Mega Man X
  • Genres:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    • JP 12/17/1993
    • US 01/01/1994
    • UK 08/25/1994
Score: 95%

This review was published on 11/05/2007.

After so many 8-bit Mega Man games were released on the NES, Capcom decided to break from tradition and release a new and improved Mega Man for the new and improved Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Mega Man X is Capcom's attempt to breathe in new life to a franchise that grew stale after countless of nearly identical iterations, and they succeeded with flying colors. Colors that fly in 16-bit, that is. Of course, Mega Man X is more of a new franchise altogether. It brings a slew of improvements to the core Mega Man formula without destroying the basics laid down by its predecessor series.

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Mega Man X is graphically a much darker, more atmospheric game than its predecessors with a greater emphasis on a serious story line. As you can probably tell, Mega Man X is the name of the robotic protagonist, and he is known throughout the series as simply "X." Dr. Light, the creator of the original Mega Man, created X as the successor to the blue bomber of old. X is supposed to be a new kind of robot that has the free will to make its own decisions. Dr. Light doesn't live long enough to see his creation to fruition, so an archaeologist by the name of Dr. Cain digs up X's capsule in the distant future. Dr. Cain then starts making robots based on X's design and calls them "Reploids." Disaster strikes when Dr. Cain's robots soon go berserk and start attacking human civilization. Maybe it's not such a good idea for an archaeologist to dabble in the field of robotics, after all. Sigma, one of the Dr. Cain's berserk Reploids, is the main villain this time around. Oddly enough, Sigma's job was initially to lead an elite unit of Reploids known as the Maverick Hunters to hunt down the bad guys, but then he and the Reploids under his command became the bad guys themselves. In any case, it's up to X to handle this situation with the delicacy of a charged shot to the face. X is not alone in this adventure, as he is assisted by a mysterious robot with long hair by the name of Zero. Another notable character is Vile, the Boba Fett look-a-like who acts as X's rival. There is enough going on in the story to make it interesting, yet most of the game's story is hidden away in the manual if this isn't your thing. It's not the best story in the world, but it's pretty cool for an action game.

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The music went from catchy 8-bit techno tunes from the NES Mega Man games to a rock motif that takes advantage of the SNES' improved sound chip. I have to say, they did an extraordinary job on the soundtrack. Every track in this game is solid gold. No, scratch that; every track is platinum. You have masterpieces like the patriotic theme to Storm Eagle's futuristic airport, and then you have a stealthy number in Boomer Kuwanger's sewer level. It's not all rock tunes, so there's a nice amount of musical variety in the game. All of it is very catchy, naturally. You can't have a Mega Man game without catchy, memorable music, and Mega Man X has that more than covered. Music is one of those things that the Mega Man franchise has always done well, but I would say Mega Man X is the pinnacle of good Mega Man music. I'm not alone on this, either. I know people who don't like this game, and even they reluctantly admit that the music is spectacular. It just goes to show you what the SNES is capable of when it comes to awesome tunes. The sound effects are quite nice, as well. I love the dramatic explosion sound effects whenever a Maverick is defeated. If this were any other game, I might complain about how drawn out every boss' death animation is, but I enjoy every second of it. There's just something really satisfying about trumping a challenging boss and then watching it combust in slow motion, especially with those powerful sound effects. The sound is top notch.

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Two new series main stays were introduced in Mega Man X: the wall jump and the dash. Whenever you jump onto a wall, X will grab onto a wall and slowly slide down it. At that point, you can choose to jump away from the wall or to jump up it. I'm not sure how that works, but it does, and it's extremely useful. You can effectively scale any wall in the entire game using this technique. This alone adds an entirely new dimension to the tried and true formula of Mega Man. The possibilities are endless. As a result of this wall climb ability, there are a lot more vertical levels. The vertical levels are actually fun, too, since wall climbing is a cinch to pull off. Wall jumps greatly enhance the amount of strategic maneuvers at your disposal during boss fights. Remember how bosses in the original Mega Man games used to corner you into a wall and there was nothing you could do about it? Well, now you can jump off the wall and right over their heads. You can also just cling to a wall and keep jumping onto it as a means to avoid any ground assaults. The bosses have improved the complexity of their patterns to account for this, though, so don't think you can cheese your way out of every boss fight by clinging to a wall near the ceiling. Let's face it; climbing and jumping off walls is excellent fun. Dashing is also excellent fun, despite it not being as exciting as the ability to scale walls. It's similar to the goofy slide from the original Mega Man, but has a lot more depth to it. The basic use for the dash is a short burst of speed. This burst of speed can be applied to jumps and wall jumps, which extends their length. Skillful use of the dash lets you glide through the game like a pro and is great for speed runs. However, use the dash ability without skill and you'll smash your head into harm's way. It's best to take it slow when you're new to the game. These two abilities give the action in Mega Man X a faster pace than the original Mega Man games. These fundamental game play differences greatly enhance the game and are most welcome.

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This is one of the first Mega Man games to incorporate an intro stage. Normally, you get right to the stage select and can choose one of eight stages to tackle in any order you want. Now you're forced to get through a mandatory stage before they let you into the stage select. It's a way of easing you into the game in a tutorial level of sorts and it also provides more story than ordinary stages. This stage is impressive on your first jaunt through the game, but it gets bothersome if you intend to replay the game from the beginning. I would say the intro stage is an overall good addition to the series, though, as it makes the game feel more complete. Level design benefits from X's new capabilities, often requiring him to climb walls in a variety of ways. There's a lot more to the levels than that, though, as you'll find yourself doing other things such as operating Ride Armors. These are large, robotic armors that can be operated by X or his foes to destroy things with supreme power. A neat trick is that you can steal an enemy's Ride Armor if you can destroy the little robot before it jumps into the armor. My only problem with the Ride Armors is that there aren't enough of them. Then again, their sparing use is one of the many things that contribute to the variety in the level design. At some point in the game, you will demolish an aquatic battleship, only to watch it sink into the deep waters and create a new path for you to explore. Whether or not you destroy this battleship and discover the secret path is totally optional, so it's nice of the developers to spend such time on extra content like that. Moments like these aren't repeated with frequency, which helps to make the levels memorable. The levels are brimming with creativity, such as the sewer stage that has you sneaking by laser traps, ascending a vertical shaft, riding an elevator while enemies attack you, and you finish it off by launching an assault on a light house. That's all just one level. Then there's the mechanical forest. Admittedly, mechanical forests don't make much sense from a logical perspective, but it's a cool concept. The levels in this game are awesome.

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The robots you fight are no longer known as Robot Masters and are now referred to as Mavericks, which has a cool ring to it. Their naming scheme also defies convention, as they don't sport the cheesy man suffix. Instead, the robotic bosses of Mega Man X are named and designed after various animals, like Armored Armadillo and Sting Chameleon. The Maverick designs are particularly good, since they're all bigger and much more detailed, especially ones like Spark Mandrill. Every Maverick in this game dwarfs X in size, giving the boss battles a David and the Goliath feel. Just like the original games, X can absorb weapons from any Mavericks he defeats, and each Maverick is weak to another Maverick's weapon. Unlike the original games, though, the levels themselves will actually change depending on the order you tackle them. For instance, beating Chill Penguin's stage first will dry up the lava in Flame Mammoth's stage, making it far easier. This greatly adds to the game's already inherent replay value. Fighting the Mavericks themselves is always an exhilarating experience. Rather than strictly adhering to static patterns, the Mavericks exhibit a little artificial intelligence. They still follow patterns, but the patterns are more complex to decipher. As a result of that, it's very satisfying to take one of these guys down. That's if you do it with only the X-Buster, anyway. If you use the weapon a particular Maverick is weak to, then they'll go down without a fight. You can either take the easy way out or opt for a higher level of challenge. The choice is yours. Mega Man X has some of the best boss fights ever, so it's worth it to try and defeat every Maverick with only X's core abilities.

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Scattered throughout the eight stages in the game are capsules left behind by Dr. Light. Somehow, Dr. Light had the foresight to create these capsules to assist X in the future. Perhaps he enlisted the aid of a fortune teller? Each of these capsules contain an armor upgrade for X's body. There are four in total, one for each body part: legs, arms, chest, and the head. The upgrades extend X's functionality to allow him the use of newer abilities, such as the aforementioned dashing ability, the ability to charge the X-Buster to higher levels, the capability to halve damage intake, and some useless feature that lets you smash rocks with your head. Yeah, that last one could use a bit of work. They also modify his graphical appearance, as each armor piece is immediately visible on X's sprite. It's a very nice touch. There are other upgrades, as well, such as heart tanks and sub-tanks. The heart tanks do what you'd expect; permanently increase your maximum life meter. The sub-tanks act like the e-tanks from the original Mega Man games, except they aren't one-time use items this time around. Sub-tanks are 4 in total and remain in your inventory, acting as life containers that can be refilled whenever you collect life power-ups when your life gauge is full. You can use them at any time during a stage, which can allow you to strategically make your way out of desperate situations. It's a pretty nifty system that allows some room for error, yet can't be too easily abused. I recommend you go into the final battle with all four sub-tanks filled up to the maximum. Mega Man X has quite a difficult final boss.

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Great music, superb graphics, awesome level design, spectacular boss fights, and more explosions than you can shake a stick at. It's also a decent challenge that is fun to master. There you have it. Mega Man X is one of the best games in the X series and perhaps even the entire Mega Man franchise. Chances are good that you've already played this one. If you haven't, then I'd say you have some work to do. It'll be the most fun you ever had working.

Word Count: 2,152

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