Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Classic Review - Mega Man X4

At the end of the SNES' life cycle, Capcom released one final Mega Man game to help send it off with a bang, and bring the series into the next generation. The game was called Mega Man X3, and it really didn't do what it set out to accomplish. While the game was a great send off for the SNES, it wasn't so great of a start for the 5th generation of consoles. Just about everything about the game felt dated on the new hardware, and the gameplay wasn't different enough to really stand out above the other two. Despite it being an overall fun game, Mega Man X3 fell short, and it became clear that Capcom needed to move on with the series.

Finally, after an almost two year wait, Mega Man X4 hit the store shelves. Although gamers had already gotten a taste of what next gen Mega Man would be like with the release of Mega Man 8, Mega Man X4 was different. For the first time in the X series, Capcom decided to change a lot of what we had come to know (and possibly love), and the result was... Well, how about we read the review and find out?

The Story:

Just as in X2, and X3, Mega Man X4 picks up right after the previous game, and because of that the game heavily relies on knowledge of the past games in the series. The game takes place in a future world where robots known as reploids have been build. These reploids have the ability to think for themselves, and they also have emotions just as humans; however unlike humans there is one small issue. After a virus got released onto the world, reploids began to go "maverick" and cause havoc for the people of the world. To help  fight against this "maveirck" threat, a group called the "Maverick Hunters" was formed, but after the maverick virus infected the group's leader Sigma, the world fell into chaos and the maverick wars began.

Mega Man X4 picks up after the end of X3 where the Maverick Hunters named "X" and "Zero" teamed up to take down Sigma for the third time. In X3 Sigma had used a robot scientist by the name of "Dr. Doppler" to spread a fake anti virus, as well as build himself a new body. Although this event once again sparked the maverick wars (which had calmed down after the defeat of the remaining resistance in X2), Sigma's plan fell short, and he was once again defeated. It has been some time since then, and once again a new revolution is now underway.

After a second reploid military group forms called the "Repliforce," the world begins to change. While on the surface the Repliforce is a group to help protect the world, the cold hard truth was that they only cared about themselves. They soon plan a coup against the rest of the world, and begin building what they see as a "haven" for reploids. In their mind, reploids are all that matter, and humans are the weaker species. Due to these actions, they are soon branded mavericks by the Maverick Hunters, and because of that the hunters have no choice but to step in. That is when X and Zero enter the picture.

Unlike the games before it, Mega Man X4 actually has a split storyline. At the very start of the game you can choose to play as either X or Zero, and depending on who you pick, the story will play out a bit differently. While the overall plot will be the same, X will team up with a new reploid by the name of Double, and Zero will team up with Iris (who just so happens to be the sister of the Repliforce's second in command). By playing through both stories you get to see the entire plot, and get to peak inside at the Repliforce's true motives.

On top of the split storyline, Mega Man X4 also features anime cutscenes and a lot more dialogue in general. Although these scenes aren't the longest cutscenes out there, they do help provide a much more detailed story, and it even helps give us a look into Zero's past. For the first time we actually get to watch Zero's memories from before he joined the Maverick Hunters, and we also get to see events that turned Sigma into the Sigma of today.

These inside looks help clear up some of the confusion of the X series, and help develop the story in general. Besides the anime cutscenes, there is dialogue during the levels as well, and for the first time, ALL of the bosses actually speak to you (unlike in the past games where only special bosses would). Instead of simply showing up to kill X (or in this case X and Zero), they actually have a mini discussion with you before the fight begins. This gives the bosses more personality, and it helps develop their side of the story as well. This a very much welcomed addition. (Although, I personally still find it strange that the game was K-A/E rated despite having cursing, as well as blood.)

Overall, the story in Mega Man X4 is a lot more developed than in the past, and that makes it even more enjoyable. Although, the voice acting is a bit off...

Mega Man X's Gameplay:

X's gameplay in Mega Man X4 is once again basically the same gameplay we have come to expect from the X series. The game is still a standard platforming game where you can move left and right, you can jump, you can dash on the ground, and you can also wall kick off of walls and climb them in the process. Really nothing has actually changed here, but that's okay. As I've said in the other reviews, this is solid gameplay, and it works; there really is no need to fix what isn't broken. Stages have a wide range of obstacles for you to overcome, and to do so you'll have to master X's dash, his wall kick, as well as his dash jumps. The gameplay ends up being semi-high speed action, and it really does take skill. Due to X's wide range of moves, the players do in fact have full control over his body, and that is one reason the X series stands out over the classics. You aren't as limited when it comes to what you can actually do in game, and the controls feel tight and responsive. Like I said, this is the same gameplay they've been using since X1, and it still works. However; there are a LOT more differences this time.

While playing as X or Zero the basic gameplay is still the same, but the overall gameplay is different. Unlike Zero, X has what is called an X-Buster on his arm, and that makes him a long range attacker. By pressing the shoot button you can fire standard shots, but by holding it down you can pull off a charge shot. This is X's primary way to attack, but as you play through the game, more moves are unlocked.

Just as before, Mega Man X4 starts out with an intro stage that you must beat, but after that the game opens up. There are 8 stages for you to select from, and each stage features a different boss with a different special weapon. Once you defeat a boss and gain a special weapon from them, you can then use that very same special weapon to help kill other bosses. Just like in other Mega Man games, every boss is weak against a specific element, and it is up to you to figure out which weapon works best against who. Although, there is one downside to this special weapon system. Unlike the main X-Buster, special weapons actually have limited energy/ammo, so you really do have to use them wisely.

Besides unlocking new special weapons to use, X can also unlock upgrades and even a new armor set which provides him with new abilities (such as the ability to hover for a short amount of time). These upgrades and power ups can be found hidden throughout the stages, and that alone gives you a reason to search every corner of the game, as well as replay levels you have already completed. This helps add to the game's repay value, but not as much as Zero in general.

Zero's Gameplay:

If there is any one reason to get Mega Man X4, it would be because of Zero. For the first time in Mega Man X history, Zero actually has his own story, and he is completely unique. While Zero did have limited gameplay in X3 (he could be summoned in set sections of the game), he really wasn't anything more than an X clone there to back X up if he ever got low on health. He wasn't very useful overall, and he really didn't add anything to the gameplay (other than his charge shot upgrade). Well, that is not the case this time around.

Unlike X, Zero is a melee fighter who uses his Z-Saber rather than a gun. His gameplay consists of getting in close, combo slashing the heck out of everything in your way, and taking many risks in general. Zero cannot stand back from a safe distance, and because of that you have to have fast reflexes. When an enemy attacks you, you MUST be ready, and you must be able to quickly dodge out of the way before it is too late. This style of gameplay adds a whole new level of difficulty to the X series, and it is unlike anything seen in a Mega Man game up to this point. Although, that isn't the only thing that is different about Zero.

Also unlike X, Zero does not get new weapons from the bosses he fights, but rather he gets completely new moves and combos. From the ability to double jump, to the ability to preform an upper cut slash, Zero unlocks a wide range of abilities that help him advance through the stages, and have no limits (minus unique screen clearing moves). This makes Zero more agile than X (which makes up for his lack of range), and also speeds up the gameplay in general. While X is more of a "stand back, shoot, and run" type of guy, Zero is the type to constantly be on the move as he slashes through everything that gets in his way. Overall his gameplay is fast, fluid, and very solid; even more so than X's. On the down side, Zero does not get armor upgrades.

Although Zero can still find heart tanks to increase his health, and sub tanks (which store energy so he can heal himself), he does not get any true armor upgrades. While there is a secret armor that can be found later on in the game (or unlocked by the use of a code), all it does is actually change his armor's color to that of the "Black Zero" seen in Mega Man X2. It doesn't add to the gameplay, but it is at least something fun to unlock.

The Good and the Bad:

Mega Man X4 is one of them games that nails just about everything. It took the overused style of Mega Man X1-3 and improved on it, it added in Zero who COMPLETELY changes the gameplay, they gave the game a deeper story, gave the game new detailed sprites (which look pretty amazing), they added in true anime cutscenes, and the stages were pretty well designed as well (minus a few issues later on). There's really nothing wrong with Mega Man X4, it is a great game, and Zero makes up for X's same old style of play. All of the improvements that were made were very much needed by this point, and because of them, Mega Man X is finally back where it should have been in X3. Still, it does have a few problems.

The main issue with the game is actually the voice acting. Although it doesn't show up all that much, you can hear "HAH" sounds when X and Zero jump, and that can get a little bit strange. Their voices just don't seem to match their characters. X basically sounds like a girl, and Zero sounds a lot younger as well. If you've ever heard the Japanese voices, or even if you haven't, I'm sure just about every player out there pictured X and Zero with deeper voices. It's just what you would expect from "adults," even if they are robots. It really isn't that big of an issue, but it does sound off, and the voice acting alone somewhat ruins a sad scene later on into the game.

Other than the voice acting, the game is one of the better X games. While it still falls a little bit short with a few issues, it is a major improvement over X3, and it is a game worth your time. If you liked the other entries in the series, this is one you MUST pick up. If you're a new comer to the series, well, I'd still recommend checking it out, and there is a pretty good chance that you will love it (possibly even more than the older entries).

Overall, despite how great the game is, there are a few flaws, and because of that I'm going to give Mega Man X4 an 8/10.