I take a look at the platforming classic: Megaman X
I may be dating myself a bit here, but my first experience with Mega Man ever was Mega Man X on DOS. For all you youngsters out there, that’s the operating system we had before Windows. That’s right, the first console I ever owned myself was a hand-me-down DOS computer from my father, and, though I played a lot of games such as X-Com, Wing Commander, and Might and Magic, Mega Man X was always the title that I went back to. Thankfully, years have passed and I’ve since forgotten the horrible MIDI sounds the computer used to produce. Now that I have the SNES version of the game, I can relive my nostalgia without the headaches. All I have to say is, if you want platforming perfection, look no further than Mega Man X.
The presentation still holds up amazingly well today, as SNES graphics generally do. Up until this point, Mega Man had always been 8-bit, so the change in graphics was not only entertaining, but stunning. All the sprites are well animated with fluid movements, and the backgrounds are often alive with detail, with the game making great use of the wide range of colors available. The sound design is also amazing, providing memorable tunes and powerful sound effects. There is nothing to complain about here, so let’s move on to the story.
The story of Mega Man X takes place approximately 100 years after the events of the classic series and follows the character X, who may look like Mega Man, but was actually a seperate creation made by Dr. Light years later. X now exists in a world where he is no longer the only sentient robot. In fact, sentient robots have become the norm and are known as “Reploids.” With this freedom comes shaky moral ground, and some Reploids have begun to fight back against humans, becoming Mavericks. X goes on a mission and is defeated by a Maverick named Vile, and is only saved thanks to his partner, Zero. The character’s journey from here follows X on his quest to become as powerful as his mentor/friend Zero, and to finally put a stop to Vile. Of course, there is more subtlety to the story that I’m sure die hard Mega Man fans will want to point out, but, honestly, the story has never been important to me in a Mega Man game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that it’s there, but I am interested in Mega Man for the gameplay, not the plot.
For the most part, the gameplay follows the standards set by the classic Mega Man series; You face off against eight bosses (now called Mavericks instead of Robot Masters) in any order you choose. The real gameplay changes that appear in Mega Man X have to do with the controls and level design, and they both play off of each other brilliantly. The classic series generally broke its levels up into smaller sections that the screen would stay focused on until you cleared it, but Mega Man X breaks this mold; instead of focusing on smaller sections, it has fully-crafted and continuously moving levels. This change makes the world and your progression through it feel more organic and allows for a greater sense of space and speed. Exploration also plays a big role in this title, and you are encouraged (though not required) to play through levels more than once to unlock armor parts or other hidden goodies throughout. This brings up another good point about Mega Man X’s design, and that’s how well balanced it is in terms of the freedom it gives to different types of players. The game is structured in such a way that it is beatable without finding any of its secrets, so more impatient gamers who just want to get to the end of the level and fight the next boss won’t be too handicapped by the lack of upgrades found. On the other hand, it does reward players who are willing to explore and take the time to upgrade X. Though, on the surface, it may not seem like that big of a point to make, the amount of play testing and skillful designing it takes to make things balanced in this way is truly astonishing, and I feel it’s one of the most important things that this game (and, overall, this series) brings to the table.
The game provides multiple Weapons and other secret unlockables for you to equip.
The one thing that has made Mega Man games in general stand the test of time is their amazing controls, and Mega Man X not only continues this tradition, but exceeds it. In addition to the jumping and shooting that Mega Man is known for, Mega Man X also introduces an unlockable dash move that is a nearly essential tool in his arsenal, allowing for longer jumps and faster movement throughout the now more spacious stages. You are also introduced to the, arguably, much more important Wall Jump ability, which allows you to scale your way up vertical walls. This new move becomes essential to almost every boss fight in this title, as well as being a key means of preventing the most annoying and frequent form of death in the series: pitfalls. Admittedly, the greater amount of control and precision that you are allowed in this title does make it feel quite a bit easier than a lot of the games in the classic series. That’s not to say this game is easy on a first playthrough, but if you are a veteran Mega Man player, you shouldn’t have too much trouble.
While the level design has been expanded upon in the new series, boss fights have remained relatively the same, with the only real exception being the Wall Jump. Dodging is now made a bit more difficult in these fights because, instead of remaining on the horizontal ground level to dodge all the bosses attacks, you must now use the vertical plane, as well. It seems like a big change at first, but it ends up not being a big deal after the first couple of fights, especially if you have the proper weapon to exploit your enemy’s weakness.
Like most Mega Man titles, this one is rather short, clocking in at about an hour for experienced players and maybe a couple more than that if you are new to the series. There’s really nothing to say about this game that hasn’t been said before and explained far better than I ever could, so I will just leave it at this: Mega Man X is the complete package, from presentation to level design to gameplay, it is platforming perfection. If you haven’t played this title, in fact, even if you haven’t played any Mega Man game before, this is a game you should definitely give a playthrough. This game has been ported to multiple consoles and goes for a wide range or prices, though I’d suggest if you are on a budget you either go for the Wii Virtual Console Download for $8 or spring for a copy of the Mega Man X Collection on PS2 for about $10. Either way, it’s well worth the cost.
Written By: Nathan Stiles
Originally posted on May 23, 2014 on operationrainfall.com