That's how games were back in the day!!!'' the dorks might yell. Whatever. I was playing games ''back in the day'' and it was about challenge, not poor level design and corny enemies. Back then developers made games to be fun and to provide a challenge to the player. They didn't put lame stuff in games just to annoy players. You see, you don't need to be a skillful gamer or a ''hardcore, old-school'' nerd in order to beat Maximo. You just need to be a loser with a lot of time on your hands. Maximo is all about memorization and trial and error. Any dolt with a single digit IQ can beat Maximo from memorization and after making enough mistakes. If you know when and where an enemy will pop out, if you know where to strike at the boss, if you know where to get the hidden chest, then Maximo is a cakewalk.
The irony is that in playing Maximo, the player becomes the mindless Zombie that frequent many of the game's locales. Most arrogant nerds will think that they are badass for beating Maximo. They taunt other people with social lives by telling them to play easier games, such as Crash Bandicoot. To quote a fellow reviewer (whom shall remain nameless), ''Reviewers who scored it low probably suck at it....''. Tsk, tsk. It's so sad when one develops an elitist mentality over a ill designed game. Is lacking a social life and playing horrible games really something to boast about? The people who suck at Maximo probably have social lives.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 11/10/03, Updated 11/08/10
Game Release: Maximo (JP, 12/27/01)
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