Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Mega Man Zero (Game Boy Advance, 2002)

It's been a while since I did an entirely new post, but we're back with a bang. This is a fantastic Mega Man offshoot from 2002 that the Game Boy Advance got (and later a DS compilation came out, so we've got no excuse for not checking it out even now). This is, in a way, the "true" sequel to Mega Man X5, taking place after a time jump in a world where X as we knew him is no more and Zero...looks completely different for some odd reason. Originally, this was intended to continue the story of Mega Man X5's apocalyptic satellite ending, with society barely rebuilding. Once the other branch of Capcom went and made Mega Man X6, they had to revise this story a bit to accommodate it. As a result, the other three MMZ titles all kinda veer off in another direction. Let's get to it.



So...even though X5 was supposed to end the X series and tie directly into this series, and X6 (coming soon!) didn't make much sense, X6 ended up being the "bridge game" between the two. Which means X7 and X8 are... non-canon? Because they totally conflict with this. Ah, whatever.

In any case, this sassy human girl is Ciel, which is French for "Sun". It's surprising that a French word got into the American release of a game in 2002. I guess we weren't enemies yet.

My God! The hands! THE HANDS!

This giant mech that we see bowling over a bunch of soldiers...is a Golem. They're big and bad and function as minibosses in this game.

Ciel is a scientist, and spends all of her time performing Puff-Puff.

She's running for her life from the evil mechs that seem to be dominating the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and finds... a kneeling corpse.

Well, Zero has certainly looked better. Yikes. Why is he so mangled? That only makes sense if this follows X5, since he ended that game in dire shape. In X6 (coming soon) he's fine at the end because he miraculously came back from the dead ten minutes in with no explanation. Coming soon. Man, I can't wait.

This little bugger is a Cyber-Elf. They're a cross between Navi and a flying squirrel, and they give people super powers...somehow.

Ciel flings the suicidal Cyber-Elf at Zero. It explodes, which revives him. What?

Not too crazy about the look of Nu Zero. Why does he look so different? Everything about this just screams "extreme". He even looks younger (way younger) than in the X series. Why change up an iconic look to begin with?

He fires...a gun. What happened to the arm cannon? Teh hell?

And what's the deal with the cyber-elves? They're mechanical, but you "feed" them crystals to make them "grow". Are they living Pokémon-type creatures or are they robots? Do the designers even know?

Zero demonstrates his dash ability as he...

...saves the hapless Ciel from a collapsing floor.

After the familiar "WARNING" blare, we have our first boss. It's one of the Golems, and it has Ciel in its vile clutches. I think this is the same one that took out Ciel's squad in the intro.

A mysterious computer spirit thing appears and gives Zero the Z-Saber. Whoa. It's super-overpowered and one-shots the Golem.

Zero has amnesia, it seems. He can't remember what happened in the past, but he seems to be handy with this saber.

Ciel welcomes Zero to The Resistance. Since the apocalypse, the humans have lived only to face a new nightmare... it was the machines, Sarah.

The crazy thing is, the machines are led by... X. But is it THE X?

It's true, X and Zero saved the world from Sigma 100 years ago during the apocalypse. It seems like society, while surviving, is worse for wear. X's empire, Neo Arcadia, is now the eminent power on the planet.

Well, this is bad. It's really bad. We've got to stop X.

The next area is some sort of disposal camp where Neo Arcadia brings their prisoners. Aside from the cool rain effects, it isn't much to write home about.

Here's the first real boss. It looks like animal-themed Mavericks are still a thing. In this game they take on a more "mythological" theme though.

He's about to crush a bunch of jobbers under a spike wall! GOD HELP US ALL! Despite me not fully understanding this strange and frightening game yet, I eke out a win.

This game lacks the normal stage select of a Mega Man game, instead giving us stages from a drop-down list. Usually, three stages are available at any given time, and new ones unlock as you finish old ones.

The Indian boss is in charge of data processing. ...of course.

I basically got my ass whooped by this guy, then discovered that stages disappear from the select screen if you fail them. You can use Continue three times, but once you run out of those it's full-on Game Over. Better off loading from a save when you die. These design choices are baffling, and it's pretty clear that the objective here was to make the game as frustrating as possible.


EX-TREEEEME!

Oh, and you level up your weapons by defeating enemies. This means...you grind if you want to have a chance against these bosses. The best way to do this is to find one of these hive things that spit out lots of small enemies, and grind away. The saber has seven levels while the gun has four. I got both to the second-highest level here, since the highest level takes a ridiculous amount of kills to attain. I'll get that naturally as the game goes on. And yeah, this weird grind-fest is basically necessary to progress at this early stage.

I take on Destroy Train next, and it's a relatively simple level. The boss is stationary, which makes it the first truly easy boss. This would be a good time to mention that bosses in this game have multiple life meters. There are meters within meters (as in, the meter will be blue, then when you take off all the blue, the meter underneath is white).

Next stage, our hero ends up in the desert. This is pretty impressive-looking on the Game Boy Advance.

The desert is full of destroyed military hardware from Iraq War III.

In other news, this might be the most badass name I've ever heard. Between this and Aztec Falcon, Capcom must have fired the name-lameifying people before making this game. That or they're all working on Mega Man X6 (coming soon!)

Even in a game with no old people, Japan gets in a barb about oldness.

Actually, old-barbs aside, this does make sense. Zero is a relic from a previous era, not unlike the way classic series characters would have been relics in the X series. At least this series isn't afraid to mention the previous series and draw connections to it. Still have no idea why the X series couldn't do that in any solid timeliney way.

Anubis unleashes mummy adds, while I unleash the latest variation of the charged shot.

I barely win, after a few tries. This game is TOUGH. You'd think the stage would be over at that point, but nope. Now you have to escort this guy ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE BEGINNING.

After that sheer ordeal, we're back at HQ. Retrieve Data is the stage with the Indian elephant boss, and we've now got access to... Rescue Colbor? My God! Now they're after Stephen Colbert? WILL THEY STOP AT NOTHING?

The next stage has me rescuing Resistance members from a giant spinning mech with two heads. This sorta looks like a Persona boss.

It's weird how I'm working with humans. They're sorta an invisible non-factor in the other Mega Man serieses...

Blizzack Staggroff huh? He sounds like a real... jagoff.

This is a good time to mention that you sometimes (not always) acquire elements from bosses that can be equipped to weapons. Looks like I've got the fire element, so this is a perfect place to do a fire enchant on the Z-Saber.

This DRAMATICALLY increases the amount of damage the saber does to this particular boss. Winning gets me the ice element, no surprise there. This is kinda a lazier way to do special weapons, but don't worry...there'll be some actual weapons later on.

A giant mechanoid assaults the base. Luckily I've got this giant ice block to stand on and avoid all of its attacks.

At some point I noticed that I had a Sub-Tank elf. Feed it crystals to "evolve" it and it becomes a permanent Sub-Tank. This crystal-feeding thing is so gimmicky and definitely here to capitalize on Pokémon.

This elf is a Defense Elf, which means it boosts my stats when I use it...and then it's gone forever (i.e. dead).

At this point I swing around and take on Maha Ganeshariff again. This time I win, due to having the lightning element that he's weak against. This results in me getting...

...the Triple Rod, best known for squashing midcarders and marrying the boss' daughter. It's a lance with an energy blade at the end and it does a substantial amount of damage. I've already got the saber leveled up, but I'm sure I'll be able to use this.

Here's one of the four Guardians, the big bosses of the game. She's water-themed.

Yes, she. Her entire persona is pointing out that she's a woman.

She is, of course, scantily-clad. Gaming!

Next up, I take on Phantom. He's another guardian, but I don't think he's an elemental like the other three. His jam is speed and ferocity.

This fight is awesome because he teleports around like crazy. He's also just plain stylish. The interesting thing is that you fight him at the beginning of his stage.

The remainder of the stage has you escaping, fending off evil green Rush clones.

"Sandra Fluke is a slut! Woof!"

This escape sequence is the hardest section of the entire game. I don't know how anyone can get through it in one shot. The sheer amount of enemies and stuff going on is unreal.

lol

Zero proceeds to go through and obliterate the entire attacking army, leaving nothing for the Job Squad back there to hold off.

Here's Fefnir, another of the four chiefs. He's the strongest of the group and wields a giant cannon. Missed getting any shots of the fight, but it was another tricky one.

Fourth and final weapon in the game (after the gun, saber, and Triple Rod) is the least-useful. It can block enemy shots, but this is the kind of game where you're better off jumping over everything.

You can also charge it up and throw it, like Sigma's shield in Mega Man X3. Not crazy about it, either way.

Side Note: The reason it's called the Triple Rod is because it can stab in three directions, the third being upwards. That'll be useful.

The time has come to rescue Colbor, as I find a bunch of dead resistance members. Who would do this?

There's Colbor, but he's cornered by Harpuia...the strongest of the four chiefs.

"WHAT? My name is! WHO?"

I did NOT see that coming!

RUN, COLBOR! GET OUT NOW!

After a pitched battle, I save Colbor. In other news, Ciel is a damn commie!

Oh shit! X's army of Neo Arcadian reploids is attacking the base and slaughtering the humans. They're not thrilled that the four heavenly kings are all beaten.

Zero fights through the base, culminating with...this fire-elemental boss. Along the way, among the rubble, you find the stuffed bunny rabbit of a little kid NPC you met earlier. Those Neo Arcadian sons of bitches!

The good news is that she turns out to be okay after the attack...as do all other characters of any importance.

Zero is no longer playing around. He's going to track down X and destroy him for this. Meanwhile, Colbor looks on creepily.

Neo Arcadia Shrine is the domain of X. But first... hella bosses!

First, two jet-pack reploids. Any time you have to fight two bosses at once in the Mega Man Zero series, it isn't fun.

The next boss is this Kali-esque reploid with multiple sword-wielding arms.

Another multi-armed boss awaits. This guy also appears in Mega Man Zero 2, which is even MORE difficult than this game.

Next we battle some kind of acid boss. It resembles the Yellow/Green Devil, but it's a completely different beast. It morphs into various shapes, like a flying head and a big floppy phallic thing.

::shock theme plays::

What the? It turns out that the X we've been fighting all this time...is just a clone of the real X! Disney's Doug!

And also...Ciel created him for some reason. Well, that's an unnecessary twist...and the Copy X thing is just a total cop-out. It significantly brings down the relevance of this game, too. I wonder if that was a last-minute adjustment to account for the X series continuing after Mega Man X5.

Ciel created the new X to try and re-create the success of the old X. Unfortunately, much like New Diesel, New Razor Ramon, and New Coke, it turned out to be a bad idea.

Next up is the capsule room of Neo Arcadia. Herein lurk the main four "lesser bosses" that aren't chiefs: Blizzard Jagoff, famed mummy-herder Anubis Necromancess, the tech support elephant, and the newest boss... Crab Goro. He puts up the greatest fight since he's fairly current, while the other three are all obsolete (OBSOLETE!) at this point. The key is to know their elemental weaknesses and slap those elements on as needed.

Man, these cyber-elves are morbid. They should be called "suicide elves".

Next up, you fight the four generals again. They're a bit more powerful, but at least they're fresh in the player's mind.

"Playing with you"? Why does the female general have to talk all sexy about it? Reploids don't even have naughty parts.

After taking down Fefnir and Phantom again, I'm confronted by three of them at once. Uh oh. Phantom isn't present because, while these three all teleport away after their fights, Phantom insists on fighting to the death.

X arrives...and dismisses the three generals. I don't know, I think they had a pretty solid chance against me...

He makes sure to double down on letting us know that he isn't really X. Disney's Doug!

...a baby?

Or in this case, a genocidal hate-baby, and a world without humans.

X breaks out spiky gold armor and the battle is joined! Apparently this suit is some kind of combination of X and Zero's original "DNA" and gives him some of the abilities of both. It's an interesting idea, but the fight doesn't really reinforce that notion. Show, don't tell.

Zero finally shows some personality as he zaps X with a mean zinger.

X now powers up into Seraph X. The most powerful Biblical angels often possessed six wings, and given the overtones of this game I'm not surprised to see him sporting them.

The final battle music here is intense, as is the fight itself. It'd just mean so much more if it were, you know, actually X.

A pitched battle follows, which I barely win. Let's just say the key to victory...is a certain weapon-uh that doesn't work Tuesdays-uh.

Man, this sucks. X is in pretty bad shape. Wait, it doesn't matter, he's just some soulless clone.

Zero then proceeds to slice Copy X in half (EXTREEEEME!)

Neo Arcadia falls apart, killing thousands. Zero wakes up in the desert, where he is spoken to by a higher power as the Biblical allusions continue. That spirit-figure may or may not be the ghost of the original X, here in the Dr. Light role.

Harpuia takes command of what's left of Neo Arcadia at this point. We'll see him in the next game, but the true menace will be someone closer to home.

Good game, story was lacking though. I'm pretty sure X was supposed to be the villain here, but that the idea ended up being nixed by the suits. "We can't turn him heel! Think of the merchandise sales!"

Coming next: Mega Man Zero 2.

Mega Mania


2 comments:

  1. Loved this game, wished Zero 4 had a sequel.

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  2. You got the story all wrong and copy X’s motivations backwards. The resistance members sans Ciel are all reploids, and are hunted because they are fighting against the government, effectively making them “Mavericks”. It was a neat idea that Zero is essentially helping the “bad” guys In this game and finally being a maverick like he was supposed to be from the start.

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