Friday, January 6, 2017

Mega Man X2 (Super NES, 1994)

A year after the previous game, we got this one. Since I didn't play Mega Man X until about eleven months after it was released, this meant I got to basically go right from the first game to the next. As a result I had the benefit of directly comparing the two, and I'd go so far as to say this is the better of the two. Mega Man X is more appealing in a lot of its designs, and the fortress levels are definitely better, but other than that I prefer Mega Man X2's gameplay and music by a slight edge. They're still essentially tied at the top of the X series for me. This is a game that I can essentially replay at any time and have fun.





This takes place shortly after the first game, with X leading a squad of Maverick Hunters to attack a reploid factory. It appears that Sigma's legions have carried on the fight even in his absence. Well, "absence", since the first game spoiled Sigma's continued existence at the end.

The first stage begins with a hail of lasers that immediately atomize X's green biker buddy. He'd later be immortalized as a meme. Oh, and REALLY INTENSE MUSIC is playing. This game has a very distinctive sound that none of the other X series titles have. Some people like it, some don't. Personally I really dig the guitar.

X is the only survivor of his squad as he lands at the factory. I wonder if he's still a B-Class Hunter or if they finally promoted him to A-Class. Given that later X games still have him listed as B-Class...ehhhh.

In any case, in this game he STARTS with the dash, which is a fundamentally good change. Means you don't have to do a specific stage first if you want to dash, and given that the dash is a vital part of the gameplay, it's much-appreciated. Also, his charged shot is looking snazzier this time out.

A massive boss drops in at the end of the stage. This thing is pretty easy to beat, so it's a bit ill-fitting that the X-Hunter battle theme plays for it. More on that later.

This will eternally remind me of trying the game in a Sounds Easy Video. When I was a kid we had this thing called video stores, and in the pre-Blockbuster days they tended to be pretty cool. My local store had a Super NES and Genesis set up with TVs for people to play on, and you could try out any game you wanted before renting. They had shelves upon shelves of every great SNES game you could think of. If I was really excited for a new game, I'd often stay in the store and play it on their system for a little while until I could pry myself away and actually rent the thing. For this particular game, I did just that. Other games I remember playing in there for a little while: Secret of Evermore, Mario RPG, Final Fantasy VI.

We see the shadowy X-Hunters: Serges, Violen, and Agile. They're a trio of fiends who now lead Sigma's forces in his absence. Agile is fast and cocky, Violen is big and violent, and Serges is the brain of the operation. Serges also looks exactly like Dr. Wily, interestingly enough.

I really like these guys as a concept and they were pretty rad at the time. Originally there was supposed to be a fourth X-Hunter, a female no less, but that one got cut due to the developers running short on resources.

We arrive at the stage select, as is tradition. I think Mega Man X has a better set of bosses overall, but this group is also fairly cool. Couple of weak points like Wire Sponge (what?) and Magna Centipede, though.

Wire Sponge is a good idea to go for first, though you can beat any of these bosses with the regular buster. This stage has Heart and Sub Tanks that are super-easy to get, and the boss is among the easier ones.

The Heart Tank is right at the beginning, hidden in that vent on the left. Thanks, Nintendo Power!

This stage has changing weather patterns, but they don't have too much of an effect.

The pouring rain does slow your forward momentum a tiny bit. I think this section here is around where I stopped playing in the video store and checked the game out.

Up high in this section, one can find a very easy to reach Sub-Tank. Thanks, Nintendo Power!

Wire Sponge is a whip-swinging fiend who drops vine-spikes all over the room. Once again I suffer from having a much lower health pool than the bosses at the outset, so this fight can actually be a bit tricky.

Protip: Defeat the vine-spikes he drops quickly, because once they start taking up wall-space it gets very difficult to avoid the boss.

Fun Fact: Spike Rosered (Mega Man X5) might be the 2.0 version of this guy. Very similar attacks.

Wheel Gator is interesting-looking. Drink it in, because this is the only time you can really see what he looks like. He spends most of his fight submerged in mud, making it the lamest boss fight in this game. You wait for him to reappear...and wait.

The Dino Tank is an interesting idea for a level. It's literally a giant tank rolling through a city. I used to not like the music here, but now I've started to.

Whoaaaaa. The magitek mech suits in this game are much nastier-looking than in the previous game.

I wonder if this version of the mech suit could take on Vile's mech suit from the first game.

Protip: You can get infinite lives on this section by getting out of the mech suit and repeatedly defeating this enemy before he hops into his mech. I just discovered this today.

One of the hardest-to-reach Heart Tanks in the game, if not the hardest. There are a few ways to get to this one, and none of them are easy. I'll have to come back for it later.

The pre-boss hallway must be the head of the Dino Tank. It's menacing, much like...

...Wheel Gator, who is weak to Wire Sponge's Strike Chain. He can be stunlocked to death with perfect timing, and either way he doesn't put up that much of a fight. He's definitely the least-fun boss to fight since he spends most of it hidden while you wait around for something to happen.

Defeat two bosses and the X-Hunters finally decide to do something about it. Uh-oh. They're top-level Mavericks, and as their name implies, they were designed to hunt X. This doesn't bode well for our hero. Question is, where were they during the first game?

They send a Skype chat to Dr. Cain's headquarters, explaining that they have Zero's parts and plan to reassemble him to use for evil. An evil Zero? Dark times will fall upon the world like none they have ever known before. ...except that one time in the distant past where Zero was unleashed, that we don't know anything about. And that other time later when Zero woke up again in the X series era.

As for Dr. Cain... not sure what his deal is. He has a very minor role in this series. He's like the human liason to the Maverick Hunters.

Bubble Crab's stage is the next one I take on, and it has a beautiful background right from the beginning. Great music, too.

The background here reminds me of The Abyss, as I MEET A GIANT FISH!

Fun Fact: The music for this stage later got remixed in Mega Man X5.

Bubble Crab is a deceptively strong foe. He's small and looks like a refugee from Mega Man V, but he has a resilient water shield that protects him from damage. Wheel Gator's weapon is the sensible choice to saw through it.

Flame Stag's level is one of the first that I think of when I think of this game. It takes place in what looks like the Grand Canyon, with an almost militaristic soundtrack.

It involves escaping from an erupting volcano. I'm also going to take a detour here to fight the sole X-Hunter that I'm going to fight...

...Agile. This guy is very cool. When I was a kid, I thought he was the leader of the X-Hunters. Turns out Serges is the leader; Agile is just their strongest fighter.

This fight is pretty much the definition of "bad-ass". Agile wields a katana and unleashes some fast and furious attacks, as his name implies. He's even fiercer than Vile.

Here's a shot of his energy wave. These things are very tough to dodge, but you can lure him into aiming high and then drop down to avoid them with a good success rate.

Victory nets me one of the Zero parts, but I won't be getting the other two. Violen's first form is the same as his later fortress stage form (unlike Agile), while Serges' first form is just a pain in the ass.

After getting past Agile, Flame Stag is no problem. Bubble Crab's weapon sends him into an AI loop that is fairly easy to exploit for the win.

Next, I visit the junkyard. Morph Moth's abode is a creepy stage for a variety of reasons: The eerie music, the facehugger-like enemies that abound, and the junk/wreckage strewn everywhere actually being a pile of robot corpses.

Using Wheel Gator's weapon near the beginning gets you into a secret passageway; a crucial one, at that.

Dr. Light returns with an armor upgrade. Not sure how much this reduces damage intake because the game doesn't tell you. It also gives you a super-attack that builds up as you take damage; when it reaches full energy you can use it once. Unfortunately it's pretty useless against bosses, only doing one damage most of the time. It's good for clearing the screen of regular foes...I guess.

This miniboss shows up a couple times in this stage, and it's pretty annoying until you realize that bubbles totally annihilate it. I think this might be the reanimated corpse of Junk Man.

Morph Moth has two forms: For the first two thirds of his life meter, he's this weird larva thing that fires shrapnel. Get him down to 33% energy, and...

...he becomes a beautiful moth. Speed Burner makes short work of him in both forms.

Magna Centipede's stage probably looks familiar, and that's because it's where the X-Hunters were plotting earlier. Since this is their command center, it's lucky for X that they don't all spring out and attack him at once.

Also, this stage (or at least, the first half of it) gets repeated as the final stage. Presumably this is because of Capcom running out of resources, like the aformentioned cut content. For those keeping score, I believe the game lost the following:

-A fourth X-Hunter
-A fourth X-Hunter stage for said boss to appear in
-A second form for Violen
-A real final stage

One thing that's easy to forget about this game is that it uses the Super FX Chip, aka the same thing Star Fox uses. This doesn't actually figure into the game much at all and was probably just something gimmicky to put on the back of the box. We get this cool wireframe sword miniboss, at least, and later we fight the Bishop of Battle. So there's that.

Okay, Magna Centipede's stage is my least-favorite in this game, hands-down. It's a boring stage in terms of look and layout, and there are multiple minibosses that all take an age and a half to bring down. This one looks badass, but it gains health depending on how well you do in the stage leading up to it. Perform poorly and the miniboss will have more health than any boss in the game does, which is pretty lame.

Magna Centipede himself is easier, and Silk Shot (the moth weapon) does significant damage to him. It even goes so far as to knock his tail off of his body, which reduces the number of attacks he has at his disposal.

Here I take a moment to demonstrate the armor upgrade's super-attack. For something that you can only use once on rare occasions, it would have been nice if it did decent damage to bosses. You can see how much damage it does here: Almost none. On the bright side, it looks a lot like one attack Vegeta uses in DBZ. I think he only uses it in the Saiyan Saga, and only once, but it's impressive.

After bidding that awful stage farewell, it's onto another very cool one: Energen Crystal, home of Crystal Snail. Very appropriate and "crystalline" music here to go with the unique look of the place. Fun level, for sure.

Another miniboss that almost looks like a Final Fantasy IV refugee.

I find this to be the most "mysterious" of the eight stages in this game because it has a lot of hidden areas. At this point I think I know all of them, but still, it's a fun zone to think about. Here I find the helmet upgrade, which is even more useless in this game than it is in the first. One of the things Mega Man X3 does well is give the helmet some real usefulness, at least.

At last, we arrive at my nemesis, Crystal Snail. This guy gave me more trouble this go-around than ANY other bosses. I don't even know why, but I had such a tough time with him. Magnet Mines (from Magna Centipede) knock him out of his shell temporarily, which makes the fight much less frustrating.

He's liable to STEP ON YOUR FACE to get back to his shell, though.

Taking a quick moment to show you Serges, even though I don't plan on fighting him until the fortress levels. Sup, Dr. Wily?

It's weird that he identifies as "Serges" to begin with. Was he originally intended to overtly be Dr. Wily in android form but they changed that at the last second, deciding to save that fight for later (and then never have it)? I don't know. Given how few real answers we have, we can only speculate on whether or not this guy is Wily, or whether or not he was originally intended to be if he isn't.

Editor's Note: Upon further investigation, I've learned that in the Japanese version of this game, Serges actually makes reference to Dr. Light as if he's an old nemesis, and is clearly stated to be the reploid behind the re-construction of Zero due to his advanced knowledge of Zero. It would appear that Serges was indeed intended to be Wily, but for whatever reason they changed it for the American version and never spoke of it again. When asked about it later, Inafune said that it was "to be left up to the player", the expected cop-out.

 Side Note: This isn't the first time that the developers have dramatically altered a major plan at the last second. The villain of the first Mega Man Zero was supposed to be X, but that was changed at the last minute to "Copy X", an X clone, so as not to upset X series fans.

Back to the game, I take on Overdrive Ostrich last out of the eight. For a long time the music here was my favorite stage theme from this game. It's a perfect desert theme with some momentum to it, which is fitting considering how fast-moving the stage is.

Most of the stage is a bike ride, and it's a lot more fun than most of the rides in this series. No autoscrolling, very little instant-death.

Near the end of the stage I acquire the boot upgrade, which lets you air dash. This is different from dash-jumping and has more applications in terms of finding shortcuts and avoiding the attacks of bosses. This also lets you get the all-important arm cannon upgrade.

X rides a disintegrating missile from the desert to...another desert. What is this, the Gulf War?

Overdrive Ostrich is a very tough foe without his weakness, but with it... crystal shots cause him to go into an AI pattern, making the fight significantly easier. It's one of the tougher patterns to exploit since he repeatedly launches his strongest attack, turning this into a war of attrition.

Since I didn't get all of the Zero parts back, the X-Hunters are rebuilding Zero at the North Pole. ...wait a minute, I did get one of the parts. How are they rebuilding Zero without his legs?

The boss being a mystery was enticing the first time I played this game. I really didn't know what to expect from this fortress, and Nintendo Power didn't give anything away.

But first, time to Collect Stuff! First I grab the arm cannon upgrade, which lets you fire two charged shots in a row. The second one looks a little bit like the super-charge from the first game. This powerup is pretty crucial for the fight with Zero later on (spoiler alert) since his shots and your shots cancel each other out. Two charged shots in a row can make all the difference.

Crystal Snail's weapon can turn enemies into blocks, allowing you to reach far platforms. In the junkyard, it lets you get to a Heart Tank (upper right) near the beginning of the stage.

I wrap things up with Bubble Crab's stage, where I again MEET A GIANT FISH.

Using Bubble Crab's weapon and charging it up lets you jump much higher underwater...and mudskip on the surface. This is how you get both of the tanks in this stage, which are the final Heart and Sub-Tanks I'm missing.

I also take a moment to insta-fill my Sub-Tanks by summoning energy capsules in this side-room with Morph Moth's weapon. Charging it up draws in said capsules, but only in a couple of specific rooms. This is the best way to fill up your Sub-Tanks, not only in this game, but in ANY game in this series.

The X-Hunter Fortress begins, and... aside from the AMAZING MUSIC, it's very underwhelming. The first stage is dull, to say the least, and I couldn't really find anything good to take a shot of. The first Mega Man X absolutely wins on fortress stages between the two games.

The first stage culminates with a fight against Violen; it's exactly like the fight with him in the initial eight stages. I skipped that fight, so suffice to say...he's immobile and swings a giant ball and chain. Bubbles are his weakness...weirdly enough.

Aside from the fourth X-Hunter being scrapped, Violen likely also had a second form that got scrapped. It's odd that the other two have second forms, while Violen is simply a repeat fight.

The second X-Hunter stage is a bit more interesting. It's partially submerged and lined with spikes.

This leads up to the second fight with Dr. Wily Serges, who pilots a huge death-machine. I've read that this is the hardest fight in the game since he can knock you off the platforms, but I found it manageable.

Once you take out the pods with Silk Shot, use the Sonic Slicer (charged up) against the evil doctor himself. If you stand in the middle of the two platforms, they'll continually move you up and down, auto-avoiding most of his projectiles.

The...prophecy? What? In the Japanese version, at this point he expresses regret at losing to Dr. Light's old memento yet again. How he knows about Dr. Light is anyone's guess (besides that he's, ya know, Dr. Wily).

X-Hunter Stage 3 is home to the Shoryuken, which I won't be getting. It involves the hardest jump in the game, seen here. You have to air dash to the right, then used a charged-up Speed Burner to do a second dash to the left. The worst part is that one spike that juts out off the platform; it means you can't turn left to do the second dash until the last second, lest you collide with it.

Luckily, this section is optional. The Shoryuken is another one-hit-kill Street Fighter 2 move that makes the remainder of the game pretty easy.

Here's my final inventory screen. All that's left is to fight Agile again.

...wait, what the hell happened to Agile? It's like he transformed into some kind of butterfly filled with helium. We already had a moth boss, so this is a bit much.

He's easily felled with charged-up Magnet Mines, which can hit him multiple times as they travel through his body. The first fight with Agile was a lot cooler, I'll say that much. I just discovered that Magnet Mines can be fired upwards, too.

Looking at these beastly second forms, I wonder what Violen's second form would have been like. Probably something huge and aggressive.

Another of the many mysteries in this game: What's the deal with the broken pod on the left here? The one on the right takes you to the next area, but the one on the left is just ominous. It's the only broken teleporter in the game, as none of the capsule room teleporters break after you defeat their bosses.

Two theories:

-Sigma used it to teleport off somewhere and broke it in the process so X couldn't follow him.
-Wily used it to teleport off somewhere and broke it in the process so X couldn't follow him.

Next up is...you guessed it, the boss rush room from all of the classic series games. Too bad they didn't keep going with Mega Man X's inventive placement of the bosses throughout the fortress stages; that was a lot more interesting.

The good news is that this is among the easiest boss rushes in the series, since the bosses in this game haven't evolved at all since your first skirmishes with them. Now X has tons of health, all of their weaknesses, and the ability to charge said weaknesses. Wire Sponge now falls quickly to the Sonic Slicer.

Winning with said weapon results in Wire Sponge splitting in half during the end-of-fight animation.

The X-Hunter Base has a desert in it for some reason. Nice of them to get this installed just so Overdrive Ostrich has somewhere to graze.

Defeat all of the bosses and you're greeted by... Sigma's voice! He lives!

X gets sent to the final stage at this point, and it's... Magna Centipede's stage again. Yep, they just reused it. I mentioned this earlier, but it's probably yet another victim of cut content in this game.

Sigma finally appears, and...he looks different. He's bulkier now and consists of a lot of different colors, almost like he was just pieced back together with spare parts. I wonder if Dr. Wily did this when he wasn't busy putting Zero back together.

::record scratching::

Wait a minute, speaking of Zero, THERE HE IS. And he's got a bone to pick with X. Cue some of the best music in the game.

He's under the control of Wily Whoever right now, and goes on the attack against X. This might well be the hardest fight in the game; Zero attacks fast and furiously, firing multiple charged shots in a row when he isn't dashing around the room.

He also has an energy saber attack, an early sample of what would become his signature move in the series.

Defeat Zero and he regains his senses, punching the floor like Roman Reigns to open the way forward.

One long fall later (and I mean long, X might as well have fallen into Hell) and we find Sigma. Why is he so huge? Is he really 12 feet tall or are X and Zero just little kid sized? Knowing Capcom, probably the latter.

He lost his lightsaber (I think Zero picked it up...interesting) but now he has Vega Claws and Spark Mandrill's weapon.

This fight can be difficult simply because Sigma hits so hard and has no weakness.

His most intimidating move is to dash forward and bat X with a claw swipe; this usually knocks our hero around the room like a pool ball.

Destroy Sigma's latest body and you see his true form: The Bishop of Battle. Master of all he surveys.

The mostly-useless Strike Chain finally serves a purpose here, as it totally destroys this form. It's a good idea to use charged arm cannon shots at first to whittle him down a bit before switching to Strike Chain, lest you run out of ammo.

Also, lose this fight and you have to fight his previous form AND Zero again, surprisingly.

Sigma gives us our first official mention of Dr. Wily in the series, as he doesn't understand why Zero didn't follow orders. This would seem to negate the possibility that Sigma's new body is a Wily creation, until you consider that in the Japanese version he says that Zero is "the last of Wily's Numbers". In the original series, all of the Robot Masters and Mega Man Killers were numbered, leading up to his final numbered creation, Zero, being #100. Unfortunately that got retconned later and might not even count anymore.

The ending suggests that X and Zero will have to fight again before it's all said and done, once Zero awakens to his true purpose.

Ya know, playing this again, it really does seem like there's a plan in place for the future. The original Mega Man X just felt like a fantastic game on its own that introduced some new characters and concepts. This one feels like the story is taking off and going somewhere, leading into the series at large. The X series suddenly feels connected to the original series, and expectations for the sequels were amped after I first played this game. Alas, most of those expectations ended up falling apart as time went on, but we got a couple more good games at least. Mega Man X3 was hotly anticipated by me for where it might take the story next, but unfortunately the story only moved laterally in that one. More on that game soon enough.






5 comments:

  1. The Angry InternetMay 27, 2016 at 5:06 PM

    Minor correction: this didn't use a Super FX chip, it used a Hitachi chip that Capcom rebranded as the "CX4" and was only used in this and X3.

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  2. The X series on the SNES was just so good.

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  3. I do enjoy using the orbs in Wire Sponge's stage to change the weather depending on which weapon you hit it with.

    Dr. Cain is pretty significant since he's the one who found X, then built every reploid based off of X's design. The world was robot-less for a span until then. Unfortunately in the games he mostly just stands there giving you the people's eyebrow.

    Whoa, X looks so strange with just the armor upgrade.

    Man, that X-Hunter stage music though... ::melts::

    SLICE

    My favorite form of Robot Master Redux are the ones with capsule rooms, a large health capsule after each boss, and it being self contained. Meaning you move on after it and never have to go back, it doesn't drain your resources. Mega Man 7 can be a nightmare if you fall to the final boss (and you will).

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  4. Just noticed I can't find your old post on Lord of the Rings Vol. 1, which used to be at:

    www.coronajumper.com/2010/09/beware-mines-of-moria.html

    Any particular reason it was deleted? I think I remember enjoying it...

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    Replies
    1. Now that you mention it, I took it down to do a repost and never got around to actually doing the "repost" part. I'll repost it today since I don't have anything new going up. The old link won't work anymore, but it'll be here.

      Delete