There are two Gamecube games I play with any kind of frequency: The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition and Mega Man X Collection (X’s 1-6). Yea, they don’t really count as Gamecube games since they’re collections of classic games, but I’m not exactly what you would call a “fan”Â of the Gamecube, so living in the past helped justify keeping the thing.
Of the two collections, I love the Mega Man X games. They don’t need deep storylines or hours upon hours of action; they’re just damn fun games, and a good way to spend an afternoon when you don’t feel like studying. I mostly play on X1-X3, since the rest range from “meh”Â to “ugh…”Â, especially as the series went on, as we’re up to X8 now. I must reiterate, as I asked in my What the *&$% Were They Thinking? column, who in God’s name is Axl? The series just got way too complicated. Let’s go back to when it was simple; just a blue robot running around, blowing the bejeebers out of other robots, without acting all emo about it.
Mega Man X (SNES, 1993)
Capcom brought its Mega Man series into the then next-gen with Mega Man X. And it’s not meant to be “Mega Man 10″Â, as I thought at first. After all my complaining about the later games in the series having big, complicated back stories, Mega Man X has one, too. 100 years following the original Mega Man series, an archaeologist named Dr. Cain finds a long dormant robot called Mega Man X, who is a “reploid”Â, a robot with human emotions and thought. X and Cain work to create a whole race of reploids, but one day a group of them turn evil (through a computer virus) and begin calling themselves the Mavericks. A group of good reploids called the Maverick Hunters are formed to combat the Mavericks, but their leader, Sigma, goes Maverick himself. X joins the remaining Maverick Hunters to stop them from destroying humanity. But who cares about all that? Let’s get to busting some robots!
The game starts off in an introductory stage to get the player used to the controls; good old fashioned running and gunning. After beating that, you get to choose from one of eight bosses, each having a weakness to another’s weapon. You’d think after 100 years they’d figure out a way to get passed that weakness. Anyway, beating all eight bosses brings you to Sigma’s fortress, which, like Dr. Wily’s fortress, features many levels before fighting Sigma himself.
In four of the levels are secret capsules that upgrade one of X’s parts: the ability to jump through ceilings for the head, taking half damage for the body, charging up each special weapon and the X-Buster for the arms and a booster for the legs, taking the place of sliding introduced in Mega Man 3. There are also Sub Tanks to store energy and Heart Tanks to increase X’s life bar. Finally, getting every Sub Tank, Heart Tank and upgrades and performing a certain action in one of the levels grants you a Hadouken ability, borrowed from Street Fighter, which can destroy most enemies, including bosses, in a single hit. Pretty bad ass. You can also use a giant robot suit, called Ride Armor, in certain levels, which was pretty cool, if a little tough to control.
Also introduced in this game is X’s Maverick Hunter partner, Zero, who saves X from a rival reploid named Vile twice, the second time blowing himself up in the process, which sets the stage for Mega Man X2, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The graphics in this game are great, definitely taking advantage of the SNES’s abilities over the NES. The music is good, but it would definitely get better further into the series. It should be noted that the game was remade in 2006 as Mega Man Maverick Hunter X on the PSP, with upgraded graphics, music and level design, and the ability to play as Vile. It not only stands as the one of the only remakes I actually like, but one of the only PSP games I actually like. All in all, Mega Man X is a good, but not quite great, reboot of one of the greatest series in video games. Greatness, in my opinion, was achieved by the next game in the series…
Mega Man X2 (SNES, 1994)
I love this game. I really do. It’s one of my favorites on the SNES, and probably of all time if I took the time to really hammer that list out. Here’s a question: what does a good sequel do? And I’ll answer: keep the same basic formula and improve on it a bit, but not so much that it changes what made the first game good in the first place. Take Mega Man X7 for example; with its wonky 2-D to 3-D system and crappy new characters, it is an example of a bad sequel. So what does Mega Man X2 do right?
First of all, a bunch of little things. For instance, little things like giving X the ability to dash right from the start, and dash in mid-air once you get the leg upgrade. Speaking of the upgrades, you also get an item-detecting feature with the head upgrade (which is mostly useless), a double charged shot with the arm upgrade and the ability to store your enemies’ projectiles and release them to pwn everything onscreen with the body upgrade. Not bad. The suit upgrades look different too, drastically changing X’s appearance, which I think becomes the best in the series. It’s definitely better than the other games, where he looks like a Swiss Army knife. Anyway, the Street Fighter homage is still there, with the Shouryuuken in the place of the Hadouken, which is even more bad ass. Finally, you get a futuristic motorcycle to ride in one level. Awesome!
The biggest change comes with the addition of three sub-bosses, dubbed the X Hunters. They have tracked down Zero’s parts and intend to rebuild him as a Maverick, and challenge X to get them back in order to take him out as well. Sort of like Proto Man in Mega Man 3, they appear in three of the levels, and you can see which ones they occupy on the map screen. Take too long to take them out and you lose your chance to reclaim Zero. Zero is rebuilt as a Maverick and you must fight him right before Sigma. Reclaim all his parts and he comes back to do away with a cheap, dollar store imitation Zero Sigma builds to threaten you. He gets a slight makeover too, with bigger shoulders and a lightsaber, which is just awesome. Beat Sigma one more time and you win.
This game is a whole lot of fun, but it’s a bit short; skilled players can get through it in about an hour, but that by no means takes away from it. Like I mentioned before, it’s a great way to kill some time. The graphics are a bit better than Mega Man X, but the music really stands out in this game. I’d go as far as to say it rivals Mega Man 2 for the best in the whole series. Yea, I went there. If I had one complaint, it’s that the game is a bit too easy, but that’s not a big deal. It’s still a fantastic game, and, again, one of my very favorites. So, how do you top that?
Mega Man X3 (SNES, Playstation, 1995)
I wouldn’t say the series takes a complete downward turn with X3, but it definitely takes a bit of a dip, to be sure. What did I say before? Good sequels should keep the same formula and expand on it a bit? Well, Mega Man X3 expanded on it a bit too much. Not as much as later games would, but the series starts to get a little complicated with this game.
The story here is that a reploid scientist, Dr. Doppler, seemingly cures whatever virus is making the reploids turn Maverick. But it’s all a scheme, as Doppler takes control of the supposedly cured Mavericks and attacks the Maverick Hunters. It’s a good story, but they ran a bit too far with the gameplay.
The upgrades system is still there, going the obvious route with being able to dash upwards, a radar system to find certain items, etc. On top of that, they added a new chip system, which can further upgrade one of your parts depending on which chip you get. The Street Fighter reference was passed over in favor of adding a new Gold Armor, which is found the same way but gives you every chip at once and turns X a golden color. Furthermore, there are now four Ride Armor types you can control, as opposed to only one in the other two games. These are largely useless, except for finding items.
The biggest addition to this game is the ability to play as Zero, except in boss battles. Zero can shoot with his Z-Buster, much like X, but can also use his lightsaber, the Z-Saber. Apart from having one of the most bad ass entrance themes in video game history when you play as him in the introductory level, Zero doesn’t really add too much to the game; die once with Zero and you can’t use him again…that sucks. He does have an optional role though; beat a certain sub-boss with Zero and the boss will land on him and explode, which doesn’t kill Zero this time around, but he still needs to go back to HQ. He leaves X with his Z-Saber though, which gives you four different upgrades; the regular part upgrades, the chips, the Z-Saber and the Ride Armor. Factor in Heart Tanks and Sub Tanks and…damn, you think that’s enough?
The X Hunter-like sub-bosses make a return in this game, in the form of Doppler’s Bit and Byte, as well as a revived Vile, who has his own little sub-boss level. The game is a bit more challenging, especially compared to X2, but the challenge is mostly based on running around, collecting every little thing you need to get the best armor. The graphics are about the same as X2, though anime cut scenes were added in the Playstation version. The music was also remixed a bit for the Playstation version, which I think is better than the SNES version’s soundtrack.
As for X4, X5, X6 and onward, are they bad? Not necessarily. I just don’t think they’re good. They still have the usual run and gun action, but there’s just too much going on. Back story is okay, but it should be kept to the instruction book, comics or naughty fan fics. Who cares about where the Maverick virus came from, or who’s good and who’s bad, or who will fight and who won’t, I just want to blow stuff up! When that gets lost behind bad dialogue and voice acting and weird and/or stupid innovations and additions, the series just stops being fun. And when you think about this series, Mega Man Zero, Mega Man Battle Network, Mega Man ZX, Mega Man Star Force…God damn, poor Mega Man has been beaten into the ground and spit on.
If you want to play Mega Man the way it was supposed to be, get the Mega Man Anniversary Collection and the Mega Man X Collection, and marvel at the greatness of the series before it lost its way. And by the way – I can’t believe I’m saying this – I demand more remakes of the first few games in the X series. Mega Man Maverick Hunter X2, while having a terrible name, could very well become my favorite game ever, if they do it right, like the first game. It has less of a chance of being made than Mother 3 does of being localized outside of Japan, but it’s fun to dream.
Next Time: Back to the world of blast processing for Comix Zone! Until then, anyone who wants to request a game or yell at me can leave a comment down there or send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), whatever works.