Sunday, August 29, 2010

Game Review: Mega Man ZX

Mega Man ZX

Where Mega Men go to die

Nintendo DS, 2006

Publisher: Capcom

Developer: Inti Creates

Time to Complete: 3-8 hours

Mega Man ZX is the first semi-traditional Mega Man on the Nintendo DS. Following in the footsteps of Mega Man, Mega Man X, and Mega Man Zero, this is an action game through and through. Like the X series and Zero series, this is a fast-paced game with lots of dashing around and elemental-themed mecha-animal bosses. The problem is that the Mega Man X control setup and formula has gotten worse with every successive iteration, and at this point I don't think Capcom really knows what they're doing with it. Still, as someone who loves Mega Man games almost as much as most of my generation loves pretending they're tough because they sometimes watch UFC, I had to give it a try.

And while I'm on that subject, what's up with that? Look, if you watch UFC and strut around thinking you're a badass because you occasionally work out when you're not watchin' the game with your bros or drinkin' beer and scorin' babes, I have news for you. It's like Fight Club said. You don't know anything about yourself until you've been in a fight or two. You can have all the swagger in the world and somebody will come along and knock you on your ass. Once you've either won or lost, either in a fight or at life in general, that's when you know what you're made of, and that's when you can start to know yourself.

Knowing yourself is pretty important, you know? Like right now for instance, I'm tremendously high on Midol (it's one of those heavy days). In situations like that, you get to thinking. Thinking about the important things. Whether you're a punk who thinks himself tough or someone who has slogged through the depths of life and lost more than just your blood sweat and tears, any of us can stop at any given moment and focus in on that one singular greatest thing we've ever accomplished, and from there draw out our own hidden strength. Hidden strength. That's what matters in the end. Not whether or not you convince everyone around you that you're tough. I'm talking about substance and inner character.

...Two things that Mega Man ZX sorely lacks! What's up with this game? Here's the basic premise. The game takes place long after the events of Mega Man Zero, which took place long after the events of Mega Man X. In other words, you won't see any characters from those games here. Instead, you get to choose a protagonist from a pool of two little kids. One is a dude, one is a girl. There's little difference between the two. The character select screen is often a real crossroad (or is that crossroads?) for a gamer. Do you want to play as the slow, yet powerful guy with lots of hitpoints, the guy who is slow but hits hard and shocks his opponents with lightning, the well-balanced guy, or the weak yet quick sassy lady with the short-shorts on, short-shorts that one can only hope are edible?

But enough about Final Fight 3 for the Super NES. There is no crossroad to be found here, because the characters in Mega Man ZX have no inspiration. They both get the same abilities and they both do the same stuff. It's...bland. Why is it necessary to play as little kids anyway? Why can't I play as somebody cool, like X's ghost, or the corpse of Bass? No, not here. At least those little kids find special abilities that allow them to turn into robot masters with special powers. Or something. So it ends up working out just like most other Mega Man games, except without the cool.

While choosing your characters, you also choose a difficulty level between Easy and Normal. This is one game that REALLY needed a third difficulty level in the middle. As it is, Normal mode is extremely difficult, frustrating, and un-fun, with enemies doing far more damage to you than you do to them. Yet if you start over and pick Easy mode for a hopefully more balanced and fun game, guess what? Pretty much every enemy and boss in the game might as well get transformed into a fearsome de-clawed kitten. Your attacks do four times - four times! - as much damage, and the game is literally almost no challenge at all.

Once Mega Man ZX begins, it's quickly apparent that the game's greatest strengths are the graphics and music. Both are pretty great, except for the file select/save point room music, which is repetitive, gets stuck in your head, and for some reason makes me feel tremendously depressed. OH GOD, WHY CAN'T I GET IT OUT OF MY MIND! WHY!!!

Aside from that, however, the game doesn't have much going for it. The storyline is some ridiculousness about the benevolent Slither Inc. and how they might not be as good as everyone thinks. No...way! Something called "Slither Inc." might have evil machinations? If they wanted people to think they were good they should have gone with a name Blackwater or something. The first sign that Slither Inc. might not be the Peace Corps comes early on, when the first boss you fight is, you guessed it, a giant mecha-serpent. So it's not like I'm giving away anything here. I'd say Spoiler Warning before all of this plot stuff, but it's all so obvious that it would be like pointing out the potential physical flaws of a hypothetical Michael Moore / Rush Limbaugh love-child.

Mega Man ZX goes the route of other latter-day Mega Man games by having the villain be a let-downing non-throwback to Dr. Wily. The Mega Man Zero series had the nefarious Dr. Weil (no relation to Wily) and this game has Model W (again, no relation to Wily). How about some actual connections to make these guys mean something, instead of having them show up with names that make you wonder and nothing else? Oh well, I guess it's too much to ask.

Other than that, the bosses in this game tend to be somewhat unique, with badass names like Model L Pseudoroid Hivolt the Raptoroid. The boss fights are certainly fun, and the stages themselves - while completely lacking in any kind of innovation or originality compared to older Mega Man games - are alright. Now, however, we come to the game's biggest problem. The mission system. Unlike - again - older Mega Man games, you don't just choose a mission and immediately go to where you need to go. No, of course not. That would make sense. Instead, once you choose a mission, you have to actually find the stage amongst all of the game's areas. Often the game gives you zero clue as to where you need to go to start a stage. This kind of open-world game works in an item-gathering exploration-fest like Metroid, but it does not work in a game where you need to go to one specific undetermined spot at any given time to progress. So you end up wandering around. And wandering. And wandering. After the...I don't know...first time this happened, I ended up just checking a guide every time I wanted to begin a new stage, just to find out where the stage was. Yes... stopping to check a guide is necessary in a MEGA MAN game. Well, necessary if you have other things to do with your life, anyway.

I've heard people say that this game takes 10-15 hours to complete the first time without guide help. Me? Looking up exactly where to go to start the next stage every time I finished one, I beat the game in a scant three and a half hours. I'm not saying this to brag or anything. I'm saying it to point out the massive amount of your time that this game attempts to WASTE with the "exploration" aspects. Exploration is great in a Metroid game. It ISN'T great in a Mega Man game where you just want to start the next damn stage.

All of that said, there are some things this game needs credit for. The Biometal system (that is, the new forms you can take on) is varied and interesting, and each new power you get has a number of abilities and uses in and of itself. There was some definite innovation in the weapon system this time around. One in particular that I liked a lot is the flame weapon, which you can literally draw a firing path for with the stylus.

In closing...well, it's Mega Man. These games are almost always fun, even in their more inferior incarnations. This one was a real let-down, though. I'll give the sequel, Advent, a chance and see what happens.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10


  1. I would have thought the two things this game lacks are the swagger and trying to make people think it's tough.

  2. So this game isn't the Mega Man/Metroid fusion I heard it was?

  3. Nope, not really. Just having a bunch of interconnected areas isn't enough for a game to be Metroid-like in any major sense.