Friday, 1 June 2012

Metal Head (32X)

The 32X, like the Mega CD has a reputation for being a worthless albatross. Unlike the Mega CD, it kind of deserves that reputation. It doesn't have many good games at all, and most of the ones it does have are ports (Doom and Virtua Fighter, for example).
Luckily, Metal Head is both a fairly good game and a 32X original. If you also add the fact that it has probably the best (or at least, the most technically impressive) graphics on the system, it's surprising that it isn't more well known.
It's a 3D shooting game, in which you pilot a robot around city streets and underground bases shooting terrorists, who themselves have their own robots, plus tanks, hoverbikes, jeeps and various other things.
The stages each have different objectives, which are all simple tasks like "kill all the enemies" or "find the enemy's hideout". At the end of each stage you get awarded points, based on how many enemie you killed, how quickly you finished and how much ammo and health you have left. These points can be spent every few stages on weapons and other upgrades. One feature that is both strange and annoying is that none of the upgrades are permanent: you start with a grenade launcher in the first set of stages, but if you want to use it later, you have to buy it again. Likewise, you can also upgrade your machine gun, but this needs to be done every time.
As mentioned earlier, the graphics are really excellent, considering the hot console. You could easily mistake MH for an early Saturn or Playstation game! The most impressive thing is the fact that everything is texture mapped, and though the textures are very low resolution (the game did come on a cartridge, after all), it really does add a lot to the look and feel of the stages.
The controls are okay, though they'll seem very old fashioned to people used to modern twin-stick 3D shooting games. The d-pad turns and moves, and there are buttons for shooting, cycling through weapons, running and looking left and right. The biggest omission is the lack of strafing. There is a surprise in that the "Mode" button is used to change the camera angle. I didn't know that button could actually be used for in-game stuff. Is Metal Head the only game that uses it like this?
There's also a fairly long (and unfortunartely, quite boring) intro with voice acting, if you like that kind of thing.
I think I've said enough about the game itself now, so I'll tell you about two quite strange options the game has.
The first allows you to change the speed of the game's music. It sounds fine as it is, though, so I leave it at the default. Actually, I should mention that the music in this game is pretty good, and I do find myself humming the intro theme from time to time. It's a shame that whewn you're actually playing the game, it's drowned out by the sound effects, really. I can only assume that this option only exists because the programmers discovered that it was a neat trick the 32X could do?
The second weird option is the one that lets you choose the style of the character portraits. You can choose between photos of real people (which look really weird when animated along with the voice acting) or cartoony drawings of them. This doesn't have any effect at all on the gameplay, and also, the characters in the two options look completely different to each other.


  1. Some quick searching turned up these other uses of the mode button:

    Taunt in Fatal Fury 2
    Eternal Champions and Doom use it for cheats
    Lost Vikings
    Weapon select in Battlecorps
    Camera switching in Shadow Squadron
    An attack command in Clayfighter
    Some sort of sound test related thing in Comix Zone
    Williams' Arcade Classics
    Automap in Wolfenstein
    Star Wars Arcade view switching
    Stance switching in Dragon

  2. amazing, thanks! i never knew it was so widely used!

  3. Nor I! But I'm sure there must be more. Apparantly it is fairly common on the 32X?

  4. That seems likely to me, they probably assumed anyone buying a 32X would also have six button pads.