Maverick Hunter X (MHX from now on) is a great package for several reasons. It upholds the standards of Megaman games of the past, from controls, to boss battles, and music. But it does so in a very unique fashion. Instead of appealing to just the longtime fans who followed the Blue Bomber since 1987, Capcom did the smart thing and also catered the game to newer players who aren't familiar with the rich history of the franchise. In short, there's a little bit of everything for everyone in this Megaman X reboot.
You first play as the robot X. He and trusty partner Zero must destroy the evil Sigma to prevent world destruction. Of course, before confronting this iconic antagonist X needs to stop Sigma's henchmen and the dozens of evil robots in various locations. Once X beams down to start the first level the game makes a very good impression. 5 minutes in I can already understand why the Megaman 2D platformers hold up so well even after a quarter of a century. First, the controls are exquisite; I have had no issue whatsoever directing X. The game sports a 2.5D presentation, providing vibrant, colorful and varied scenery from stage to stage. You fight in jungles, underwater, in a large plane and of course the famous Sigma Palace. I also have the pleasure listening to the first soundtrack of the game. It sounds very nostalgic since it takes the primary tunes of the first Megaman X, but it also feels futuristic and up to date.
Soon after you finish Stage 1 you move on to the stage select screen and fight the levels at your own pace and pattern. Like most of the game itself, the stages are directly inspired by other Megaman X stages. While fans can recognize the settings there are also noticeable differences, like the ship in the underwater stage. At the same time though, newcomers would also feel comfortable. There are certain moments where you need to memorize the stages to prevent a fatal trap, a Megaman franchise staple, but I don't find those moments to be excessive or frustrating, so it should be OK for newer gamers as well.
Other than that, MHX plays like a Megaman game. X has to fight his way from Point A to Point B and fight a main boss at the end of each stage. There are collectables that can help X out, like speed boots, scattered in the stages. Most bosses are not too tough, assuming that you can use the correct weaponry (fire against Chill Penguin, for instance). However, the larger bosses like Randa Banda really stretch your abilities to the max; everytime you lose to them it's because of a legit challenge and not some control defect. I like the special weapons you get. While some are only there just for boss fights there are some that are real gems. The flamethrower is good for close range while the homing missiles can destroy enemies from afar. Finally, the Storm Tornado attack is awesome, as it essentially wipes any non-boss robots in a single long shot.
So you finish the main story mode in under 3 hours, maybe more if you find a couple of the larger bosses more difficult. Once Sigma is brought down the game is out of tricks right? To our surprise, not really! There is in fact one more rabbit in the hat. After beating the X levels, you get to play as Vile, a major antagonist of the series second to Sigma himself. Since Vile is X's size you'll venture through the familiar platforming territory. What is incredibly different, however, is Vile's weapons. He doesn't take any of the boss attacks, but he comes prepared with a steadily growing arsenal as he progresses through the stages, from the standard arm cannon(s) to various grenade launchers. Playing Vile is fun; there are a lot of combinations to explore when it comes to using his weapons (there's a limit as to how much Vile can carry), and his romp will also take an hour or two.
I would also like to note that there is an OVA in the game as well. For newcomers, this is a must-watch because in under half an hour you'll understand the main plot behind Megaman X. You'll get a general sense as to who's who in the series. Now, I am not saying that the OVA is a work of art. It's nowhere near as impressive as the game's background and soundtrack, cartoonish and anime-esque as it is, and I can find some flaws in the voice acting. Not only is Chill penguin's voice a little on the annoying side, but the characters seem to lack a thesaurus. Everybody keeps repeating the same lines at times, like when talking about X's " potential" and an antagonist's "combat ability".
But it's precisely features like the OVA that give Maverick Hunter X is great amount of appeal. Newcomers will not be completely overwhelmed by the tried and true Megaman stage structure and will get a glimpse of the robot behind the blue helmet. Fans of the franchise will have a wonderful nostalgia trip while experiencing a new and updated feel of their favorite locales and soundtracks. Regardless, players will have a blast with the game from start to finish, even if the offerings don't scream super deep replay value.
Final Score: 4 Stars. The replay value is nowhere near where it has to be for a 4 and a half or beyond. But make no mistake: Your mind will be blown until Sigma is finally downed.
Note: This review is originally posted in my game review blog, Chronicles of Ciahlo. It is a deliberate measure to post my review here as well and is not a case of plagiarism.