_hojo:[easilyimpressed] Mega Man X CollectionFebruary 28, 2009
_a little more than 15 years ago, i had a subscription to GamePro. i one day got an issue with some of the worst quality screenshots i’d ever seen. these were for a game called “Mega Man X” for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. details were scarce and questions were many. would Mega Man successfully make the jump to 16 bits? what does the X stand for? would the game look better in motion? is that blue-ish blurry blob Mega Man? come release, all of those questions were answered, and the answer to all of them was a resounding “Yes.” even “what does the X stand for?” a little more than an hour ago, i beat Mega Man X6, thus finishing the series found in the Mega Man X Collection.
_the Mega Man X series took what we knew and loved about the Mega Man series and changed it slightly in enough places to make it feel really fresh and new. super-detailed 16 bit sprites. levels that scrolled vertically without delay. bosses that didn’t contain the word “Man” in their names. boss rooms that were bigger than the size of a single screen. upgradable armor. WALL JUMPING?! sure, you still went to 8 different themed stages and fought a boss at the end before going to a multi-leveled “Boss Castle” in which at one point you’d fight all 8 of those original bosses again. this is Mega Man. but it’s Mega Man in the same way that when you stand on your head, you still see the same world, but everything just feels different. Mega Man X was Mega Man standing on his head, running around with his hands and having his foot turn into a cannon that shot bullets.
_the X series never had a very good story, but it tried to focus on story and characters more than the original series ever did. where the original series never went much further than “oh snap, Dr. Wily’s up to no good and Mega Man is the only robot in the entire world that will stop him,” the X series liked to poorly dabble in serious story garbage. deep plots, like “Reploids are superior to humans, so the only logical thing to do is kill them all,” and robots mourning one anothers death and saying things like “See you in the next world.” in later games, X interacts with his the Mavericks in inane conversation like “please, there’s no reason to fight,” “you’re right, but i made a promise. now kill me!” i’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of a lot of it. brilliant stuff. and i think it was the ending of X3 that had something along the lines of “One day, X will have to destroy Zero. It’s his destiny. Only time will tell when and why…” it’s supposed be an ominous foreshadowing of things to come, but at this point in the series, the main villain, Sigma, has already comeback from being destroyed twice and has gotten his ass kicked in two forms in 3 straight games, and them trying to write a “deep” story around that just doesn’t work, and everything just kind of comes off as sounding stupid.
_story aside, the gameplay found in the series starts off strong, with the fantastic Mega Man X. taking advantage of the 16-bit beast that was the SNES, Capcom went all out on this game. the game starts off by misleading us old Mega Man fans by plopping you right in the middle of a battle upon the game start, not a stage select screen, with cars driving past you and you went forward. they were driving away from the battlefield. intense. as you went forward, you would come across a flying…bug thing, and upon its destruction, it came crashing down, and brought the very bridge you were just standing on, crashing down to the Earth’s surface! how would you get back up without a ladder? this introduced the key gameplay difference in Mega Man X, the wall jump. without anybody knowing it at the time, they had just been introduced to a new gameplay mechanic in what amounts to a tutorial level without a single hint of text. game designers these days could take a lesson here. after an unwinnable battle, you find yourself at the stage select screen. the stage i most remember in MMX was Storm Eagle’s stage. it was a massive. it scrolled vertically without the use of ladders. there were glass walls you could shoot out to find secret passages. you took a lift up to the boss and fought him on the hull of a damaged plane. he tried to blow you off the edge and into a pit to your doom. at the time, there was no better introduction to the 16-bit world of Mega Man.
_MMX had secret capsules that upgraded your armor, rechargeable E-tanks, and Hearts that increased your maximum health. none of these items were too out of the way, and could be found with a little bit of searching, intuitiveness, and newly gained items. most things weren’t really hidden, but were just placed to make you think “hmmmm…how am i gonna get to that?” the bosses were neat and original, a nice break from the always humanoid-robots of games past. we had mammoths, chameleons, octopus, and…kwangers. and they were tough, but had learnable patterns, so they were never frustratingly difficult. the stages were large, but designed so well that they were never confusing. the first X game just might be the pinnacle of the entire Mega Man series. it’s part culmination of the entire NES series, part new beginning. i’d be hard pressed to decide on the order that MM2, 3 and X would go on my “Top 3 Best Mega Man Games” list. it’s just fantastic.
_where the original NES Mega Man games got easier with every new installment, the X series got progressively harder. bosses started dealing more damage, making the finding of health increases and armor more important, pits and spikes became more plentiful, screen-size bosses began to show up to try to ram into you, and all of the bosses became more and more random in pattern, often-times taking away any skill needed to beat a boss and the game almost forcing you to have to abuse E-tanks to beat most of the bosses found in the final stages. all of these parts come to a head in Mega Man X6.
_X6 is just an abomination of a Mega Man title. the boss designs and names aren’t as bad as the Guns ‘n Roses inspired bosses from X5, but they’re really not that inspired. Blaze Heatnix is a fire-based bird whose name is a play on phoenix, which is a fire-elemental bird that is reborn from it’s own ashes. so they took a bird that’s already associated with fire, altered the name by putting in “Heat” as a prefix, and added in “Blaze” at the beginning. it’s overkill in naming the same way a 10 year old boy would name the head of a crime syndicate “Evil Killer X.” i could ignore the poor designs if any of the boss battles were actually good, but they’re not. you have bosses like Infinity Mijinion, whose attacks are so random, it can’t even be called a “pattern,” it’s just about impossible to not take a ton of damage against him, and my beating him saw me literally jumping around firing shots off and random until he suddenly died. or how about the 2 giant squares boss that take up about half the screen, and when they start to move, they rotate around the room in a random direction, making dodging the first movement nothing but a guessing game. the boss fights in the game are all unenjoyable affairs.
_add to that the relentless insta-death stage design, on top of the already piss-poor stage design. the first boss stage, for instance, is not passable with X without the jump upgrade and air dash abilities. it is very possible for you to find yourself using the title character of the game on that stage and not be able to get past the first wall of spikes because the stage designers were too stupid to make it do-able. or how about the screen not scrolling vertically until you’re at the very edge of the screen, forcing the player to make various leaps of faith in large, open platforming areas because it’s impossible to see what’s underneath you, and it often results in falling onto spikes or down a pit. there is also an optional boss in every one of the 8 robots stages. the optional boss is the same guy, every time. and his pattern never changes. and you don’t get anything for beating him. and if you beat him, you get sent back to the stage select screen, and the normal boss of that stage is still alive. there is NO reason to ever fight this guy, and he’s in almost every stage in the game. why? it’s so pointless, it makes my head hurt. and when added on top of the fact that there are so few enemy designs recycled throughout the entire game, including some incredible circle and square-shaped rocks that appear out of thin air and fly at you, and it just points even further and the general laziness of the game’s design. and even after the whole game has you chasing some reploid named Gate, after you beat him, he brings back Sigma for no reason so you can fight him twice again. at least in the previous sequels, they poorly tried to hide him. here, he just comes back out of the blue for no good reason. as i said before, the story in the whole series was never very good, but the writing in X6 had somehow gotten worse.
_if it wasn’t for the fact that everything in X6 is so bad that it’s comical, i wouldn’t be able to stand it at all.
_i’ve only really touched upon the 2 extreme ends of the spectrum here, but know that it starts high with MMX, then slowly goes on a downward slope before crashing at MMX6. that’s the series in a nutshell. while the original series got easier and more average as it went on, it never really got bad like the MMX series did. i’m glad i have the X collection for X1-3, but i likely won’t ever touch 4-6 again.