Metal Wolf Chaos XD: The Kotaku Review

By Tim Rogers on at

I hesitate to call any review of Metal Wolf Chaos XD complete if it does not include a long-winded anecdote about how I personally got rich in 2007 by selling off a stack of mint-condition copies of the Japanese Xbox original which I’d bought for just a few pounds each. Therefore, barring any other review’s paraphrasing or plagiarising this bombastic video of mine, I present to you arguably the only complete review in existence of Metal Wolf Chaos XD, a game whose legendary ridiculousness has at last emerged from the darkness of historical curiosity. Surprise: the game is as excellent to play as it is hilarious to make fun of.

[Note: This is a video review. I’ve pasted the script below for those of you who are unable to watch the video. As an incentive to maybe watch the video later, I’ll have you know that I did quite a bit of ad-libbing on this script—and backed the whole thing with brassy, patriotic Sousa marches.]

Lead

Metal Wolf Chaos XD

Back of box quote: "That stupid game you heard of once where you're the President of the United States piloting a giant robot has escaped Japan and eBay. Guess what? It's more than a dumb joke: it owns."
Type of game: Executive Robot Destruction Action
Liked: Museum-grade replication of a historical relic of an almost-never-was era of game development. An essential piece of the FromSoftware canon. Much, much cheaper than buying it on eBay.
Disliked: It took me an hour to reacquire the Stockholm Syndrome the weapon-selection menu gave me back in 2005. Also, if you're boring, you might hate the voice acting.
Developer: FromSoftware
Platforms: Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: 6 August 2019
Played: Cleared campaign twice in about 20 hours. Played through the entire campaign 10 times between 2005 and 2015 for the entertainment of friends who wanted to see "That Stupid President Robot Game."

Hello. I’m Tim Rogers. You are watching the Kotaku Dot Com Review of Metal Wolf Chaos.

[Disclosure: Though originally developed by FromSoftware in 2004, 2019's Metal Wolf Chaos XD is published by Devolver Digital. The reader should know that I personally have pitched Devolver Digital’s Chief Finance Officer Fork Parker my video game studio Action Button Entertainment’s projects numerous times. These projects include TRUCK HECK, which I literally pitched in 2016 as “Metal Wolf Chaos: With A Truck.” In my debilitating love of secrecy, I have unfortunately refrained from showing Devolver’s decision makers so much as a screenshot of my game TRUCK HECK. To their credit, Devolver has to date refused to give me four million dollars on the basis of the two words “TRUCK HECK” alone. My ethics compel me to disclose this to you before loudly lauding a game they published: if Devolver does someday give me the moneybag I desire, I will take it and accept their assistance in selling my stupid video game. As of yet, this has not happened. Devolver Digital is thus wholly complicit in TRUCK HECK eventually becoming an Epic Games Store exclusive.]

In Metal Wolf Chaos, the 47th President Of The United States of America pilots a high-speed to-the-teeth-armed ballistic-missile-blasting flying giant mech against a horde of likewise aggressively roboticised terrorist invaders acting under the evil influence of a morally dislocated ethically bankrupt Vice President.

There’s so much technical robot action that you won’t even NOTICE the political satire!

Not only is it robot action: it is masterpiecely robot action from FromSoftware, the makers of the Armored Core series.

And not only is it satire of American politics, it’s satire of American politics acted out by anime-style giant robots, and written by the Japanese video game developers who would later make Dark Souls. That’s kind of like asking a Michelin-Starred chef to make you cotton candy and tater tots.

Metal Wolf Chaos was originally released on the Xbox in Japan in December of 2004. As a fan of the Armored Core and Otogi games, and as one of the triple-digit number of Tokyo residents socially bold enough to occupy a VCR-footprint’s-worth of living room real estate to a Microsoft Xbox game console, I played it then and there. I shrieked *and* cackled more than my upstairs neighbour appreciated. The writing was the idiotic product of hams falling on typewriters. On the other hand, the action was frictively, deliciously technical. I one-sittingly ate it like the sort of disgusting meal you take a photograph of and then delete the photography off your phone immediately before eating.

The story around the campfire goes that Microsoft, flustered by the Xbox’s dismal sales performance in Japan, sought out Japanese game developers to collaborate with. The idea was that due-diligent production of enough games by Japanese developers would convince Japanese game-likers that this new, very American video game console was friendly.

However, I dare say whoever Microsoft trusted with the duty of selecting Japanese collaborators possessed connoisseur-esque taste of an excellence which transcended the general game-liker’s more pedestrian sensibilities. This is how we ended up with such games as Otogi, Jet Set Radio Future, GunValkyrie, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Steel Battalion, and Phantom Dust. These games were too beautiful for their respective times. The Xbox’s reputation in Japan was thus worse that irrevocably ruined: it was relegated to the Valhalla of Mavenhood.

Of course, if you’re even a little bit like me, you enjoyed all of these games way back then and evangelise them even now. You’re the choir, and I know you like it when I preach to you.

Most game-likers were not like us, back in 2004. The urban myth goes that Microsoft’s perpetual yacht-owners upstairs didn’t know what to make of Metal Wolf Chaos’s bizarre quote-unquote “satire” of the Executive Branch of the United States Government. The story goes that the game’s lighthearted depictions of brutally deadly domestic terrorism caused NUMEROUS executives to bite the tips of their ill-gotten Cuban cigars clean OFF.

Figuratively!

Thus and so Metal Wolf Chaos’s very hopes of emergence onto American retail shelves vanished into the backroom turbulence of a hot, sticky console war.

FromSoftware had so clearly banked on the game’s eventual release in America that even upon its Japanese release it featured full—if cacophonously histrionic—English voice acting. Yet its American Dream turned into that sort of nightmare you tell your doctor about and then draw a blank when asked for details.

Devolver Digital, in their infinite grace and wisdom, have seen fit to drag this game up out of the swamp that is the memory of connoisseurs like me and you. Now, I could email Fork Parker himself and ask why Devolver Digital Decided to release Metal Wolf Chaos in 2019, though that would be too easy. Besides, I’m sure I already know the answer: Devolver Digital Decided to release Metal Wolf Chaos in 2019 because there is something wrong with them. And because they have *exactly* as much good taste as it took to release Marc Ecko’s Getting Up on Steam in 2013. (Seriously, get Marc Ecko’s Getting Up. It’s incredible. It’s like Jet Set Radio: The Movie: The Video Game.)

Some critics might look at Metal Wolf Chaos XD and say it quote “looks like it could have been made today” unquote. This is not true. Triple-A video game developers do not have as much class in their whole bodies today in 2019 as FromSoftware had in their pinky fingernails in 2004. And if an indie studio were to make Metal Wolf Chaos today it’d probably look like a PlayStation 1 game and not an Xbox Zero game.

Furthermore, if Metal Wolf Chaos were made today, its writers would be physically unable to resist the urge to overwrite its satire. I mean, seriously, have you switched a television to a non-video-game-console input in the past couple years? It’s genuinely pretty hard NOT to believe that President Number Forty-Seven is going to own a giant robot.

Wait, hey, President Number Forty-Seven? If you remember my video featuring Hitman’s Agent 47, 47 is what I call The Liar’s Number—it’s number that I’ve found writers most often conjure in fiction when they need a number which is small, yet believable.

It’s a prime number! Takako Minekawa wrote a whole song about it.

Suffice it to say, Metal Wolf Chaos is too cool to be made today.

If Metal Wolf Chaos were made today it’d either have a ukulele and tin whistle soundtrack or it would reference Reddit memes—constantly. There is to be no middle ground.

Therefore, the highest compliment I can pay Metal Wolf Chaos XD is that it represents a long-thought-lost game emerging in complete form with its naive satire of American politics intact exactly as it was likely conceived: as a one-off dumb idea in a heartful discussion during a pre-nine-eleven planning meeting in a quiet office in Tokyo, Japan.

Its treatment of US politics involves a robot salad of naive red herrings that paint a picture which expertly answers the question, “What if the 1990s happened in the 2010s?”

Should you get and play Metal Wolf Chaos XD? Yes. It is a Certifiably Important Video Game. Also, it’s good fun.

Now, I played the game in 2005 and I’m playing it again in 2019, and even my nostalgia does not perfectly shield me from a crystalline attempt at empathy toward any critic who might think to describe Metal Wolf Chaos’s mechanics or controls as quote-unquote “clunky.”

The weapon selection menu is quote-unquote “innovative.” On top of that, the guns the game starts you with would have trouble puncturing a hot paper bag. Stick with it, and it makes sense.

Personally, perhaps as a matter of habit, I maintain a position that a mecha game should be “clunky.” It’s a giant god-darn robot, for god’s sake.

The developers’ selection of such subject matter should serve as an adequate innoculation against critical accusations of “clunkiness.”

Having said that, even compared to other big, loud, heavy-metal giant robot beefcake games, Metal Wolf Chaos does feel a little bit clunky. That’s because this ain’t no game about graceful Japanese anime ballerina robots. It’s about big, loud HarleyDavidsonlike American Robots. One of the guns you can unlock literally launches footballs.

Metal Wolf Chaos thus concerns itself remarkably less with dancing and duelling, instead more frequently suggesting and requesting that the player scream, and smash. (Seriously: you have to break all the stuff in every level, because that’s, like, the only way to get most of the items that you need.)

Don’t just take my word as someone who likes Metal Wolf Chaos: take my word as someone who loves FromSoftware games. I’ve played every King’s Field. I’ve played every Armored Core since the PlayStation 1. I played Eternal Ring on the PlayStation 2! I love Otogi and Otogi 2. I even played Ninja Blade on the Xbox 360. I once personally told Ninja Gaiden’s Tomonoby Itagaki that I liked Ninja Blade on the Xbox 360, and he yelled at me. He simply would not let me like Ninja Blade and Ninja Gaiden. That’s kind of unfair.

I paid Full Price for both Ninja Blade and Enchanted Arms (aka Enchant Arm) for the Xbox 360.

Now, if all that don’t do it for you, how about this: I first played Demon’s Souls at my desk at Sony Computer Entertainment Japan—before it was announced.

While Metal Wolf Chaos has a little more in common mechanically with Murakumo than it does Armored Core, and a little more in common structurally with Otogi than it does Dark Souls, as a FromSoftware fanatic I declare it remains to this day an essential piece of the FromSoftware Canon.

My only real criticism when I first played Metal Wolf Chaos in January of 2005 was that I did not own a widescreen television. After spending a few hours with Metal Wolf Chaos XD on both Steam and Xbox One X, I can confidently say that, yes, I now own a widescreen television.

Endowed at last with the holiest of aspect ratios, resolutions, and framerates, Metal Wolf Chaos is finally complete, after fifteen years in the dark. Technological modernisation aside, to paraphrase Pope John Paul The Second’s review of Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ—”It is as it was.”

2019's Metal Wolf Chaos XD is the definitive edition and prodigal replacement for the 2004's Metal Wolf Chaos.

Now, you can still order an original Xbox copy from Electronic Bay for 122.98 US Dollars. However: spoiler alert. Collecting stuff is pretty dumb. Don’t collect video games. Collect experiences.

Seriously. I’m speaking from experience: back in 2006, the original Metal Wolf Chaos made me rich.

[Here the video’s narrator (me) improvisationally relates to the viewer a lengthy anecdote about selling copies of Metal Wolf Chaos to video game collectors on the internet between 2006 and 2007. The story dovetails into and climaxes with an extended tangent regarding Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter. In other words, the “review,” as more fast-lane-lifestyle-living members of the readership might consider it, has officially ended. If you desire less loquacious nonsense in your life, close the tab immediately (after liking, commenting, etc). A lightly edited transcript of the improvised monologue follows.]

Okay, so it didn’t make me rich per se, though as a guy who lived in a tiny studio apartment and worked 60 hours a week for a glorified intern’s salary at Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, the money I made off Metal Wolf Chaos was a pretty big deal.

One day in 2005, a friend visited from America. He had another friend with him. This friend of his was literally wearing a T-shirt that said “LOOKING FOR A JAPANESE GIRLFRIEND” on it—in Japanese. “Nihonjin kanojo boshuu chuu,” which we can also translate as “Now Accepting Applications For A Japanese Girlfriend,” which is actually sort of a lot creepier.

Even in 2005, we Japan-dwelling expatriates regarded these T-shirts as a bygone relic of the LiveJournal era. Facebook didn’t even exist yet, so that’s really saying something.

I was doing freelance writing in my spare time back then. Editors were always responding to my thoughtful pitches with the same three hideous ideas:

  1. They suggested that I seek out and purchase a pair of panties from a “Used Panty Vending Machine.” These magazine editors—who had yet never set foot outside of their respective countries, insisted that “I hear they’re in, like, every convenient store, dude.” No: they don’t have vending machines INSIDE the convenient stores. The vending machines are on the street.
  2. They suggested that chronicle and photograph the funniest awkward English signage in Tokyo. I had an opportunity to interview the CEO of Uniqlo, who is now the richest man in Japan, and they just, like, straight up wanted to print a BLOG POST on a page of a physical magazine.
  3. They suggested that I wear “One of those ‘LOOKING FOR A JAPANESE GIRLFRIEND’” T-shirts, and report if it worked or not.

My responses were always:

  1. The used panty vending machine does not exist. (I’m sorry, editors: this was a lie. The used panty vending machine(s) did exist. I told you they didn’t exist because I liked Japan, and I was tired of people on internet forums reductively describing Japan as “a country with a used panty vending machine.” Socially complicated mechanisms produced the used panty vending machine, and I didn’t have time to explain it to these guys, who probably wouldn’t have cared either way. I suppose I was technically gaslighting them, though in my defense, they were creeps.)
  2. Making fun of bad English feels gross.
  3. I already had a girlfriend. (She broke up with me eventually.)

Therefore, I never became successful as a freelance writer. Oh well!

In 2005, I felt absolutely filthy to even be standing in the same train car—even ten meters away—from a male person of my nationality wearing that stupid T-shirt, least of all because he reminded me of my failure to become a famous writer.

When I told him he should change his T-shirt, his response was—and I quote—”Ah, yeah. I’ll change it. I just wanna see if someone freaks out, first.”

Of course, he wanted to find the fabled Used Panty Vending Machine. We went to Akihabara. Of course, he laughed at Bad English. And then we chanced to enter Game Hollywood, a unique shop (which has since closed) off the Akihabara strip that sold imported American games. Curiously, and I’m not really sure why, they had Metal Wolf Chaos.

This guy, who was from San Francisco, held it aloft and proclaimed to his friend: “Dude! This is that crazy game where you’re the President of the United States driving a giant robot!”

Yes, he said “Driving.”

He paid about $100 for the game.

On the train toward our destination, still wearing that insipid T-shirt, again and again he bellowed, howled, and roared: “Metal Wolf Chaos, dude. Metal [Heckin’] Wolf Chaos. Metal Wolf [Heckin’] Chaos.”

About one year later, at a Sofmap store on the Akihabara Strip, I saw a stack of copies of Metal Wolf Chaos. I asked an employee where they’d come from. He said they’d arrived recently from a warehouse. They were priced at clearance: 299 yen each. (299 yen was then and is now less than three dollars.) I casually mentioned that this game was going for a lot of money on eBay. He shook his head and said, “As an employee of this store, I can’t ethically do anything with that knowledge, though please, by all means.” He gestured to the games. I purchased 20 copies of Metal Wolf Chaos for less than sixty dollars total. Then over the course of several months, I turned them into about two thousand dollars. I ate that two thousand dollars like cheap spaghetti.

The secret to getting a video game forum poster in 2006 to pay top dollar for Metal Wolf Chaos involved a little trick I’d learned when I was working at GameStop in the late 1990s: when someone asks “Y’all got that Madden?” you grab one off the stack under the counter and say, “Yeah, last one, bro.”

Around that same time, I also bought thirty Japanese copies of Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter for one hundred yen each. Those were much harder to get rid of than Metal Wolf Chaos. I gave them to friends and acquaintances in the games industry. I handed them out like party favours. One time, I went on a date—yes, I know that’s gross—and I happened to have a copy of Dragon Quarter in my bag. My date must have glimpsed it gently peeking out of my bag as I rummaged around for some piece of paraphernalia or another. She asked, “What’s that?” I told her I’d brought it to give a friend that I had planned to meet for lunch that day, though the friend had had to cancel at the last minute. She said she liked the cover art. She was like, “This is a PlayStation 2 game?” And I said, “Yeah.” She said, “I have a PlayStation 2.” And I said, “Oh, what games do you have?” The only games she owned were Itadaki Street and the PlayStation 2 remake of Dragon Quest V. So I said, “Dragon Ku-est V? You might as well have Breath of Fire V: Dragon Ku-arter.” [Note: this sounds better pronounced in Japanese.] She said, “I can’t argue with that.” I handed her the game. “Won’t your friend be mad if I take this?” To which I replied, “I have literally eighteen more copies of this.” Anyway, two weeks later I saw the game’s DVD case on top of her TV. I asked her if she’d played the game, and she said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Did you like it?” And she said “It was weird.” I asked how far she’d gotten into the game. She booted up her PlayStation 2. I leafed through her save files. She had gotten every single ending. In two weeks! And all she had to say about it was that it was “Weird.” I know numerous people personally who have been avoiding completing that game for going on two decades! You all need to step it up.

Uh oh! I seem to have stopped talking about Metal Wolf Chaos several minutes ago. In conclusion, Devolver, just because you’ve given us Marc Ecko’s Getting Up and Metal Wolf Chaos does not mean that your work is done.

Talk to Capcom! Get us a widescreen Breath of Fire V for PC and consoles. When you’ve done that, I’ll have another request—and then another request after that. Devolver Digital, you should never give me anything that I want. Because I’m 40 years old and I literally ate a mixing bowl full of macaroni and cheese for dinner two nights ago.

As I feel like I have said over and over again, I will never be satisfied, because I was born stupid. However, I will not die hungry. Video games forever.