Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mega Man X8 (Playstation 2, 2004)

 
This is it, the culmination of the X series. Isn't 8 a weird number to end on?



In this one, there's a WWF New Generation of reploids... And they've crash-landed near the space elevator! Now I'm no fancy big-city elevator designer, but you'd think that a structure like this would be really well-protected.

Here's the leader of the New Generation: "Big Daddy Cool" Sigma! But wait!

X arrives on the scene to discover a most horrifying sight:

An army of Sigmas. This is like that scene in DBZ Movie 6 where Kooler appeared and had like a hundred clones.

The good news is, it turns out that the Sigmas in question aren't really Sigma at all. They're...

...a bunch of copycat robots that can imitate other 'bots, and I guess Sigma was the best body for surviving a crash. Their leader is Lumine, seen here. He/she/it is so emo that "CRAWWWLING IN MY SKINNNN" plays every time it enters a room. On a lighter note, these copycat robots would have an amazing time on Halloween.

Time for the intro stage. Alia wants X to make sure he scrapes plenty of DNA samples off of everything. What is this, New York City*?

In any case, the story has already lost me but at least I can talk about the gameplay. This time around the game features 2.5D gameplay; it doesn't go full-on 3D like the previous game and that's probably for the best. However, the 2D background has a three-dimensional feeling to it and there are parts where you seem to run into the background...if that makes sense. If Mega Man had to deviate from straight 2D gameplay, I suppose this is probably the best way to do it. Still feels kinda weird.

Axl is somehow still alive, and once again has the power to rapid fire in all directions. There's a tag team mechanic in this game where you can switch between two characters at will. When a character takes damage, their health meter turns red where the damage is for a few seconds before the energy disappears entirely. During that time you can switch characters and the red part of the meter will regen slowly instead of disappearing. This adds a strategic element.

The intro stage introduces you to all three main characters. It's so much better than the intro stage of Mega Man X7, which is one of the most illness-inducing first stages I've ever played.

These hard hat dudes are all over this game, like a herd of Member Berries descending on unsuspecting players. 'Member the old Mega Man games? I 'member.

Finally we get a real boss, and it's that giant metal crab that has been sassin' our heroes for a bit now.

Win that battle, and you're visited by Vile. Wait, Vile? Didn't he die (again) in X3?

He's also Boba Fett.

Vile is apparently the leader of the latest Maverick uprising. Not only has he taken over the space elevator...he's also kidnapped that weird Lumine person. Okay?

Joke's on Vile, because he was only an A-Class Hunter back in the day. Zero had a good chuckle when reached for comment.

Here are the eight stages for this one. Get this: Almost half of them are sled-type autoscrolling areas. And yes, they're all lame.

Not only do you start with all of the characters in this one, you also choose your navigator from this trio here. Alia has a lot to say about the stages, while Layer here knows a lot about the bosses. There's also a third navigator over there on the left, Pallette, who knows all about cooking meth. Our heroes generally stay away from her, except for Axl.

The boss names have finally recovered a little bit after several games of the stupidest boss names imaginable. They still aren't that great, but at least they make sense.

Earthrock Trilobite is one of the easier stages to start off with, but there's this poorly-designed mech miniboss who stalks you the entire time. The fight is what's poorly-designed because it requires you to climb a wall and hit a switch repeatedly... while the mech blasts you off the wall with a nearly-undodgeable beam every time you try to hit the switch.

The shocking reveal at the end of the level: Earthrock Trilobite is actually Elon Musk.

There's a new dual mega-attack that you can dish out if both characters are alive (after charging up a meter). It's a melee-range move but if it lands, you get a cutscene showing both of your characters attacking the enemy.

It's pretty cool, and does a ton of damage all at once. You can do this once per boss fight, generally, and it's good for dealing with those pesky final phases where bosses get meaner.

Peacenik X is in full swing here, constantly asking why they have to fight. The game was made in 2003/2004, so it makes sense, even if it seems out of the blue (no pun intended) in the game world.

Time to start dealing with these auto-scrolling levels. The snow level is the worst of the lot, with few checkpoints and some seriously cheap jumps.

It looks really cool (no pun intended) though. Given the visuals and 3D-ness of it, this feels like a good use of the PS2's processing power if we have to have an autoscrolling level.

Ya know, it seems like a lot of these bosses just want to be left alone; our heroes then roll in, call them Mavericks, and murder them. It's pretty bad. X then stands around and whines about having to be at war while the corpse of his victim smolders nearby.

Regardless, in the spirit of Chill Penguin, Blizzard Buffalo, Frost Walrus, and Blizzard Wolfang, here's Avalanche Yeti. Yanno, the name isn't bad at all on this one.

In an attempt to get all of the irritating levels out of the way, next I try the "Dynasty" level. This one's just plain weird. You fly around a city (don't get excited, it's autoscrolling) firing at this jellyfish boss as he tries to escape.

That's pretty much it. You fly in a big circle until you take the boss down. It's a lot easier than the snow level, at least.

That weirdness is followed by a boss fight. Gigabolt Man-o-war looks like something from 1950's sci-fi.

There's this odd side-story going on where Layer has a thing for Zero. Of course, Zero is completely oblivious. I don't know why this is even happening. Everyone knows robots don't have naughty parts, unless they're Japanese. ...wait a second, where was this game made? Oh My God.

Also, during their interactions, we get this funky 70's porn music. After the "I'm Pallette, and this is Layer!" I half-expected Zero to go "And I'm here to deliver this pizza".

Burn Rooster. The number of intimidating bosses in videogame history who had "Rooster" in their name continues to stand at a whopping zero.

At least he got to have a normal name, though. In X5, Burn Dinorex was renamed to "Mattrex" for the U.S. version of the game. Imagine if Burn Rooster were renamed "Mattster".

This stage is an awful mix of vertical autoscrolling, not being able to see where you're going, and lack of floor. It's probably the least-fun stage yet. This screenshot here is pretty much what the entire stage looks like, too.

* - Seriously though, why is the ground sticky everywhere you go in New York City?

At some point in the game, Vile starts attacking you midway through stages. He's no joke, but he's still easier than he was in his earlier series appearances. Being able to switch between two characters makes a world of difference in difficulty. In other news, this was a great opportunity to get a shot of the fully-charged X-Buster.

After getting past Vile, we meet the REAL boss of the stage. The TRUE villain! The notorious...

...............Burn Rooster. He's like Storm Eagle and Flame Stag made sweet love and he was born.

Burn Rooster protests X going around calling people Mavericks, and X responds with more anti-Maverick rhetoric. I'd like to say the game is making a deep socio-political statement here, but it isn't.

On the bright side, here's another sweet image of the X-Buster!

Defeat him, and the stage still isn't over. That's right, you have to re-do the vertical autoscrolling platform section, only now it's in reverse. Man, this stage is terrible. The level design in this game, while better than the previous two, is still a big step down from most Mega Man games.

Now that I have the autoscrolling levels out of the way, time to have fun! ...wait, what? This level has a gimmick? Oh boy.

And what a gimmick it is! The level actually goes pitch black at times...and stays that way. It's infuriating level design to say the least.

Yeah yeah, let's get this over with.

Man, I can't even see the battle! What gives, game?

Around this time I finally go and buy some stuff in the shop. You can get healing items that restore your health, which is key for the later bosses. That said, energy tank type items are a lot less needed here than they are in previous titles due to being able to restart right back at a boss fight if you lose.

The next stage I tackle is Primrose, a maze of blocks and turning gears. It's another PITA of level design because every room is a block puzzle where a mistake means death.

Otherwise the stage is worth noting because it has some seriously good music:
Has a strong Mega Man X5 flavor to it, which makes me wonder if it was originally composed for that game and simply went unused.

Another weird-looking boss. Spoiler Alert: X angrily called him a "Maverick" before and after the fight.

Wait, what's this? A...a normal level? With regular jumping over pits and stuff? What could a maverick possibly want here, indeed.

This stage brings back the ride armor from earlier installments. Can't use it for very long though, due to this 20 foot wall that some asshole built. Thanks a lot, Trump.

Another fight with Vile! This time, I let Zero take care of business with that sweet energy sword. This is payback for what happened in Mega Man X, and is the coolest screenshot/moment of Mega Man X8.

Bamboo Pandamonium worries that this war will be the end of all things. (wait...seriously? I need to double check this...yeah, that's actually his name...what the hell)

It's Zero Vs. Bamboo Pandamonium! As far as gigantic X-series maverick bosses go, this guy is kinda cool. I think Frost Walrus wins overall in that department though. Nothing beats taking out Frost Walrus with the fire uppercut.

After making sure that even future robot pandas are extinct, our heroes take their maverick-killing show on the road. Optic Sunflower here looks like one of those weird Mighty No. 9 bosses.

This last stage is a bit of a chore. It's a series of mini-boss type challenges. Get a good time on them and you'll get better rewards. It's reminiscent of the timed stage in Mega Man X4, except without the compelling content.

Alas, the challenges are very repetitive: Pretty much all of them consist of fighting off waves of these guys.

I make a quick detour to grab new armor for X. There are a lot of different armor pieces to grab in this game, but all you really need is the base Neutral Armor.

HOW ARE YOU STILL AROUND?

Later parts of this stage are absolutely brutal, with spikes everywhere and insane mandatory jumps that would have been optional challenge jumps in early X series games.

After that ordeal, Optic Sunflower is nothing to sneeze at.

Oh My God, is it aliens? AT LAST, SETI HAS BORNE FRUIT!

Nope, it's just.............

..............Sigma. Sigh. Every time we kinda know it's gonna be him, but we also have this small hope that something interesting will happen this time around.

That's right, mega-heroes. All your primitive space development...now belong to him.

Meanwhile, Zero is as oblivious to space as he is to Layer's seductive advances.

With the eight bosses down, it's time for the final fortress stages. Will they be as underwhelming as they were in the previous two games?

The first stage is...one room. You ride an elevator while various enemies attack in waves. It's quite bland, but at this point I don't have expectations of much else with this game.

Behold, the top of the space elevator! That's kinda cool. I guess every so often it aligns with the moon and you can make your way over. Didn't Final Fantasy IV have this idea with the Tower of Babil?

What's with all the end of the world talk? What is this, Donnie Darko?

Defeat Vile yet again and the next stage is the boss capsule room. I've seen some abbreviated fortresses as the Mega Man series wore on, but this is a new level of abbreviation.

Our heroes have to fight several fake Sigmas as the fortress continues.

This would have been a cool opportunity for the game to have you fight Sigma's various first-forms from the other seven X games (beam saber, claws, shield, reaper, armored, zombie, gun-toting), but instead you just fight this one bland form a bunch of times.

In the immortal words of Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, WE'RE ON THE MOON!

Just when I think the game is over with, here's another Vile. This time he's got his ride armor back. Surprised it took this long given that his only victories over our heroes have been via ride armor. Except in X3, where his armor suffered from "dash back and forth endlessly" AI like most of the bosses in that game.

The final area is filled with spikes and absolutely the most difficult area in the game. I spent a solid hour+ trying to get through this last stage. One major issue is that the spikes frequently have poor collision-detection.

Finally, here's the real Sigma. He's all glitched and demonic-looking, ala X6. At this point the only thing he hasn't had is a ninja form.

There's something intriguing about finding a villain sprawled out on a stolen throne. Side Note: I recently discovered that I have a fetish for women sitting on large chairs with their legs crossed all boss-like.

Awwww yeah.

Awwwwwww yeah.

TOO MUCH. JIMMY TAKE IT AWAY DAMN YOU!

Sigma now wields the Moonlight Greatsword from Dark Souls.

Win that fight, and we get a cutscene! Stuff happens, but most importantly Axl is somehow still alive. What's he been doing while X and Zero save the day?

Sigma may be defeated, but there's still one more boss to fight: Lumine. What? If they were going to have Sigma be second-banana for the final X game, why not give us Dr. Wily as the final battle? And who in the blue F is Lumine?

To sum up, as the leader of the New Generation, Lumine wants to rid the world of old-generation reploids. Sigma was happy to play along on this even though he himself is likely on the chopping block.

Noteworthy: Lumine's second form bears a striking resemblance to the final boss of Mega Man Zero (seen here) and uses some of the same attacks. Interesting.

Also noteworthy: Biblical Seraphs (higher angels) are said to have six wings. Casts a new light on the name "Lumine", as well as X's promises of salvation in Mega Man Zero.

Defeat Lumine, and the world is saved. Unfortunately, Lumine zaps Axl with something that appears to transfer his essence over to Axl. On the off chance that Lumine was Wily or infected with a new virus or whatever, Axl now has it. Does this mean Axl will be the bad guy in Mega Man X9? Nope, because it never existed. It's just as well, because...


Revisiting these X series games was a fun idea, but it's pretty clear that after X4 they stop being a whole lot of fun, and after X5 the story stops advancing or making any sense. I'm glad to have this crusade over with.

One cool thing is that when you beat this game on Normal or higher difficulty, it unlocks the three operators as playable characters. That's right, you can play as Alia. Given that this is the first time any X series game has playable female characters, it's worth noting.

See ya next time.






1 comment:

  1. As I remember I made it through 6 stages in this one before the auto-scrolling ones I had left turned me off. So bad.

    I like how the screenshots are all X to the Z.

    I was actually about to double check Bamboo's name myself before you did. ye gods

    What more advanced space development does he have to compare it to?

    Yeah, fighting the previous Sigmas would have been way cooler, even if it was just the first few.

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