Probably the highlight of the whole article. The PSX trilogy finally separates that connection between classic megaman and the X series, bringing tougher challenges which each games, but also happens to be the greatest hit & miss titles in the whole series, having both notable improvements and drawbacks.
As soon as we play X4 we'll notice the big step its has taken that makes it look apart from the previous games: the graphics and the slightly different feel on the controls. Whereas in the SNES games your character had a lightweight, kinda speedy movement, here it feels a lot more solid. The games also includes animated cutscenes, and along with the general graphical polish of the game (which happens to be the best of the three PSX games) gets its regarded as the best of the trio regardless of any shortcoming it has.
Major changes are the return of Zero, this time as a fully fledged character you can use from start to finish (but you cant play as both characters on the same playtrough so its either Zero or X), gaining saber abilities instead of weapons from the defeated bosses, and X being able to use his buster even when he ahs another weapon selected, able keep the weapons for those special occasions without the need to switch, thus allowing you to use your buster normally and still being able to use your special weapon for those enemies you can reach normally.
So what's not to like about the game? well there are some huge problems:
- The stages are most likely the worst of any MMX game, mostly consisting of going on a straight line from start to finish, barely jumping over any obstacles, killing some occasional enemies being thrown at you. sometimes the whole stage is bland, other times is just half of it and gets even worse when playing as Zero, why? we'll see below.
- Zero is way to powerful. Yeah I know its a good thing but when we mix that with linear stages and enemies who die in about 3 hits makes him way to unbalanced. His special abilities give him even more power, making minibosses which take a reasonable time to kill with X take seconds to kill with Zero. probably his trademark cheese move is his jumping rolling slash which replaces his jumping slash with a spin of death that hits all around you, killing everything effortlessly; its also worth mentioning he gains his ability to double jump together with this. Zero does seem to have some trouble fighting the main 8 bosses, but with some practice you can find some cheesy tactic.
- X's special weapons are really weak. The game finally gives us the chance use use special weapons together with the x buster but then you find out most of them cant take on even the weakest flying enemies. The special weapon you'll use the most will be the least expected, and not exactly to kill bad guys.
I guess we could summarize X4 as into one thing: boss battles, which are very good as long as you don't use their weaknesses (like in every other X game) and great graphics and polish. Sadly the stages suffer from their really linear and simple design and Zero makes the already simple stages nothing more than some waiting time until you reach the bosses. The game is still very good, but the stages are behind both the other X games and the Classic series...
Of course despite X4 not being up to the previous games in gameplay terms it was good enough so Capcom still deemed it milkable, and so they brought us Megaman X5, the supposed final games of the series but more games got released anyway.
I gotta say at first X5 was my least liked while X4 was my favorite, but as soon as I replayed both the situation reverted and X5 has the best gameplay out of the PSX trilogy, having great stages good enemy positioning, a hard difficulty which adds more enemies on new spots, and bitchass difficulty that might take you by surprise. They also added some ropes of sorts in which your character can hang on and slide trough it, mostly used on areas with bottomless pits.
Bunch of changes and addition were made this time: you can now duck and they actually make you use it as there are various things you can evade by ducking even when it looks like they are blowing your head off, and it also serves you to reach those enemies without dropping down to be on even ground. It'll come most handy for aiming with the game's main armor which has a thin piercing laser shot with no vertical range.
You can still choose between X and Zero but now you can switch between them before entering a stage. The game also has twice as many heart tanks, so you can max out both characters health equally or just get them all with one character and double his health bar; half of the health upgrades are gotten on the result screen after you kill a boss and you can choose between this or a weapon energy upgrade, while the other health upgrades are gotten normally as heart tanks found on the stages.
Choosing whom you plays as on the intro stages has an effect: Choosing X gives him his armor from the previous game (!) serving as the game's real easy mode, while picking Zero first gets him his Z buster which is a slow single bullet he can fire only while standing still on the ground. You can get both the armor and the buster so its most likely everyone will pick X first...
There's also the addition of equippable parts which grant you special effects like charging your buster faster or jumping higher, different character have more or less slot to equip parts (unarmored X and Zero can equip 4 parts while X's armors can only use 2 parts to none at all).
On the bad side... well there's some things which I cant decide if they are annoying or plain bad:
First of all, to compensate that X can start with an armor and Zero's being as cheesy as an SNK fighting game boss, the enemies take much more hits until they die which is a good thing, at least the big ones while the small one dies fast, however that doesn't stop Zero which for some reason has been buffed even more.
That's right, meet Zero in his strongest incarnation ever, with his usual rolling slash, double jump and new moves such as being invincible during an air dash, an other moves which makes Zero's short range of attack not so short. Bosses are not a problem anymore as even tough they flash you can still hit them with all three hits in you slash combo. Maybe its not so noticeable as It was in X4 due to the better stage layouts and tougher enemies but the new abilities you get from the bosses along with the equipable parts change that...
There's a countdown system of 15 hours before a space colony crashes on earth, meanwhile you need to gather some machine parts to build a cannon, however its not so much as a real timer but something depending on times you enter a stage with 1 hour deducted each time you enter a stage, and if countdown reaches zero the colony crashes and its game over... well not quite but those pieces you gather increase the chances to shoots down the colony and proceed the game onto the good ending, so when its time over the cannon will shoot regardless of the parts you've acquired, reducing your chances to get a good ending. This countdown doesn't actually put that much pressure on the player since there's more than enough time to play each stages twice, and you can take as much time as you want while on a stage, but it gets pretty intimidating the first time.
Getting equipable parts for your characters is overly complicated and somewhat restricting: bosses gain levels in X5, gaining more health and using more attacks, and this is based on your rank (how well you perform on a stage) and the hours left on the timer. When killing a high level boss and being prompted to the screen which you choose the health or energy upgrade, you get a part depending on which upgrade you choose.
Sadly this is quite annoying as not only you must sacrifice a health upgrade because picking the energy upgrade gives a better part which means its impossible to get every single part in one game, but you also don't get the part until 2 stages later (and the health/energy upgrade 1 stage later). In a way, having to choose one upgrade/part over the other adds to the replay value of the game but the whole system so you can start getting them and the delay kinda turns you off. Add to this that Zero cant reach every single heart tank found on stages making the decision between upgrades&part a bit tougher.
This time, X can only use the new armors after getting every single part from the set, which I guess its fair since you can start right from the start with an armor, and a good one.
However one of X's armors called the falcon armor gives him the aforementioned thin piercing laser shot and the inability to charge special weapons, however not even all that can balance the absolute great ability to fly freely from a good time while being completely immune to physical contact with enemies and even some shots, reducing all platform action to none. He also happens to be able to get a second armor called the gaea armor which makes him immune to spikes and not slide from walls but its pretty weak, mostly serving as novelty used for getting some heart tanks.
X5 also comes to mind when I say X4 has the most polish and best graphics. This one while it has very good stages it has average pre rendered cg backgrounds, its not that I have a thing against those but there a particularly lazy background on a boss room depicting an unanimated electric sphere which kinda comes of as lazy, along with a bad use of perspective in some stages (like an almost topside view of a stair room but your character and enemies still look the same like in the other stages).
Its also worth mentioning that X's specially weapons still suck in this game, tough some of them while charged could help sometimes.
So yeah, X5 has about as much annoyance as good things, with the stupid way to acquire parts, the timer,the lack of challenge when you use either the falcon armor or Zero and the overall lack of technical polish of the game (bosses wont make much sounds at all, if any compared to X4) However I think the good points compensate with the good stages, high challenge and replayability that comes from managing your upgrades, upgrade parts and the whole cannon task with can go completely different on each play through, from having to assemble both the cannon and space shuttle, to getting access to the end stages without even playing a single stage in the game (tough its requires lots of luck and going there unupgraded will get your ass creamed unless you are way too hardcore at megaman).
Finally! we get to X6, most likely the most hated game on the series for the wrong reasons and sometimes for the right ones, at least until we play X7 and realized this one is not so bad at all.
I cant recall how many hate this game has received, but most of the time its because the series was supposed to end at x5 and the main producer Keiji Inafune didn't take part on this game, and the inconsistent plots which goes as far as bringing back zero like "Hey! I was just hiding while repairing myself" which doesn't surprise me considering the plot on the X games has being bogus since the beginning.
On the other part there's the challenge of the game. Whereas in the other games some parts can be difficult, this doesn't just go a step further but like 10 steps further, trying to throw you as much shit in the most random way. That's something you don't see on the previous games: here there's not much enemy placement that has been in all X games, now enemies come and go from everywhere at any time, sometimes on places where you can just avoid getting hit. Due to about half the bad guys coming at random instead of being placed at certain parts of the stages this game is particularly hard to beat flawlessly for the perfectionists (which I guess could mean an incentive of sorts).
There's also rescuable reploids just like X5 but now they play a major role in the game and also another of the low points of the game. Along with these reploid being scattered on every stage there's also some ghost-like enemies called "nightmares" which are the only enemies capable of killing the hostages, and as long as a hostage is on screen their priority will be to get to them and turn them into enemies themselves. The annoying part about this is that once a reploid gets turned into an enemies, your chance to rescue it again are lost unless you reload your saved game, exiting the stage after it got possessed without killing it will make that reploid get marked as missing on the list of rescued reploids, which its pretty much the same as being death, only on different circumstances.
Thanks god the actually rescuing is not as hard as the nightmares move very slowly and you can kill them or just go straight to the hostage, and in case a nightmare is getting to a hostage before you, just scroll away so the reploid is not on the screen before the nightmare grabs it, keeping it safe and even resetting the position of the nightmare if it also happens to get out of the screen. I can only think on area of the game which consisting of nothing but a series of hanging ropes, nightmares and hostages but even then its you can easily save them except for one which has a nightmare almost right on his head (which you need to take down first or you'll be replaying this all day).
You wouldn't think the game will throw anymore stuff at you, but it does! the stages have become harder, resorting to even more spikes and sometime leaps of faith in which you can't see what's below. The most interesting aspect is the stage effects. Remember how I said in X1 stages got some changes if you cleared certain stages before, and that the changes were crappy? well this time its the extreme opposite as it goes on flooding the screen with shit.
It doesn't exactly work the same as in X1, because you don't have to clear any previous stage but rather what stage you played before the current stage and each one causes a different effect, from darkening the screen to fireballs from the sky or stone materializing from thin air and some others which are not as irritating. Hopefully this can be manipulated by just entering and escaping from a stage which has some crappy effect that wont bother you much.
Zero this time has been toned down considerably but still kicking some ass, he can still do his rolling slash but on after the second jump or by standing still. However due to some flaw on the control scheme there's a special move performed by pressing up+attack which makes his dive down diagonally without pause until you hit ground only, that's right, if you do it over a pit you are dead and the fact that you must hold up to hang from ropes makes it even harder if there happens to be aerial enemies near the ropes.
X on the other hand comes back with his falcon armor from X5, but without the cheesy invincible flying thank goodness. This time he can use a saber but its weak slow and wont combo like Zero's. Armor wise he's got decent armors: the blade armor with lets him perform a charged slash by holding up while releasing a charged shot, and this one actually deals some damage! the armor also lets him dash in any four direction similarly to X3. Along the blade armor we have the shadow armor which is the gaea armor redux, however this one is very good as you are still immune to spikes, wont slide from walls and your charged shot is an extremely powerful slash which is stronger than Zero's 3 hit combo! however you cant air dash which isn't that much of a drawback, too bad this game need the airdash the get trough and otherwise almost impossible jump. Surprisingly his special weapons are actually used this time, even more their charged versions which are quite good, along with each armor's desperations attack. Certainly a point in favor of the game.
Equipable part do comeback this time as rewards from rescuing certain reploids, hopefully removing the need to achieve a good rank, and now the game lets you get every part available along which slots to equip them which you can increase by collection "souls" the nightmares drop when killed (so now X has the same amount of slots despite being either armored or not).
What can I say? there's just so much things to talk about X6, both good and bad. The game can be quite hard and annoying, but in a way its nice as it really pushed to to use all that is in your power to kill a miniboss or beat a stage, and the weapons prove to be extremely used when used correctly. Worst parts coming from the annoying stage gimmicks, reploids lost forever when dead, Zero's fatal flaw and the random enemies popping most of the time which sometimes means there no other way but to tackle your way while taking the damage.
In conclusion its certainly not the bad game many make it seem. Even if infuriating it has a stage layout unlike X4, the weapons are good and it has ones of the best soundtracks from the series, consisting of some hardcore rock music.
End of the road for the PSX trilogy. I certainly enjoy playing this ones more than the SNES games even though they have the worst problems from the whole series, in part because they finally set apart from the classic series with its increased challenge, enemy-heavy action and fast gameplay.