Patrick Hope: Mega Man X series great as a whole
One of the first columns I ever wrote for Welcome to Bonus Stage was about Mega Man 7, the only main series entry on the Super Nintendo.
In that column, I mentioned how Mega Man 7 was also inferior to Mega Man X, the first game in a new spinoff series. Well, guess what? There are actually three Super Nintendo Mega Man X games, and now that I own the much harder-to-find Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3, I can talk about the entire Mega Man oeuvre on the system. Well, not Mega Man Soccer, but that’s kind of on its own. And not Mega Man & Bass, as that was never released outside of Japan. OK, we’re really just talking about Mega Man X2 and X3.
When I wrote about Mega Man 7, I kind of touched on some of the major changes X brought to a flagging franchise, like an actual story, new moves like being able to kick up walls, a fresh set of bosses, and the ability to go back to previous levels to obtain optional upgrades. It was vaguely Metroid-esque and players ate it up.
After the success of Mega Man X and given Capcom’s proclivity toward milking franchises for all they are worth (Hi, Street Fighter!), it was inevitable that sequels would follow. So in 1995, Mega Man X2 was released stateside, with X3 coming over in 1996. This was at the end of the SNES lifespan and the X sequels were overshadowed by rockstar titles like Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country 2, Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG.
But are these games unfairly overshadowed or did the X series burn out after one game? Let’s take a look.
One of the first things any player of X2 or X3 will notice is that the gameplay of these two games is almost a complete copy of X. But as Mega Man X really had no problems with its gameplay or controls, this isn’t much of an issue. You’ll blast your way through eight bosses who give you cool weapons which range from good (Tunnel Rhino from X3’s Tornado Fang) to bad (the Crystal Hunter from X2’s Crystal Snail) to the just plain weird. For instance, Wire Sponge in X2. Though his weapon — the Strike Chain — is really good, he’s a sponge, man.
It’s a pretty classic case of not fixing something that isn’t broken. But both X2 and X3 add their own little quirks to make things interesting. Oh, and (SPOILER ALERT!) for Mega Man X ahead if you don’t think the spoiler statute of limitations has expired after 20 years.
Near the end of Mega Man X, super robot and all-around good guy Zero sacrifices himself to help take down the big bad guys. So in X2, you have the optional quest of grabbing Zero’s parts to rebuild him. It’s a nice extra sidequest that actually affects a boss battle late in the game and the story as a whole. END SPOILERS.
In X3, you get to play as Zero for the first time in the series and can obtain his saber, which is a borderline game-breaking weapon. You can also collect special “Ride Armors,” which is a fancy term for big robots which you can pilot around and break things with. Again, this is a nice addition to the normal formula and keeps these sequels feeling pretty fresh, especially when these upgrades are an energy sword and a big robot, two likely entries on everyone’s list of favorite things.
On an aesthetic level, both of these games are on par with Mega Man X. The graphics are near identical, all using the same sprites as the original. The soundtrack, while not as good as Mega Man X, which may be due to a lack of any track as good as “Armored Armadillo,” is pretty standard Capcom fare, which means very good. I’m actually listening to the X3 soundtrack as I write this, if that tells you anything.
Sadly, the X series would eventually go downhill, with increasingly silly plotlines and even sillier bosses (Snipe Anteater and Cyber Peacock?).
But like Mega Man 2-3, which hit a real sweet spot for the original series, X, X2 and X3 are all really good games that should be played by any fan of Mega Man or action games in general.
Capcom was one of those companies that could almost do no wrong in the early to mid-90s and it shows here. And thanks to Capcom’s releasing all the X games on one disc for both the Gamecube and PlayStation 2, these games are eminently affordable, with the PS2 version costly only about $10.
These two games aren’t really the underrated gems like Mega Man 7 is. They were even received well at release. They’re just kind of forgotten, which really shouldn’t be the case.
Hope is Dickinson attorney and a video game columnist for The Dickinson Press. He takes a humorous approach while writing about video games of all genres, from the first systems to the latest in technology. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.