Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mega Man X (Super NES, 1993)

I welcome Year of Our Lord 2017 with a quick rewrite of a post that was way too many years in the making.




One of the first things I do is change Dash to R. Mega Man Zero showed me how much easier it is to dash/jump together when Dash isn't A. Mighty No. 9, for what it's worth, does the same thing automatically. R is where it's at for long-jumping off walls without getting carpal tunnel from hitting A and B together.

This game came out around the same time as Mega Man 6 for the NES and Mega Man IV for the Game Boy, in what can only be considered a triple-whammy of awesome. It's the series' jump to the Super NES and a clear evolution of the Mega Man formula. He's got all the crucial advancements now: Faster movement, wall-jumping, bigger charged shots, and even a more formidable look. The end of 1993 / beginning of 1994 was the height of my Mega Man fandom as I studied this game despite not being able to get it at the time. Luckily, Mega Man X ended up being my third Super NES game later that year.

The intro stage is highly-memorable and does a good job teaching you Mega Man's new abilities. Oh, and he's "X" now. Not sure if he's an upgrade of the original Mega Man or a new model entirely, but he seems to be more built for combat.

Editor's Note: There may be a fair amount of thought-overlap between this post and my upcoming look at the Maverick Hunter X remake.

After defeating a trio of dastardly car-driving robots, our hero is face-to-face with... who the hell?

This is Vile, the newest villain in the Mega Man universe. He's more or less Boba Fett, and possibly the most notorious Maverick. Very cool character and it's too bad he isn't in more of the series. He shows up in Mega Man X, X3, and X8.

Thanks to his heavily-armored mech, Vile easily dispatches our hero. It's sorta like the beginning of Super Metroid where you can't defeat Ridley yet, giving you something to work towards. Difference is you can kinda defeat Ridley at the beginning of that game.

You don't see many super-challenging and loseable intro fights in games anymore now, probably because our current climate of Participation Awards isn't really conducive to a losing effort opening a game. Too bad. At least Dark Souls usually does it. It's awesome to lose despite your best efforts at the outset, then get a rematch a short while later when you're stronger or have the weapon/ability you need.

Zero speeds in and fends off Vile, actually blasting off one of his mech arms in the process. When I was a kid I thought Zero was a woman for a little while, probably because I had him confused with Roll.

Zero is an SA-Class Maverick Hunter and a total badass. X, on the other hand, is a mere B-Class Hunter, but in time he too can reach Zero's level. It's a good goal to aspire to.

Supposedly Vile was another SA-Class Maverick Hunter before he defected to join Sigma's rebellion. Sigma was the strongest Maverick Hunter of all, but he pulled a Sephiroth at some point and turned on humanity. The confusing thing is that while the backstory of this game indicates that Vile is a turned hunter who followed Sigma to the side of evil, the backstory of the Maverick Hunter X remake indicates that Vile and Sigma are enemies.

Fun Fact: Vile also appeared in an episode of the Mega Man cartoon series. While that show was heavily-based on the classic Mega Man universe, there was one crossover episode with the X series. Vile comes through a time warp from the future, and Classic Mega Man finds him nearly impervious to damage from the weapons of that era. X then appears through the same portal and fights Vile, saving the day for Dr. Light and friends. It was an awesome episode. Particularly like Vile's slight redesign, which is scarier-looking than his game version.

It was also the only time we ever got a classic/X series crossover that I know of, or any real connection between the two besides Light and Wily presence.

The stage select, complete with an image of the highlighted stage in the center. You get a good idea of what you're in for before you even pick one. This is such a great boss lineup, too. Probably the strongest lineup in the X series, and only a couple of the classic games rival it.

And now...Ladies and Gentlemen, Smooth McGroove!

I settle on Chill Penguin because he's the Toad Man of the game. You pretty much have to fight him first. He's the easiest to beat without a special weapon, and more importantly, his stage contains the dash boots.

Platform-launching axe-droids and flying wasp-'bots harass our hero as he crosses the snowy wasteland. There are also bunnies. My God, the bunnies!

I grab the boots, and not soon enough. These completely change the game and turn it into, well, Mega Man X. They add so much to your mobility.

Oh, and that hologram? That is indeed Dr. Light. He left these ghosts of himself all over the place to help X along on his journey.

The question is...what ghosts did Dr. Wily leave? The entire Maverick Virus is my guess.

Check that out, I found a Ride Armor of my own. It isn't as tough as Vile's, though.

The fight with Chill Penguin is short and sweet. He's got a very appealing design, and all of his attacks are ice-themed.

Also: Look how much more health he has than I do. That won't be the case for too long. One of the things the later Playstation X games do well is scale boss health as you progress (meaning their meters start shorter and "level up" as you defeat more of them). This means the difficulty has a more progressive climb in, say, Mega Man X5. In the first three X games, most of the difficulty is at the outset (and the fortress, of course).

Shotgun Ice acquired! Getting the special weapons of bosses will never get old.

I choose to take on Spark Mandrill next, as we see the game-changing dash in action. Spark Mandrill is weak to Shotgun Ice, but at the same time, his stage is one of the tougher ones. It also doesn't have anything that you particularly need to get at this point. It might be a better idea to go after Storm Eagle second.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome back Smooth McGroove!

The miniboss here takes a lot of punishment to bring down...unless you brought the Fire Wave. It's a little odd to see a mandatory miniboss in this game because so few stages have them. Launch Octopus is the only other one that comes to mind.

The heart tank in this level is a challenge to grab. It involves long-jumping off the wall and around. Having dash mapped to R and using that simplifies it a lot.

Spark Mandrill himself is a big badass with some very forceful attacks.

My favorite attack of his is the Balrog dash-punch. Unfortunately for him, I've got Sub-Zero's power, and in 1993 Mortal Kombat was better than Street Fighter II. OHHHHH!

Next up is my favorite of the eight bosses. This guy has an awesome design. If one were to rank all of the X series bosses on design/overall coolness, he'd be a strong contender for #1. He's like the Pharaoh Man of this series.

I like this stage a lot because it's wide-open and has some SWEET music.

Once again, Ladies and Gentlemen... Smooth McGroove!

Up high, I nab my first Sub-Tank. It's easy to reach...if you know where to look. There's also a very easy Heart Tank in this stage. Just need the dash to get it.

The helmet upgrade is found here (the dash is needed here too). It lets you break blocks...but there are only a couple of places where that really does anything.

Fun Fact: The area where you fight Storm Eagle is actually the ship from the intro stage that dropped Vile on you. This fight can be tough for a beginner and I recommend doing it a bit later. The reason I'm doing the stage as early as I am is because of the three items in the level...and because Storm Eagle's weakness doesn't help too much against him (it's a bit slow to fire).

Storm Tornado is a great weapon because it usually lands multiple hits as it travels through an enemy. It's the second-most damaging boss weapon behind Fire Wave.

...which, incidentally, I'm going for next. I don't think I've ever actually seen Flame Mammoth's stage in its original fiery form because I always play it after Chill Penguin's stage, which results in it being iced over. Similar things happen in some of the other stages: Beating Launch Octopus floods Sting Chameleon's stage, and beating Storm Eagle heavily damages Spark Mandrill's stage. I think the icing over of Flame Mammoth's stage is by far the biggest change, though. It makes the stage easy.

Haw! I'm sliding under all the enemies!

High on a wall is another Sub-Tank; need the helmet upgrade to break through to it... Even though you're jumping off the blocks with your feet to break them. Well, whatever. Two down, two to go.

Flame Mammoth is a big brute with an elephantine trunk. Probably the largest boss in the first couple of X games; the later ones gave us tons of giant brutes.

Armored Armadillo is next. This stage can follow Spark Mandrill's, but I put it off a bit to grab the Fire Wave and get some more items.

Case in point: The Fire Wave DESTROYS the bulldozers in this level, which allows you to get the Sub and Heart Tanks on the first pace.

Man, my life meter just keeps climbing and climbing. Pretty soon I'll have as much health as the bosses.

At the end of the stage you fly forth on a railcar as the area opens up into a beautiful wilderness backdrop. Just be sure to jump off before it CAREENS INTO A PIT.

Armored Armadillo is invincible a good portion of the time due to his armor, and can block your shots at will. The key to victory?

Spark Mandrill's weapon, which knocks his armor off with the first shot. From there, he's vulnerable all the time. Another very cool boss design here, and speaking of cool boss designs...

...Launch Octopus. What an appealing boss. He's up there with Storm Eagle for me, with some bright primary colors and a design that looks ready for battle.

As a kid I always had more trouble with this stage than any of the other eight, and I can see why. It's quite pretty at first, but then you encounter...

...the procession of minibosses, including this very frustrating vacuum-fish. It can pull you in and push you away, which doesn't bode well when there are spikes all around your platform. Spark Mandrill's weapon and a quick pummel with it at close range are the best bets for victory.

This weird boat might qualify as a miniboss, not sure. It doesn't do much besides fire smaller foes, and it isn't necessary to fight. It does, however, lead you to the Heart Tank.

...which is guarded by another miniboss! These serpent things don't exactly do much, and the Storm Tornado makes quick work of them. Fire Wave would have worked well too, but, you know, underwater. That weapon is very much nullified in this stage.

Launch Octopus does this cool thing where he points at you and then points at the ground. I'd like to note the lack of disappearing body parts in these screenshots, unlike so many of the NES games. It took a few years for the Mega Man series to make the jump to 16-bit, and chances are the NES wouldn't have been able to render all of this guy's arms.

Boomer Kuwanger's stage is next...I don't know what he is exactly, and his stage is my least favorite by far. It's almost all vertical, it isn't that interesting, and it's the only stage that you absolutely have to play through twice if you're getting everything.

Boomer himself is a bit of a creeper. Homing Missiles put a stop to him quickly and we move on.

I revisit Spark Mandrill's stage for the final Sub-Tank, and you can see the wreckage of Storm Eagle's ship. Well, at least it didn't land on a populated area. This isn't Man of Steel!

There it is. This one is very easily-missed, since you can barely see it if you get against the edge of the screen here.

Sting Chameleon is usually the final stage for me. This one has the armor upgrade, which pretty much trivializes the first eight stages. It's HUGE if you're a beginner struggling with the game, however; you can be overpowered in 10 minutes by getting the dash from Chill Penguin's stage, then the armor from this stage.

Of course, there's a miniboss guarding it. He has a MASSIVE HEALTH POOL (that you can't see, which makes it worse), but he's easier than any of the eight masters.

Since the miniboss has no weakness that I know of, you might as well fight it with the standard arm cannon. It takes an age and a half due to the MASSIVE HEALTH POOL, but it's very winnable.

With the acquisition of the armor, I wonder if Mega Man is A-Class yet. No, he probably has to save the world at least once for that. We'll see.

Continuing on, Sting Chameleon shifts into the background like The Predator. He hits hard, moves fast, and I got here at less than half health.

As a result, it's the closest fight yet. He's weak to boomerangs and can easily be locked into an AI movement-loop if you hit him with them. Unfortunately his attacks are still AoE enough to get you.

Zero returns from...wherever it is that Zero goes during the day. Time for Sigma's Fortress. There aren't many surprises to be found here; it's a Mega Man fortress.

The stage select theme changes to something a bit more menacing as Sigma's Giant Head greets us.

I don't know what the "main defense force" is, but it must be pretty scary if it's worse than what I'm going to deal with anyway.

The first part of the first area consists of a lot of tiny platforms and flying enemies trying to knock you off. For whatever reason, this part has always given me grief. There's a trick to it: You can climb the rock wall on the right. If you can jump to it, that is. For some reason X doesn't like to dash jump over there. It's weird.

Inside the fortress, we get a rematch with Vile. Given X's trouncing at the beginning, Zero doesn't think X can handle Purple Boba Fett.

Unfortunately for Zero, Vile is still big and bad with his Goliath armor. Zero gets trapped and it's up to X to save the day this time!

...X proceeds to lose, prompting Zero to rescue him. Again. Man, that Goliath armor is a dick. One of the good things Mega Man X3 does is finally let you defeat it in the world's most anticlimactic battle (it just dashes back and forth, like at least three of the robot masters in that game).

One of the big mysteries of this game: Where DID that energy come from? After Zero's suicide attack takes out the Goliath armor, X proceeds to Hulk Up and go after Vile. Now it's just mano-a-mano, no armor involved.

Vile is a truly formidable foe...who falls very quickly to Homing Missiles. He seems to be on par with X and Zero in battle specs, regardless, which is saying a lot.

X inherits Zero's arm cannon as Zero expires. His journey to the red side is complete, as he stares at his hand and trembles.

Now I can charge up to a new level and UNLEASH HELL. This might be the coolest charged shot in the series, bar none.

Oh yeah, Zero did indeed just die. Don't worry though, he'll be back. A lot.

Much like the original Mega Man, you fight the eight bosses again in a specific order while traversing the fortress. For some reason they make you fight Boomer Kuwanger first even though he has the same weakness as Vile. He still falls to Homing Missiles...if you have any left.

The boss procession continues with the official boss of Fortress Stage 1, the Bosspider. ...that's what it's called. For some reason Vile doesn't get to be the boss of his own stage, much like Bass. This thing is waaaaay worse than he is, regardless. Probably the second-hardest boss in the game. I was stumped by it for weeks the first time I played this game. Lost count of all the times I lost the fight. It was the catalyst for me going back and getting all the Sub and Heart Tanks that I missed.

Victory is a matter of firing Shotgun Ice just as the spider lands on the ground, the only time it's vulnerable. It usually does dive attacks, but sometimes it drops a bunch of mini-spiders.

Fun Fact: One of those mini-spiders may or may not grow up to become Web Spider of Mega Man X4 fame. Mega Man X4: Coming Soon. Finally.

Chill Penguin is much easier now that I have his weakness: Fire Wave. Oh yeah, and like eight times as much health at my disposal.

TORCH IT, CHILDS!

Storm Eagle is the final foe before the fortress boss. Unfortunately, he shares a weakness with said fortress boss (much like Vile and Boomer being back-to-back earlier).

Rangda Bangda is an odd wall-face that also appears in Mega Man X5. It's a vastly easier fight than the spider, and probably should have been switched with it. Maybe. Sting Chameleon's weapon dusts this one quickly.

A shot of the charged-up Electric Spark. The charged versions of the weapons tend to gouge boss health (when they're a weakness).

The cavalcade of new tricks continues, as I use Boomer Kuwanger's weapon against Launch Octopus. A mere few shots of it and he loses most of his tentacles, making the fight a snap because he only has one attack left.

There were a few other bosses too, but none of those fights were much to write home about. Spark Mandrill, Flame Mammoth, and Sting Chameleon were all essentially the same exact fights as before.

The Skull Tank is another difficult fight, right up there with the Bosspider. Why? Because it hits EXTREMELY HARD.

It's weak to boomerangs...hopefully you've got any left. If not, there's a good chance you're dipping into Sub-Tanks. I can only imagine how difficult this fight is without the armor upgrade.

The final corridor before Sigma gives you the opportunity to easily refill all of your Sub-Tanks. Throw on the Armadillo Shield and camp out on one of these...uh...caterpillar-dispensers?

The maxed-out inventory screen before the final fight. That's-a spicy inventory!

The final battle is upon us! It's Sigma in all his glory. I like his streamlined first form here; in later X games he'd have progressively weirder or bulkier bodies as he continually got rebuilt by...somebody.

First, you must battle his dog. Er? The good news is that it has very little offensive capability and the fight is over quickly. The bad news is that Sigma really likes dogs, and has an even bigger one lurking in the background.

Side Note: The super-charged shot has an awesome recoil-wave that damages anything immediately behind X. Another thing that makes it the best charged shot in the series.

Almost as good. Almost. That's good enough for me. Give X a promotion already! How long is he going to be B-Class, making $6.55 an hour?

Oh shit. We're really going to fight. He has a green lightsaber, which means... I'm not sure what, but I know only badasses wield those.

Annnd it's over. Even though he hits like a truck, he follows an extremely predictable pattern of movement. Electric Spark also does weakness damage to him, which is interesting because in Mega Man X2 he attacks with Electric Spark (both the regular and charged shots).

Sigma's severed head now pilots the gigantic dog in the background, and the fight continues. It's key to get here with as much health and as many tanks as possible, because this thing hits extremely hard.

Victory is a matter of standing on the edge of one of his claws and pelting him with Rolling Shields. Fall down and you're likely to lose a full life meter getting back up, so it's important to stay on the claws even if you take damage in the process.

I eke out a win. Nintendo Power alluded to their being another secret final boss after this one, and I don't know why they did that because there isn't. The first of many Wily fight red herrings in the X series, maybe.

Sigma's Fortress explodes and falls into the ocean. I'd like to know what kind of anti-gravity technology had them suspended up there in the first place. Also, way to steal Sigma's idea, Ultron.

That's right...Zero will never return. He's gone. Gone forever.

X strikes a power pose as we fade to black. Leave the credits running, however, and we get a post-credits scene:

Sigma Lives. The series continues.

...Hell Yes.


2 comments:

  1. Overall a lot of people grew up with this game and to this day it's still one of the best megaman games. They could have fucked it up but damn the X series is good, especially the SNES games. Also I didn't know the ship in storm eagle stage was the same in the intro, nice touch. Apparently Storm Eagle was an A-rank senior Hunter too, he was a good guy but had to betray the good guys for reasons, I don't really remember.

    Also there was a cool Street Fighter one hit kill attack cameo and you could get the weapon upgrade early in Flamme Mammoth stage.

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  2. It's done differently, but the excellent Mega Man Archie comics did a classic/X crossover of sorts.

    Smooth McGroove is SO MUCH GOODNESS.

    If you're unaware the wall dash exists, you can also get that heart piece by jumping over and over and over until half an hour passes and the one you got it on was probably an accidental wall dash. ...or come back with the boomerang I guess.

    Mortal Kombat was certainly cooler, but...

    "Man, my life meter just keeps climbing and climbing. Pretty soon I'll have as much health as the bosses." - The way it should be, or so I would have said back in 1993. I mean, I still agree now, but particularly then I really didn't like the dinky life bar after so many NES Mega Man games where you have the same amount of max health as the bosses. It felt unfair. MMX eventually makes up for it though as the final heart upgrade gives you just a little more HP than bosses.

    Launch Octopus's stage really is the toughest for the reason you state, but outside of that one guy there's a lot of fun stuff in it. Boomer Kuwanger's stage is always worth the experience because of the insanely good music.

    I've never tried climbing the rock wall in that part of Sigma 1, but I get through it by using Sting Chameleon's charged up invincibility power. Without that it is indeed a PITA.

    What a fantastic game.

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