Mega Man X, a symbol for gaming in the eyes of many fans of the series has once again come to the latest console generation with new features and smooth gameplay that we’ll dive into a little later. Firstly being introduced on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Capcom released Mega Man (Rockman in Japan) in 1987. It was directed by Akira Kitamura with Nobuyuki Matsushima as lead programmer. Mega Man, over the years has gained more then its fair share of fans, has sprouted speed-run charity sites and is a hit at any cosplay event.
The series undergoes a few significant changes with graphical updates and improved visuals. The X series introduced several new features to the fast-paced action platforming Mega Man franchise, such as powerful armor upgrades, wall-jumping, and more mature themes. It’s a great way to take a ride through gaming history and look at the development of video games over the years. For this review I decided to break this collection down in terms of advances in the games and how they have changed. The series begins as you, playing the robot humanoid famously known as Mega Man, in the war between good and evil against the madman known as Dr. Wily.
Mega man has always been free to player select and allows the player to choose which level to complete before moving on. Typically there are 6-8 levels per game with a main boss and multiple mini-boss fights within, that to say these games do not lack in bad guys to kill with some of them being quite inventive, usually based on a type of animal each with their own individual special power, which Mega Man can use after defeating. There are also body power ups scattered throughout the levels, in which collecting them all can unlock something pretty special. Mega Man also packs a bit of nostalgia in the form of filters, the option to change from a smooth modern day look to the retro look of the CRT television.
The games come with a neat ‘Rookie Hunter Mode’ feature that allows the player to cruise through the games while receiving little to no damage and making them much easier to complete. I used this setting to view the most from the games before reviewing but I also did try normal mode, which still today is hard as ever, with missiles and enemies constantly surrounding you, sometimes your only option is to take a hit and run with limited invincibility and even then you hope your lives last. And if that’s not enough to keep you down, the game has an ultimate Mega Man X Challenge Mode which offers multiple boss fights and online leaderboards… if you think your “Mega” enough.
Mega Man X 1, 2 & 3
The first three games are very much in comparison with each other, all three similar in gameplay and visuals although the games have received a great overhaul and show the advances from an NES game to SNES, and so on. I remember the original background being a simple blue screen but now the pixelated city backdrop glides along as you run the level. Enemies also have improved visuals but still stay faithful to the originals. Sound is kept to the typical 16-bit theme music, which over-time can become monotonous, especially if you’re repeating a certain level over and over.
The original cut-scenes which appear throughout the game are also just as tedious, but remember, being a game from the 90s this is all they had to work with and was all the rave at the time. The only real difference between these games is the introduction of Zero, another character in the series which offers help and guidance for Mega Man, and in the later games becomes a playable character who also undergoes a variety of changes.
Mega Man X 4, 5 & 6
The next era of games provides a whole new look for the robot hero, making him slightly larger in screen size and somewhat chunkier than the look of the last games. Cut-scenes are also improved with the addition of animated movies and voice overs instead of the annoying 8-bit typewriter noise of the past. The addition of close-to-3D backgrounds are a nice touch, even though they might come off as tacky, it’s a nice try in bringing a different feel to the games. Zero, the red character, has well and truly played a part and is now a regular playable character in the series with his own set of powers and moves.
Also added are the survivors, which if saved, will grant you a power-up or health. The characters now also have a voice and a sound for landing on the ground with your feet, which kind of stands out considering while you jump (which you always are doing) all you hear is huh, thud, huh, thud, and you get the picture. Apart from this the story continues and a new threat has overridden the city in the form of Sigma; a mad scientist robot looking to get revenge on Mega Man and associates, but all is not lost, as a new playable character Axl comes into play.
Mega Man X 7 & 8
Bam… 3D time! With both games starting out as very nice looking 3D side-scrollers, they quickly shift into a full on 3rd person shoot’em up with full 360 view and 3D levels. The game chops and changes throughout and adds a new element to Mega Man, although me myself, I’m unsure about the change, though, I’m sure kids of today will get a blast out of these. The sound is now how it should be with sword slashes and explosions sounding legit and offers fluid gameplay as it should. The Animation for cut-scenes have been improved as well as another whole new look for our playable heroes. Definitely a great remodel for a game of yesteryear.
Today, Mega Man X still holds up as an iconic symbol for gamers around the world and will always be considered a masterpiece no matter how old it gets. With today’s gaming being so intense and in your face its hard to know where it all started, but I’m glad these old fables are being kept alive. If you’d like to check out the history of Mega Man X, a museum within features original series artwork, catalogs of collectible merchandise, a music-player filled with new and original tunes, plus a fully voiced and animated short film that serves as a prologue to the events of Mega Man X.
Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2 offers a great blast from the past, complete with new and upgraded features as well as some additional extras, such as the history-rich museum mode, added modifiers and more. The gameplay is solid and is still as hard as ever, offering a real old-school and varying challenge, if you so choose it.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One X. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.