Saturday, September 24, 2011

Megaman X Collection

A must-have for any fan of the X series, albeit with a couple of minor issues.

If you're like me and is a Mega Man fan that never thought to play a Mega Man X title until the release of the X Collection, then you already know that you have to pick up the X Collection by default. From personal experience, it is more than worth it to do so, as we who decided to wait missed out on an awesome series.
Despite what a few confused people may think, the Mega Man we all know and love from the NES series and Mega Man X are two entirely different characters. The Mega Man X series details the plight of X as he along with his partner Zero take on the task of being Maverick Hunters. The diabolical Sigma is to the X series what Wily was to the Mega Man series, in that he is the game's main villain and seeks world domination via manipulating robots to do his bidding. But unlike Wily, Sigma need not build robots. His true form is that of a computer virus, and he can simply infect any machine and turn it evil. Such infected machines are known as Mavericks, and the more powerful machines that can think for themselves are known as Reploids. Sigma's ultimate mission is to turn all Reploids into Mavericks and erase human beings so as to create a world solely for Reploids, and it is up to X and Zero to stop his desires in virtually all of the games in the series.

The gameplay formula seen in the X games follows that seen in the Mega Man games. You have to visit 8 levels and kill their 8 bosses, then move on to destroy the final series of levels and the boss of the game itself. The X series differs from the Mega Man series in that the boss fights are generally harder, while the level design is generally a bit more lax. But a lack of level design difficulty is more than made up for with the massive amounts of items hidden all over the place.
In each X game, you start with your health at about half capacity. The only way to get it to full is to collect a hidden Heart Tank from each of the 8 levels in the game, and it doesn't stop there. Each game has four tanks for you to find (early X games have four Sub Tanks for health alone, while later ones replace a couple of these tanks with Tanks designed for weapon energy and extra lives), as well as numerous Capsules that can be used to enhance your abilities. Mega Man X is capable of doing far more than the original Mega Man could have ever dreamed of in terms of maneuverability. He is able to slide down walls, wall jump, dash, air dash, float, and use several extra abilities that heighten his skills in battle. That said, X is very limited in the beginning of the X games in this category and has to find Capsules to add on all of the extra armor parts. Early X games have four capsules, but later X games have more. Secret items are easy to find early in the series, but they become more plentiful in number and difficult to grab later on.

There is also the wonderful added bonus of playable Zero once you reach Mega Man X4, though you can jump right into the games where you can play as Zero if you want. Unlike the Mega Man Collection, you can play the games in any order. It ruins the storyline, but you likely don't care much about this is you're willing to play out of order in the first place.
Zero doesn't usually require adding onto his system with a lot of armor parts from Capsules, but this is balanced out by the fact that virtually all of his attacks are from close range. It makes Zero the character to use if you want a challenge, but him being a total badass makes the experience completely worth it.

All of these extra maneuvering abilities make for a fairly difficult control scheme in the series, though the gameplay is very rewarding once everything is mastered. The one flaw here is that you're practically forced to use a different button for dashing other than the default, because it's nearly impossible to use your thumb for three buttons at once -- one for charging, one for jumping, and one for dashing.
But why should you buy the game if you're already an X fan, you ask? Simple. The most obvious reason of course is basic economic extrapolation. As of this review being written, the Mega Man X Collection offers MMX1-6 at the bargain price of $29.99. That's a measly five bucks per game. It's also hard to pass up multiple games in one box, complete with all the necessary extras that make collections worth the price. The X Collection comes complete with an extensive art gallery, selected music tracks to play at your leisure, and even a few gameplay hints to help you find Capcom's most hidden secrets within the games.
You'll also see the wonderful design progression that exists from MMX1 through MMX4, as well as the out-of-place nature of Mega Man X5 and the overly-difficult-for-no-real-reason Mega Man X6 that symbolize the series jumping the chain. Mega Man X7, the true black child of the series, is not in the X Collection. You will experience many an awesome boss fight, as well as a storyline that has actual effort put into it, unlike the Mega Man series. The graphics on all of the games are outstanding, even ahead of their time in some cases, and the music is overall outstanding as well. Certain music tracks feel lazy as the X series progresses, but it doesn't bring the overall musical score down or take away from the series' above-average atmospheric nature. Attention to detail is given to nearly every level, and there is a noticeable overall difference between being in a jungle as opposed to a planetarium.

All this said, the collection features a couple of annoyances that bring the game's score down a notch, the most notable of which are the controls. It's not that the in-game controls are bad, it's that the game lacks a universal control button layout option. If you want to change the controls in the games (and you will, given how hard it is to double-tap dash on the fly and that thumb dashing isn't a viable option) you'll have to change the control in each game individually. This would be somewhat acceptable, except that the control scheme you switch to isn't saved when you turn the game off.
Fans of the SNES version of Mega Man X3 will also be stuck dealing with the inferior Playstation version of the game that ruins the soundtrack and sound effects. It may not sound like a big deal, but it is if you've played both versions. The PSX version of X3 not only ruins the sound, but features the subpar cutscenes. The SNES version of the game being in the X Collection would have been the much better choice.
The X Collection is a must-have for X veterans and newbies alike, though one may wonder which version to go with. The Playstation 2 version of the game is the far better choice, as the Playstation controller features a very universal control scheme that works very well with the 2D platformer style. The Gamecube's controller simply was not made for 2D platforming, thanks to both the analog stick and D-Pad not being nearly precise enough for movement, and an awkward button layout on the right side that is not friendly to the style of gameplay presented in the X series.
I truly pity anyone who has read all the way through this review, because it's only adding more time away from the outstanding X series. Get off your lazy tail so that you can get to the store that much faster and start playing!

NAME: MEGAMAN X COLLECTION
SYSTEM: Game Cube, Play Station 2

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