Back in the early 2000s, the video games market looked much different. This was just before the bifurcation of the industry into massive, hyper-expensive titles on the one hand and artisanally-crafted indie games on the other, so you could walk into a Gamestop or an EB Games and just see all kinds of weird budget titles on the shelves. One of these titles, for me, was Slave Zero for the Dreamcast. Developed and published by Infogrames North America in 1999, the game sees you pilot a giant biomechanical creature into battle against the forces of an oppressive regime in a dark cybercity of the future. The controls were kind of awkward — this was before the dual-stick standard — and the game’s production was uneven, but it had some great ideas. The sense of scale was there (you can pick up cars and even people, if you’re a sicko) and the world seemed like a fascinating place.
Well, it’s over 20 years later, and we’re getting another Slave Zero game. When the announcement landed in my inbox, it seemed like a prank. I’ve never met anyone else who actually played Slave Zero, and I rarely see it discussed online. It wasn’t even particularly well-received at the time of its release. But nevertheless, apparently somebody loved it enough to make another game in the series. It’s called Slave Zero X, and it’s a prequel rather than a direct sequel. It’s also wildly different in visuals and mechanics from the first game. Rather than a 3D run-and-gun title, Slave Zero X is a side-scrolling brawler that looks like the love child of One Must Fall: 2097 and an early Guilty Gear game.
Slave Zero X is being developed by Poppy Works and published by Ziggurat Interactive. The former is known mainly for their porting work, having assisted teams like New Blood, Iron Galaxy, and XSeed in bringing their titles to other platforms. I’m not sure how the rights to Slave Zero ended up with Ziggurat, but after Infogrames went out of business in 2013, its properties were acquired by publisher Tommo, who then resold them to Billionsoft, a Hong Kong-based holding company that’s gone on to revive franchises like Bubsy.
There’s some other talent involved in Slave Zero X that you might recognize, too. The game’s writer is Miles Luna, co-creators of the animated series RWBY, and the art director is Witnesstheabsurd, whose style brings a horror-tinged tone to the game. Expect lots of biomechanical demon robot teeth, is all I’m saying.
All of the pieces are there for Slave Zero X to be a blast, and given that the beat-em-up genre seems to be having a bit of a moment right now, the game could find success even beyond me and the other six people who played the original. Slave Zero X is available to wishlist on Steam now, though we don’t have a release date yet. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one, and crossing my fingers that if it does well, fellow beloved-by-me-and-few-others title Armada gets a sequel or modern remake too.