This article was originally published at Kombo.com on February 6, 2006.
Capcom has taken a little blue robot named Mega Man and spun him off into numerous iterations and variations over the years. Want a Mega Man who lives in a data network? Check. How about a Mega Man who works as a digger? Done. Desire a futuristic Mega Man swimming in personal angst while blasting enemy robots with powerful weapons? Then you’re in luck. Mega Man X brought the Mega Man franchise into the 16-bit world way back in 1993, extending the popular franchise for the first time and starting another popular gaming series. Eventually X and the entire cast of characters – Zero, Sigma, Vile, and more Mavericks then one could shake a stick at – would become just as beloved and profitable as the original Mega Man and Rush. With nearly a dozen games under his belt, the time has come to look back on Mega Man X's gaming career. Capcom has taken the first six games in the series and loaded them into a compilation disc for the Nintendo GameCube and the Sony PlayStation 2 as Mega Man X Collection.
- Includes the first six Mega Man X games from the Super NES and Sony PlayStation eras
- Mega Man X (Super NES, 1993)
- Mega Man X2 (Super NES, 1995)
- Mega Man X3 (Sony PlayStation, 1996)
- Mega Man X4 (Sony PlayStation, 1998)
- Mega Man X5 (Sony PlayStation, 2000)
- Mega Man X6 (Sony PlayStation, 2001)
- Each game is presented in its original format
- Animated clips move the story forward
- Unlock remixed music clips, production art, and game hints
- Save your progress to a memory card or use passwords like the good old days (for games that support them)
- Mega Man Battle and Chase, the blue bomber’s only racing game, is an unlockable extra
The Day Of Sigma
When scientist Dr. Cain unearths Mega Man X sometime in the not-too-distant future, he begins producing new sentient robots based on X’s design. These replicated robots – Reploids – have a nasty habit of turning against their human creators. These Mavericks must be terminated, and it is Mega Man X who leads the charge alongside fellow robot Zero to bring peace back to the planet after the former leader of the Maverick Hunter squad, Sigma, becomes a Maverick himself. Mega Man X builds off of the familiar and fun formula that made the original Mega Man series so popular. X can do everything the original Mega Man can do, but better. He walks, he jumps, and he shoots. He can also dash for short distances and kick his way up vertical walls. His mission is to engage and destroy the Mavericks that are causing unrest and destruction, and in the Mega Man tradition X gains new abilities by defeating these Mavericks. X can also power up further by finding hidden capsules left behind by the late Dr. Light, X’s creator. Each capsule contains a holographic message from the scientist and an upgrade for one of X’s basic systems: legs, body, helmet, and arm cannon. The basic formula and structure of each game in the Mega Man X series is established here in the first game. X must destroy eight charismatic animaloid Mavericks such as Chill Penguin and Armored Armadillo, power up his own systems, and track Sigma through several "fortress" levels to a final confrontation. While the original Mega Man X is the easiest in the collection, it is the most pure in terms of gameplay. X games may come and go, but it seems as if this is the one most people remember with a happy nostalgic glow. Each sequel will add new elements and tweak the basic formula, leading to mixed results.
Rise Of The X-Hunters
When a new group of Mavericks organize as the X-Hunters in order to hunt down and destroy Mega Man X, our hero goes back into action to stop the threat. Following closely to the original gameplay style and formula established in the first game, Mega Man X2 adds new elements to the madness. X’s friend and mentor, Zero, was destroyed at the conclusion of the previous game, and now the X-Hunters have collected his broken parts. They move between levels, and if X can find each of the three hunters and defeat them, he’ll recover one of Zero’s parts. Whether or not X succeeds in reviving Zero shapes the game’s final showdown. Much of Mega Man X2's gameplay follows the solid formula set down by the first game: destroy the eight Mavericks (including foes such as Overdrive Ostrich and Morph Moth), gather enhancements, and destroy Sigma. The inclusion of the three X-Hunters – Agile, Serges, and Violen – and their own search for Zero’s parts is an optional side quest in that players need never engage them and recover Zero to complete the game. Going to the trouble to reactive X’s old friend does lead to a slightly different ending, however. Unfortunately, this game includes the first taste of speedbike action that will later factor more heavily into the series.
The Magnificent Battle Body
With Sigma seemingly out of the way, a Reploid scientist called Doppler goes Maverick. He begins work on a massive mechanical battle body designed to destroy all humans. The Maverick Hunters to go work against this latest threat, taking on Mavericks such as Blast Hornet and Toxic Seahorse. Leaving the Super NES era behind, Mega Man X3 introduces animated clips to drive portions of the story and is the first entry in the series released for the Sony PlayStation. Fans that have never played this version of the game will enjoy the remixed music that does away with the Super NES version’s synth guitar sounds in favor of a full orchestra. Its gameplay is still based on the established formula, but there have been a few more tweaks. The most significant change is that Zero is a playable character for the first time. Players can bring him in once per level for no more than one-third of a level, he cannot fight bosses or Mavericks, and if he runs out of energy or is otherwise seriously damaged, he’s out of action for the rest of the game. Players may cling to him early in the game when X is still underpowered, but when X finds his enhancements and picks up a few Maverick weapons Zero suddenly becomes a large slow target by comparison. Speaking of enhancements, another change to the formula introduces additional enhancement capsules. While X can still use the four traditional power-up capsules for his helmet, body, arm cannon, and legs, he can also choose from one of four additional enhancements. For instance, a double-enhancement for his legs allows him to dash twice in the air instead of just once. X can only take one of these extra enhancements though, so players will have to choose carefully.
He Left With A Space Fortress To Conquer The Air
When the Repliforce throws off the shackles of human oppression and leaves for space to start their own nation, the Maverick Hunters declare the army Mavericks. The tense situation is made worse when a Maverick causes the floating Sky Lagoon to crash into a major city, killing all the humans below. With a familiar force manipulating events from the background, X and Zero go to work once again. Mega Man X4 represents a complete change in visual and gameplay style, as for the first time the series has been designed from the ground up for 32-bit consoles. Animated segments are plentiful, showing the conflict from both sides and even a flashback that reveals just how Sigma became a Maverick, plus the game’s visual style has been redrawn making characters larger than in previous games. There are larger enemies, bigger explosions, and more talkative Mavericks (such as Storm Owl and Cyber Peacock).
In terms of gameplay the reliable formula has been tweaked again. X and Zero are now completely different playable characters with their own storylines, so to see both plots players will need to complete the game once with each character. X’s gameplay is largely unchanged. Enhancement capsules are still scattered around (although now Dr. Light’s messages refer to current events even though he is supposedly dead), too. Zero is the new element. His attack style is based on sword maneuvers with his energy saber, requiring him to attack enemies from up close instead of from a distance as X can with his arm cannon. Defeating Mavericks gives Zero new techniques such as a double-jump ability or a spinning saber slash instead of distinct weapons. Unfortunately, while X4 has many bright spots, it has a few sour points. There are a few odd translation gaffes scattered around, such as the use of the term "Irregular Hunter" instead of "Maverick Hunter" (in Japanese Mavericks are known as Irregulars, hence the error). Jet Stingray’s level is not a traditional Mega Man level but is instead a speedbike level that includes forced scrolling, meaning that one mistimed jump results in a frustrating death. These are minor quibbles, but still worth noting.
Should We Call This The Zero Virus?
When Sigma returns from space and tricks X and Zero into spreading the Sigma Virus across the planet, Reploids everywhere start to go Maverick. Worse, the orbiting space colony Eurasia has been set to crash into Earth in mere hours. Earth’s only hope is the old Enigma laser that can potentially blast the colony to bits before impact, but it’s missing some key parts held hostage by eight new Mavericks. Mega Man X5 represents the start of the downturn of the series, as yet more formula changes starts to overcomplicate the gameplay. X and Zero can be swapped out as the playable character between levels and X starts the game with the enhancements from X4. There are eight enhancement capsules scattered around the game, but newly gained enhancements do not go into effect once they are earned. Instead of ala carte enhancements the new abilities are grouped into sets of four, each of which is a special armor. The Falcon Armor, for instance, allows limited flight and increased agility, while the Gaea Armor is built for defense. These new enhancements must be collected in total before becoming available, and in order to get them all X will need most of the weapons earned by defeating Mavericks. This means that the armors are not generally available until the end of the game, diminishing their worth somewhat. There’s also a hidden Ultimate Armor locked away for curious explorers to find, but it too comes very late in the game. A ticking clock is also introduced to the series in X5. Each time X or Zero exit a level one hour is deducted from the colony crash deadline. If time runs out, the colony crashes into the planet. There’s enough time to find the required parts for the Enigma laser before that happens, but being prodded by the game to work faster becomes irritating after a while.
Speaking of irritation, a new character to the series, Alia, is constantly chattering about upcoming hazards. Action stops for her text boxes to scroll by, her speeches loaded with obvious and unhelpful hints. She also prattles on at the end of each level that it’s important to find weapons that cause damage to enemies. It’s the same speech each and every time and cannot be skipped. In fact, there’s a lot of talking in X5. Mavericks talk to X and Zero before fighting, trading insults that generally do not make much sense. The animated clips are a thing of the past now as the storyline unfolds with lots of text and pictures of the speaker. Dialog is oddly translated, with plenty of "the" and "was" inserted in awkward places. For some reason there are instances of the words "get" and "if" that are spelled with a numeric "8". It’s very sloppy and an example of the kind of thing that should have been cleaned up for this re-release. The strangest aspect of the game is that the Mavericks have very out-of-character names. Mavericks of games past have names such as "Sting Chameleon" or "Bubble Crab". X5’s Mavericks are named after members of the band Guns ‘n’ Roses in the American translation, turning names like "Spiral Pegasus" into "The Skiver" and "Spike Rosered" into "Axle the Red". The new names can take players out of the game, as they just don’t fit the tone of the series. Again, this is something that should have been cleaned up.
Curiously, X5 contains a number of nods and references to not only previous games in the X series, but in the original Mega Man series as well. Some of the background music is reused and remixed from previous games and another annoying speedbike level is included. The Rangda Bangda "wall eyes" boss from the original Mega Man X also returns. However, the most interesting reuse comes during the "fortress" stages. Sigma refers to having met "an old man" who can only be Dr. Wily, the primary villain of the original series. As such, there are many Wily-influenced elements in the final levels, such as a near-remake of Quick Man’s level from Mega Man 2 (complete with laser beams), an appearance of the Shadow Devil / Rock Monster boss from Mega Man and Mega Man 3 (with remixed battle music), and some subtle and not-so-subtle uses of the infamous "Dr. W" logo.
The Nightmare Is Upon Us
Three weeks after the Eurasia incident a Reploid scientist named Gate picks through the remains of the space colony that have fallen to Earth. While gathering debris he comes across a broken fragment of Sigma’s body, transferring the Sigma Virus to him and starting the madness all over again. Then the Nightmares come, turning Reploids Maverick and causing general unrest. With Zero presumed dead, X attempts to solve the mystery of the Nightmares. Ending not with a bang but with a whimper, Mega Man X6 is the low point of the compilation, as by now the series is buckling under the weight of changes to the basic formula and story elements that do not make sense overall. Scattered throughout the eight main levels are Nightmares – tentacled floating Mavericks that prey upon helpless Reploids. X must destroy the Nightmares before they infect nearby Reploids trapped nearby. The catch is that the game tracks which Reploids are rescued and which are not. The problem with this is that some Reploids give X helpful enhancement parts when rescued, and failing to rescue a Reploid with a certain part (and players don’t know which Reploids have parts until it’s too late to do anything for them) means that X cannot acquire that particular upgrade. Since the final levels of the game require certain upgrades to pass, this means that for the first time in a Mega Man game it is possible to simply not be able to finish the game based on past performance.
Moreover, the eight main levels are poorly designed. Consider the Recycle Lab where the ceiling constantly presses up and down on the ground (fans of Mega Man 4 will remember Dust Man’s level with a similar gimmick). Every few steps X has to stop moving and duck to avoid destruction. Often a Nightmare or other enemy will attack while X is crouched, causing him to automatically stand and be destroyed. Other times there are deadly spikes attached to the falling ceiling. Being crushed by the ceiling is already deadly, so why does it need the spikes, too? There are plenty of other levels with similar design issues. The magma level contains a minimum of four (count ‘em, four) encounters with the same mid-level boss, a giant robotic wheel with a massive energy meter. The ice level is packed with avalanches that cause heavy damage every few seconds, leading to another situation similar to the falling ceiling in the Recycle Lab. The Laser Institute features a large battle robot in the background that constantly shoots at X in the foreground. Issues like these and plenty of others make X6 an exercise in frustration and annoyance.
Drive For Everlasting Peace
Players who complete Mega Man X, X2, and X3 unlock a bonus seventh game on the disc, Mega Man Battle and Chase. Battle and Chase is the Mega Man racing game for the Sony PlayStation that was originally released only in Europe and Japan in 1997. It is based around the original Mega Man series and not Mega Man X which makes its inclusion here a little puzzling, but let us not look a gift game in the mouth. This is the only game on the disc that supports two-player play. The bulk of the game is the Grand Prix mode in which Mega Man, his friends, and his enemies race around basic racetracks built around generic elements such as a city, an ice field, a canyon, and so forth in a familiar Mario Kart-style fashion. Playable characters include the usual cast of characters (Mega Man, Roll, Bass, Proto Man) and a few Robot Masters (such as Quick Man, Shadow Man, Spring Man, Ice Man, and others). Each character drives a custom car comprised of four basic parts: Body, Engine, Tire, and Wing. After each race the winner gets to take one part off of the car that finished in second place, and the idea is to collect enough car parts to build the ultimate custom racer. On the whole, Battle and Chase is a fun little game. The racetracks themselves are simple circular affairs with the occasional hole or hazard. Metools and safety cones are scattered about, and a power-up is awarded for every ten that a player drives over. Power-ups include speed boosts, shields, bombs, and a rather familiar lightning bolt. The top four-fifths of the screen features the race, while the bottom fifth contains a limited rearview mirror or alternate camera angle. Aside from the Grand Prix mode there are time attack options and a two-player challenge available for play. A few hidden characters are even unlockable after completing certain goals.
Maverick Hunters, Unite!
Stepping back from the details for a moment, Mega Man X Collection offers fans of both the character and 2D side-scrolling platformers in general three really great games, two good games, one average game, and one exercise in frustration. Mega Man X, X2, and X3 are the shining stars here and are highly recommended. The series just does not age well once the developers change the reliable gameplay formula and try to emphasize plot over action. For a MSRP of $30 this is one compilation worth picking up just for those three games. Consider the rest to be fun hit-and--miss diversions: sometimes fun, sometimes confusing, and sometimes infuriating.