I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about Metal Wolf Chaos, but it’s stuck with me for years. You don’t exactly forget about a game where you’re a mech-driving U.S. president staging a one-man war against your treasonous Veep.
That’s the premise Dark Souls developer From Software dreamed up for its 2004 mech game for Xbox, soon to be released as the remastered Metal Wolf Chaos XD. It’s understandable if you’ve never heard of this game. As wild as that premise is — and even though it’s actually set in the U.S. — Metal Wolf never saw a release outside of Japan.
It wasn’t for lack of trying, as From producer Masanori Takeuchi shared during an interview at E3 2019. There was a plan to release it, and even a demo included with an issue of Official Xbox Magazine.
“It didn’t come about in the end. Our current development cycle allows us to release games simultaneously worldwide, but back then our scope of resources wasn’t quite so grand,” Takeuchi said, through a translator.
The younger, smaller version of From would have therefore had to finish the Japanese version of the game before getting started on an international release. Localizing a game for foreign markets isn’t a short process, and by 2004 Microsoft was already well on its way to revealing the original Xbox’s successor, the Xbox 360.
“We’d like people to understand that there’s more than one side to From.”
“We were working closely with Microsoft on publication of the game in Japan and we knew that the Xbox 360 was coming out,” Takeuchi said. By the time Metal Wolf Chaos localization was done, the next-gen Xbox would’ve been out.
“The timing became very difficult. And Microsoft ended up saying to us, ‘You know, it would make a lot more sense just to create a brand new game for the 360, rather than trying to rush this port across to the home consoles at the time.”
Enter Devolver Digital. Essentially the punk rock band of video game publishers, Devolver has developed a reputation as one of the premiere providers of norm-breaking indies and is widely known for its “fuck the system” approach to doing business. The publisher doesn’t even appear at E3, preferring instead to set up an AirStream-filled trailer park across the street.
“We knew of them as a company but we didn’t actually know what they were about or what sort of games they did or the direction they wanted to go in,” Takeuchi said of the new Metal Wolf publishing partner. So From was hesitant at first. Why remaster this relatively obscure 15-year-old game?
But Devolver was adamant, pushing hard on the idea that the world was ready to appreciate a game that had only just missed its shot a decade and a half earlier. From saw something exciting in the pitch, something that went beyond even the one game.
“When we saw what they wanted to do and the kind of direction they wanted to take … with the partnership in general, we realized they wanted to do a lot of cool stuff. And a lot of their sensibilities, how they wanted to present themselves and the game, aligned with our culture and our expectations for the future,” Takeuchi said. It was, as he described it, “a nice match.”
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Before you ask: no, no details yet. We’ll surely hear more about what else From and Devolver are cooking up in good time, but for now the focus is on Metal Wolf Chaos XD. Unsurprisingly.
Image: from software
Bringing mech games to the mainstream is a big piece of what’s appealing for From in this remaster. Before Dark Souls or even Demon’s Souls, the studio was perhaps best known for its Armored Core series of mech games. The genre has a niche following in the U.S. but hasn’t ever seen a proper embrace by the mainstream.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD may ultimately be too aggressively weird to win over the Call of Duty and Madden fans of the world. But From hopes that a revival for the long-buzzy original will create new opportunities for a genre that many would argue is underserved in the current gaming environment.
“We’d like people to understand that there’s more than one side to From,” Takeuchi said. “It might be a good time to consider a new Armored Core game or something like that, but first we just wanted to test the water and make people aware of … this other side to our studio. We enjoy both mecha fantasy as well as dark fantasy.”
The game that’s coming to PlayStation 4, Windows (via Steam) and Xbox One is virtually the same as the one that shipped in 2004. From toyed with tweaking the control scheme to play nice with modern controllers — adding in a use for the bumper buttons, for example — but none of the ideas the team toyed with panned out.
There is also, of course, a big, loud, orange-skinned elephant in the room: the current U.S. president. Metal Wolf‘s story of a mech-piloting U.S. president going after his traitorous Vice President hardly lines up with any known reality in 2019. But I had to wonder — and ask Takeuchi — if there was any talk of altering the original game’s story to more directly comment on current events.
He laughed. We all laughed. It’s a big elephant, after all.
“When we created the original, the idea was just to have these very extreme, very eccentric characters. And we don’t think anything like that existed at the time, or at least there wasn’t anything to base it on. It was just purely a creative sort of happening,” Takeuchi said.
“These days, of course we have colorful characters such as the president of the United States. We felt that if we were to try and create his story … it would make it a little bit weird. So we decided just to create the original and just be faithful to the original and these eccentric and colorful characters.”