Mega Man X2
  • Genres:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    • US 12/15/1994
    • JP 12/16/1994
    • UK 07/12/1995
Score: 85%

This review was published on 11/06/2007.

Overjoyed at the success of Mega Man X, Capcom decided to release a sequel: Mega Man X2. Companies like Capcom releasing sequels? I bet nobody could see that one coming. The protagonist is still Mega Man's successor, Mega Man X, and X still fights evil robots that go by the name of Mavericks using his trusty X-Buster. Not much has changed in X2. In fact, there's not a whole lot different about this game at all. Capcom sticks to an old adage that they practically invented; don't fix what isn't broken. X2 does take a lot of the new things introduced in X1 and improves them further, though, so some people consider Mega Man X2 the better game. I can certainly see where they're coming from. However, I disagree with that notion, and will delve into why in this review.

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The story of X2 takes place a mere six months after the first game, where Mega Man X triumphantly took down the evil Sigma. X is now a big shot, having become the leader of the heroic Maverick Hunters. All is not well, though, because now a trio of Mavericks calling themselves the "X-Hunters," an obvious play on the term Maverick Hunters, have shown up. They're holding for ransom the body parts of the downed Zero, who sacrificed himself in the previous game in order to allow X to defeat Vile. These X-Hunters are hoping to lure X into a trap with Zero's body parts, because they know of X's deep emotional ties with the long haired robot. So it's up to X to stop these guys and find out who they're working for, if they're working for anyone. The game starts off with X manning an assault on a factory where a bunch of them bad, ol' Mavericks are hiding. Apparently, even after the demise of Sigma, the bad guys still keep on keeping on. This intro stage sets a stark contrast from the first X game; instead of X being an inexperienced, weak robot who gets saved by someone else, this time X is the leader and demolishes a robot more than ten times his own size. What a change. Don't be intimidated by the size of the first boss, by the way. X2 starts the series' tradition of having a menacing looking first boss that is ridiculously easy to defeat. Seriously, X2's first boss might simultaneously be one of the biggest and easiest bosses of all time. I guess size doesn't matter. Upon getting through the formalities of the intro stage, you're shown a cutscene of the nefarious X-Hunters spying on X through what looks to be a... crystal ball. That's a little strange for a futuristic society, but all right. You should get used to these cutscenes, because there's one every now and then. After these short distractions, the game lets you pick from 8 stages in any order you'd like, as usual.

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Mega Man X2 makes use of a special chip in the cartridge to enhance its graphical capabilities. That might sound really cool, but it's mostly used to make lame 3-D wire frame bosses that aren't very cool at all. The idea is that this is the early '90s and 3-D graphics were impressive. Unfortunately for Capcom, fully 3-D games like Star Fox had already been released for the SNES for quite some time by this point, so this wasn't impressive even for back then. There aren't many of those bosses, either. It's as if the development team was indecisive about using this chip. Maybe the big wigs were pressuring the team to do it, even though it wasn't appropriate. Anyway, the graphical style to this game looks nearly identical to the previous one. This isn't too surprising, considering Capcom did this with the original Mega Man games on the NES. It would be unfair for me to not mention that there are subtle improvements, though. Improvements such as slight differences to the look and animation of X's charged shots. Still, X has the same sprites and animations from before, so you might not notice this unless you're awfully observant. The same could be said about the rest of the visuals; the improvements are just too subtle for the average player to spot. I am very observant, however, so I'm able to discern the added details to the background and foreground graphics of the stages. I don't know if these added details have anything to do with the extra chip or if it's just the developers getting more skilled at using the SNES' hardware. For the most part, X2 has pleasant visuals.

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The first X game set the standard of wicked rock tunes for the rest of the X series. X2 continues this tradition, but it makes a strange change to the instrumentation behind the music. This change is not a good thing. The SNES is limited to 16-bit sound, so it's not capable of perfectly reproducing high quality rock music. Nevertheless, X1 did a great job creating the feel of intense rock music and pushed the SNES' sound chip to its limits. X2's change to the instrumentation involves the guitar riffs, the defining aspect of rock music. They sound all... goofy. Having said that, X2's soundtrack is well composed and still manages to sound great despite the awkward sound effects. I definitely think X2's sound track would have been better off using the instrumentation from the previous game, though. Additionally, as good as the compositions in X2 are, they don't hold a candle to the memorable tracks from the first X game. The first game brought us tracks like Storm Eagle's stage and Armored Armadillo's stage, whereas X2 doesn't bring anything to the table that can match those venerable tunes. The original Mega Man X just had more memorable, catchy music. There's just no contest when comparing the two.

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While X2 does not have as many memorable set pieces to its level design as X1 does, it still does have a good amount. For example, one stage takes place on this enormous tank-like vehicle that is demolishing a city. I have to say, that's a cool concept for a level. Then the desert stage allows you to ride the hover bike from the intro of the game. Your time on this bike is very brief, as crashing into anything will blow it to smithereens. It's not very useful, but it does serve its purpose in providing a short burst of entertainment. The best part about the bike is smashing it into a machine that causes desert storms in order to destroy it. This just feels so satisfying. The same stage ends with X riding a rocket up into the air and then blasting it with his X-Buster, allowing him to make a flashy entrance when meeting the boss of the stage. Is it just me, or is X a huge show off in this game? The water stage isn't just your typical water level, either. X's undersea jaunt revolves around destroying a giant submarine vehicle that won't stop pestering you until its demise. You follow this thing throughout the entire stage, and destroying it fast enough gets you to a secret area. It's possible to simply avoid its attacks and ignore it, too. The choice is yours. Even the cliched fire level manages to be interesting, as it demonstrates X's ability to scale walls from the previous game quite nicely. Imagine scaling the inside of a volcano just as it's erupting, exiting the top at the very last second. Remember kids, lava is dangerous. Lastly, we have the Ride Armors, giant mechs that X could ride from the last game, are back and better than before. This time, these mechs have the ability to hover for a few moments during a jump. The game is designed in such a way that this is hardly ever necessary, but it's nice to have around. Ride Armors also can now perform a charge attack when you hold the attack button down. It's pretty cool looking, because these mechs rotate their spiked hands and then launch a devastating strike to any unsuspecting robots that are in your way. Sadly, you only get to use these mechs in about two stages, and only for a short period of time.

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As always in these Mega Man games, you face a boss at the end of the eight stages and defeating them earns you their weapon. Every boss is weak to one of these eight weapons, so the same strategy of coming up with the perfect boss order remains intact. The new addition to X2 is these extra, optional boss fights. After defeating a few of the regular bosses, the three X-Hunters begin to hide in the eight main stages. Their hiding places are shown to you at the stage select screen; each time you enter a stage, their locations change. These bosses are fairly challenging, and unlike the regular bosses, they have things to say. Each of the eight stages has a secret boss room that can be tricky to find; that's where these X-Hunters lay in wait for you. There's no way to know the location of these rooms without a special item, so you'll just have to thoroughly explore the surroundings. Whether you fight these bosses or not will affect the final outcome of the game. X2 is the first in the series to introduce different endings. Well, the endings here aren't too different. It was more so the events leading up to the ending that were different. Even so, the difference lies within a single scene and could decide whether you get to fight an extra boss at the end of the game. In all honesty, there's no reason to worry about this if you're just worried about the ending. In fact, I would say the ending is better if you decide to forego fighting the X-Hunters. Still, bosses are a big draw to any Mega Man game, and fighting these X-Hunters is good fun. If you want a good challenge on a subsequent run through of the game, then consider facing off against these guys.

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X's creator, Dr. Light, has apparently planned for everything in advance and left yet another set of four capsules hidden in four of the eight stages. These capsules do just as they did before; provide X with extra armor to further augment his abilities. An interesting thing to note is that X starts the game with his dashing ability from X1, which used to be an upgrade found inside a capsule. I wonder why X decided to get rid of all his old armor and keep only the dash ability. Also, why is it that he can now perform the dash ability without any armor at all? I demand to have some answers here. Oh well, being able to dash right from the get go is a great improvement. Now you don't have slowly trot your way around until you find a hidden capsule. If you're wondering what the leg piece of X's new armor does in this game, well, wonder no more; it grants X the ability to dash in the air. This is referred to as the air dash. It's a cool ability, to be sure, although its effect can be substituted by simply dashing off a wall. The helmet armor upgrade now can be used to locate secret passages and hidden upgrades, which is not as useful as it sounds. I mean, the upgrades and secret passages are easy enough to find on your own, so it's unlikely you'll have to resort to the helmet. It is there if you need it, though. Perhaps the most important upgrade is the chest armor, since it reduces all damage inflicted on X, just like before. There's an additional effect in X2, namely, the Giga Attack. Does that sound ridiculous? This attack can only be used when X has gotten hurt enough to fill up the Giga Attack meter, but boy is this attack worth it. Everything on the screen is struck with massive damage when X launches this vicious attack. Heart Tanks, which increase X's maximum life meter, and Sub-Tanks, which can store additional life to be used as a last resort, both make their return in X2 and operate just as they did before. I wonder if Dr. Light also leaves these behind for X. What did X do with the various tanks from his previous adventure, anyway? I wish X would hold onto his valuables better next time.

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Mega Man X2 can be disappointing if you're looking for something that reinvents the wheel. X2 takes no risks and is content in providing more of the same with subtle differences and a few improvements. With that in mind, X2 is still a solid entry in the series. It's vastly overshadowed by its predecessor, but it still proves to be an enjoyable experience.

Word Count: 2,172

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