Maximo vs. Army of Zin Preview

We check out the next installment in Capcom's Maximo franchise.

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Maximo is back and ready for action.
Maximo is back and ready for action.

Maximo vs. Army of Zin is the follow-up to last year's Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. The new entry in the franchise is being developed in the States by the team who crafted the original game. The developers have set out to address the issues players had with the original game and introduce a host of new gameplay and story elements to give the franchise a more unique identity. We recently took a look at an early build of the game to see how it's coming together.

The sequel's story picks up pretty much where the original left off, with the unlikely duo of Maximo and Grim searching for Maximo's love, Sophia. The search takes a bizarre detour when Maximo encounters a strange clockwork foe. While Maximo isn't hip to what's going on, the game manages to keep you better informed than the soon-to-be-challenged hero. The creature is a member of the Army of Zin mentioned in the game's title. This army of the undead is actually powered by compressed souls who've been nabbed by the evil forces, unnaturally warped, and stuck into the soldiers as undead Energizers. It seems the last time the army was around was 500 years before the game starts, when it appeared and started laying siege to humanity, as most evil armies do. In your typical movie-style last-minute save, the forces of humankind united and defeated the army, à la The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, given the army's power supply, it wasn't completely vanquished. The compressed souls allow the forces to reconstitute themselves, making them pretty much undefeatable. Eager to wrap things up and get back to normal life, the forces of humankind tossed the army into a vault, locking it away presumably for good, and called it a day. Sadly, tales of the great battle and the army faded into the mists of time and became ancient legends that no one really paid attention to. Fast-forward to the present day, when Maximo gets a crash course on the Army of Zin and begins a cool new adventure.

The Army of Zin is menacing indeed.
The Army of Zin is menacing indeed.

If you played the first Maximo, you should be right at home with the sequel. The game's basic control is as solid as the original's, but it's also quite a bit more flexible. You'll start out with a wider range of starting moves and soon gain access to a much broader array of attacks, thanks to a revamped combat system. In his latest adventure, Maximo will have access to a new combo system and be able to modify attacks using the D pad. Additionally, your repertoire of abilities will be boosted regularly by a new power-up system, and you'll also be able to retain the abilities you've collected when you die, which does away with one of the original game's most troublesome elements.

The gameplay has seen some significant changes, and the result should be a better overall experience. Your new adventure will be less linear than the original game, due to the introduction of "innocents." This new mechanic revolves around saving the innocent townsfolk being menaced by the Army of Zin. As you come across the hapless folk, you'll have to step in and fight off their attackers. If you're successful, you'll be rewarded with money, items, or access to previously unreachable areas in a level. The innocents will also figure into the breakdown of your performance that's provided at the end of each level, and the game will offer some tasty prizes for players who are able to attain 100-percent mastery.

The Army of Zin is wreaking havoc on the idyll countryside, and only Maximo can stop the horde.
The Army of Zin is wreaking havoc on the idyll countryside, and only Maximo can stop the horde.

Another key change to the gameplay is a new balance that focuses more on fighting enemies than trying to navigate hazard-filled areas. The game even provides you with a new way to deal with the forces of evil, thanks to the ability to play as Grim, who is best described as a playable smart bomb who looks like the Grim Reaper. When you're on the ropes, you'll be able to call on the tiny specter of death to come in and even the odds. While Grim is enormously useful, your ability to employ him will hinge on the number of souls you've collected by defeating members of the Army of Zin. As you collect the freed souls, an onscreen meter will charge. Once it's full, you'll be able to use Grim. The same meter slowly runs down as you use him, which keeps you from relying too heavily on the deathly one.

Of course, what will likely be seen as one of the most welcome changes to the gameplay is the new save system. You'll now save at the end of a level, rather than pay, as you did in the previous game. The death coins you collect will now serve as lives that will restart you at the last continue marker when you die. If you die with no lives left, you'll have to start the level from the beginning with the default number of lives.

The new game's graphics are quite improved over its predecessor's.
The new game's graphics are quite improved over its predecessor's.

The series' graphics have been bumped up considerably for the new game. Maximo's character model features a greater level of detail and smoother animation. While his foes in the original game were a little on the bland side, the Army of Zin is an attractive bunch of enemies. Their clockwork nature allows for a greater amount of variety in their individual appearances. The new opportunities have apparently allowed the team to go to loopier heights, as evidenced by some of the boss designs. For example, one boss we saw looked like a clockwork chicken. The odd design was supposedly inspired by an old European legend. The various environments you'll be exploring have also been bumped up a few notches, with a greater number of special effects on display, including particle effects and heat haze popping up to add nice atmospheric touches.

From what we've seen so far, Maximo vs. Army of Zin is shaping up to be a solid successor to the original Maximo. The improved graphics are a welcome sight, as are the inspired designs for the various members of the Army of Zin. The tweaks made to the gameplay appear to make the game a more accessible experience than its predecessor, which should be just what the doctor ordered for the burgeoning franchise. The fact that you can play as death personified is just one more feather in the game's cap. If it can manage to deliver the balanced experience it seems poised to, Maximo vs. Army of Zin will definitely be a notable game when it's released. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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