"The 'Image', existing in an unknown dimension, is a spiritual object. The real nature of oneself. We can also call it the soul. Now is the time to face this inner space with a pure mind. The image world is supported by rich spiritual activities that could lead us to a wonderful future. But some deny us that. The decline of the European Union... The overwhelmingly deteriorating relations between China and the US... All part of this new path of chaos... But soon Maken will help us. Deus Ex Machina is coming..."
Maken X is a first-person Action Adventure game developed by Atlus and released for the Dreamcast in 1999. It is Atlus's first fully 3D title and the first game to be directed by Katsura Hashino. The story focuses on the titular Maken, an artificial demon capable of controlling humans through its Brain Jacking ability, as it travels the world after being instructed to defeat Mr. Meteor. Like many other Megami Tensei games, the game features multiple endings that are influenced by the Maken's actions throughout the game. Maken X has a greater focus on world travel and realism than other Megami Tensei games, with an emphasis on the human characters encountered during the game, although demons and Magic are still present.
A third-person remake titled Maken Shao (魔剣爻) was released for the PlayStation 2 on June 7, 2001 in Japan and was later released in Europe as Maken Shao: Demon Sword on July 23, 2003. It was rereleased on the PlayStation 3 as a downloadable game exclusively in Europe on February 27, 2013 but was delisted in 2016 for unknown reasons.
Maken X begins in the Kanazawa Research Institute where J.J. Jones, Anne Miller and Hiromitsu Sagami are overseeing the awakening of the Maken, an artificial demon. Kei Sagami and Kou Yamashiro arrive after the Maken decides on a name for itself to watch the awakening. During the event, the Research Institute is attacked by the Sangyokai, lead by Hakke Andrey, who kidnaps Hiromitsu and kills Lee Fei Chao, the intended wielder of the Maken before fleeing. In his dying words, Fei Chao urges Kei to take the Maken and save the world, upon touching the sword, Kei is Brain Jacked and her Image is absorbed by the Maken.
After fending off the Sangyokai and subduing Hakke Andrey, Lee Fu Sho calls the laboratory to discover that the Maken has awakened and that the Chief was kidnapped. He instructs the Maken to Brain Jack the captured Andrey to gain his intel on the Sangyokai and Mr. Meteor, and requests that the Maken helps the Fukenshi to defeat the Hakke and rid the world of Mr. Meteor's influence. The Maken, now in Hakke Andrey's body, departs the Institute and boards a plane heading to Moscow to meet with the Fukenshi's second in command, Fukenshi Kati.
- Maken: The main character, also known as "Deus Ex Machina". an artificial demon created as a medical tool to treat mental disorders. It can use its Brain Jacking ability to overwrite the Image of its host and take control of their body, with the Maken's physical self becoming a weapon for its host to wield.
- Kei Sagami: Heroine. Her Image is absorbed by the Maken after she impulsively takes the sword to rescue her father and avenge Lee Fei Chao. The Maken's choices throughout the game decide whether or not her consciousness is saved from being assimilated into the Maken.
- Lee Fei Shan: Lee Fei Chao's younger sister. A trainee Fukenshi studying under Fukenshi Kati tasked with taking out Hakke Shaja.
- Fukenshi Badelaire: Fukenshi working undercover as a journalist to discover the whereabouts of Malukala's hideout. Known as Blademaster Tyrus in the English version of Maken X.
- Fukenshi Acinaces: Fukenshi working as a museum curator in Athens. She is investigating the Petrification Illness. Known as Blademaster Alys in the English version of Maken X.
- Fukenshi Rumrod: Fukenshi who works as a DJ in Amsterdam. Tasked with taking out his former lover Hakke Marguerite. Known as Blademaster Devon in the English version of Maken X.
- Fukenshi Kati: Head of the Nine-Sky Circus and second-in command of the Fukenshi. Known as Blademaster Kitty in the English version of Maken X.
- Hakke Andrey: A Russian soldier who serves as a hitman for the Sangyokai. He invades the Kanazawa Research Institute at the beginning of the game and is the second character to be Brain Jacked by the Maken.
- Hakke Shaja: A famous Indian film star and singer who uses his songs to brainwash the Indian population into lethargy.
- Hakke Marguerite: Current leader of the European Union and leader of the B.S. Reconstruction Soldiers. Known as Hakke Margaret in the English version of Maken X.
- Hakke Daru: A world-renowned scientist responsible for the Petrification Illness crisis in Europe. Known as Hakke Dal in the English version of Maken X.
- Hakke Malukala: Head of the global mafia who is responsible for a mysterious disease spread through Europe's drinking water. Known as Hakke Don Regalia in the English version of Maken X.
- Hakke Ray: An archbishop who founded a religion that urges its followers to commit suicide.
- Hakke Youthfu: An oil baron restricting the sale of petroleum exclusively to China. Known as Hakke Yusuf in the English version of Maken X.
- Hakke William: The President of the United States who stages the rising tensions between the US and China with Ryu Kashin. Known as Hakke Brown in the English version of Maken X.
- Gou Inaba: An airline pilot flying the ill-fated Rhincodon.
- Samuel Smith: Hakke Marguerite's husband and former leader of the European Union. He was usurped by his wife and is currently imprisoned in the Tower of London.
- Bahlinka: Hakke Daru's daughter. Currently detained in an isolation ward in Istanbul after contracting the Petrifying Illness. Known as Bianca in the English version of Maken X.
- Kou Yamashiro: Kei's best friend. Only playable on a certain story route.
- Hiromitsu Sagami: Kei's father and Image researcher. He is kidnapped by the Sangyokai at the beginning of the game and his Image is stolen by Mr. Meteor.
- Lee Fei Chao: An elite Fukenshi from Hong Kong tasked with awakening the Maken. Ends up being killed by Hakke Andrey at the beginning of the game while protecting Kei.
- Anne Miller: American scientist who helped create the Maken. She and J.J. Jones go a long way back.
- J.J. Jones: Rude and self-centered American scientist who helped create the Maken. Known as Peter Jones in the English version of Maken X.
- Lee Fu Sho: The enigmatic head of the Fukenshi who funded the Kanazawa Research Institute and the X Project.
- Dr. Dublin Guiness: Hiromitsu's colleague who fled to the Amazon after objecting to the X Project.
- Ryu Kashin: The Chairman of China who serves as Mr. Meteor's current host. Known as Sectory-General Leung in the English version of Maken X.
- Mr. Meteor: Main antagonist and servant of the original Pan-Gu. Known as Geist in the English version of Maken X.
- Sangyokai 64 KE Sword Breaker
- Sangyokai 32 KE Bazooka
- Sangyokai 32 KE Claw
- Sangyokai 64 KE Roller Blade
- Sangyokai 32 KE Cannon
- Sangyokai 32 KE Grenade
- Sangyokai 16 KE Amazon
- Sangyokai 16 KE Dancer
- Shiva Infantry
- Iron Maiden
- B.S. Reconstruction Soldier Vulcan
- B.S. Reconstruction Soldier Arms
- B.S. Reconstruction Mud Dog
- Moss Gang
- Messianic Believer
- Presidential Escort System X66
- Fukenshi Soldier Iron Bow
- Fukenshi Soldier Shadow Leg
Many changes were made to Maken X for its international release. All swastikas present throughout the game are replaced with the kanji 無 (mu), although one poster present inside Club Aeolus in Amsterdam still has swastikas partially obscured behind Marguerite. Several characters had their names changed usually to one that is phonetically similar to their original name, and a few have had design changes. Several stages have had references or bottles of alcohol removed. The Info section that provides information about characters encountered throughout the game, locations and game terminology was also removed although the unaltered card illustrations from the Info section are still present in the data of the western versions.
In terms of gameplay, several stages have had pickups swapped around or removed, and the EX Special meter was altered to charge instantly once the X button is held at the cost of EX Special attacks now draining a small percentage of the Maken's health with each use. The Maken cannot use an EX Special attack if its health is at critical in the western version.
Differences between the original Dreamcast release and Maken Shao.
- The perspective is changed from first person to third person due to a recurring issue with Japanese gamers where they experience motion sickness when playing games with a first-person camera.
- As a result of the perspective change, it is no longer possible to jump over enemies to dodge attacks.
- Upon encountering certain enemies for the first time, a small introductory scene with a name card will play. Enemies have also been strengthened, with some attacks now being unblockable which is indicated by the enemy briefly flashing white before attacking.
- Several stages, such as the Rhincodon, have new events and all stages have had the placement of enemies altered, with some enemy types being absent from stages they were present on in Maken X
- Power-ups and health pickups can now be stored one at a time and used with the Triangle button instead of being automatically consumed. Pickups are now stored in crates instead of being out in the open.
- The Brain Jacking system has been reworked. Instead of the RPG-styled Brainjack Rank, characters must be "bought" with Image collected from defeating enemies before they can be Brain Jacked.
- The Domination Percentage mechanic was added, allowing Brain Jacked characters to learn new moves and reducing their Brain Jack cost as they defeat enemies.
- Many characters’ movesets were reworked to accommodate the Domination Percentage.
- Gou Inaba, Bahlinka and Samuel Smith are given EX Specials like the other playable characters, unlocked after their Domination Percentage reaches 100%.
- Hakke Daru and Bahlinka are no longer immune to projectile attacks. Their immunity to the petrification ailment remains although they still take damage from those attacks.
- Two new modes and a Sound Test were added, unlocked after receiving specific endings.
- The game's cutscenes were overhauled. Cutscenes that consisted of still images are now fully animated and characters now move their mouths when speaking. As part of this change, all cutscenes are now pre rendered instead of being animated in-game, with the exceptions being cutscenes that happen in stage and the post-stage cutscene of Kei talking to the Maken in the Image world.
- The presence of swastikas in the game, such as those seen on Hakke Marguerite and the B.S. Reconstruction Soldiers, are replaced with the kanji 無 (mu) as seen in the English release of Maken X. This is the only change to be kept from the English version of Maken X and affects both versions of Maken Shao.
- This change also results in Marguerite, the B.S. Reconstruction Soldiers and Vienna not having illustration cards in the Info section owing to the swastikas present on the cards in the Dreamcast version, which Maken Shao reuses.
- The working title and potential final name for Maken X was Brain Jack (ブレインジャック, Bureinjakku)?.
- According to an interview with Cozy Okada there were potential plans to create a sequel to Maken X. While no sequel games for Maken X have ever been announced, the novel Maken X: After Strange Days is a continuation of the game's story.
- The song Sicily ~Shao ver~ from Maken Shao was later rearranged into the song Blade for the Digital Devil Saga series.
- An work in progress localization prototype of Maken X was dumped by Hidden Palace in September 2021 as part of Project Deluge. The build is dated February 9 2000, around a month before the build date of the final (6 March 2000). While this prototype is mostly identical to the retail release of the English version, there are a few differences in the text, such as Yusuf being named Youthfu in menus and various spelling errors, and the recordings for the gameplay demos are out of sync, notably the demo featuring Kei Sagami in the Kanazawa Research Institute has the player die to the first Sangyokai Sword Breaker in the stage.
- Official Japanese website for Maken X
- Official North American website for Maken X
- Official Japanese website for Maken Shao