Thursday, February 24, 2011

Game Review: The Mega Man X Series, Part III

The final three installments in the Mega Man X series are a definite departure from the previous six. They enter the realm of 3D and introduce a number of new characters. After the mess that was Mega Man X6, would the series bounce back with the last few installments? Read on to find out.

Mega Man X7

No, not a bounce back

Playstation 2, 2003

Publisher: Capcom

Developer: Capcom

Time to Complete: 2-5 hours

Mega Man X7 is perhaps the most plot-heavy X game yet. Unfortunately, it isn't plot anyone really cares about. No Zero series tie-ins, no further exploration of Wily's involvement, and Sigma does absolutely nothing interesting. Most of the plot here has to do with whiny newcomer Axl and his problems with his old crew. X and Zero are both fleshed-out a bit more in this one, yet the result is them not really seeming like the characters we're used to. Zero became a personality-less, blunt guy (he must get all the babes). X on the other hand became a total pacifist in this game, constantly going on and on about how war is bad and we shouldn't be fighting. I wonder if it's a coincidence that this game came out in 2003, when a substantial portion of the world's population was feeling a rush of anti-war sentiment. Anti-war statements are all well and good, but in the context of the game, X comes across as a whiny baby as opposed to the badass we're used to. I don't think this was really necessary. It isn't like Mega Man X7 is going to stop the war, or change the world, or anything.

Axl is the third playable character in this game, and a slightly interesting addition to the series. However, he's also largely unnecessary; this game could have been X and Zero again and lost nothing by it. As it is, Axl is almost a weaker version of X in the grand scheme of the game, and any powerups given to him early on are probably ill-advised. Stick to powering up Zero, since he'll almost invariably be part of the team until the end. X himself isn't available until around halfway through the game, which is a bit disappointing. At the outset of each stage, you choose two characters from the three and go to town. One of the few things this game does really well is that you can switch characters on the fly; this means you can use X and Zero as a tag team to take on more difficult fights. This is, in a word, awesome, and the one major positive about Mega Man X7.

Storm Eagle, this ain't

This game makes the leap to the Playstation 2, as well as the leap to 3D for the series. Well... 2.5D. Most of the game is still limited in terms of planes of movement. It's clear that the developers didn't master the use of these added dimensions, and the controls leave a lot to be desired. It boggles the mind, but somehow said controls are even more sluggish than those of X6. The graphics are also very sub-par, especially for the Playstation 2. While the cel-shaded characters look good, the environments look like they belong on an N64. Not good for 2003, and seriously lacking polish.

I mentioned the stupidity of the boss names in the X6 review, and they're even worse here. This game has, without a doubt, the stupidest boss names in the entire series. Ride Boarski? Tornado Tonion? But hey, whatever floats Capcom's boat. It's almost like whoever took over after X5 decided to turn the series into a joke. They started that with the Guns n' Roses theme in X5, which was a last-minute addition to the game made by really misguided Capcom bigwigs. It was so last-minute that the instruction booklet of Mega Man X5 still refers to the bosses by their cool original names. Things have only gotten worse since then. Between their stupid names and their stupid dialogue, it's clear that the bosses in this game aren't meant to be taken seriously at all.


The difficulty is seriously turned down for this installment after the frustrating X6; most of the stages and bosses in this game pose little challenge or threat. That said, the fights still manage to be incredibly tedious, due to the fact that bosses have lengthy life meters that barely lose any ground from your attacks. Some of the bosses take upwards of a hundred hits early on, which I guess is Capcom's way of making up for the fact that they're not difficult otherwise. Still, not much challenge to be found here, with the exception of Flame Hyenard's stage/fight and the relatively unfair autoscrolling Palace Road stage. Perhaps the most difficult thing about fighting Flame Hyenard is having to listen to him making the most irritating sounds imaginable constantly for the entire fight. Having a retarded hyena as a boss in a game was a bad idea on so many levels that I can't believe it got past Capcom's quality control to begin with. The sound effects of this game, even outside of the Hyenard fight, are obnoxious and more annoying than anything else, with no option to turn them down. When playing as X or Axl, the game automatically locks on to foes. This sounds good on paper, but in execution the lock-ons are unreliable and badly executed. Worst part is, every lock-on is accompanied by a "PLINK!" sound. So if you play as those characters with the sound on, you're going to spend most of the game hearing "PLINK! PLINK! PLINK PLINK!"

The saving grace of this game - besides the innovative and fun ability to tag-team foes as X/Zero, which helps put this slightly over X6 in the fun category - is, again, the music. Well, what music the player can hear over the obnoxious sound effects. There are some really good tunes in this game. Just a few standouts (the last X game to have a consistently great soundtrack throughout was X5) but overall, good music. The first Sigma fight theme at the end of the game is one of the best fight themes in the entire series, so much so that it's actually worth linking here:

Now THAT is a battle theme. It's just too bad it isn't in a better game.

Rating: 5.8 out of 10


Mega Man X8

A significant improvement

Playstation 2, 2004

Publisher: Capcom

Developer: Capcom

Time to Complete: 4-7 hours

Mega Man X8 improves on the previous game on all fronts. It ditches the hard-to-play 2D/3D hybrid style of X7 and replaces it with another innovation: a pseudo-3D game that is actually completely 2D. The stages have 3D backgrounds and the player will often find themselves running in a direction other than what's available on a standard 2D plane, but the gameplay itself is quite 2D. Here we again have X, Zero, and Axl as playable characters, and the (admittedly really cool) ability to switch characters on the fly that X7 began continues here. Personally, I used X and Zero as a tag team for both games. Just not much of an Axl fan.

The graphics are a huge improvement over X7. This game actually looks like a PS2 game. The music, as in most of the series, is great in this installment. The sound effects are toned-down and far less irritating than in X7. Overall, this game is an improvement in basically every respect over X6 and X7. Combat even has some interesting new features, such as the ability to unleash a super attack once in a while if both of your characters are still alive and kicking. Used wisely, this one big attack can be the difference-maker in finishing off difficult bosses. That's the kicker, though: it needs to be used wisely, since if it misses or hits a shielded foe, it's wasted. Bosses in this game love their invincibility, too. Frequently the player will find themselves waiting for a boss to become damageable again, and it's a little bit irritating at times.

You'll never shine if you don't glow

Good level design makes a return, as well. It seems that from their previous debacles in this series, Capcom learned that simple is often better. Out of the eight normal levels, six are side-scrollers and pretty decent ones at that. They lack the substance of X1-X5's stages, but they also lack the complete idiocy of X6/X7's stage design. The exception here is the two rail stages. Most Mega Man games feel this weird need to sneak a rail stage in somewhere, and they're usually the lamest part of whatever game they're in. You'd think after a while Capcom would realize that it's a good idea to stay with the control scheme/stage type that players are familiar with for the duration of a game, but I guess they love them some rail stages.

Basically, the two rail stages in this game both kinda surprise there. If it weren't for those two stages, the game would get a considerably higher score. They both eat up a lot of time and victory in those two stages relies on trial and error rather than skill. Overall, it's a pretty fun and challenging game, and the first good X game since X5 as far as I'm concerned. I had some frustrations, mainly with those two rail stages, but for the most part I had fun with this game and there's little else to complain about. It is, however, kind of shallow compared to past X games; there is a distinct lack of powerups to be obtained in this one, and the stages are pretty barren in terms of secrets to find.

X goes to the moon

Since I'm such a Mega Man plot lover, I should touch on the plot for this game. Much like X7, nothing really happens. It lacks the "going somewhere" story of X1-X5 and it lacks the emotive resonance of X6 (okay, X6 did have some emotive resonance). It's just the three heroes beating up some mavericks and going home. Sigma returns (spoiler alert) to cause more problems, yet this time around he's upstaged at the end by Lumine. Who? Exactly. If this ends up being the final main series Mega Man X game, it kinda sucks that Sigma wasn't allowed to be the final boss, stepping aside for an emo punk who the audience probably doesn't give a rat's ass about. The only time I cared at all about Lumine was when his weirdly Wily-like shadow appeared on screen after the Sigma fight and I thought, for the second that the shadow loomed, that Mecha Wily had finally made his presence known to our heroes. Then the camera panned up and I saw that it was just that Lumine guy. Unless Lumine is Dr. Wily, I don't really care. Come to think of it, Wily would be needing a new body since he abandoned Isoc, huh? In any case, given that this is the final X game (at this point, six years and counting later), it would have been the perfect time to pull the trigger and have Dr. Wily (in whatever his present-day form is) step up and be the final boss after Sigma's defeat. Instead, we get this Lumine guy who is badass and coo because he's emo and has wings. What is this, Final Fantasy? Whatever, Capcom. Whatever. Us series fans will never get any real story resolution of explanation of the series gaps, so there's no use worrying about it so much.

On a final note, the bosses have some decent names for a change in this installment. It almost seems like a different team entirely took the reins of the series for this game and wanted to bring it back into the realm of being taken seriously by fans. As a result, there is little to complain about here, even though the game isn't great. Beware, the difficulty is on the high end for this one. It's likely the most difficult game in the series besides X6. That or I just aged considerably over the past month and a half and became worse at games in the interim. You never know.

Rating: 7.4 out of 10


Mega Man X Command Mission

Mega Man RPG

Playstation 2 and Nintendo Gamecube, 2004

Publisher: Capcom

Developer: Capcom

Time to Complete: 15-25 hours

Technically, Mega Man X Command Mission came out a month or so before X8. However, I played it last. Chronologically, it's hard to say which game is first in the series timeline. Either way, this game departs from the rest of the main series in numerous ways. It's a role-playing game, first of all. It's story-heavy and fleshes out the Maverick Hunters, as well as the world they reside in.

The Rockman Says

As an RPG, this game is heavy on exploration. There are numerous areas in the game; unfortunately most of them are repetitive exercises in tedium. It becomes clear early on that the dungeons lack any semblance of variety, and the enemies you fight within them tend to not be all that interesting themselves. As a result, the longer dungeons get pretty irritating at times. On the bright side, the battle system is inventive and fun. It brings back memories of Super Mario RPG with the way it utilizes button presses and timed attacks. Where Mario could jump, Mega Man can dash, bringing a bit of the action-orientedness the series is known for to the table. The equipment system and the game in general are on the simple side in both cases, as well. This simplicity makes Command Mission fairly accessible to players whether they're RPG veterans or not.

 No, this isn't Final Fantasy

The game deserves props for having the storyline be basically all-new rather than rehashing the usual MMX plot. There are some twists and turns, and altogether it stays interesting throughout. A smorgasbord of new characters debut in this game, and the game does a good job differentiating between them. Each of the main characters have their own specific positives and negatives, and a unique Hyper Mode that they can go into. Utilizing Hyper Mode at the right times is a key part of the gameplay, much like the super attack in MMX8.

The graphics in the game are decent for the system(s) and have a cool cel-shaded look about them. The areas are repetitive and dungeons tend to reuse the same rooms, but the characters and foes look pretty good in general. Similarly, the music in the game is sometimes repetitive, yet for the most part enjoyable. There are some particularly intense battle themes in this game. The battles can be lengthy and difficult, so good battle music is really a necessity for the game.

Are you sure?

I already mentioned that some new characters are introduced to the series mythology here. All of them are interesting at the very least. Spider is the game's mysterious badass, while Marino is a stylish ninja 'bot and Massimo... well, he's big and slow. Even he is interesting, though. Since this is a Japanese RPG, there's also the requisite wimpy priestess character: Cinnamon. Of course, the game wouldn't be complete without the sassy navigator, the strawberry and vanilla flavored Nana. Yeah, it's a little weird that these are all 'bots when it comes down to it, but just roll with it.

Nana, the unnecessarily hot robot

At the end of the day, Command Mission takes the concept of a Mega Man RPG and does it right. Could it be better? Much. Is it bad? No, not at all. It isn't for everyone. It's a bit on the simplistic side and RPG veterans might not find much to get into here, but at the same time it's fun and easily accessible. Anyone who enjoys both Mega Man and RPGs would do well to give this game a shot.

Rating: 7.8 out of 10

And that concludes my look at the Mega Man X series. Thanks for joining me in this era of sporadic updates, and keep tuning in. I've got some good stuff on tap.


  1. I must agree with you, X7 was NOT what people wanted to see after the "nightmare" (haha get it?) called X6. That said, while I did have a certain fondness for Command Mission due to the complete departure from what I'd come to know(much like the epic SMRPG), part of me is biased against them. I am a big fan of the 2D sprite generation, yes there is better technology and everyone else feels the need to make the jump to 3D... But just because 3D is available doesn't mean it's the best choice. I feel that it isn't coincidence that the shift toward Suckville Alaska happened around the time that 3D shifted. I miss the old 2D sprited look. It was just... BETTER...

  2. I would've preferred if Capcom made Megaman Legends 3 instead of Command Mission. The NDS version didn't push through. T_T