Over 100 years after the Mega Man X series, Reploids fear for their lives, as the Neo Arcadian government is hunting them down and executing them. Their reasoning? You can’t have Reploids going Maverick if there are no Reploids to begin with! There’s a small Resistance movement trying to survive, but it’s not going well. Led by a human, Ciel, the Resistance is getting the crap kicked out of it by Neo Arcadian forces when they stumble upon the legendary hero: Zero.
And so begins Mega Man Zero, the latest offshoot of Capcom’s Mega Man franchise. Spiralling off of one of the endings to Mega Man X5, the beam saber-wielding Reploid Zero awakens from a very long sleep to help out the Resistance. Unlike all the other Mega Man games, Mega Man is not a playable character at all! It’s all Zero. The “Mega Man” in the title is just for association purposes, since it does take place in the same timeline. But don’t worry…Mega Man X makes appearances. Just not in the manner you’d expect.
There’s only two games in this GBA series so far, but both have been absolutely incredible. The graphics, sound, and animation are some of the best seen on the GBA, and the story kicks ass to boot. For one, they brought back the classic Mega Man challenge: these games are tough. Plenty of practice is necessary to work your way through the various missions. You also don’t acquire weapons from bosses anymore; you may score an item or two, but defeating bosses is just necessary to unlock later levels. As far as your weapons are concerned, you start out with your Z-Saber and Z-Buster, and later acquire the Shield Boomerang and Triple Rod (upgraded to the Chain Rod in Mega Man Zero 2) from Cerveau, a Resistance engineer. By using these weapons repeatedly as your fight your way through hordes of Neo Arcadian goons, they level up, giving you added abilities. For example, you’ll be able to charge up your Z-Saber for a devastating ground slash attack.
Then there’s the matter of Cyber Elves. These little data programs are found floating around in levels, or you can get them by dispatching certain enemies. You can equip up to three of them at any given time, but once you use one, it’s gone forever (with some exceptions; we’ll get to that in a moment). The Elves have various effects, like destroying all minor enemies on the screen, providing cover fire, etc. The best ones, however, are the ones you need to “raise.” This is accomplished by feeding them Energy Crystals (found everywhere; they’re the equivalent of currency). Once Elves are raised, then they’re ready for use, and they almost always have a permanent effect. Some will extend your lifebar, others will increase your speed or defense, and still others will turn into much-needed Sub Tanks.
So why is there no Mega Man X? Well, as it turns out, X is long gone. See, the Neo Arcadian goverment is controlled by X, but he’s only a copy. Ciel actually built him, hoping he’d replace the departed original X. Naturally, Copy X went bad. Zero ends up destroying him, and the real X (in “spirit” form) talks to Zero, and tells him to keep fighting the good fight. In Mega Man Zero 2, we find out what really happened to X: he didn’t get killed, but his body is in stasis, serving as a “lock” on the Dark Elf’s prison. The Dark Elf is an extremely powerful Cyber Elf, that would cause a whole lot of damage if released. The new Resistance leader, Elpizo, went crazy (there’s a shocker) and wanted to break the damn thing out. Surprisingly enough, he succeeded–by jamming a beam saber through X’s chest, destroying him instantly! Zero had to throw down against a Dark Elf-powered Elpizo, but still managed to win the day. The Dark Elf escaped, but somewhere within a bunker, unseen forces plot world domination. My speculation? Sigma’s back, though this is never confirmed. We’ll just have to wait until Mega Man Zero 3.
Next week, the final installment of my “History of Mega Man” series, where we take a look at the impact of the game series as a whole and see what the future may hold.