Published on March 28th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
Mega Man X
- Between these two characters, X and Zero, you can’t for the life of you remember what the words “wimp,” “stale,” or “colorless” mean…
Year: 1993 // System: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, MS-DOS, mobile phones, Virtual Console, PlayStation Portable, Android, iOS // Publisher & Developer: Capcom // Producer: Tokuro Fujiwara // Genre: Platformer
>>>Normally I’d contemplate and create an eye-catching subtitle that summarizes my analysis of the game. But for Mega Man X, all I need is the title. It’s just that legendary. And the gameplay lives up to that legend.
I cannot stress enough the flawless consistency of design in this game. Everything flows perfectly, and the challenges are justified. It retains the classic hard-as-nails mentality of the original Mega Man series while creating a control scheme and a set of power-ups that allow you to evade enemies twice as often. Mega Man was revolutionary for changing how players learn a game by preparing the player for each individual challenge before immersing him or her into the challenge while reminding the player that it his or her fault if he or she screws up, and not that of the designers (The first Zelda could claim no such honor). Mega Man X, as the first true “sequel” to the classic series, sought to not only rearrange how a player learned the game, but also to combine gameplay with a revolutionary aspect that was catching on in videogames in the early to mid-nineties: storyline! Sure, sure, storyline and gameplay usually go hand-in-hand in creating some of the most memorable old-school titles (see Resident Evil, Metal Gear, and Final Fantasy VII-X), but normally the storyline sought to enhance or rationalize the gameplay that was stashed in between cu-tscenes. In these memorable games, you oftentimes played TO GET TO the story ( a la cut-scenes). In Mega Man X, you were PLAYING the story.
Although I am borrowing profusely from Egoraptor’s exceptional comments regarding Mega Man X, I have played through the game as well as the original Mega Man, and although MMX certainly has a harder set of bosses when you start out with zero power-ups, I could not find a single issue with controls of gameplay mechanics. In fact, MMX displayed improved organization by having you play through an introductory level as opposed to throwing you into the level select screen, as was the norm in Mega Man classic. The intro stage in MMX was, without directly quoting but paraphrasing Egoraptor’s opinion, absolutely brilliant. Although it’s up to you to guess what each button does, you immediately figure out the controls because the game ingeniously gives you a step-by-step procedure for handling the basic challenges that come together to create MMX. First off, a wall on your immediate left indicates that you need to move right to advance (on the street of whatever city you are currently in). Next, a rolling wheel blade with an angry face comes after you. You clear this guy by jumping over him. The next obstacle you face is a huge machine with missiles and electric wheels that slide across the floor. You cannot jump over him, so the best way to handle this menacing robot is to shoot him to pieces (with your lemon shots). Next, you face a lineup of flying machines that challenge you to JUMP-AND-SHOOT at the same time to take them down. Not much later do you face the first of many minibosses, who is complemented by a series of camera heads with ostrich-like legs. The only way you can take those tall-walking enemies down is if you shoot out their eyes, or their sweet spots (which tells you that several enemies will require you to take them down via sweet spots).
The two flying minibosses (or bumblebees) introduce you to the concept of wall-jumping when their platform falls and you have nothing to do but jump on the walls- only to realize you slowly slide down without dropping straight to the ground. So you can essentially spam-jump along a wall until you reach the top. Wall jumping, by the way, is extremely vital in giving you more control over your character functions and allowing you some breathing room when taking on steep pits. The ability to wall-jump out of certain doom is like hitting a rather effective panic button. Wall jumping also allows for unique vertical challenges in MMX (especially the tower level and the lead-up to the mechanical spider) that the original games tried but could not execute with precision.
In returning to the introductory level, your character continues on (having faced minibosses without life bars), takes down a series of hard-charging relentless cars, and comes across an intimidating purple-clad robot in a lethal walking tank of endless destruction. Right from the get-go, this villain is relentless, and extremely agile. He has no life bar, so given that the minibosses didn’t have a life bar, you’re thinking that maybe MMX did away with showing the life of the bosses as they did in Mega Man classic. You can lay hits on the end-level boss (his name is Vile) but you have no way of telling if you are affecting him, and on top of everything, there is no wall for you to jump off of to evade his horizontal bull rushes.
So you’ve come so far in learning the game through the designer’s strategic placement of enemies and obstacles. Now you’re seeing that everything you’ve learned isn’t helping you defeat this ruthless villain. But before you can die, he locks you down in an electric bind, and he hoists you up as if he’s about to snap you’re neck (and you’re thinking that, as elaborate this display of death is, you’re going to die). But then, you hear the sound of a charging cannon, and if you didn’t know what that sound is, you quickly find out as a more powerful shot than the quick-button lemons sweeps across and disables Vile momentarily, freeing you. Suddenly, a red robot with flowing hair dashes on-screen and fires a shot at Vile before the boss runs away. Even though Zero misses, he still looks cool, having rushed in and saved your life. And he was so powerful in challenging Vile, that you see this guy and you think, “Man, he’s so cool! I hope I get to play him later in the game!” Zero even frames the goal of the game in terms of idolization by telling Mega Man the following: you haven’t tapped into your potential yet, but when you do, you will become as powerful as me.”
So by playing the story and feeling the frustration of Mega Man X’s failure to defeat Vile, you have a tangible goal of becoming as powerful as Zero in order to defeat Vile. And how do you do this? Why, by selecting the challenges, of course! MMX makes you truly earn your keep in focusing on defeating Vile by having you map out your own path to the overarching nemesis, Sigma, instead of following a linear sequence of levels as is the case for Castlevania. Although you do not find out how each level plays out until you experiment in jumping around in each level and facing each boss, you decide based on your style of play how a certain level weighs on you in terms of difficulty. Clearly the ice level is intended as the beginner’s level (or the level you can complete without power-ups), and this is namely because of the fact that you find an armor upgrade midway through standard progression, unlike in other levels where you have to seek out secret rooms and find the upgrades. the upgrades definitely empower you in your mission to become like Zero and destroy Vile and Sigma, because you have to FIND these upgrades. They are not handed to you except for the dash ability, which enables a faster in-game flow. Even so, I love that you can play the levels in any order, with your inability to defeat some bosses notifying you of your continued to quest to become stronger through the upgrades and weapon power-ups in order to defeat those bosses which are strong, but not as powerful as Vile. For example, the very first boss I faced was Sting Chameleon. Without the dash ability or any power-ups, I could not move fast enough to evade his versatile attacks or rack up enough damage before running out of time. As a matter of fact, I had tried Sting Chameleon countless times, but it took me to defeat the rest of the bosses, find the armor upgrade, and then use the cutting boomerang on Sting Chameleon to finally bring him down (my health, by the way, was down to one bar, so even with the right weapon, S.C. was still extremely powerful. He has quickly become my favorite boss for MMX just for epitomizing the overarching theme of completing a journey to defeat Vile within the gameplay of the regular set of levels.
Controls are fluid and ahead of their time in MMX. All three normal moves- jumping, dashing, and shooting- can be combined with each other in any order and at any time to create a variety of different options for the player in taking out baddies, evading tricky barriers, or eluding dangerous spikes. Jumping is still highly responsive to the player’s button input (a light tapping registers as a faint hop; a holding down of the button will trigger the highest and longest jump sustained by X) while dashing, which was not present in Mega Man, allows the player to move faster, create bigger jumps that synchronize with dashing, and combine with wall jumps to add to X’s defense! Dashing and wall-jumping came together to give the players a deeper in-game experience, because now levels could be longer as players could progress faster, and they could encompass multiple levels as the players could not wall-jump to higher areas and seek out hidden powerups. The levels were amazing in their construction and excellent in their play-out. The neatest feature to discover was how the levels link together (which you could predict through observing the map of all the levels place next to one another) in creating after-effects that flow into other levels. For example, if you defeated the penguin in the ice level, than if you went to the fire level starring the mammoth, the bottom layer of fire froze into a non-threatening underpass that you could use to clear the entire first third of the fire level without taking a scratch! If you took out Storm Eagle, then the power flickered in Spark Mandrill’s stage with the electrical pulses in the floors disappearing. Also, in the rainforest, if you challenged the secret boss hiding in a cavern and you defeated him to receive the armor upgrade, then the under-passage you had to take in order to advance did NOT rain rocks down on you!!!
Sequencing was wonderfully thought out and suggestive in having you play though again to see what changes occurred in the levels based on your success in other levels. And if you read the story or watch the endgame sequences, you can’t help but think that a cinematic presentation of each plot point would have sealed this game’s fate as one of the greatest games in existence…recognized by the mainstream. Egoraptor helped draw serious attention to this game’s exceptional qualities with his poignant sequelitis review, and although I would have liked to know how each weapon affected the enemies beforehand, I support his enthusiastic rave and declare this videogame perfection with every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed. This is a game that will humbly make its way into whatever Hall of Fame gets taken seriously as the marker for the greatest games to ever exist.
Challenge: 10/Classic- Each level is perfectly balanced between level progression and the big bad boss at the end. For example, the vertical tower to reach the boomerang ninja is the hardest to survive, but the ninja is easy to clear. Sting Chameleon was a frustrating boss, but the road leading up to him was relatively easy to figure out and predict. The pacing in Storm Eagle’s level was rapid and exhilarating, but as long as you maintained your dashing speed, defeating Storm Eagle himself was a matter of maintaining your patience, distance, and time until you amassed enough hits to destroy him.
Handling: 10/Classic- Controls don’t get any tighter or more responsive than they do in MMX. You can control the exact amount of time you’re in the air with your jumps, how far you travel with your jumps, how far your dashing abilities carry you, and how much power you exact from each blast out of your buster. Oh, and it helps you can still change your jumping direction in mid-air as well as dash while wall-jumping to wall-jump even further, especially in the vertical sequence leading up to the spider.
Innovation: 10/Classic- Wall-jumping and dashing went pretty far in changing the entire feel of the Mega Man series. Also, having to find power-ups in order to live up to the motif of the story on your own was a nice touch in placing your destiny in your hands, while giving you a compelling story to work with.
Core Experience: 10/Classic- This is a bright and vivid game with an excellent color palette, flashy aggressive gameplay, music that will stick with you until the end, exceptional empathy with your character through playing as your character rather than just watching pop-out cut-scenes with X as the star, and some awesome characters, especially Zero. Man, I did not know he was on Aeris’s level…oh wait, was that a spoiler I just revealed?
OVERALL: 10/Classic- Mega Man X is a flawless game that capitalized on every single ability it mapped out for your character to use. Everything about the game, from the story to the bosses to the weapons to the upgrades, was lively and engaging. This game never stopped being dull because there was always something to find, and it was always thrilling to beat down on the villains with your awesome Mega skills.