Monday, August 12, 2013

Classic Review - Mega Man X2

In 1993 Capcom released their newest entry in the Mega Man series; a game called "Mega Man X." Although Mega Man X was a follow up to their already long running franchise, it was a new beginnings for Mega Man as well. Taking full advantage of the new SNES hardware and its controller, Capcom crafted a new gameplay experience, that took the games to a whole new level. Mega Man X introduced a brand new lead character named X, it took place over one hundred years after the original games, and it also developed a deeper (and darker) plot. After the success of the first entry in the series, instead of going back to "Mega Man," Capcom decided to continue on with their new trend.

On December 17 1994, "Rockman X2" hit store shelves in Japan (just one day before the original game's first annaversery), and in the US just a month later. Just like Mega Man X before it, X2 took the world by storm, and became another hit among Mega Man fans and platforming fans alike. However; was it really that good of a game? Or should Capcom have gone back to the classics? Well, let's find out.

The Story:

Mega Man X2 picks up not too long after the previous game, and it heavily relies on the previous entries' storyline. Just like in the first game, Mega Man X2 follows the "reploid" named "X" who is a member of the Maverick Hunters. To put it simple, reploids are robots that have the ability to think and feel for themselves, and because of that they really are not much different from humans. They have emotions, there is no set programming which commands them to act a specific way, and they live in harmony with the humans. At least, they did at first.

Not too long after the reploids entered the world, a virus dubbed the "Maveirck Virus" swept across the world. This virus caused reploids to malfunction, and in return break the first rule of robotics "a robot shall not harm a human." Reploids who contracted the Maverick Virus flat out went crazy, and caused mass destruction on the world; this was when the Maverick Hunters were formed. The Maverick Hunters were tasked with the job of taking down reploids who have gone maverick, but not too long after they were formed, an unexpected event occurred. The leader of the Maverick Hunters, a reploid named "Sigma," went maverick himself, and he took many of the Maverick Hunters with him. Upon his departure from the hunters, a new reploid by the name of "Zero" stepped in as leader, and he and X set out to bring Sigma to justice. Sadly, their plan did not go off without a hitch.

During the battles Zero was killed by an ex Maverick Hunter by the name of Vile, and X was forced to go on with the mission alone. After acquiring Zero's buster gun, X faced off with Sigma, and ultimately was able to defeat him. Even though Sigma was now dead, the maverick threat still continued on, and that is where Mega Man X2 begins. It has been six months since X's dual with Sigma, but the world is still in chaos. Now assuming the role of leader, X sets out to bring the remaining mavericks to justice; however unknown to X, they have a trick up their sleeve. The X-Hunters (as they call themselves) have apparently salvaged the remains of Zero, and they plan to put them to good use. What do the X-Hunters plan to do with Zero's body, and will X be able to stop them? It's up to you to play the game, and find out.

The Gameplay:

Just like the last entry in the series, Mega Man X2 is an action platforming game that plays out in a non linear fashion. When you start up the game you are forced to play through an intro stage, but soon after you are taken to a stage select screen where you are able to choose from one of 8 stages to play. Each stage has a different setting, as well as a different boss to fight at the end. While all of this is in fact new, the rest of the game is basically the same old Mega Man X.

Not much has actually changed for Mega Man X2. Once again players get to take control of X as he runs through these stages, and once again he still has a lot of his moves from the last game. He can move left and right, he can jump, he can shoot shots out of his X-buster, he can charge up his buster shots to shoot stronger versions of them, he can dash on the ground, and by jumping into a wall he can wall kick off of it to gain ground and climb the wall. All of these features are the very same features we saw in the first Mega Man X, and they really haven't been improved; then again, that isn't a bad thing. Mega Man X had solid gameplay, and it really didn't need any major changes to make a sequel. That doesn't mean there aren't any changes though.

Hidden throughout the stages of the game are different power ups just like in the first entry in this new series. Some power ups add more health, while others are actually new armor pieces that give X new abilities. While in the original game the "dash" ability was a feature that had to be unlocked by finding leg parts; this time around it is an ability X has by default. Instead of giving you the ability to dash, the new leg power ups featured in Mega Man X2 actually allow you to dash in the air! With this new found movement, X can reach new heights, as well as save himself from falls. Did you just fall off a cliff and are you about to land on some spikes? Well, now you can air dash to fly past them! Although it isn't a major improvement, it does make a difference, and it makes you feel like you have even more control over X.

Along with the ability to air dash, a few other features have been added in as well. Some stages now actually feature a bike you can drive through some sections in, and the "ride armor" (which X could jump into in a select few stages in X1) has been improved as well. This time around the armor can hover, and it has some new punching based attacks. Although the ride armor still only shows up in a few select levels, it is actually a lot more useful this time around, and it even becomes a key asset later later on.

Another new addition to Mega Man X2 is the new mini boss system. While X1 had a few "mini bosses" to fight along the way, they really weren't full on bosses. They were mostly basic enemies that you had to kill in a locked room, and they were forced upon you. In X2 however; this is completely different. As I mentioned above, the "X-Hunters" have pieces of Zero's body, and that aspect of the story actually makes it into the gameplay. Each stage in the game has a hidden entrance where a mini boss could possibly show up. If you select a stage while one of the X-Hunters appears over it, you will be able to fight that X hunter, and recover the piece of Zero which they hold. By collecting all of the pieces you can unlock the "canon" ending of the game, but it is completely optional.

Despite the addition of the mini bosses, the "normal" bosses have not been changed at all. They still appear at the very end of the stage, and they all still have different abilities. Whenever you kill a boss you will unlock its special weapon, and that special weapon can in return be used to take down other bosses easier. Each boss has a weakness, and it is up to you to figure out which works the best on who. Even though the game gives you freedom to choose between any stage, there is always a boss order that will always work the best. Until you figure it out you have the freedom to do as you wish, but once you find weaknesses it really is better to use them to your advantage.

The Good and the Bad:

Mega Man X2 really doesn't do anything wrong, but it also isn't anything special either. The game has solid gameplay, it has an interesting story, and it is still just as fun to play as the original. While Mega Man games are normally short and leave you asking for more, Mega Man X2 basically answered that call. Fans of X1 wanted to keep playing, and they wanted to see new levels, and that is why X2 was created; still it didn't quite capture everything the original had going for it.

While the original game was a big step into a new generation, X2 was not. It was a game that simply took everything X1 had, and then reworked it all into new stages with some new features. The thing is though, with every step forward X2 made, there seemed to be a step back as well. While X1 featured some pretty nice music which became iconic over time, X2 doesn't feature many songs that truly stand out. In X1 each stage also featured some kind of "element" which would also change based on your actions, but X2 seems to really tone that aspect back. For example in X1 if you took out Storm Eagle's air ship, it would crash into the power plant and cause a black out; if you didn't then you had to go through a stage with electric balls that you had to avoid. In X2, you really see nothing like that. The stages are how they are, and completing other stages will not change them, or the features they are based around. This is really too bad as it was quite fun to see what would change next. Even so, to make up for this the stages in X2 do feature more "gimmicks" (such as changes in gravity), but really they are either love or hate.

Despite being a copy and paste, and despite the changes made to the stage system, Mega Man X2 is still a rock solid game. It doesn't have any flaws per say, but what really holds it back is the fact that it didn't do much different, or greatly improve on X1's formula. If this would have been the first game in the series, we would have been blown away; however, that is not the case. Even though I love the game personally, I have to give Mega Man X2 a 9/10. It isn't perfect, but it is close. Check it out for sure if you liked the original, or love platformers in general! (Heck, you may find this game to be a 10/10 if you play it first!)