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Mega Man X3 (SNES) artwork

Mega Man X3 (SNES) review

"When you first dash through the stages, which initially seem massive and at times empty of anything interesting, you’ll wonder if Capcom bothered to hide any special treats at all. Then you find that one heart container, nestled securely in the chamber you must’ve passed through fifty times, and you get a feel for how devious the level design crew really was."

My battle with Sigma raged onward for hours. His first form, that I could take. I’d come into the chamber, cannon glowing, golden armor gleaming like the treasure of the Incas. I’d let loose with a Z-Saber shot that sent a green blast across the room and Sigma, caught in its path, would shudder as his fragile form was racked with explosive pain. He’d toss his shield. I’d jump it. We’d duel like the vicious machines we were, until at last his body surrendered to a silhouette. I learned to enjoy these small victories.

His second form gave me more trouble, but I pressed onward. Again and again we locked ourselves in mortal combat. I slid along a wall, dodging missiles and returning fire of my own as his death ray sought to end my life, so close to final victory. And then, after hours of effort, I finally did it. All my effort came to a head as, yes, I managed to finally hit him.

A sliver of life dropped from his massive life meter, and X exploded in a shower of aura.

There’s a reason I start my Mega Man X3 review with what some would consider a spoiler. There are a few, actually. The first one is rather simple: no one who has ever played any of the games (and thus, just about anyone who might stumble across this review) will be surprised that Sigma is the final boss. In fact, most of them have probably come to this struggle themselves. I apologize to all two of you that did not. Perhaps I should have marked the introduction with a ‘spoiler’ warning. But then, perhaps Capcom should have marked the box with a “this game contains a cheapass boss that will make you want to smash everything you love” warning.

The Sigma you’ll face in Mega Man X3 is without a doubt the cheapest boss you’re likely to ever encounter in your career as a gamer. There are no apologies for this. Every time you fall to the second form, you must replay the entire (admittedly short) level through again. You must take your chances with the first form, lose most of your first energy gauge and maybe a subtank. Then, you’ll be severely owned in the second encounter. If, somehow, you manage to defeat him, then the game still isn’t done wreaking havoc on your soul. I won’t say how, but I will reveal this much: it’s possible to die even after you’ve defeated that final boss.

So, what about the rest of the game? Well, it’s actually quite good. As the third in the series, Mega Man X3 follows a template that has worked well for its two predecessors, and it tweaks that in mostly pleasing ways.

The first tweak is the ability to play as Zero for the first time. You can call him to deal pain to enemies at key moments, but he won’t accompany you in the final few stages. If you play your cards right, you can use some of his attacks to your advantage. That’s it. Even so, the ability to swing your saber about and bash on the weak enemies that populate most of the earlier zones is a welcome treat (and one that Capcom would later capitalize on for Mega Man X4 on the Playstation).

The next tweak is ride armor. Throughout the game’s various stages, you’ll find icons that may strike you as useless at first. Then you step on a pad and find that you can choose different mobile weapons to ride. One lets you stomp along the ground and deliver power punches, one grants you the ability to hover while firing missiles, and the other two… I grabbed but never really bothered to use. The truth of the matter is that you’ll probably only use the mechanical behemoths to find more of their kind, or to grab hidden heart containers and the like. They’re not all that useful in battle, just a pleasing novelty for you mech fans out there.

Another twist I liked had to do with armor of a different kind. There are the usual armor upgrades, but this time the game asks you to choose between four final chips. There’s a secret fifth option that combines them all, if you are the sort that isn’t afraid to check out the odd FAQ. Pretend for a moment that you’d never dream of doing so. In that case, Capcom makes you choose which useful skill will be most helpful. Do you add yet another air dash to your repertoire? How about the ability to stand still and recover health (and fill energy tanks)? The choice is yours. Of course, first you have to find those elusive upgrades.

As always, doing so is difficult but rewarding. When you first dash through the stages, which initially seem massive and at times empty of anything interesting, you’ll wonder if Capcom bothered to hide any special treats at all. Then you find that one heart container, nestled securely in the chamber you must’ve passed through fifty times, and you get a feel for how devious the level design crew really was. As was the case with Mega Man X2, it’s suddenly a treat to unearth every last little nook and cranny.

The other stuff is here, too, though it seems redundant to go through the list. You know what it contains: good graphics, catchy music that will have you stomping your foot and feeling like a dork for doing so, a lack of linearity that keeps things fresh, and some tough spots that remind you what games used to be like when they were about a good time and tough challenges. I just wish things didn’t end so badly. It’s almost enough to ruin the game, knowing that seeing it through to completion will be such torture. Ah, well. At least the first five hours are bliss…

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Staff review by Jason Venter (January 05, 2006)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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