Mega Man ZX Review

It took nearly two years before Capcom decided to release a Mega Man title exclusively for the Nintendo DS, but rest assured fans, it is well worth the wait. So anyone who’s been mass spamming the Battle Network 5 forums with petitions can finally cease and desist, because Mega Man is finally back in its purest form. Okay, well maybe he’s not actually back in the literal sense, and neither is Zero – but make no mistake about it, Capcom has made the transition very easy to swallow and all the crucial elements that have made this franchise such a crowd pleasing success are present and accounted for.

The game takes place several hundred years after the events of Mega Man Zero 4, with humans and reploids now co-existing peacefully under the watchful eye of a respected mega-corporation known as Slither Incorporated. Thanks to a post war agreement, reploids have now been granted human mortality and humans have been given access to technology that can make them as strong as the reploids. The lines that were once drawn between man and machine have become almost non-existent. However, not all reploids welcomed the changes and consequently, many grew hostile, attacking both humans and any reploids that were loyal to them. Nations were soon divided into designated areas either known as Innerpeace, where it was safe for humans, or Outland, where the Maverick forces thrived. To further help quell the rebellion, an all volunteer self-defense force dubbed The Guardians was formed to investigate the cause of the Maverick outbreaks and defend the frontier regions from attacks. Mega Man ZX is set amidst the conflict, with the player starring as one of the two teenage protagonists, Vent and Aile (you choose who to play as). You’re charged with helping transport a shipment of precious biometals to a safe destination, as ordered by a client working with the Guardians. Unfortunately, not long after getting to the drop point you are ambushed and knocked off a cliff where you eventually run into Praerie – the young, but headstrong leader of the Guardians. Upon being attacked again, one of the biometals, known as Model X, reacts to the courage shown by Vent and Aile and offers to lend a hand by allowing them to merge with it and transform into X – a basic model that looks just like Mega Man. All this covers just the first few minutes of the game and it properly sets the mood and tone for the rest of it.

Fans should be relieved to know that Mega Man ZX handles exactly like you would expect it to. If you’ve just finished the Zero series on GBA, you should have no problem taking the next step to the DS. Just as it was with previous Mega Man titles, you’ll be able to gain new powers and switch between them on the fly. For Mega Man ZX, this works through the process of megamerging, which allows you to change into the model form of any biometal that you have collected and infused into the original X armor. Once you’ve taken the form of ZX, however, it will become your default model and the one you started with will no longer be available.

Capcom obviously has this down to a science and – given the many years that they’ve been at it – they’ve been able to experiment with new features without disrupting the gameplay. Such is the case with the leveling system prevalent in games like Mega Man Zero 2. Well, ZX is no exception, and it breaks the mold in a couple of ways. Take, for instance, the standard level design. Before, all you had to do was go through a single level and complete it before moving on to the next area; now you can explore a seamless world of interconnected levels at your discretion in a manner similar to Metroid or Castlevania. The only downside, however, is that you still have to complete certain objectives in order to progress through the game so in that sense, it’s not completely open ended, although you are still free to roam around a larger environment than in any previous Mega Man title. Now, to unlock new areas, you’ll need to either complete mission objectives or defeat bosses to gain new abilities which will allow you to access the areas. You’ll only be able to take on one assignment at a time, unfortunately, so frequent trips back to the mission terminal will be necessary.

In terms of difficulty, fun, and frustration, the game delivers all three in spades – often simultaneously. Longtime fans will no doubt revel in nostalgia upon facing the re-appearance of such side-scrolling staples as blind jumps, spikes, environmental hazards, lurking enemies, and intimidating boss battles. An even more ridiculous Hard mode can be unlocked as well upon completing the game in Normal. Although, if you’re not looking to embrace the joys of being a sadomasochist, there is an easy mode available that can, for example, adjust boss patterns to make battles less unforgiving. Don’t take the term lightly, though, because it’s still quite a challenge even on that setting.

No DS title would be complete without some use of the touch screen, but thankfully it is used here sparingly, and even then it only serves as either a passive or optional function. Honestly, nothing kills a great game like a half-baked gimmick. In Mega Man ZX, the use of the bottom screen will change depending on what model you’re wearing. For example, the PX model will highlight enemies on the lower screen and reveal passageways that may be hidden from your view, while the HX model will display the weak spot on a boss character. The only instance in which the stylus comes into any active use is with the FX model, which allows players to draw a path for which the buster shots will follow. Again, this is only optional, so if you’d rather not whip out your stylus you don’t have to.

Visually, even with fantastic level designs the game is only a slight improvement over the Mega Man series for the GBA. I’m not saying that it doesn’t look good, but considering what a company like Square-Enix was able to pull from the hardware with their upcoming remake of Final Fantasy III, it’s a little disappointing to see that Capcom didn’t put forth the same amount of effort here when even the remakes on the PSP look substantially more polished. The anime-inspired FMV cutscenes, on the other hand, look incredible on the DS, although a lack of effort is shown by Capcom in localization. Japanese anime enthusiasts may argue that subtitles are better, and I’m not one to argue being one myself, but it can be a little awkward when your hero yells "R.O.C.K. on!" when he’s M.E.G.A.-merging. Given how sparse the cutscenes are, it certainly wouldn’t have been too much trouble to at least include an English dub as an option.

Fortunately, the game makes up for what it lacks in the visual department with an incredible soundtrack. Each area in the game has its own unique theme, and fans familiar with the already heavily promoted Mega Man ZX theme will often find themselves revisiting the forest area just to hear it again. It almost makes you want to bust out some glowsticks and just go nuts. (Well, maybe not.)

Mega Man ZX may suffer from a few cosmetic flaws, and it may be widely regarded as one of the most difficult in the franchise, but it would be a huge mistake for anyone to discount this game based on such small factors given how incredibly solid the gameplay is. Veterans will appreciate the new and familiar challenges, while first timers will find themselves immersed in the kind of engaging plotline that has always been an integral part of the series. With that said, ZX is further proof that Capcom can still breathe new life into a series that has lasted countless titles without ruining the overall experience.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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