MegaMan X - SNES, PS1, PS2
THE PS2 DUO
Seems only natural that the series jumped to the PS2, however this time we get only two games (well its actually three but one is a RPG game which kinda sets it apart).
Too bad the very first game on the console is Megaman X7 which happens to be the one that might very well be considered the worst of them all, comparable to a cheap obscure PSX game only released in japan. Now this one has it all balanced as its not one big glaring problem but a series of small problem that when put together become the mix for a badly designed game.
Probably this game is most memorable for being a supporter or carpal tunnel syndrome when playing as Axl as his shots are really weak, his charge shot is even weaker and he doesn't come with autofire by default (tough hopefully you can toggle it on the options). However I wouldn't out all the blame on Axl as even Zero, who's also back this time, has trouble killing some stupid rock throwing robot.
This time the game also goes for free movement 3D sections (and even some boss battles) of the game along with an automatic lock-on system for being able to hit something at all on these sections but oddly enough is also used on the sidescrolling parts too which is quite annoying as the beeping sound when you set aim onto something spams like crazy. The 3D areas are not as good because it still maintains a sidescrolling design of sorts which fails, along of enemies who spawn out of thin air when you get near them in an attempt to prevent sniping them. The camera will become a problem on 3D areas as you must rotate it yourself, and you even have to do it during boss battles (no idea why they didn't thought about putting a view that follows the boss)
This game introduces us to a new character named Axl who will replace X trough most of the game because it seems X has become some sort of annoying peace loving hippie, however Axl is pretty much a gimped version of X but he does come with some tricks like hovering on the armor like armored X in previous games, and with some special weapons selected his normal gun also changes its function (laser gun, uzi) while not using any ammo. His most defining ability which the game capitalizes since the beginning is his ability to take on the form of normal enemies he defeats but only those that are of his same size, tough the method of doing this is extremely annoying as you need to charge your gun to shoot and extremely weak shot and make sure it dies with it (best bet is to risk weakening enemies with the uncharged shot and sinich them with the charged one). None of this is worth trying beyond the first time as the transformation are useless, weak and you cant go back to your normal self until the transformation energy runs out.
Speaking of Zero he's back once again to team up with Axl, but this time going to the bottom of the barrel as he has gone beyond his previous overpowered version, past the middle point and down into being quite crappy (but still a million times better than Axl).
The skills he gains are crappy but powerful for the most part and he even gains 2 new weapons (a small spear and some dual short blades) which are probably worse than his saber anyway.
Something than really ticked me off was that his jumping slash got turned into a circular slash with barely any range, probably to make it of any use on the 3D areas but totally useless on the 2D as has no range at all.
Eventually we get to play as X once again after we rescue certain amount of reploids (yes, they are back, this time being able to get killed by everything even while off screen...) and when that moment comes you'll probably never use Axl again. X is pretty much the same as always but his charged buster helps so much more and his armor upgrades make him able to reduce the annoyance of the game. By the way, X in this game has become a total pussy. On each cutscene hes in he will spout the same crap over and over again ("lets not fight each other", "why must war continue" or some shit), even when you shoot a charged buster he'll yell "stop it". Pussy.
The gameplay remains essentially the same: you shoot, duck, dash and climb walls but you characters strangely feel extremely slow and dashing is more like walking speed. Climbing walls feels a little weird as you will constantly find yourself detaching from walls by accident. This time you can bring two characters on a stage, switching between them at any time which is quite cool and helpful but I find weird that when one character dies its game over, instead of switching to the other character automatically (you have to switch characters yourself when one is about to get killed).
The boss weapons are ok, tough some of them are quite remarkable by being both powerful and ranged. the old weakness system however works like crap, encouraging the players to use just about any other weapons except the one the boss is weak against. Why? well for some odd reason when a boss is struck by his weakness they receive moderate damage and get interrupted from whatever they were doing, flashing like usual to show they are invincible for a few second after getting hit, but if you use any other weapons the boss wont get interrupted and even tough it flashes the invincibility time is minimal at best, effectively shortening the otherwise lengthy battle.
By this reason, one of the weapons you get which resembles a crappy water sprinkler when charged turns into some volley of water shots which lasts for quite a while, and if the boss its not weak not it when the weapon stops shooting the boss probably would have lost about 1/3 of his health bar, so yeah..... the most dangerous weapons is a super soaker...
The rescuable returning rescuable reploids also come back with the usual energy and health upgrades but most importantly with upgrades chips which enhance your character at the end of the stage, and this is crucial for the your character's killing power. Each stage contains two reploids who give out 1 chip each and once the stage is over you are forced to use them on a character (you cant save them for later when X is unlocked), choosing between upgrading "power" (basically your damage and defense), "speed" (the speed and range of you weapons) and "special" (mostly increased item effect along with a character specific upgrade). Spending another chip on the same stat unlocks the next slot (with each stat having four slots) and later upgrades are not what you'd expect on some stats (the fourth slot on power give 50% damage reduction). 2 chips per stage mean there 16 chips on the whole game and a character needs 12 to max out every stats so pick wisely or only go for the good stats.
And i guess this pretty much sums up what Megamanx X7 about, its certainly is the sums of a bunch of bad things that ruin the good ones.
The stages for the most part are average sidescolling or crappy 3D, all of them filled with unreasonably resistant enemies and there's one 3D stage which brings back the bike from the PSX games but its so uncontrollable that it fills more like riding a bobsled trough body oil, making you end up going at the slowest speed so you can actually do something at all.The controls are another bad point as they are slow and cumbersome, and this annoying lock-on which just wont stop beeping, and Axl is just a piece of crap you have to use while trying to unlock X.
The game does kinda get better after you get X, get rid of Axl and upgrade both X's and Zero's stats a little so you wont have to shoot 20 shots to kill some stupid enemy. Also the boss battles are not that bad save for the stupid camera on the 3D stages and other minor control problems. They are not nearly as hard as in previous games but they are more fun to fight as you must try something else other than their weaknesses simply because they just don't help at all.
The weapons are good for the X series standard, some are quite helpful and you'll definitely need them for both the bosses and the meatshields on stages.
Graphics wise its only ok, I really wish the game looked at least a bit like the cutscenes.
I really don't think Megaman X7 is a game I would recommend at all considering how below average it is. most likely reserved for Megaman fans who have already played all the other games on the series. It actually does have some good thing but the most important ones ruin it.
After playing X7 I didn't expect the next game could get any better but I guess I was kinda surprised with Megaman X8 which surprisingly is a good game and manages to somewhat balance some set in stone problems to a degree.
X still has somewhat useless weapons he receives from bosses, but this time his game focuses more on his new "neutral armor" which lets you mix parts as you see fit.
The armor is actually 2 armors who look the same except for one having blue neon lights and the other having red lights, with all of their parts scattered in 8 capsules as usual. Using a full set instead of mixing between them gives you a giga attack different for both armors, or just mix their part and not have any giga attack at all.
First of all I'd like to mention that the character not only are balanced for the most part, being equally good, but also you can actually tell them apart from each other (at least X from Axl. Zero always was way different).
Axl plays sooo much better now since he comes with autofire. This time he can hover on air while shooting; his acquired weapons now don't use energy but replace his default gun, with different functions similar to those weapons seen in Contra games (making Axl play like that little robot from Contra:Hard Corps)
This change finally gives you a reason to use him at all trough the whole game and most of his weapons are quite useful. He also has a roll you you perform by holding down and dashing but I have no idea what's the point of this.
This really add some fun as there lots of of armor combinations you can make since most part are equally useful (tough some of the are so good you should never switch back ever again) going for a full set for the giga attack is something to take in mind as it can really helps, specially during boss fights.
Finally, and I mean finally Zero is a balanced character, not being overly powerful nor crappy and having the same killing powers as the other characters. While his attack was toned down his area of attack was improved, being able to hit behind himself with the first slash and others such as the normal jumping slash. For some reason his dash is slower (but there's a trick to increase the travel distance of an airdash) and still stays as the "high offense, low defense" character of the group despite dealing normal damage. We'll se why later.
Most of his skill are the usual ones you've seen previously (downwards stab, rising slash) tough a little different and less cheesy but they don't come alone as this time you can get different weapons like a long ranged glaive, a hammer or a pair of knuckles, most of them with different attack power and range along with performing special attack in a different fashion (for example, using special moves while wearing the Z knuckle replaces the rising slash with Ryu's shoryuken).
I almost forgot to mention ducking was removed from the game. Quite a shame really since it was a good addition, but hopefully this game doesn't have place where it could help. The game also gives enemies and bosses a guard of sorts which you must break before you can start to damage them. this can only be done with certain attacks like X's fully charged buster, Zero's third hit in his combo and Axl's blue shots which are come after firing his normal gun for a while. there also special weapons and skill which can do it but those three above are the very first ones you can use.
The team-up style of the previous game is back again but this time once one character dies you are automatically switch to the other, with the possibility to bring the dead one back to life with minimal health. There's also a health system similar to the one seen in Marvel vs Capcom games (what?) where your damaged characters gets part of their health bar red which they can convert back to health when you switch to the other character and leave the damaged one on stand-by. You can also call the other character to help you break free in situations like being freezed or grabbed by some enemy.
Upgrades are handled totally different from the previous games. You can collect "metals" trough the stage or by killing enemies which can be used to upgrade you characters (and there's not a limited number so you can max all three characters). The upgraded go from increasing you health bar (this replaces the need to find heart tanks) to no knockback and the usual effect you saw on the equippable parts from the PSX games.
However some upgrade still need to be found on stages before you can buy them, usually the special ones like Zero's weapons, subtanks, etc.
I think I was a bit misleading when I said some of them must be found on stages, as its actually quite a lot of them scattered around, sometimes in really hard to find places.
As for the challenge... this time its not as cheap nor annoying but hard, and I mean quite fucking hard at times. The games doesn't throw things at you randomly but instead gives some hard section, basically consisting or really risky platforming which is good but It can be pretty tough, sometimes insane.
The stage are the part where the game suffers, not because they are bad but for the reason that two of them are 3D driving stages. They are not bad (certainly a million times better than that crappy stage in X7) and the controls are good but seeing how they pushed the challenge on the stages a step up, it feels like a waste and kinda kills the length of the game. There also a stage where you must complete some trial as fast as you can (basically killing the enemy on different situations) which might turn down some people with this minigame-esque concept. Hopefully there some nasty platforming between trials so I guess that evens the stage.
I should also note that this game lacks minibosses, at least the usual ones that you must hit until they die. There is one on a stage and another which always shows on whichever non completed stage you play third, but for the rest they are non conventionally like surviving a room with blocks which move up/down for a certain time (and the block spawn spikes on their tops and bottoms...) or avoiding a giant robot while trying to hit a lever so a crane crashes on its head.
The bosses stay as hard as always but this time they wont go stupid when struck by their weakness (tough there are exceptions), instead the help comes from killing them before they can unleash their deadliest attacks.
This time they come with better invincibility frames, from after being hit to even when they perform some attacks and they super attacks, along with their barrier you must break 8some of them don't have this tough).
What can I say? MMX8 is among my most favorite. The challenge is great for being the 8th game, the characters are good, the stages are hard, the bosses are challenging and the fact that there's so much things to find on almost every stage encourages you to forget about going for the boss you can beat with its weakness and try a different one.
Obviously the driving stages are a letdown considering there's not one but fucking two stages which was a waste of potential, along with some stages that might be a little unconventional, a completely forgettable soundtrack and the removal of ducking.
This one is personal but I think the game could have gotten away with no team-up system at all. Since this time the characters are quite unique and fun to play it sometimes makes me want to play the game as only one character without a second one coming when my main one dies.
I guess this concludes the PS2 games, as well as the whole series. I lying If I would say there's 2 GameBoy Color games and a RPG game on the PS2 both worth talking about but this article was intended to cover the platform style games on the main consoles, however I guess these three deserve a review someday as they are well worth playing (at least much more than X7, hahaha).
RETURN TO SNES TRILOGY OVERVIEW
So I talked a lot of nice things and a lot of trash about the games, but what was that I was trying to prove about the X series? Just simply that are faulty in their own ways equally, from the PSX games going from annoying gimmicks (x5) to tame level design (x1). Many would say X1 is and will be the best but while it doesn't have any bad things to talk about it didn't fully develop until the later games, having more action than the classic games but with inferior stages than those. Its the will to take away or feelings and see all the games as they are being shown at us rather than wrongly placing some games on a pedestal.
The series has actually being progressing trough time, becoming more challenging despite the screw ups that came with them and staying as really solid sidescrolling games (the exception to all this "might" be x7 though), and as seen in x8 Capcom doesn't need Keiji Inafune to make a good Megaman game, just the will to do so. Seeing as how today sidescrolling is a taboo of sorts to sell as a full game no matter how good it is, I don't think we'll see much more of the X series for now; however its not death, no sir, but like what would Zero say "hiding somewhere while repairing myself".
RETURN TO PS1 TRILOGY OVERVIEW