What do you do when the next generation of consoles come out? Most people take their IPs and just evolve them into the new generation. Capcom however went a stage further. Rather than just make the next game in the series it started a new chapter in the franchise. Evolving what Megaman was into something more powerful, faster, stronger (much MUCH darker, though still with the bright colours… take note DC comics…).
While the NES was going on strong Capcom released its series of Megaman games (Sgathaich: Megaman 4) and they were after a point basically the same. But then the SNES came out (all hail the SNES) and you would naturally assume the next Megaman game would be on the SNES, but instead they kept releasing NES Megamen. No the SNES got the next evolution. Set 100 years after the classic series (yes the franchise has eras, and this is only the second one, afterwards is Zero, ZX and Legends, and that’s not including the Battle Network Universe) you play as Dr Light’s ultimate robot, a new generation of robots that are not only vastly more powerful than the old version but also have true free will.
(TIME FOR BACKSTORY!… sorry kind of important here)
Dr Light realizing for once in his life the potential danger X held – placed him in a capsule to run diagnostics so he wouldn’t upon waking up go all Skynet on us. When found by the archeologist Dr Cain (I know but for once a guy called that wasn’t evil) is amazed by how advanced X is (and this was 100 years in the future… we’re not sure what happened between eras there are many theories). He and X reproduced the technology that made him and created reploids based on X. All was going well, then some reploids went and killed some people and were named Mavericks. Cain created a reploid called Sigma and put him in charge of a group called Maverick Hunters to stop these murderous reploids. Suddenly Sigma has turned maverick and intends to wipe out humanity so reploids can advance and… (you know a bit of a mix of Skynet and Magneto going on there) . Now it’s up to you X teaming up with the much more awesome and should have been lead character Zero (which is not me telling lies he was going to be the lead) to stop Sigma and his 8 mavericks (cause Sigma is just copying Wily… look there’s actually some big twists as the series evolves…. up until 5 which is when the series was meant to end) and save the day. (ok… that’s the part of the plot you needed to know time for gameplay)
As mentioned the game very much plays like an evolution of what made Megaman work, but now its even better. X though starting out weak soon begins to show he’s much stronger than the original one with new abilities like wall jumping. As you play through the 8 maverick stages after the opening (select chill penguin first!) you will find upgrades for X. Some are hidden but as long as you choose chill penguin first you will get the dash boots… it’s unavoidable they made sure of that cause these are mandatory! But hidden away in levels are other upgrades like armour to make it so X takes less damage ( it’s on the chameleons level, you need the dash boots to get them, you’re welcome), a helmet that allows you to break blocks which is only really useful to get… And finally an upgrade to your Buster, also there are health increases and 4 sub tanks (which don’t vanish when used so you can refill them).
Killing a maverick gives you a new weapon that I often end up using on certain parts of stages that I found it was better than a charged buster shot. Also much like classic Megaman these weapons are supper effective against a different maverick. In fact some hurt them so much the boss becomes pathetic (say hello to the start of Spark Mandrill Syndrome… guess who’s a boss in this game!) But unlike the original, beating a maverick will affect things on a different stage as well such as freezing the lava or flooding an area. All these new changes and the weapons are often used to find those lovely hidden power ups and while playing the levels you get to listen to the funky music (been listening to them while writing this)
The game flows very smoothly (usually a bit of slowdown on a part of armoured armadillos level but then a lot is happening at that bit) and the controls work great, at no point when I died did I feel it was due to the controls (and it’s not till later that they get overly keen on instant death spikes). Megaman X refined the controls of the franchise that it became the standard for Megaman games onwards, the slower restricted movements relegated to classic games.
While the game is short ( starting level, 8 maverick stages and then the Sigma stages) replay value is there, but it’s the kind you make. Want to go for an all power up run? sure (don’t forget the super special secret one), want to take down the bosses in a different order ? (I usually go for armour upgrades first) sure. Want to punish yourself by not getting any upgrades or killing bosses with only the buster? (actually all buster isn’t that hard as X is so much stronger than classic) yep that’s there too.
Megaman X is a defining game on the SNES and probably the definitive Megaman game, it can be challenging at times but not in an unfair way. The game is really fun and while X will later be over shadowed by Zero in future games ( in both plot and… well everything) enjoy his opening outing.
(also the game is full of Star Wars references to the point they had to change some names to avoid being sued... )