Sunday, September 11, 2011

Megaman X8

The Mega Man title that combined the best of the old, with the best of the new!

 Mega Man X7 left a bitter taste in most fans' mouths after the horrid gameplay and story. Capcom wanted to make things right and brought us Mega Man X8, potentially the last in the Mega Man X series. The series was supposed to end with Mega Man X5 and everyone had finally decided that Mega Man X8 would be the last in the franchise, sadly. It's certainly the best Mega Man X game for the PS2 and brought back the X we all knew and love, as well as a character who hadn't shown his face since X3. There's also an Easter Egg in the game that's a call back to the very first Mega Man game if you have a Mega Man X: Command Mission save file on the same memory card.

THE STORY: It's almost the end of the 22nd century finally, and the wars between the Maverick Hunters and Mavericks continues to rage on. Meanwhile, humans seek to expand their horizons and begin building an orbital elevator to reach into space. This takes a lot of work however, and so a new type of reploid is created to aid in the building of the orbital elevator, codenamed "Jakob". These reploids are much like Axl, and have the ability to change shape, which means one of these new generation reploids can change their physical build to assist in the task at hand. These reploids also have programming that seemingly prevents them from going Maverick, and are headed by a reploid named Lumine. Things go seemingly well until Vile himself shows up, and kidnaps Lumine, making good on his promise from Mega Man X3. Once again, eight Mavericks rise to halt X and the rest of the Maverick Hunters. X, Zero, and Axl must go on a rescue mission to save Lumine so that the Jakob project can continue. What the three are about to find out though, is going to change the face of the war against the Mavericks forever.

THE GAMEPLAY: The game starts off with an introduction stage, just like all of the previous games in the series to get players accustomed to the game's style of play. The game is largely a plat-former that requires pixel-perfect jumps, and the difficulty in this game is pretty ramped up, especially compared to some of the older games in the franchise, rivaling X6's level of difficulty. Like in Mega Man X7, you can switch between two characters in the middle of a stage and boss battle. Also, there is a new meter under the life bar. Once close enough to an enemy when this meter is full, you can push one of the shoulder buttons to unleash a powerful attack from both characters that you've selected for that stage.

The best thing about this game is that it retains the 2D style of play from past games like Mega Man X-X6 and did away with the 3D plane completely except for some Ride Chaser sequences. Those sequences are also very well done. After beating the introduction stage, you gain access to the main eight levels of the game, with a boss at the end of each. Each Maverick boss has its own special weapon that is obtained for each character when the boss is beaten. These special abilities can be used at will and will be weak against certain other Maverick bosses. This creates a set order that can be figured out after a couple of playthroughs to make the game go by faster, though you can always go about it in any order you desire.

Something new to this game is the Force Metal currency system. Enemies will drop these upon being destroyed, as well as being scattered throughout the stages. In between each stage, you can visit the shop and by various upgrades such as Sub-Tanks, and the equivalent of heart tanks, which gets rid of the need to choose which character gets which heart tank like in the older games. Also, in each stage is a capsule, as they brought back the two armor system from Mega Man X5 and 6. Entering these capsules give X new additions to his armor, and it should be noted that Mega Man X5 and this game are the only ones where you can get all of the ultimate armors legitimately. Upon beating the eight stages, you'll go through a gauntlet of stages on your way to the end and these stages cannot be saved in between, so you have to do it all in one run.

THE SOUND: The music in this game is noticeably better than the soundtrack to Mega Man X7. It has both kinds of music: catchy and atmospheric. It's really memorable and the credits song is beautiful. Mega Man X sounds much cooler than he did in the previous installment as well, and doesn't shout nonsensical things such as "Stop it!" and "Don't make me hurt you!". X is back to the Maverick Hunter we all know and love, and I applaud the composers for their excellent work, as well as the voice actors.

THE GRAPHICS: This should have been the natural progression of the series' graphics as opposed to what we got in Mega Man X7. The game has excellent visuals, as X7 did, but keeps the old school 2D plane from the older games in the franchise, so you don't get a mispositioned camera nightmare. The boss design was also done very well, and the decision to make Vile green this time was a nice nod to Boba Fett. Sigma's design is especially unique and really awesome looking as well, looking like a boss out of an RPG of some sort. The cut-scenes are done in a combination of CGI and anime-style visuals that look stunning as well. Overall, excellent job on the graphics.

OVERALL: Mega Man X8 is what Mega Man X7 should have been in every way, especially when it comes to the 2D plane during the gameplay. I guess they had to do something wrong beforehand to get this one right though, and they really nailed it this time. Sadly, this could be the last game in the Mega Man X franchise. It is most certainly worth a buy if you can find it around, which you should be able to, especially at a used store if you're a fan of the franchise.

SYSTEM: Play Station 2, PC



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