Mega Man X3
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publishers:
    • JP Capcom
    • US Capcom
    • UK Laguna (SNES)
    • UK Virgin (PS1/SAT/PC)
  • Released:
    SNES
    • JP 12/01/1995
    • US 01/15/1996
    • UK 05/15/1996
    PS1/SAT
    • JP 04/26/1996
    • UK 03/12/1997
    PC
    • JP 03/28/1997
    • US 10/05/1998
    • UK 1998
Score: 80%

This review was published on 01/30/2009.

Mega Man X3 is the third entry in the Mega Man X series, and it looks nearly identical to the first two games. That's a bad sign. Knowing Capcom, it's about this time that things start getting stale. Sure enough, X3 is where the series starts to feel like it's wearing itself out. If you thought X2 felt uninspired, then you haven't played X3. The game seems like it was developed when most of the staff was on vacation. That might actually be the case, according to my sources. While by no means bad, X3 feels like a retread of a retread, covering the same ground that we've seen countless times before. Read on to find out what makes X3 blander than its predecessors.

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You know the drill: the robots referred to Reploids are the good guys, and the bad robots are called Mavericks. X3's intro stage starts off with the protagonist of the X series, Mega Man X, being kidnapped like a helpless victim when Zero enters the fray to trounce all foes everywhere and save the day. This scenario is a little odd given that X has defeated Sigma twice in a row and Zero spent most of his time in pieces. Before all of this, there was a scientist by the name of Dr. Doppler who somehow managed to rehabilitate the Mavericks into good little robots. Doppler formed a society for these lost souls and dubbed it "Doppler Town." Just as you'd expect, though, things go awry when the denizens of Doppler Town revert to their nefarious Maverick ways, this time with Doppler being ousted as the wicked ring leader. Therefore, it's up to X and Zero to stop this new threat to humanity.

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X3 marks the very first time that you can play as the magnificent Zero, the red Reploid who constantly has to bust X out of a jam. Don't get too excited over this, though; in this iteration, Zero controls almost exactly like X does, just with a bigger life bar and more powerful charged shot attacks that combo into a swing of his Z-Saber. You'll barely get a chance to use him, too, as you're only allowed to call upon him once per stage and he departs whenever you enter a boss or mini-boss room. On top of that, if you die just once as Zero, you won't be able to use him for the remainder of the game. Yes, Mega Man X3 experiments with the concept of permanent deaths. Zero also becomes completely outclassed by X once the blue bomber collects all or most of his upgrades. There is one use for Zero in this game, and it involves sacrificing him to a large, robotic insect so you can obtain a most powerful weapon. That's supposed to be a secret. All of this is very disappointing, considering the prospect of being able to finally play as Zero was supposed to be a huge selling point for X3. Oh well, at least you have the option.

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The music in Mega Man X3 rocks, quite literally. They abandoned the weird sounding instrumentation from X2 and used some higher quality tunes that better portrays the X series' signature rock motif. I still think X1 beats it out in this category, but X3 is definitely a second or third contender. There's also a PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC release that has an entirely new, CD quality sound track and anime cutscenes. This 32-bit version got ported to a lot of systems and consoles. The anime cutscenes are horrendous, but the music isn't so bad. In my opinion, though, the sound track to the SNES version is still better than those supposedly superior versions, because the songs are just better composed on the SNES. Good music ultimately comes down to the composition, not the quality of the instruments. Quality instruments just serve to enhance an already good composition. With all of that said, you may still want to consider giving those 32-bit versions a try. You might like the songs better. If you don't, well, at least you'll be listening to something different.

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Just like in the previous two X games, you can select from eight stages where you will dash, wall climb, and fight one of eight bosses. Beat a boss, get its weapon, and then use that weapon on the next boss that's weak to it. Only this time, things are a bit less exciting. The weapons you get in this installment are particularly terrible. They're all useless outside of using them on boss weaknesses. For example, Toxic Seahorse's weapon shoots out a small, green bubble that slowly flies through the air and lands on objects. It looks as pathetic as it sounds and it doesn't do much damage to enemies. Speaking of which, one of the bosses is named Toxic Seahorse. That's pretty bad. You can tell the developers were running out of ideas by this point. I mean, Volt Catfish? Are you serious? Don't even get me started on Gravity Beetle or Neon Tiger. The worst of these has to be Blizzard Buffalo. Now that's just a new low. As bad as these boss names are, the actual designs for these bosses don't look too bad. You still have the detailed boss designs that the X series is known for. It's just embarrassing to acknowledge that there's something called Blizzard Buffalo in the game you're playing. Mega Man X3 is a guilty pleasure.

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Like in X2, there are a small number of optional bosses that you can take on in the middle of your Maverick hunting escapades. I'm not sure what arcane ritual you need to perform to get two of these bosses to appear, but there are certain rooms in most of the stages that will either remain empty and mysterious or house one of these special bosses. The pair of optional bosses are cleverly named Bit and Byte. Whether you defeat them or not will affect a boss fight in one of the final stages. Because these guys can show up unexpectedly, you'll sometimes find yourself totally unprepared to take them on, but don't fret, because you can make them leave the stage you're on by getting a Game Over. There's a third boss who, while not optional, is pretty special. That boss is no other than Vile himself, the Boba Fett look-a-like from the first X game, who returns in this game to have his revenge on the hapless Mega Man X. Vile was a significant nuisance in the first game, so much so that Zero had to sacrifice his life in order to give X a fighting chance. Death seems rather meaningless in the X series, though, since both Vile and Zero are back in action in X3. If you opt to go through the game normally, then you won't fight Vile until the last stage of the game. You can, however, face Vile right at the beginning of the game and defeat him right there, providing you locate his hideout in one of the normal stages.

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X's deceased creator, Dr. Light, has once again hidden capsules in four of the eight stages with armor pieces that X can suit up with to augment his abilities. The Heart Tanks and Sub-Tanks return for a third time, both doing what they've always done; increase X's maximum life meter and provide backup life, respectively. A lot of the upgrades are of dubious use this time, like the helmet. This wonderful item will show you a map of the level, letting you know that you'll start from the left side of the screen and move towards the right. The only helpful thing about the helmet upgrade is that it lets you know if there are any secrets you're missing in a given level, which is admittedly pretty handy. Then there's the dreadful arm upgrade, which allows you to shoot a really impressive looking blast of energy that doesn't do much to deter your enemies. The normal charged shot is more effective at damaging your foes in most cases. The leg armor piece isn't bad, though, as it not only lets you do horizontal air dashes, but it also lets you air dash vertically, which is almost like a double jump. This and the chest armor piece that increases your defense are the only truly useful ones.

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In addition to the four basic armor upgrades X can acquire, he can also have one of four upgrade chips. Here are my problems with the chip system; almost all the chips are useless, you won't know what a chip does until after you get it, and they're all hidden in really annoying spots. My biggest problem is the limitation of only being able to have one chip equipped at a time. Thankfully, Dr. Light wanted to atone for his sins with the terrible chip system and hid a capsule in the enemy's top secret base that will give X the mythical golden armor, an upgrade that lets you have the abilities of all four chips at once. You can only get this if you avoid getting any of the chips separately and have all the other upgrades, but it's the better deal. The chips are not quite so useless when you have all four of them at the same time. My favorite is the leg chip, which allows X to air dash twice in a row. If combined with vertical air dashes, that's like a triple jump. I can't find much use for this, but it's a nice feature.

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Ride Armors, those gargantuan displays of destruction, make a more polished appearance this time around. You get to use four different kinds, each with their own capabilities. The catch is that you need to unlock each one before you can summon them on these teleport pads hidden in most stages. In order to unlock these rides of mass destruction, you need to collect Ride Armor chips. There's a nice amount of variety to these four giant mechs. One of them is your standard punching mech, available in normal fist and spiked fist forms. Then you have a mech that can hover in the air briefly and shoot out missiles. The missiles don't home in on their targets, but it's a nice ranged attack. Lastly, you have a mech designed after a frog that can swim underwater. The other mechs spontaneously combust when submerged underwater, so this frog mech is the only one that can get the job done in undersea missions. It's pretty fun to use, too, since it can swim around and shoot homing missiles. Just don't ever try using the frog mech on land or you'll regret it. Unfortunately, due to requiring weapons from previously felled bosses and the really odd placement of the Ride Armor chips, you probably won't get to use the mechs until you're nearly done with the game. By that time, you'll only need them to get access to other upgrades. So despite how awesome these things are, you may not even notice that they're around.

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X3 ends up being the most underwhelming of the three on SNES, but it's far from the worst game in the series. I'd say it still ranks as a decent game on the grand scale, so long as you aren't expecting too much from it. On the bright side, Capcom resisted the urge to make six Mega Man X games for a single console. That shows some serious restraint on their part, wouldn't you say?

Word Count: 1,945

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