This sequel moved in a good direction.
Several months has passed since Mega Man X destroyed former Maverick Hunter turned rogue Sigma. Now X leads the Maverick Hunters as they corner a group of Mavericks in an abandoned factory. While X deals with them, a new group plans in the shadows to deal with him. -summary
In 1993 Capcom had debut their newest Mega Man title on the SNES, Mega Man X. I doubt it was a surprise to anyone that the game had done very well and rightfully so. It was a fantastic debut that brought some innovative ideas to the table despite feeling quite familiar. I also doubt it was a surprise to anyone that Capcom jumped in right away to squeeze the juice out of this thing. It literally took them only a year to get out a sequel. Fortunately, this game doesn't feel like a completely lazy cash in because there are some improvements over the last game.
Mega Man X2 is a 2D action platformer that follows the same formula as all of the games in its series up to this point. It has everything in common with Mega Man X, therefore, if you played that game then this will feel very familiar to you. The goal once again is to choose one out of eight robot masters to battle, by making it through their stage in one piece for the confrontation. After Mega Man defeats one of these robots, he obtains a new ability by swiping their powers from them, and the weapon he takes can have very deadly effects on only one of the robots. Typical Mega Man playing style, the player must try and decide wisely which boss to play against it, because some of them are way too tough to fight with Mega Man's standard abilities. So there is a bit of trial and error going on here, but the robot masters are a lot more forgiving then they were in the original Mega Man series.
The game shows off quickly what bit of improvement was made over its predecessor, by Mega Man already having the ability to dash quickly, which was something he had to earn before. He still has the ability to slide and climb walls along with his powerful X-Buster, but his upgrades through pieces of armor he must find once again increases his power greatly. The armor pieces are far from a simple rehash; the leg enhancements allows X to dash in mid-air, the body absorbs damage that can then be unleashed as a powerful force attack, his helmet finds secret areas, and the arms double the charge power of his X-Buster, in addition to all of this, he still has to find extra energy tanks to increase the health bar and refill himself when low on life. The sense of exploration is still well intact, and some of the weapon upgrades must be used to find these items in the various areas. That's another thing too, the stage design is better this time around and the air-dash is put to work in some places, but besides that, the stages can just be a killer as one area goes through changing weather with the wind and rain pushing X back slightly. Plus there's another area where spotlights need to be dodged, or else the alarms will go off and devices appear to shoot at you. There are also crushing traps that will catch most people on their first play through. Most of the stages are far from bland, with one segment providing X with a hover bike. Plus going after some items can lead to a quick demise if your actions aren't perfect.
The boss battles are a big improvement too. They possess a secondary attack once they get around to half health, and some of these moves are very damaging with Wheel Gator's hovering spin attack coming to mind. The bosses also still continue to put up a fight despite being hit by the weapon they're weak to, unlike the first game where some of them can't even fight back your onslaught. The mystery group involved with the attack on Mega Man are revealed to be the X-Hunters, and they later steal Zero's parts from the Maverick Hunters; they dare Mega Man to come for the parts as they hide in some of the boss stages. These three guys are tough also which adds to the overall game play.
This game suffers from two main flaws that keeps it from convincingly surpassing the original. One is the soundtrack, and two are the boss weapons. Most of the weapons are just lame to play with. They completely lack that it factor, and there isn't a single one I would look to as a "go-to" weapon. The good part at the very least, is that the game rewards you with a devastating secret weapon that must be found, once you find all of the items X needs. The length of the game is probably about close to two hours which was fairly decent back then.
Once again X performs very well with all of his abilities being responsive. The only issue is the mid air-dash. If this move isn't used properly then X will suffer some easy deaths; but this has everything to do with patience and practice though. If one is dying constantly the game isn't at fault.
The graphics saw some improvement when Capcom introduced a new feature to enhance the 3D aspects in the visuals. These techniques can be noticed in some places, such as the battle with Overdrive Ostrich, as he dashes to the battlefield deep from the backgrounds of the stage. It can also be noticed in the final battle. The stages are very colorful with some lush backgrounds that provide them with a personality of their own; the green house stage is gorgeous with its green vegetation, and Overdrive Ostrich's desert has a cool looking sand storm taking place blurring the battleground. The character designs are still quite creative with some cool models of the robot masters, and X still looks as good as before with a new set of armor. The sound effects are still fine with small details added to the weapons, but the soundtrack is definitely lacking when compared to the first game. While the tunes work very well for a Mega Man title; I still see them as the least memorable until the fourth game came around with a very captivating and atmospheric music score. At the very least though, the music is still entertaining enough to keep the game interesting.
Mega Man X2 is a better made game despite many people favoring the original. I thought the first game was very easy while this game upped the difficulty. The stage designs had more creativity that worked with the game play additions. Unfortunately, although the game's weaknesses being soundtrack and weapon selection are not game breaking, they are loud enough to be noticed which is why some people look at this game as a step back, which is very understandable criticism in that context. I still recommend giving Mega Man X2 a shot, because it's a fun follow up no matter how one looks at it.
Pros: Much better level design, graphics upgrade
Cons: Uninspired soundtrack, weapons are kind of uninteresting