Mega Man X Rocks, Man! (Bad Pun, No?)
As unholy as this may sound, I’m not a huge fan of the Mega Man games on NES. In my opinion, they were always needlessly made difficult by limited controls and abilities. So, it may come as a surprise that I absolutely love Mega Man X for SNES. I’ve never played the other installments in the X series, so I’m basing everything on this review on my experiences with this game, alone, as well as how it compares with the installments in the original Mega Man series.
In Mega Man X, you play as…Mega Man X, who’s typically referred to as X. X is, apparently, the first in a line of robots who can think for themselves and make their own decisions. Obviously, these things are put into production, and one of them ends up screwing things up for everybody by injuring some humans and turning all rogue and whatnot. His name’s Sigma, and he takes control of the Mavericks, which are robots that’re modeled after animals, for some reason…
Really, who cares? These games were really never about storyline. How’s it stack up in terms of game play to other offerings on the SNES, as well as its evil competitor, Genesis? (Just kidding. I love you, Genesis.)
Graphically, Mega Man X really doesn’t do anything to flex the SNES’ muscle (if it can really be called that). That’s not to say that the game doesn’t look great, though. You just aren’t gonna see any crazy scaling and rotation that made everyone go ga-ga back in the day.
I’m particularly fond of the color palette used in the game, as it’s dominated by soft colors. I daresay that they’re borderline pastel. Sprites are well-animated and decent in terms of size, and the backgrounds are, for the most part, quite nice-looking. The levels generally consist of futuristic-looking settings, and they’re not extremely detailed, but that’s something to be expected of stereotypical-looking futuristic settings in an early-90’s video game. And sure, you’ve got some bland ones from time to time, but hey, all of those lovely explosions make everything better. There’s a bit of breakup and slowdown here and there, but it’s nothing that’s really gonna kill the experience for anyone.
Music & Sound: A
I love the audio in Mega Man X. Really, it’s great. You’ve got your typical animé/rock hybrid music that ultimately serves to get you pumped to blow anything and everything up. While some of it’s a bit more laid-back, it’s all quite tolerable and unobtrusive. The introductory stage’s music is probably my favorite. Hell, the introductory stage, in general, is probably my favorite stage, but more on that later.
The sound effects are hard to explain, as they certainly have that woosh-woosh quality to them that is typical of SNES games. It certainly isn’t bad in this case, though, as the sound effects are all very fitting to their respective events, from the sound of X’s X-Buster charging up to the sound of the roadway chipping away in the introductory stage. Some of it’s subtle, while some of it’s far from subtle. The bottom line is that it all fits perfectly when you consider the atmosphere of the stages.
Controls & Game Play: A
For me, this is what made the original Mega Man games on NES nearly unplayable. What I need is a bit of variety, and Mega Man X has that in spades. Sure, you’ve got your running, jumping and shooting. What respectable action game doesn’t? Mega Man X allows for a more lively experience with a third X-Buster charge level, turning an already varied selection of weapons into an even more enjoyable selection of weapons. My personal favorite is using Shotgun Ice to craft a penguin-shaped skateboard of sorts that allows you to move more quickly through areas.
That’s not to say that you don’t have options from the very beginning, though. X has to ability to grab onto walls and slide down them, as well as to jump up them. Aside from looking cool and allowing for more interesting level designs, this ability can save your ass whenever you miscalculate a jump, since you can grab onto the walls of some pitfalls and jump to safety. Pretty early in the game, you can even get a leg upgrade that allows X to dash, which really lets him tear through levels with impressive speed.
Of course, there are other upgrades, but the aforementioned ones are some of the more interesting ones. While much of the game play is standard Mega Man fare, Mega Man X manages to execute everything quite perfectly. Really, the controls are absolutely amazing, and the game is devoid of any cheap deaths that I felt plagued the Mega Man games on NES.
I certainly can’t speak for the later games in the X series, but this one’s very well-balanced. I mean, if you jump into a mech and stupidly send it down a pitfall, you’ll instead face a lone soldier who’s standing outside of a similar mech, as opposed to that same lone soldier in the aforementioned mech and doling it out that way. The game is very, very fair, but also manages to be quite challenging if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Even more interesting is the fact that defeating certain bosses will change other levels, making what might’ve been an area with lava hazards galore an area that’s instead frozen over and much easier to traverse, for example. This gives you a bit of incentive to tackle the stages in different orders, just to see what’ll happen in the others to come.
As I said at the beginning, really, who cares about the storyline? It’s pretty lousy, but it really does nothing to hurt the overall game play experience.
Replay Value: A
Considering the level of variety that you get from getting eight new weapons throughout the course of the game and the special abilities that you’ll earn in the process, Mega Man X is infinitely replayable. Playing through the stages in different orders with different approaches never gets old.
In case you couldn’t tell, yes, I love this game. It’s easily one of my all-time faves. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves action games, especially if you own an SNES.
Final Score: A