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Japan Review Check: Metal Max, OneeChanbara

A quick look at the most interesting games coming out in Japan next week, as reviewed in the latest issue of Famitsu magazine:

- Metal Max 4 (9/9/9/8, 35 of 40 points): Japan's loosest-playing role playing game, one that mixes open exploration with post-apocalyptic warfare and tons of black humor, does pretty well in its Nintendo 3DS debut. "The gameplay system still gives you lots of freedom," editor Reona Ebihara wrote, "and the introduction of animation and voices gives you a pretty dramatic story to enjoy. A lot of the improvements, such as the ability to switch settings mid-battle, make things easier for the player, making it a really smooth experience to play. The autorun function is really appreciated, too, considering the distances you often have to go."

"The level of freedom you get is reminiscent of MMORPGs," added freelance writer Rolling Uchizawa. "You can customize the play environment to your own liking, which is really convenient. What's more, the game starts out a bit on the easy side before getting tough midway — a very fair balance that makes the game surprisingly approachable to all walks of gamer, despite how off-beat the system is."

- Akiba's Trip 2 (9/8/8/8, 33 points): This mix of RPG, adventure, and cheesecake, set in Japan's Akihabara district of otaku shops and general decadence, does a bit better than the original. "The graphics have improved a great deal," Ebihara wrote, "making the characters and the Akihabara layout a lot more convincing. There's a noticeable lag in townspeople showing up onscreen, but the environment, including the faraway views, is very intricately made. The attack motions are now different for every weapon, too, making you want to try all of them."

Uchizawa liked the game, too, but he was a bit more critical: "It's much more of a fun game to watch in action than before. The battles are much better balanced, too, while retaining their visual excitement. The actual missions you run, however, are mostly battles and fetch quests, and they feel a bit too much like work."

- OneeChanbara Z Kagura With NoNoNo! (8/9/8/7, 32 points): The latest in this series is a PlayStation 3 port of last year's Xbox 360 exclusive OneeChanbara Z Kagura, with a few extra characters and other bits and bobs. (The series sadly hasn't left Japan since 2009.)

"The game does as good a job as always of blending sexy girls with bloody action," Ebihara wrote. "It's pretty extreme, in multiple meanings of the term! It'll probably seem a little too simple once the novelty wears off, but the high-tempo action is fun to control, and you can quickly switch between weapons. Nonono, the new character, has some pretty daring attack moves, making her really fun to watch."

Uchizawa, meanwhile, wasn't having any of it: "You have a choice of weapons to fight with, but outside of bosses, all the moves at your disposal seem pretty much the same. The game pretty much repeats itself, too, making things get a bit boring."