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SummaryWh-why must I continue to fight? *Sob*A-boo hoo hoo.
The GoodAw yes, Mega Man is back, and now he’s on the Super Nintendo and more X-treme than ever. That’s what the X stands for, I’d imagine. I’d like to clarify that the X isn’t a roman numeral in this instance and it doesn’t mean ten, which seems to be a common misconception. Mega Man X distinguishes itself as its own series by setting itself a hundred years in the future of the original Mega Man titles. Yes indeed, instead of the year 20XX, we find ourselves joining a brand new blue bomber in the year 21XX! Also, instead of playing as a robot child wearing his robo-undies outside his jumpsuit, we get to play as a robot teenager wearing his robo-undies outside his jumpsuit! How much more X-treme can you get?
On the surface, Mega Man X’s gameplay is roughly the same as the original series’. However, the things that have been added change the experience quite a bit. In the original series, Mega Man only obtained power-ups by defeating bosses, while in X, health and armor upgrades as well as sub-tanks (which essentially replace the E-tanks found in the original Mega Mans series) are hidden throughout the stages. This makes exploring the levels extremely satisfying. As soon as I found my first piece of armor, I was hooked.
The biggest, and most game changing addition to Mega Man X is the wall jump. This is no ordinary Super Metroid style wall jump, either, oh no. Not only can Mega Man leap back and forth between walls Batman style, but he can also ascend a single wall simply by repeatedly humping it. This makes vertical exploration a cinch, and also provides you a way to survive a slightly misjudged leap. Another interesting addition is an armor upgrade that gives you the ability to dash forward which can be coupled with a jump to clear larger distances. This makes boss battles more exciting and allows you to get around faster than in classic Mega Man games.
The bosses are a hell of a lot more fun to fight. The robot masters are all new, and now they follow a different naming scheme than the one found in the original Mega Man titles. Instead of merely being robot men, the X series masters are robot animals. The result is even more interesting boss battles. What you wind up with are bosses like Chill Penguin and Storm Eagle. Yeah, that’s way cooler than Dust Man and Plant Man. Plus, there’s a lot more variety to their attacks. Their battles feel a lot more action packed and frantic and there’s a lot less emphasis on having the right weapon at the right time.
Mega Man X benefits from the generation jump to the SNES quite a bit. Everything in the game absolutely pops. The stages are colourful, the music rocks, more enemies are packed on screen and the characters are detailed. The graphics are tremendously clean and cartoony and the animations are actually quite detailed. It still retains the charm that the original Mega Man series had, but everything is amped up. It’s faster, more exciting, and more action packed. It truly feels like an upgrade to the old formula.
The BadMega Man X’s storyline works quite well. It’s barely there and doesn’t get in the way of gameplay. Plus it provides an interesting link to the original Mega Man titles. However, I think I hate every character in the game. I understand that most of them were created in the image of teenagers, but do they have to act that way? There’s so much eye-roll inducing angst in many of the cut-scenes. How am I supposed to feel like a bad-ass when X acts like such a pussy in every scene? Why can’t a character die without first giving a speech about how they can’t believe they were defeated? I also don’t like Zero, but I’m not sure why. I think it’s the pony-tail. For the longest time I thought he was a woman until a friend very angrily informed me I was mistaken. I think the only character who promotes empathy is the long-deceased Doctor Light.
The gameplay’s change in focus from precision platforming to combat seems to have had a detrimental effect on the game’s difficulty. Mega Man X is a lot easier than its NES counterparts. It’s quite simple to complete a stage without dying, and even all the robot masters can be defeated with nothing but the X-buster. Spikes still kill you in a single hit, but they’re a lot less common than in the original series, and they’re easier to clear with help from the dash jump. That’s not to say the game is completely without challenge, quite the contrary. However, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Mega Man games on the NES. Well, actually Mega Man 6 was pretty easy, so it’s a close call.
Either the level designs just don’t seem to take the dash jump into account, or the developers couldn’t find a good way to deal with it. X can practically jump an entire screen’s length, what can you do to add pitfalls that don’t result in leaps of faith? It also doesn’t help that you can usually climb your way out of bottomless pits if you don’t make a jump. To the game’s credit, the wall hopping and dash jumps are crazy fun, but the levels just feel unchallenging. Still, I think it’s a fine trade-off. Perhaps they should have used more moving hazards that require you to use your agility to outrun them.
Powering up can be a pain in the butt. Mega Man X is a lot less elegant with its power-ups than later games in the series. Like any Mega Man game, you can choose the order in that you play the levels in. In Mega Man X, however, one level stands out as the level you must start with. It’s the level that contains the dash boots. Although later games in the X series start you out with the dash boots, they are shameless placed right in your path on a particular level and since they’re so important, you’d be dumb not to start there.
Finally, I have one more small complaint. For some reason, the HUD is positioned directly over top of where the walls are during a boss encounter. It’s not a huge problem but it does obscure the action quite a bit. You use the walls to climb and dodge and not being able to see them is a problem. Yes, you can always assume that there’s a wall behind your health bar and no, there isn’t going to be anything hiding behind your energy gauge, but they do get right in the way. Even if the HUD was slightly transparent, that would be a huge improvement.
The Bottom LineI sometimes get a certain craving for a game that only the Mega Man X series (on the SNES) can fill. They’re fast paced, they control extremely well, and I can complete them in one sitting. Frankly, I can’t imagine my video game collection NOT having Mega Man X. Okay, so I’m probably a bit biased. You could call me a fanboy of Mega Man and the X series, although that fandom ends for me right after X3 when the series left the SNES and started to take itself way too seriously. Still, Mega Man X is a gem on the SNES that I wasn’t able to play back in the system’s heyday.
Is Mega Man X better than the original NES classics? Um, sort of, but in a different way. While the classic Mega Man titles were great because they were well tuned and challenging, Mega Man X is great because it’s so slick and satisfying. The first Mega Man X is the easiest to find in the SNES trilogy, and it was also released on DOS, included in the Mega Man X Collection, and remade on the PSP. If you’re a fan of Mega Man, give this game a try. If you’re not, you should still give this game a try. Mega Man X is an OUTSTANDING game.