In the late 80’s to early-to-mid 90’s, the Japanese video game company Capcom had built a major reputation for itself as one of the leading and most respectable third-party developers for the NES and SNES, releasing several classic titles such as their line of games based off of Disney Afternoon shows, Street Fighter II, Bionic Commando, and of course, Mega Man!
Having made his grand debut in the self-titled 1987 NES game (which I actually covered six months back as of this writing) which was then followed up by several sequels, the blue bomber was shaping up to be a legit alternative to Mario. However, after a certain hedgehog took the world by storm, the blue bomber was in danger of falling behind, and Capcom had to do something about it. If it was going to take on the next generation of systems, the series needed a fresh, new approach in terms of both design and aesthetics. As a result of all this, Mega Man X was born.
Released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo, the game takes place long after the events of the original series of games and revolves around the titular X, the successor to the original Mega Man, who must traverse the world with the assistance of the aligned Maverick Hunters and the noble Zero in order to put a stop to the despicable Mavericks and their plot for human extinction. Can this game still hold up after all these years, or as it aged as gracefully as a rusted robot? Let’s find out, shall we?
THE LOOKS – One thing that immediately sets this game apart from previous Mega Man installments is its’ art style, and how. What was once a whimsical and colorful take on a future where machines and humans mostly lived in harmony has since then undergone what I’d like to call “Dragon Ball Z Syndrome”. What is “Dragon Ball Z Syndrome”, you may ask? Well, it’s when a series that starts off with a more family-friendly style suddenly takes a major U-turn in tone right out of nowhere and becomes much more darker. Dragon Ball Z (the anime that I named this symptom after), Jak 2, and this game are great examples of this. However, that’s not to say that this choice in style is bad, as this game is quite possibly one of the greatest-looking ones of the entire 16-bit era. Starting off with the backgrounds, they are simply amazing. As this was the franchise’s first venture beyond the comfortability of 8-bits, it was given that the visuals would up their ante, something that is proven by just how much attention to detail that is emphasized by them. Sting Chameleon’s and Chill Penguin’s stages are particularly gorgeous. As for the character sprites, the more advanced hardware has also benefited them, as they have a bit more detail and more refined proportions than in the NES games. Speaking of the character sprites, they too have undergone a more mature injection, as their designs are more reminiscent of “Dragon Ball Z” than of “Astro Boy”. Needless to say, this is the SNES’ graphical capabilities at one of their finest hours.
THE SOUND – If there’s one thing that I think is worth noting about these games, it would have to be the fact that the soundtracks get progressively better and better with each new installment. And if you ask me, it might just be one of the most “Mega Man-y” soundtracks of the entirety of the franchise! Composed by the five man-band of Yuko Takehara, Makoto Tomozawa, Yuki Iwai, Toshihiko Horiyama, and Setsuo Yamamoto, the music really helps to set the “hardcore” mood of the game and suits the feel of each and every stage. The soundtrack relies on a wide variety of instruments, though the guitar is one that you can expect to hear a lot throughout your playthrough. Each character also has their own respective theme tune, each of which are all represented by a different style of music; Zero’s guitar-heavy theme tune is only a mere example of this. Like the visuals, the soundtrack is one of the greatest to ever be featured on a SNES game.
Zero defending X from Vile.
THE GAMEPLAY – When it all boils down, the gameplay is pretty much the standard Mega Man formula: You choose a level in any order you want, go around running, jumping, and shooting at things until you get to the end, where you have to fight the boss of that stage and get their ability. However, because it’s now in a more advanced format, Capcom decided to up their ante and build upon it, and boy did they succeed. Starting off with the controls, they’re some of the most tight and snappy that I’ve seen in a run-and-gun platformer. Although there are times where they might feel a bit off per say, these moments are very, very sparse and don’t drag the game down. The level design is also great, as it’s built around several interesting setpieces, and you’ll also be engaging in more varied gameplay styles. Throughout the game, you’ll also get several VERY useful upgrades throughout the form of capsules that are scattered throughout the stages, which also helps to spice things up a bit. Ultimately, all of these things manage to come together to make up what is in my eyes one of the greatest platformers of its’ time.
THE BOTTOM LINE – Although I wouldn’t call myself a Mega Man fanatic, I still enjoy the games and what they have to offer. Mega Man X on the other hand, I don’t just enjoy it. I freaking LOVE IT. The level design is brilliant, the music is catchy as all hell, the gameplay is addictive, and it’s all-around a really really fun game. This is definitely a must-play for platform enthusiasts and Mega Man fans.
THE RETR0PIA RATING – 9/10