Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X (PSP, 2005)

Another cool PSP game, this one a remake of the first game in the X series. It shows some promise, so it's too bad they didn't continue remaking the X series in this vein. It's 2.5D, like Mega Man X8, with enough changes from the SNES original to make it worth playing.




We start with a sweet FMV cutscene! This leads into "The Day of Sigma", a movie detailing the events that led to the start of the X series. You get to watch the whole movie after you beat the game once. It's a great addition, and gives us far more information than the cutscenes in X4 and X5 did. This is how we know that Sigma used to be a good guy.

Right around the time that Sigma, the greatest Maverick Hunter, turns evil, our heroes face another threat in the form of Vile. I wonder if Vile was intended to be a subtle mech form of Dr. Wily (which would explain why he's wearing a helmet) in the vein of Serges and Isoc. After all, Wily and Vile sound very similar, and Mega Man Zero actually has a main bad guy named "Dr. Vile" to muddy things up further.

...no, probably not. Serges and Isoc at least make sense. Wily was more of an observer than a fighter, and Vile is all fighter. Then there's the fact that his original name is actually Vava. No relation to Mega Man 8's "Dr. Wawee".

Final Fantasy Tactics style captions!

Zero is an SA-class hunter, which is the top tier. X is a mere B-class hunter, which means he isn't even on Storm Eagle's level (Storm Eagle is A-Class). Reminds me of Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, and how Zack starts out as a measily 2nd Class SOLDIER who looks up to the 1st Class guys and aspires to be like them eventually.

Vile gets brought in by the Maverick Hunters, but soon makes his escape...and that's where the game begins. So far this is a lot more story-heavy than the original Mega Man X.

As far as I know, Sigma was also SA-Class. I'm getting conflicting reports on what Vile was. It goes SA, S, A, B, and presumably C. The C-Class hunters are probably the various corpses strewn about the levels.

Known SA-Class Hunters: Sigma, Zero, Vile?
Known S-Class Hunters: Vile?
Known A-Class Hunters: Storm Eagle
Known B-Class Hunters: X, probably that Mac dude in Mega Man X3 who betrays you

Take all of this with a grain of salt; it's what I've gathered, but the series hasn't been too clear overall.

This pink-haired Alia clone (she might even BE Alia) interrupts the gameplay almost immediately. Oh shit, is this unwelcome latter-day game mechanic going to make regular appearances?

...nope. Only sporadically. Well, that's good.

The giant wasp-bots from the original intro stage appear on the highway. This game looks and handles very similarly to Mega Man X, but the differences are apparent when playing. The visuals, as I mentioned, are more like Mega Man X8, and the controls feel "heavier" or more sluggish. That's unfortunate considering the Super NES games have such loose, fast-paced controls. IMO, the added 3D element robs the game of a lot of the charm.

Mega Man (or as he is now known, X) encounters Vile. This takes place some hundred years after the original series, and X has no memory of it. Not sure if he's even the same Mega Man or a more powerful version created later. While the original Mega Man was intended in design for peaceful applications, they make no secret that X was intended in design as a combat machine.

(Editor's Note: I may repeat a lot of the same thoughts from the Mega Man X post. Bounced between the two while working on this.)

Vile...is basically Boba Fett. Yeah.

 In the original game, you couldn't defeat Vile head-to-head at the beginning. In this one...you HAVE to. The only way to damage him is by jumping and firing at his head. It only takes four charged shots and the fight ends quickly.

I always thought Vile was just Sigma's goon, or maybe an accomplice. Turns out they aren't even on the same side. Perhaps Sigma seeks order while Vile seeks chaos.

Zero, of course, saves the day! As for Vile...he'll be back.

Alia? informs us that the apocalypse is well underway.

The stage select has a bit too much going on. It's noisy rather than crisp like the original.

Of course, the perennial first opponent has to be Chill Penguin. Not only is he the easiest boss, he also has the all-important boot upgrade which lets you dash.

::holds earpiece:: Wait, what? They moved the parts around in this version? Huh. Well, I'll wing it.

This icy hellscape is home to the world's largest frozen dildo.

The caverns used to be home to the dash boots, but now they're home to a different item...that you can't reach without the boots. They turned that whole concept on its head.

We get some of the motivations behind the various mavericks via cutscene. Best of all, they don't have toddler-voices like in Powered-Up.

Chill Penguin is the same fight he always was...but you don't have the dash to help out. He's definitely more of a threat when you can't easily jump over him.

X wins, and he's so cool about it that he turns his back as Chill Penguin explodes.

I should really go get the dash boots, but I'm going to go ahead and take on the next boss in order. A lot of these bosses have pro-wrestlingesque poses.

Spark Mandrill's stage is pretty much what it was in the SNES version, but it's a bit more difficult because all the spark-traps are bigger.

Side Note: Heart Tanks are super-important in this game (though not as important as Sub-Tanks). I can't reach most of them at this early point, so I'll make sure to do a whirlwind tour and get them all later.

X pretty much accuses everyone who even remotely disagrees with him of being a Maverick. Do you question why X has invaded your home? You're a Maverick. Don't completely agree with X about everything? You're a Maverick.

Spark Mandrill is a big badass with Balrog's moveset and some powerful spark attacks, yet...

...he's completely neutered by Shotgun Ice, which renders him incapable of counterattacking as X chips away.

Flame Mammoth joins the wrestling-pose club. What the hell is he wearing on his nether-regions?

His stage is frozen over since I defeated Chill Penguin first. Normally it's filled with lava and fire; it's signficantly easier when it's frozen. A few of the areas in this game transform after you defeat certain other areas.

The freeze-over allows me to nab my first Heart Tank. Right on! In other news, these pickaxe-throwing miner 'bots aren't as appealing in 3D, which applies to most of the enemies in this game.

The Dash Boots are found here now, and they're in the same vertical passage that once housed the Arm Upgrade. It's easier to reach, at least, and doesn't have blocks anymore. Equipped with these, I can finally play the game in true X-style by dashing everywhere.

Flame Mammoth makes the mistake of laughing wrong, and...

...X basically labels him a Nazi. Well, his arm WAS in the air. To battle!

After dispatching Flame Mammoth (with the arm cannon, don't have his weakness) I return to Chill Penguin's stage. With the boots, I can break into a side-area that houses the helmet powerup. It's...not that good, but it lets you break into the area with the armor powerup in...

...Storm Eagle's stage. This guy is hands-down the coolest of the eight Mavericks. Since no one can top this, I won't be showing any more poses. Storm Eagle is the be-all and end-all of Robot Masters in this series.

His stage looks outstanding in this new format, too. Definitely the best conversion I've seen yet.

The armor upgrade is where the helmet used to be. For those keeping track, yes, this means the weapon upgrade is now where the armor used to be. Gonna leave that for the Sigma Fortress though. The armor is second only to the boots in usefulness; half-damage makes the rest of the game much more manageable.

It turns out that Storm Eagle is an honorable soul. While Chill Penguin and the others sold out to Sigma, Storm Eagle is only fighting for the Mavericks because he believes in what Sigma has to say. He's sorry that his beliefs put him at odds with his friend X, and they fight.

This battle is fast and furious, and yet again I don't have the appropriate boss weakness to use.

It's the closest fight yet, as I barely eke out a win. So long, Storm Eagle.

After a break, I return to take on the other four bosses. Armored Armadillo's stage is probably the most memorable in the original game because you spend most of it riding a rail-car. It's also an outstanding place to build up extra lives and Sub-Tank energy. That hasn't changed for this version.

If this were a later game in the series, Alia would burst in all "MEGAMAN MEGAMAN! WATCH OUT FOR THE SPIKES" and cause you to fall right into the spikes.

This stage has a Sub-Tank AND Heart Tank that are easy to obtain, but it helps to have Flame Mammoth's weapon before trying. It does more damage than any other weapon in the game against regular enemies, and makes short work of the bulldozer that stands between you and getting to the Heart Tank in time.

At the end of the stage it opens up into a majestic landscape. This background could have filled its own stage, but alas we only see it for the last few seconds of this one. Maybe that's Launch Octopus' stage back there, given how all of these areas are apparently next to each other in the world.

X tries to talk Armored Armadillo out of voting for Sigma. When A-Double refuses, X - get this - labels him a Maverick.

 As the name implies, he's fully armored. Very tough. Spark Mandrill's weapon shocks his armor off of him, at least, making him vulnerable all of the time instead of just momentary guard-drops.

I make a detour to grab the Sub-Tank from Flame Mammoth's stage, something I should have done as soon as I got the helmet. One Sub-Tank left (the Spark Mandrill one), and I need the boomerang to get it.

Launch Octopus' stage looks REALLY good in this version.

This area is composed of hella minibosses. There are the weird vacuum-mollusks that attack you underwater...

...the floating fish-boat that guards the Heart Tank...

...a couple of these mechanical sea-serpents...

...and finally the boss: Launch Octopus, who won't let X tell him what to do. This must mean he's...

...a Maverick son of a bitch! Grab your torches and let's get him!

Armored Armadillo's weapon looks very different here from the SNES version. More like a generic energy ball and less like a... rolling blue thing. It's Launch Octopus' weakness, but another weapon that might be worth bringing is the boomerang since it knocks off some of his arms and significantly reduces his moveset. Yeah, I mentioned this already in the Mega Man X post... like I mentioned before, there's going to be some redundancy. At least that won't be a problem with the upcoming Mega Man X2.

Boomer Kuwanger is now known by his birth name, Boomerang Kuwanger. Still no idea what animal he's supposed to represent, or even if he's a he.

This stage is fairly bland...or at least, bland for the original Mega Man X, which didn't exactly know what bland was. It's almost entirely vertical.

The main reason I beef with this stage: You need Boomer's weapon to get the Heart Tank, and it's all the way at the end of the stage; This means that no matter how well you plan your item-gathering... you'll still have to do this stage twice.

Psycho Mantis here is thinking something we're all thinking: Why the hell is X only B-Class? Well, this is the job market at work, folks. Go in at an entry-level position and that's where you're at forever, watching these smart-ass 25 year olds with Master's Degrees come in and get hired at higher positions in the company that have upward mobility while you work your ass off and no one notices. X has HAD IT! TIME TO GO POSTAL!

Homing Missile GO! SA-CLASS, HERE I COME! Before you can get SA-Class, you have to get S-Class, and before that? A-Class. It's like that Kanye West song where he explains that after three interviews (Oh My God!), you can get an entry level position as a secretary's secretary!

Now that I have the boomerang, I get the Heart Tank from Boomer's stage and the Sub-Tank from Spark Mandrill's stage while I'm at it. That completes the set of four Sub-Tanks.

  I believe I got all of the Heart Tanks except for Spark Mandrill's, which I couldn't figure out how to get in this version. The boomerang doesn't arc upwards to reach it and the platform is too far out to jump to, unlike the SNES version.

The final stage of the eight? Sting Chameleon. Another very visually appealing level here.

Check out the green fields of Mulgore here. It's gorgeous.

Sting Chameleon is all about making Sigma king as we move toward a new world order.

This is another very easy boss fight if you have his weakness (boomerangs). He can be one of the most challenging without it. If you hit him with boomerangs in the air he'll go into almost a stun-lock animation, something that almost never happens in this game (original version and this one). It's weird to see because the game is otherwise so well-designed. In Mega Man X3 every second boss can be stun-locked, but that's...Mega Man X3.

Zero finally reappears, and...I notice after all these years that he has green breasts. Weird.

Sigma's Fortress looks like it has withstood some pretty heavy assaults from the Maverick Hunters already. If anything, it's safe to say that X's side are the aggressors in this conflict and that Sigma is merely trying to start his own nation elsewhere. He's like Big Boss. Or the machines in The Matrix.

As in the original, you fight all eight bosses again here, but one at a time as you go. No capsule room. I like this way of doing things. They reshuffled the Sigma stages HEAVILY, putting much of Sigma Stage 1 into Sigma Stage 3. The boss order is also shuffled, with Launch Octopus now the first one you fight.

I'd like to take a moment to note that Launch Octopus has a super-appealing design. He was one of my favorite bosses when I played the original in 1994, and it's fitting that he's in the box art of the original game. They got his color wrong, but that's neither here nor there.

The Bosspider (seriously, that's the official name) is a fearsome foe. This thing ended my first run at the original game; it's way beyond the difficulty of every foe up to this point. In this new version it's toned down a bit, but still a threat. Shotgun Ice does the trick nicely.

You still want to go in with full health, though. Hey, wait a minute... I never fought Vile or got Zero's weapon upgrade in Sigma Stage 1. They're later, which changes the complexion of these stages a bit. This is getting interesting. 

Sigma Stage 2 looks NOTHING like the original game, but it has the same music. It's full of breakable walls that take a massive amount of shots to get through. Using multi-hit murderweapons like the flamethrower and tornado are the way to go here.

Finally, X ends up outside again surrounded by WW2-era artillery. This can only mean one thing...

 ...Storm Eagle redux! These boss rematches are against "zombie-forms" of the bosses with white eyes. Apparently Sigma has been reviving them under his full control. The first time around they'd bought into his propaganda, but this time he doesn't need to bother with any of that.

Fortress Boss 2 is the nefarious Rangda Bangda, a giant wall face. It's weak to Sting Chameleon's weapon, which is unfortunate because so is Storm Eagle who you fought two seconds before this. But wait! In this remake, you get weapon energy back when you lose a life. Problem solved! I think the series should have started doing that ages ago; would have fixed a lot of issues like the Crash Bomb boss in Mega Man 2.

Sigma Stage 3 is the interior of the palace, and it's a bit regal...as regal as a machine fortress can be.

The remaining bosses show up here, culminating with - as in the original game - Flame Mammoth. Finally we see some lava, something I missed earlier by playing Chill Penguin's stage first.

After getting through the brief re-imagining of his level, Flame Mammoth himself is no problem. I even brought his weakness this time.

But wait! Stage 3 isn't over yet. Vile shows up next, as does the tricky platform-jumping section that was originally in Sigma Stage 1.

Zero sacrifices himself to stop Vile...though it isn't necessary at all in this game, because X already defeated Vile in the first level. Ehh.

Other than it now being completely unnecessary, the scene plays out essentially the same as in the original game.

This is it. X Vs. Vile. The duel for the ages.

Homing Missiles make short work of him, so it isn't much of a fight. It's worth noting that Vile is playable if you beat the game once. That's awesome, but it's weird that they didn't give us Zero instead. I mean...Vile is a villain.

We get a touching moment as X tries to save Zero, to no avail.

Zero's left boob is cracked, and there's no coming back from an injury like that.

On the bright side, Zero gives X his arm cannon, which means X can now do the third and final level of charged shot. Disappointingly, it looks just like the previous charged shot, except red. Of course, in the original game it looked very, very different.

Vile isn't even the boss of Fortress Stage 3. He's like Bass, a mere sub-boss. The real boss is the Skull Tank (or D-Rex as it's called here). It looks very much like one of Wily's mechs, and it fears the boomerang.

Side note: In this remake, the Fortress Boss Theme plays not only for Vile and these big bosses, but also all the regular boss rematches. That wasn't the case in the original.

The final stage is one single vertical corridor, and charging Armored Armadillo's weapon into a shield is a good way to grind health-ups from the enemy-dispensers on the wall. You can fill all your Sub-Tanks in a minute or so this way.

Oh yeah, Zero's arm cannon lets you charge special weapons now, in addition to having a better charged shot.

Time for the final battles. They won't be easy, but the same principles largely apply as in the original game.

First up is Sigma's Dog, a vicious mechanoid who may or may not be descended from Rush. He's small and fast, but he doesn't have that much health and takes a lot of damage from Chill Penguin's weapon.

After the dog is bested, X and Sigma verbally joust for a moment. Well, "verbally joust". It's mostly Sigma explaining his motives and X ranting angrily about Mavericks. Sigma thinks he has potential? Well I never!

Sigma uses a lightsaber in this one. I like that he's in his original form here; in later X games he kept returning in new bodies and none were as crisp as this one.

The fight is basically the same as the original game, but now he can fire shots diagonally at you. This can disrupt the "climb, shoot, fall" litany that easily felled him in the original game. He's still predictable and easy to beat, regardless. Just don't get hit. At all. One hit takes off like 25% of your health.

Sigma isn't done yet! His severed head now retreats into the background and becomes one with a giant mech.

OH MY GOD IT'S HUGE. This is a spot where the semi-3D visuals add a lot.

We get this super-unsettling shot of Sigma's head lurking within the mech. I'm having DBZ Movie 6 flashbacks here.

This fight is fairly challenging; you still need to use his hands as stepping stones to hit him in the head, and he still does his best to keep you off of them. Luckily he doesn't have any new attacks, and you can still get all of your Sub-Tanks back in the vertical hallway before this if you lose.

Armadillo Shield works well against him, but given the wider screen in this version, I found red charged shots to be more effective (they reach farther).

But wait! I spoke too soon. He does have ONE new attack, a rain of lasers. The good news is that they're slow enough that it's easy to get under a claw and avoid them. The bad news... well, there isn't really any bad news.

Win and you get a sweet cutscene. That's one X adventure in the bag. Bring on Maverick Hunter X2!

::holds earpiece:: ...oh, they didn't do any more remakes? Ah well.

Beat the game as X and you unlock Vile mode, where you play as Vile. It's probably as cool as it sounds; I didn't do anything with it though. Beat the game again as Vile and you unlock...

...the 25-minute Day of Sigma movie, which gives you the backstory on the X series. It's well worth watching, and probably the best thing this game contributed to the canon. Check it out, especially since I'll be covering more of the X series on here soon enough.




2 comments:

  1. Overall it's a good remake(better than megaman kiddied up) but definitely not as good as the original in pretty much every ways to me.

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  2. Another notable thing about this game is that X has the best voice actor he's ever had.

    Vava and Wawee, hahahaha.

    No need to jump over Chill Penguin, just stay on the left wall and come down to shoot him when he's far away. He only has one charging attack that reaches up there, and it's easy to both see and shoot him down from.

    Flame Mammoth appears to have a Sigma jock strap.

    Wow, that Zero-cannon charged shot is a big let down. If they were going to change it so much they should have given it some sort of saber-like quality.

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