Originally created by Hiroshi Miyaoka’s studio – Crea-Tech, Metal Max is a brilliant blend of Mad Max, Monster Hunter, anime and turn-based JRPG goodness! However, due to licensing problems causing a change in publishers, Metal Max temporarily lost its trademark name and was known as Metal Saga.

Although there have been 16 Metal games already released for NES, SNES, GBA, PS2, DS, Vita and even mobile, many fans reading this may have only started with Metal Max for the Switch or PS4. This late introduction for many of us was due to only two of those games ever making it to the west – Metal Max Xeno/Reborn and Metal Saga for the PS2 (with the latter only being a US release). Remember this key point when reading the differences in the games, below.

Metal Max Xeno vs Reborn

*Only the games intro is closely compared and detailed from both games. Other than this, there are no spoilers below.

1. The games opening – The original Xeno opens with Talis driving his tank through the wastelands and eventually making his way to the Undersea Tunnel (the first tutorial stage in both game versions). However, Xeno has Talis flashback to his father (Jeed) during this journey and this also explains quite a big thing about Talis’ mother and where he got his red tank from (although the tank isn’t the Red Rev at the start of Reborn, this explains why a red tank is always used in both versions of the games awesome loading screen artwork). Talis even reflects on training with his father, to help him get out of the situation he’s currently in at the start of the game.

Metal Max Xeno Reborn has Talis simply resting at the start of the Undersea Tunnel. Once he gets up, the tutorial begins. Everything about Talis’ mother, father and how he got the tank has been cut in Reborn. Although I strongly feel none of the changes should put anyone off from experiencing the amazing Reborn remake, this is still one of the most odd editing decisions for me as it has the remake start far too abruptly, with no real intro sequence at all.

2. A new look – Metal Max Xeno used a cel shaded engine which played heavily to an anime tone. Reborn gets rid of the cell shaded look and goes for a more traditional 3D modelled world (explosions from damage and destroying enemies look far better in Reborn). Character avatars have also been adjusted to suit the new look and I personally think this move was due to the anime avatars making Talis and Toni, look far too much like main characters from Square’s FF7 (Cloud and Tifa). Add this to the 4th change below, and this development decision will make even more sense.

metal max xeno cel shade engine
Engine: Metal Max Xeno’s original cel shaded engine that was completely changed to a more regular shaded gradient design in Reborn. Avatars: These also underwent a redesign but although these could’ve still remained the same, there is another reason why…

3. Talis’ Katana’s – Metal Max Xeno and the games Reborn remake, also offer something many other games don’t (especially for EU releases) and that’s amazing game box artwork. However, after checking both box artworks you’ll soon notice that Xeno pictures Talis with two katanas on his back (also viewable on him in-game) while Reborn shows Talis with only one katana on his back (and Talis never carries any weapon in-game for the Reborn remake).

metal max talis katanas
Talis and his visible katanas in the original Metal Max Xeno

Checking further into gameplay this decision was probably made for Reborn due to player weapon choices having no affect on what Talis (or any other party member) were carrying. This resulted in the developers scrapping any visible weapons being constantly carried or held by the characters. Personally, I love the artwork with Talis’ katana’s (both on the box variations and in-game loading screen artwork) but it just seems the in-game adaption of this was cut due to budget restraints.

4. Censorship – The original Xeno had minor “fanservice” art for certain scenarios. The best example is Toni as in the original Metal Max Xeno, she is found captured in Zamuza’s web (spider-like boss in the Spider Gully), tied-up with torn clothing barely covering certain areas. However, Reborn scraps this completely and you’ll now find Toni passed-out, fully clothed at the top of a building in Spider Gully. Now, before you immediately go to close the browser and forget you ever heard of Reborn, trust me – I hate censorship with a passion when it comes to games/movies/TV series too BUT, it was needed for the original Xeno in order to bring Reborn to a more mainstream audience in an attempt to build momentum of the franchise for the west (remember -16 games released and only ever 2 released outside of Japan…).

5. All enemies now appear in the world – While Metal Max Xeno stuck to the classic random battles that the original Metal Max/Saga games offered, Reborn scraps random battles completely. The move now makes enemies fully visible in the world, meaning not only can you avoid them, kill less threatening ones much faster via ranged attacks, create other boss strategies from such free movement, but you can still move around the enemy during battle (it also gets rid of battle loading times, giving Reborn the edge with much faster and more strategic battles).

6. Character interaction and back story – Easily the most questioned difference between the two games, it seems both animated character interactions and character story interactions have been stripped from Reborn. However, while I was very sceptical of this before going into Reborn, I can gladly confirm that main story and character back-stories are still there (with a good amount of character interaction opportunities with Talis). Comparing the two though, it must be said that the overall story is just nowhere near the amount that was in the original game.

What version of Metal Max should you play?

Xeno and Reborn are both the same game, but yet different with engine, character interaction and gameplay alterations. While other game remakes have revealed much more obvious selection choices, in this case however, I’d strongly recommend on playing both. Surprising to some, I’d even recommend playing Reborn first, then checking out the original Xeno for the extras. Despite some cutbacks to the overall story, Reborn is still an amazing and totally underappreciated JRPG. Metal Max fans buying new copies of Reborn will not only help the developer and publisher revive the Metal Max franchise for the west, but also award themselves with two fantastic JRPG experiences that just cannot be found anywhere else.