Platform: Playstation 2
Release Date: 10/14/03
ESRB Rating: E
The story so far: Reploids (robots) and humans still maintain an uneasy peace, but Reploids are doing a good job of repairing various cities and other locations damaged during the fighting against the Mavericks (robots gone bad). Mega Man X himself has grown tired of the constant pointless fighting, and has taken up an administrative role within the Maverick Hunters. Maverick-related crimes are on the rise, so other groups have joined the task of hunting them down. One such organization is Red Alert, a group of bounty hunters led by the enigmatic Red.
A young hunter named Axl decides to leave Red Alert after realizing that the group isn’t just hunting Mavericks anymore; in some cases, innocent Reploids are being targeted as well! However, Red Alert do not take kindly to deserters, and send their grunts after Axl. Zero shows up to haul his ass out of the fire, and takes Axl to see X. Axl gets chewed out by ol’ X, but soon, Red appears on a transmission, challenging the Maverick Hunters to a “duel.” Naturally, this duel consists of eight Mavericks that Red Alert has released from their prisons:
- Splash Warfly
- Soldier Stonekong
- Hellride Boarski
- Vanishing Gungaroo
- Flame Hyenard
- Wind Crowrang
- Snipe Anteator
- Tornado Tonion
Yeah, you read those right; they’re not spelling errors. And yes, that last one is an onion. A f*cking onion.
The game starts with you controlling Axl, in the aforementioned escape from Red Alert’s goons. At the end of the stage, Zero shows up to help out, and you can switch between the two with a press of a button. This team gameplay is constant throughout the rest of the game; you pick two characters at a time to travel to a stage, and you can switch back and forth between them on a whim. Both have separate lifebars, too, so that comes in very handy, considering how difficult the game really is.
Each character has their own special abilities. Axl has his rapid fire pistols, and the Copy Shot, which enables him to copy the forms and powers of various enemies he faces (this is necessary to earn certain items, and rescue some Reploids; more on rescuing later). Axl can also hover in midair. Zero has his Z-Saber energy sword, and his classic double-jump. X has his X-buster charge cannon, and can receive armor upgrades found in various levels. Since X and Axl have ranged weapons, they can also lock on to specific enemies when there’s more than one on the screen. There’s also the standard stealing of a boss’ weapon and/or special ability after you’ve defeated them.
Meanwhile, various Reploids have managed to get themselves into a fix, and it’s up to you to rescue them. This feature was introduced in Mega Man X5, and it’s the same basic concept; a Reploid will appear on your screen, with “HELP!” flashing above their read. Run up and touch them, and they’ll say “THANKS!” and teleport out. Always rescue them ASAP, because a) they give you items at the end of the stage, and b) they can actually be killed by nearby enemies now! Once they’re gone, they’re gone, so don’t pass them up. The items they give you, Chip Items, are used to upgrade your characters’ Power, Speed, and Special abilities. Often, Chip Items will boost your weapons’ power by 30% or more, or increase the potency of recovery items.
The gameplay is a mix of 2D and 3D, and it’s executed rather poorly. The 2D sections work fine; even though everything is 3D-rendered, it plays just like a classic Mega Man X sidescroller. Then, in certain parts of whatever stage you’re in, it’ll switch to a 3D mode, where you have more freedom to roam. This is both good and bad; you’ve got more space to dodge, but there’s often more enemies that bombard you with very powerful attacks. The control scheme really doesn’t work well here. Plus, you can’t always move the camera! Often, your character may be standing behind an obstacle, and you really can’t see what’s going on! The inane amount of level problems like this make the game very difficult, and in a bad way; it’s not challenging, it’s frustrating.
The graphics themselves aren’t too shabby. We’ve all seen better, but these are indeed fantastic 3D representations of X and crew. Axl looks pretty damn cool; Capcom’s design team rarely disappoints. Levels are fairly expansive, and the backgrounds don’t look bad. Some enemies are too tiny to appreciate their detail, but you’re usually too busy blasting them than to pay attention to how they look. The graphics are easily the best feature of the game. The sounds and background music are pretty good, but nothing spectacular; just standard action game fare, really.
It’s a shame that Mega Man X‘s first 3D game had to be saddled with so many problems. The aforementioned gameplay issues are coupled with annoying loading times, piss-poor English dialogue (thank God you can set it to Japanese with subtitles), and cutscenes that can’t be skipped, even if you’ve seen them before. To top it all off, there’s this: I mentioned earlier that the opening stage features Axl and Zero. Well, even after you meet up with X, you still can’t use him! X isn’t “unlocked” until later. That’s rather irritating, since this is a Mega Man X game, after all. You’d think the title character would be usable right away!
Gameplay – 6
Graphics – 8
Sound – 7.5
Fun Factor – 6