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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

Surprise Sequel Slave Zero X Is the Wrong Nostalgia, and a Bit Flawed

I don’t think I would have ever had “sequel to 1999’s third person mech game Slave Zero” on my radar. But if I did, I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that it would have been a side scrolling beat’em up style fighting game.

Slave Zero X has you play as Sho, who takes a biomecha called X on a rampage against the oppressive government. It’s over the top, with a premise that reminds me of Ghostrunner. It’s done in a Sega arcade style, aping a time when bigger characters meant better graphics. But while Slave Zero X has its heart in the right place, it doesn’t manage to be very good.

Screenshot: Slave Zero X

First of all, I have to complain about its visual style. While I’m a huge fan of retro games, and I even like those games that came around in the infancy of 3D. However, Slave Zero X is just an ugly game with a confused, incoherent art style. 

There was an attempt to blend 2D sprites with 3D low poly backgrounds. And while that doesn’t sound terrible in theory, the execution in Slave Zero X is abysmal. It almost feels like the sprites and the backgrounds are from two different games. Scrolling through the “2.5D” space looks awkward most of the time–like you’re playing with paper dolls. That isn’t to mention how the 2.5D aspect doesn’t lend anything at all to the gameplay.

Screenshot: Slave Zero X

There are a few filters you can slap on to make Slave Zero X look a little better. But these filters are at the cost of in-game currency that you can use to enhance your character. It might just be a personal preference, but I don’t think you should have to choose between optimizing your character and choosing the visual style you prefer. 

The best part of Slave Zero X is its gameplay, and even that has its issues. I really appreciate the combo-based fighting game style. There are a number of moves you can pull off by using different combinations of movement and strong/light attacks. Fighting feels okay, even if the character movement feels sluggish. But that sluggish feeling fits right in with the old school Sega arcade style feel. However, there are no I-frames when you get hit–which means there is potential for you to be juggled around the screen. Especially when you have to fight large groups of enemies at once. If you mess up once, it could mean you could be juggled until you die. Thankfully, there’s a way to spend energy to break out of these combos, but it’s just annoying to deal with.

Screenshot: Slave Zero X

Another issue with the gameplay is that it's a little too unrelenting. There are few meaningful moments of respite even to just enjoy the world in which Slave Zero X is set. Because its world is pretty well realized and amusing, even if its not exactly novel. But I also found that I was getting literal hand cramps from its gameplay–and I’m someone who plays a lot of video games. And I realized that its aping a style the Sega arcade style of game, and most of those are over in about an hour–far shorter than Slave Zero X’s 6ish hours of gameplay. 

Still, Slave Zero X just didn’t work for me. Its interesting blend of 2D and 3D graphics doesn’t work because the art style is so ugly. It does have compelling beat ‘em up style gameplay, but there isn’t enough variation to keep me interested enough to want to keep playing. It’s a shame, because there is a lot of potential in Slave Zero X, but it’s just not a fun game.

Slave Zero X is available now for PC via Steam and on Xbox Series S|X, and PlayStation 4/ PlayStation 5.



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