A few days ago, Kadokawa Games delighted fans of the Metal Max series of JRPGs by announcing not one, but three upcoming games.
We’re getting a remake of Metal Max Xeno titled Metal Max Xeno Reborn, a sequel named Metal Max Xeno Reborn 2, and a mysterious reboot code-named Code Zero.
In order to know more about the project leading towards the series’ 30th anniversary, Twinfinite talked with the producer in charge of the franchise, Juntaro Kohno, who provided additional information about what we can expect.
Giuseppe: Metal Max Xeno Reborn seems to mark a rather radical change for Kadokawa Games. Previous games did not push the graphics, but you appear to be embracing more advanced technology this time. What determined this decision?
Juntaro Kohno: The original Metal Max Xeno was released on PS4 and PS Vita actually using the old 2D engine repurposed to 3D. Yet, when the development team was starting to plan Metal Max Xeno 2 they thought that there were many things that needed to be improved, coming to the conclusion that using the same engine would have been a mistake. They needed to use an advanced 3D engine for Xeno 2, and that’s what was decided in the end.
We aren’t trying to turn Metal Max into a giant triple-A blockbuster, and we aren’t targeting the high-end of technology. We focused on developing the very first METAL MAX in 3D which expresses the good points of the franchise more than ever before by utilizing a full-fledged 3D engine.
Specifically speaking, we implemented physically based rendering (PBR) to better showcase the metallic parts of the tanks. All movements are also based on actual physics so that the tanks move realistically on the ground.
Basically, there are so many cool aspects in the franchise other than the tanks, and we want to use current technology to make them shine, as opposed to tech from 10 or 20 years ago.
Giuseppe: Was it challenging to move in this new direction, and can we expect to see it applied to other games by Kadokawa in the future?
Juntaro Kohno: It was very difficult. We’re still working on making adjustments. Yet the project is in development and moving forward well. There certainly was a trial and error phase.
Giuseppe: I guess we can say that this is the first game by Kadokawa that tries to push the visuals.
Juntaro Kohno: You’re perhaps right. Metal Max may be focusing on 3D visuals for the first time. But Kadokawa Games has actually focused on visuals such as in titles like “Lollipop Chainsaw” and “Killer is Dead” in the past as well. Moreover, another development team at Kadokawa Games is currently developing a different game focused on visuals so look forward to it.
Giuseppe: I am aware we’re talking about two different development teams, but do they exchange findings and know-how between them to improve both games?
Juntaro Kohno: While the two teams don’t interact directly, as a whole our President Yoshimi Yasuda who oversees all of our titles is aiming to improve everything in our games, and that includes the graphics.
Giuseppe: Why did you decide to start the 30th-anniversary project by remaking Metal Max Xeno instead of moving on immediately to Metal Max Xeno 2?
Juntaro Kohno: The first game wasn’t released on Switch. The original plan was simply to port it to Switch. As I said before, in order to release Metal Max Xeno 2 and introduce it properly and proudly, first, there were too many aspects in the previous game in which we needed to make improvements on.
That’s why before that, we put a halt on the initial plan to just port METAL MAX Xeno to Switch and came up with the idea of fully remaking it into a completely new game and releasing this newly “Reborn” METAL MAX Xeno prior to METAL MAX Xeno Reborn 2.
Giuseppe: Can you pet the dog?
Juntaro Kohno: Do you think a feature to pet the dog would be interesting?
Giuseppe: Personally it’s not exactly a deal-breaker for me, but a lot of games let you do it, and people seem to enjoy it even if it doesn’t really serve any purpose.
Juntaro Kohno: At this time we can’t give too much information about Pochi, but he always accompanies the player. They live together at their headquarters, and something might happen there. Fans who love Pochi should look forward to that.
Giuseppe: I know many (myself included) appreciated a lot the character design by Oda Non. Will he make a comeback for Metal Max Xeno Reborn 2 and Code Zero?
Juntaro Kohno: We can’t talk about it yet for Metal Max Xeno Reborn 2, and for Code Zero we really haven’t even decided yet.
Giuseppe: Among the artwork of Metal Max Xeno Reborn 2 that you have shown me earlier, I saw there were giant flying enemies. Is there any chance that the game might let players pilot flying vehicles?
Juntaro Kohno: I would like to see that as well (Laughs).
Giuseppe: I think it’d be nice to have something like helicopters for instance, which make a good pair with tanks.
Juntaro Kohno: I agree (laughs), but I can’t say anything about that.
Giuseppe: Is the new engine a proprietary or a third-party engine that you licensed?
Juntaro Kohno: I can’t disclose the engine, but you’d probably know about it if I told you the name.
Giuseppe: So it’s a third-party engine.
Juntaro Kohno: Yes, but it has been customized.
Giuseppe: You also mentioned that the tanks will have completely new controls to make them more fun and intuitive to drive around. I know World of Tanks is very popular in Japan, so I’m wondering, are you looking at its controls so that players that enjoy games with tanks might feel at home when playing Metal Max Xeno Reborn?
Juntaro Kohno: I haven’t thought about that. Nice idea! (laughs)
Giuseppe: Here in Japan the trend of associating cute girls and military equipment is always popular. We have Girls und Panzer, Kancolle, Azur Lane, Strike Witches, and many more.
Have you thought of doing something like that in order to give the series more visibility and maybe draw in new fans?
Juntaro Kohno: The Metal Max series is a bit of a traditional one, so I don’t think most of the fans would want this kind of trend widely introduced in the series.
Nonetheless, I’ll have this a bit in my mind when we introduce the METAL MAX series in the future, not only in Japan but also worldwide.
Giuseppe: Metal Max Xeno Reborn and Metal Max Xeno Reborn 2 have been announced for PS4 and Switch. What about Steam?
Juntaro Kohno: It’s possible, but for now we have only announced PS4 and Switch.
Metal Max Xeno Reborn will release this winter for PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
Metal Max Xeno Reborn 2 (of which you can check out) the first artwork) is slated for a 2020 release on the same platforms, while Code Zero still doesn’t have a release window of platforms.