Sunday, September 11, 2011

Megaman x7

All this time, this game still rocks!

Capcom is a funny developer. On the one hand, people complain that they rarely change certain franchises and just give us rehashes (Street Fighter and Mega Man). On the other, Capcom is praised for such innovative titles as Viewtiful Joe, Resident Evil, and Devil May Cry. Well, the old Mega Man formula has finally been reinvented without branching off into a new series. Mega Man X7 is the first traditional Mega Man game to sport a 3D perspective, and even allows you to switch characters at any time during levels. It also introduces a new character named Axl. These additions have both good and bad effects on the game as a whole.

THE STORY: Most people don't play Mega Man for its story or care about it, save the hardcore fans. The Mega Man X series does have a pretty good story, though it is somewhat inconsistent from game to game, and Capcom does seem to forget what happened in the last game. Regardless, Mega Man X7's story isn't anything fancy, but it gets the job done and has its fair share of surprises. One particularly neat thing about it is that X has finally given up fighting. He has always been described as a pacifist at heart, and in this game he relinquishes command of the 17th unit to try and find more peaceful methods of dealing with Mavericks. Anyway, the plot revolves around Axl, the new character. X and Zero (especially X) take a back seat to the new comer, which I find refreshing. Axl is a member of Red Alert, a group of Reploids headed by Red that deals with Mavericks, much like the Maverick Hunters. However, unlike the Irregular Hunters, Red Alert is unofficial, and therefore is considered an illegal group. Red Alert's methods have apparently become increasingly aggressive. This makes Axl uneasy, and he decides to leave the group to join up with the Maverick Hunters. However, Axl possesses the strange ability to copy the appearance and abilities of Reploids, making him a valuable member of Red Alert. Red isn't about to let Axl go that easily, and is hell bent on getting him back.

THE GRAPHICS: No more 2D sprites for Mega Man! Instead, we get the oh-so-stylish cel-shading technique. Capcom did this to retain that hand drawn feeling of the old PSX Mega Man titles, which worked out nicely. Like most cel-shaded games, the character models are devoid of detail, but hey, that's how they're supposed to be. Only the characters models are cel shaded; the environments are not. That said, the backdrops of Mega Man X7 aren't all that great looking. There isn't much texturing, lighting effects, or doodads. However, this compliments the cel-shaded characters, somehow, and in my opinion pulls everything together nicely. 

There is a problem though. The story, like in the last 2 Mega Man X games, is told primarily through still frames. This was a disappointment. I was hoping that we would be treated to some cinematics using the in game character models that, well, moved. At least Capcom included FMV for the opening and ending movies, both of which looked great. If only there were more of them . . . Though this game is presented in 3D, it does feature both 2D and 3D viewpoints. Some stages will be 2D, some 3D, and others will contain both. Boss battles will be fought from either one view or the other. The camera for Mega Man X7 isn't the greatest in the world. In both viewpoints, the camera is a little closer to your character than it should be. This, of course, limits your field of vision, which can be frustrating. In addition, not all 3D stages let you rotate the camera, and those that do require you to baby-sit it, constantly taking control of the camera yourself. I personally don't mind moving the camera around constantly, and sometimes prefer to in games. But, I understand that many gamers do not enjoy this. Plus, it usually makes me dizzy.

THE SOUND: Mega Man games are pretty well known to have outstanding music. The series has been somewhat lacking lately, but the soundtrack for Mega Man X7 is still nice. The tunes aren't all that memorable, but they suit the levels and won't hurt your ears or anything. The boss theme is sort of lame, which I find odd considering some of Capcom's recent combat music (Devil May Cry, Chaos Legion, and Viewtiful Joe). You probably won't even notice the music when you're fighting a boss in this game. The sound effects are your basic Mega Man ones. You get to hear the characters' footsteps now. Nothing bad or outstanding here. The voices. Oh boy. First off, this is the second Mega Man X game to offer us English voice actors, which is a plus. However, they're not the greatest in the world. Some of the voices sound a bit off. Zero's is too deep, Axl's is whiny and most will find it annoying, Signas' is monotone and deep, Alia's is a bit shaky, and X's sort of sounds like he's always yelling. Sigma's and Reds are okay. The bosses' voices are for the most part all right and appropriate, but you'll only hear them talk a few times, so it's not much of an issue. The exception is Flame Hyenard. My god. He never shuts up during his fight, and wouldn't you know it, he has by far the most irritating voice ever! You'll probably mute your TV for that fight. I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to video game voices, so I got used to them all and think they're pretty decent now. But, I guarantee you that the vast majority of people who play this game will go on and on about how the voices suck. But don't fret, because Capcom was nice enough to include the Japanese voiceovers too. Strangely, if you turn them on, the in game voices (as you play through the levels) will stay in English.

THE GAMEPLAY: Mega Man X7's core gameplay is pretty much the same as any other Mega Man game you may have played. Basically, you travel to the right of the screen, shooting bad guys that get in your way, jumping over gaps, climbing walls, and finding your way around anything else that obstructs your path. Of course, since this game contains 3D views too, you won't always be going to the right. There are also ''hostages'' to find. These are Reploid civilians that just sort of float in the air or stand on the ground, shouting out for your help. Rescuing them will restore a bit of your health, and some of these guys will even give you character upgrades (more on that later). But you have to save them before an enemy shoots them, or else the hostage dies and you can never receive their bonuses. At the end of each stage is a boss you must challenge. Like every other Mega Man game, you can steal their powers upon your victory, and use them against other bosses to inflict extra damage or stun them (every boss has a weakness to a certain weapon, so part of the fun is finding what to use against each boss). It's a pretty simple concept, but there's more to the game than simple runnin' n' gunnin'.

As stated in the introduction, Mega Man X7 introduces the ability to choose 2 characters to bring with you in a stage. You can then switch between them at any time you want. To make this more interesting, Capcom added Axl, so you have 3 characters to play as: Axl, X, and Zero. Each character is unique too. Axl can hover and can copy the abilities and appearance of certain baddies, X can charge his buster shot for high damage as well as wear armor pieces that enhance his skills, and Zero can double jump and fights using his trademark Z-saber, a strong melee weapon that has the cool ability to deflect bullets. The weapons characters get from bosses add to their unique-ness. X receives variations of the bosses' own attacks, Axl receives what X does, but also gets different guns, while Zero receives new fighting skills that don't require ammo, in addition to new weapons (borrowing a page from the Mega Man Zero series).

Mega Man X7, like other games in the X series, has several things to find in each level. One of these is the Reploid Hostages, which I already described. There are about 16 hidden in each level, some of which will increase the health of one of your characters, while others will give you ''chips'' which can be used to increase the abilities of a character. Chips can be applied to a character's power, speed, or special, with each category having 4 levels. There aren't enough chips to max out all 3 characters in one play through, but there is a remedy for this. You can also search for E and W tanks, which store weapon or life energy for later use, and X's armor pieces.

Problems? Well . . . Character swapping, while cool and fun, makes the game a little bit easy, basically because you now have 2 health bars. If one character is about to die, just swap him out play as the other one. Death to one character equals loss of one life, no matter how healthy your other character is, however. This prevents the game from being TOO easy. Axl, while a welcome addition, is way too similar to X. Both shoot (X has his arm cannon and Axl has a blaster) and both get the same weapons from bosses. However, since Axl gets different guns from certain bosses, this keeps him from being exactly the same as X. Also, Axl's copy skill is lacking. He can only assume the form of 4 or 5 enemies, and all of them are pretty much boring to play as. They're too slow to be useful. The way Axl copies them is a hassle too: he must kill the bad guy with a certain bullet, which happens to be pretty weak. The level design for X7 is somewhat lacking. They're too horizontal, meaning you'll rarely find yourself going vertical in levels. This, in turn, makes the X series' trademark wall kick seldom used. Also, the hidden items, such as hostages and armor capsules, aren't hidden that well at all; not as well as they were in older X games anyway. Upgrading your characters is a bit annoying. The benefits you receive from saving hostages are not known, meaning you won't know what a hostage will give you unless you memorize it beforehand. This makes it difficult to distribute health and ammo upgrades between your 3 characters, since only the character that saves the hostage receives the benefit. The chips are handled in a more logical manner though. You can decide who gets its benefit at the end of a stage. Why the health upgrades are not like this as well is beyond me.

Finally, the 3D viewpoint, while loads of fun, prompted Capcom to include a handy auto-targeting feature. While of course helpful, this sort of robs MMX7 of its difficulty. With Axl or X, you can simply run through the 2D segments while jamming on the fire button. Before, MM games made you line up your shots by jumping, but that is no longer needed.

The controls are also a tiny issue, as they take some getting used to, especially the 3D segments. You will adapt though, plus Capcom allows you to customize your controls, unlike most recent games. Luckily, these are all minor annoyances and don't really detract anything from the game.

OVERALL: Unfortunately, Capcom did little to increase the playtime of this game. It will take you an average of 5-6 hours to beat the game, and there is little incentive to play the game again. They did include a sort of ''new game +,'' in which, upon completion of the game, you can save your data and play again from the beginning with your chip upgrades intact, as well as X available from the start (he has to be unlocked). But, your health increases do not carry over which is disappointing. There is also a ranking system, in which each character is awarded a letter grade that denotes how well they are doing (killing lots of enemies, while taking little damage and such). However, it serves no real purpose, and it can be difficult to sustain a high rank. I suppose one could get some enjoyment out of trying to get the highest rank with each character, if you're into that sort of thing. It would have been nice if this game had 16 robot bosses as opposed to 8, but I guess that would be breaking the tradition of Mega Man games. The game is fun though, so you might get some enjoyment out of playing it again, or trying Hard mode.
Now, should you get it?  Hmm, if you're a Mega Man (X) fan, I say get it. Odds are you'll get enough enjoyment out of this title to warrant a purchase. If not, rent this at least. It's a fun game, but not everyone is going to want to replay it over and over after they're already beaten it, since there's no real reason to.

SYSTEM: Play Station 2, PC



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