With the introduction of the Super NES, many gamers wondered what would become of our hero Mega Man. Aside from the original MM appearing in Mega Man 7, fans got a real surprise with the release of Mega Man X. At first, many were confused; a) they thought this was a later version of the original MM, and b) they thought the “X” was the Roman numeral “ten.” Well, neither is true.
It’s explained rather clearly in the X series that this is an entirely new robot, and the last work of the late Dr. Light. He sealed the robot in a capsule for 30 years to run diagnostic tests, as it had a revolutionary new independent thinking system. Unfortunately, this robot ended up being sealed away for over 100 years, as Dr. Light passed away. In the year 21XX, the scientist Dr. Cain found this capsule, and reactivated the robot, who’s name turned out to be “X” (the letter, not the numeral). Dr. Cain was amazed at the complexity of X, even though he was built 100 years ago. Dr. Cain used X as a template to build other advance robots, called “Reploids.” Soon, Reploids filled the globe, and became a part of everyday life. (Dr. Cain must’ve REALLY raked in the cash!) Naturally, some robots went bad, and were designated “Maverick.” To solve the problem, teams of Maverick Hunters were assembled; the unit led by the Reploid named Sigma was one of the best…
…until he fought some strange robot wielding a beam saber. The robot, Zero, was repaired and studied, but Sigma was never the same. He ended up going Maverick himself, and taking his top eight Maverick Hunters along with him. The Maverick Reploids are quite different from the “Man” robot masters of the original MM games. The primary difference is that almost all of them are based on animals of some kind. No one else was powerful enough to fight Sigma’s forces…except for X, who never wanted to be a fighter in the first place. And thus began the first game, with X fighting various Reploids to gain their weapons in true MM fashion. Also found in various levels were Heart Tanks (which increased your lifebar), Sub Tanks (much like the E Tanks from other MM games, but they could be refilled), and armor upgrades, where X received holographic messages from his late creator, Dr. Light. These upgrades gave X extra abilities, like dashing (similar to the original Mega Man’s sliding move), charging special weapons, and better defense. Another great addition to the gameplay was the ability to slide down walls, and/or jump off of them.
Zero was destroyed, but X continued his adventures on the SNES with Mega Man X2 (where Zero returned) and Mega Man X3. Even though Sigma was destroyed in Mega Man X, he was back for more in both games, in the guise of a powerful computer virus (makes sense, doesn’t it?). Both games offered new upgrades and subtle gameplay additions. The latter was extremely challenging, but also had some absolutely horrible background music. This was remedied later, when X3 was ported to the Saturn and Playstation in Japan, with completely remixed music, sound, and anime cutscenes. If you’re going to pick up X3, that’s the one to nab. Zero is briefly a playable character here, but he’s really not much use, as X is quite a bit more powerful. If you play your cards right, however, X can even gain use of Zero’s beam saber!
X returned to the Saturn and Playstation for another game, Mega Man X4, where Zero was a full playable character. In fact, to get the whole story, you had to play through the game twice; once with X, and once with Zero. With two playable characters to choose from, you also got multiple endings. This game revealed more of Zero’s backstory, and we discover that he was indeed the final creation of one Dr. Wily! Zero himself was handled quite well as a playable character; rather than earning special weapons like X did, Zero would earn special moves instead (i.e., rather than shooting fireballs, Zero would do a jumping flame slash with his beam saber. We also had some new characters thrown into the mix, like the General, the Colonel, Double, and a love interest for Zero named Iris.
The Saturn tanked (dammit!), but X reappeared on the Playstation in Mega Man X5 and Mega Man X6. X5 was probably the easiest of the series, and introduced multiple armor types, new characters that would stick around for while (like Alia and Signas), and the ability to switch to X or Zero between levels. This game also brought in the rescue system, where innocent Reploids were scattered throughout levels. Touching them would rescue them, and they’d often help you out in return by refilling your lifebar or giving you a 1-up. X5 also added a lot of plot elements, including strong references to Dr. Wily, his possible return(?), and the true nature of Zero. One of the endings in X5 also branched off into the Mega Man Zero series, but we’ll get to that in another column. Mega Man X6 was a rush-job, and many gamers were frustrated by its poor design, glitches, and crappy plot. I know I was. Plus, most of the game invalidated plot points from X5! You really only need to play this game if you’re a completist.
This got worse in Mega Man X7, recently released on the Playstation 2. This was the series’ first step into the world of 3D, and as evidenced by my review of the game a few weeks ago, it didn’t go well. The plot’s not too bad, and introduced the Red Alert Syndicate of bounty hunters. One of their number, Axl, is a playable character in the game, and is more important to the overall plot than even he realizes. You can probably guess who’s pulling the strings…
Even the Game Boy Color got some X action, in form of Mega Man Xtreme and Mega Man Xtreme 2. Both games had their share of bugs, but they were still great games in their own right, and Capcom must be given credit for successfully converting a 16/32/128-bit series to an 8-bit console. The first Xtreme title took place between Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3, and featured recycled Mavericks from the first two SNES Mega Man X games. A few new characters showed up, too, like Middy, Techno, Geemel, and Zain. Mega Man Xtreme 2 takes place shortly before Mega Man X4, and here, Iris is just starting to work for the Maverick Hunters as a communications officer (a role Alia would fill later). Here, the main protagonists were Berkana and Gareth, known as “Soul Erasers” for their role in stealing Reploids’ “DNA” patterns; these two commanded resurrected Mavericks from X2 and X3. Zero was also a playable character in Xtreme 2, and by beating the game with both X and Zero, you’d unlock “Boss Rush Mode,” where you can fight the 8 Mavericks from the first Xtreme game! Both games had a predictable ending, as you pretty much took for granted who the final boss would be.
We never did find out what happened to the original Mega Man, Rush, Proto Man, Bass, or anyone else, but the Mega Man legacy continues on. Next week, we shoot far, far into the future, where the Earth is almost entire covered by water, and groups of treasure hunters known as “Diggers” scour the ruins for wealth…and a Digger called “Mega Man” is about to discover his destiny.