Does anyone else feel a draft in here?
Dark shades, tight spandex, and some absurdly large weapons are all part of the standard hero gear, but when it comes to accessories, simple underwear is often overlooked. If you think about it, video game characters spend more time in their skivvies than any of us would expect. Remember Taito's Gladiator, where bits of armor would come flying off to reveal fancy Roman panties? Or Leisure Suit Larry, where" well, I guess it was on the floor, but it was in there! Even Raiden of Metal Gear Solid 2 fame joins in on the action and ends up bearing his briefs to gamers.
But the king of the boxers has to be the knight from Capcom's classic Ghosts 'n Goblins. Who else could fight zombies and save the princess while running around half-naked? Besides me, of course.
Well today, a descendant of that hero has emerged. Welcome Capcom's Maximo to the Playstation 2. He's a little shy, but give him a pair of little red heart boxers and he'll take care of all of your undead problems.
The story starts off with Maximo (who is apparently a king) leaving his land to fight some unknown war. Upon his return, our hero finds out that his once trusted advisor, Achille, had kidnapped the queen, imprisoned the sorceress council, and released the undead minions of hell throughout the land. Then to top it all off, Achille kills Maximo. Not the most triumphant return.
Fortunately, the Grim Reaper has something else in store for him. With no dead people to deal with, Grim is staring down the wrong end of a pink slip, so he sends Maximo back to the land of the living in order to set things right.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is your basic hack 'n slash action game with a few platformer bits thrown in. It's got some classic old school appeal, but not a whole lot of depth for the long haul.
The first positive thing you'll notice is Maximo's look. With fairly clean graphics all around and some very good particle effects, this game has obviously come a long way from its 1985 forefather. A smooth framerate and fun, cartoony character design make for some great eye candy.
I'm also happy to report that Maximo doesn't fall into the button-mashing trap like many of its brethren. With a bunch of special items and offensive and defensive power-ups, there's more to do than pound your poor attack button. Grab the ice power-up and a single stroke of the sword will turn your enemies into cool cubes. Or you could find the lightning shield and let enemies blast themselves as they hammer away at you. You can even gain new moves like a double sword swipe, super spin move, or even a projectile blast from your elemental sword.
The problem is that even with all of these power-ups, the game will occasionally feel a bit repetitive. For the most part, dying comes easy. Like Ghosts 'n Goblins, it only takes a few hits to knock our hero down to his unmentionables, which often leads to replaying the part you just did. That in itself wouldn't be so bad, but checkpoints on some levels are so spread out, you'll often get stuck in a tough situation minus all of the power-ups that saw you there in the first place. It's not impossible to overcome, but it can get a little annoying.
I should also mention that Maximo's interesting purchase system requires you to 'buy' saves at the nearest wishing well. Yup, it'll cost you 100 gold coins and a trip to the well in order to save your games. Some people may find this annoying, but I actually think it makes for a better challenge.
But despite these bits of frustration, the enemies are pretty cool. Sure, they're mostly undead, but I don't think I've seen so many interesting types in a single game. Besides the basic skeleton and zombified enemies, you'll also come across mad bombers, dark knights, and the ever-popular crazed wizards who can magically transform our hero into a baby or an old man.
Furthermore, you won't be able to just hack your way through these hordes. Some enemies require specific attacks. One example is the bomb throwing maniac, who is best destroyed by chopping his legs off. There are a bunch of others, but I wouldn't want to ruin it for you.
Even the bosses are wacky, and it's fun finding out the perfect method of destruction for beating them down. Someone definitely gets a gold star for character design.
But when all is said and done, Maximo just doesn't provide any staying power. If you've got all four special kisses (you'll have to find out about that for yourself) and pass the game, you'll unlock the art gallery. But since when has art ever been a highlight? There's also a Mastery mode if you complete the game 100% (find all secrets, gain all treasure, kill all monsters), but there's a good chance you won't feel the need do it all over again.
So while it lasts, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is a great next-gen trip down memory lane. It looks good and had some fun enemies to trounce. But if you're not from the old school, make sure you rent before running outside in your best pair of boxers. Who knows what the neighbors will say?