Review: Mega Man Zero 3 (Game Boy Advance)

Genre: Action
Platform: GBA
Rating: E (Everyone)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Inticreates
Release Date: 10/5/2004

His past adventures were the stuff of legends. He awakened into a post-apocalyptic future; found that his best friend was dead; fought a clone of his best friend; watched his best friend’s body get destroyed; and a dangerous entity once again broke out to threaten the planet. All of this would crush lesser heroes, but not so for the final creation of the evil Dr. Wily. The fan-favorite Zero returns once more in Mega Man Zero 3, the latest in a series of phenomenal and challenging action games for the Game Boy Advance.

STORY

In case you’ve been living under a rock, I should point out that the “Mega Man” in the title is rather misleading. The main character of the MMZ games is Zero himself; nowhere is any incarnation of Mega Man a playable character. Oh, Zero’s old friend X makes appearances…just not in the way you’d expect. In fact, the MMZ games take place over 100 years after the Mega Man X series; here, Zero has been reactivated by the Resistance, a group of Reploids and humans fighting the oppressive Neo Arcadian government. In MMZ3, Zero’s continuing his search for the Dark Elf (which escaped at the end of MMZ2) and taking the fight to the mysterious Dr. Weil and his lackeys. I won’t ruin it for you…but MMZ3 explains more of X and Zero’s history than you’d expect. The true origin and purpose of our red hero, as well as the Cyber Elves and more are all explained here, satiating longtime MM fans at last. Bonus points to the developers and Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune for filling in so many gaps! (Rating: 10/10)

GRAPHICS

Like the other GBA Mega Man series, Mega Man Battle Network, the MMZ games’ graphics engine has been largely consistent throughout its various incarnations. The downside is that many sprites and such have been reused, but the upside is that the engine was near-flawless to begin with. Zero, his friends, and his enemies are all incredibly detailed and animated; it almost looks like a 2D Playstation title rather than a portable game. Even the prerendered images during some story sequences look amazing, and truly are works of art. (Rating: 8/10)

SOUND

Same as above. The sound engine is the same, with some new music (naturally) and new voice samples for Zero’s various attacks. Luckily, the sounds are nice and clean, and the music really captures the hardcore science fiction setting of the game. (Rating: 8/10)

GAMEPLAY

Like its predecessors, MMZ3 is an action-platformer. While there’s some degree of jumping from here to there, most of the focus is on combat. Zero’s got plenty of weapons at his disposal: his trusty Z-Saber, Z-Buster, and Shield Boomerang, for starters, and a brand-new weapon called the Recoil Rod (which he’s wielding in the pic at the top of this review). The leveled-up effects of the various weapons are available from the get-go in MMZ3, thankfully. The Cyber Elves also return here, too: cool little digital entities that have a variety of temporary and permanent effects on Zero (like blocking enemy fire, or extending his lifebar).

A great new addition in MMZ3 is the chip system. After beating certain bosses, Zero gets the ability to upgrade more of his various systems by installing chip plugins; only a few can be utilized at a time, so it’s up to the gamer to come up with the proper strategy as to when and where to use them. Similar chips were available in previous MMZ games, but they only affected Zero’s weapons with elemental affinities. Like Mega Man games of old, certain elemental strengths conferred upon Zero by the chips will have varying effects on bosses; for example, a fire-type attack will work wonders against an ice-type boss. The chips in MMZ3 have even more effects, like allowing Zero to walk safely on platforms that would normally crumble under his feet.

The various levels in the game are split up as “missions,” and Zero has the option to choose which mission he’d like to go to; the game’s somewhat less linear this way, and again harkens back to “classic” MM game design. Each level is rife with annoying enemies and very clever traps to trip you up. There’s also “sublevels” known as Cyberspace, where Zero transfer into a virtual version of whatever level he’s in. Here, certain Cyber Elves have automatic effects, and Zero can become much more powerful! Access to the Cyberspace is provided in the form of shimmering blue doors; to escape Cyberspace, you need to find another door in the virtual world.

Since Zero’s only got one life, most levels will take you a few tries to get through successfully. You can earn multiple continues, but you’ll still need to start most missions over from the beginning if you perish. (Rating: 8/10)

REPLAYABILITY

There’s a ton of stuff to find in MMZ3, even more than ever before. Cyber Elves are scattered all over the place, and you’ll often find yourself revisiting old levels to break into areas previously inaccessible. Plus, with nearly 200 Secret Disks hidden everywhere, you’ll want to play through many times. Secret Disks? What are those, you say? Well, the disks often contain Cyber Elves, character profiles, or in the best cases, snippets of history. This is yet another cool twist that helps fill in the gaps. There’s ten of them per stage, so get crackin’! (Rating: 10/10)

BALANCE

Continuing the tradition of MMZ games prior, MMZ3 is tough. While slightly less difficult than the others, MMZ3 still packs a wallop, and is very highly recommended for anyone who wants a challenging action title. We all know how easy too many games are these days, and the consistent challenge provided within MMZ3 is both perfect and satisfying. (Rating: 9/10)

ORIGINALITY

Gotta drop the ball here; it’s a sequel, so it’s tough to give it a high originality rating. However, the new additions to the gameplay make up for it, and the relevations unveiled in MMZ3 up the ante even more. (Rating: 6/10)

ADDICTIVENESS

I fail to see how any action game fan wouldn’t keep playing this game like they were trying to win something. Even though it’s very straightforward, there’s so much depth that MMZ3 will easily have you saying “Alright, just one more mission…” The linear structure of the missions may turn off the free-roaming Grand Theft Auto III crowd, but screw them; this game’s meant for real action fans! (Rating: 7/10)

APPEAL

I must sound like a goddamn broken record. Well, might as well continue. “Mega Man fans will love this game.” Cheesy, but true. The fact that MMZ3 finally ties up some longstanding plot threads should be enough to have MM fans beating down the doors of their local game stores. Newcomers to the franchise will find a lot to like in MMZ3, too, especially if they’re action game lovers. C’mon, who doesn’t love slashing up robots with a beam saber? (Rating: 7/10)

MISCELLANEOUS

Got Mega Man Battle Network 4: Red Sun or Blue Moon floating around? Good, because MMZ3 can link up to it! Doing so accomplishes two things: it transfers a “Z-Saber” battle chip to MMBN4 for use in that game, and on the MMZ3 side, the enemies in Cyberspace all become viruses from the MMBN series! While not necessary for the overall plot, this is still a fun distraction, and a nice tip of the hat to fans of the MMBN series. (Rating: 7/10)

Final Scores:

Story: 10/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 9/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10