"As X walks along a deserted city street, he kicks up dust and moves around the rubble. There aren’t any other people around. They either died in yesterday’s massacre or fled underground. It’s not like running will help mankind, though; now that most of the robots around the world have gone berserk, there’s little chance that society will recover anytime soon. In the meantime, the city continues to crumble into dust. The arched overpass has been ripped to pieces, leaving chunks of gray debris str..."
As X walks along a deserted city street, he kicks up dust and moves around the rubble. There aren’t any other people around. They either died in yesterday’s massacre or fled underground. It’s not like running will help mankind, though; now that most of the robots around the world have gone berserk, there’s little chance that society will recover anytime soon. In the meantime, the city continues to crumble into dust. The arched overpass has been ripped to pieces, leaving chunks of gray debris strewn across the local park. Many of the skyscrapers are still burning, billowing smoke and flames like giant torches. Somewhere in this maze of ruined storefronts and broken glass, an army of those bloodthirsty androids is plotting their next attempt to eliminate humans for good. Gripping the laser cannon built into his metal arm, X ventures forth to stop the carnage.
Thus begins the Mega Man X series.
Ironically, mankind’s savior isn’t even human. X is just another in a long line of Reploids, a breed of androids that are programmed with free will and the capacity for abstract thought and self-betterment. Inevitably, some Reploids deemed humans to be inferior and joined the Mavericks, a group of robots sworn to exterminate mankind. Despite the robots’ ever-growing rebellion against their creators, X (along with a few other Maverick Hunters that are rarely shown) is given to the task of assassinating Sigma, the Maverick leader/overused villain of the series. In order to complete his mission, X will have to fight his way through a bunch of enemy strongholds, dodging unfriendly fire, leaping across bottomless chasms, and enduring enough tough platforming to make the Super Mario Bros. wince. In order to take on the legions of inept goons, automated laser beams, submarines, and cybernetic animal monstrosities, X will have to follow in the footsteps of the original Mega Man; turning foes into scrap metal with his handy X-Buster. Accordingly, X will also challenge a boss at the end of each level and rip the weapons off their burning carcasses, then add them to his own arsenal (which can be later used to exploit other bosses’ weaknesses). Rinse and repeat a few more times, pick up a few armor upgrades along the way, and Sigma will get his metallic kicked in no time.
Skip forward six months, and the rebellion is still going strong. Mega Man X2 depicts our hero coming to terms with the loss of his would-be partner, Zero. Like a complete fool, X has ditched all of the awesome weapons from the previous game; gone are the homing starfish missiles, invincibility shields, and ice shotguns. Armed with little more than his default weapon, he’ll have to track down another batch of Sigma’s Maverick cronies and steal some new armaments. He’ll add a grappling hook, rotary saws, and even a bubble (yes, the soapy kind) cannon to his arsenal. He’ll need these weapons, too; aside from featuring the same tried-and-true gameplay of the first game (complete with identical sprites for X), the game boasts a slew of challenging levels and obstacles. Ripping enemies apart with laser cannons is one thing, but slogging through chaotic weather, wiping out parasite-infested scrap heaps, and tons of tricky platforming sections make Mega Man X2 a far more difficult and satisfying game than its predecessor.
As the series progresses into Mega Man X3, Sigma’s rebellion has finally ended. That doesn’t mean that there’s any peace, though. An unimpressive villain and a predictable plot twist later, and the world is once again under a Maverick siege. X will once again have to reclaim another cache of boss weapons and demolish a bunch of bipedal tanks, laser defense grids, deadly snowflakes, and whatever else that gets in your way. With so many hallways filled with bottomless pits and spiky floors, X will have to be extra careful as he navigates the narrow walkways and occasionally difficult obstacles. But before you cast X3 off as a rehash of the last two titles, the game offers something never before seen: a chance to play as the newly revived Zero. Yes, the epitome of Mega Manliness himself can be switched in, giving you the chance to shoot off a few bullets from his laser gun and follow it up with a quick combo from his signature sword. Once you factor in the game’s wonderful animated graphics (at least, in comparison to the pixilated stuff on the SNES), you’ll find that Mega Man X3 has enough charm to stand on its own.
Mega Man X4 builds upon what the previous game established and greatly improves it. Despite Sigma having his ass kicked so many times, the Maverick Hunters aren’t enough to keep the world safe. In their stead, the Repliforce was created and charged with the task of defeating evildoers. That doesn’t stop the Sky Lagoon, a floating city hovering above town, to come crashing down and annihilating much of the population. With everyone pointing accusatory fingers, X and Zero must head out on another platforming/weapon-stealing adventure. Instead of being able to toggle between characters, however, you’ll have to choose them before taking on a level. Though they’ll face the same kinds of spiky floors and bottomless pits, the heroes’ fighting styles have been further developed for more gameplay variety. X can attack from afar and pelt his enemies with weak energy bullets, while Zero can get up close and personal (with little range whatsoever) and turn his foes into metallic Chop Suey. Such differences, combined with unique storylines for each character and vivid graphics (the old animation sprites have been replaced with proportioned limbs, gleaming armor, and smooth attacks) make Mega Man X4 easily the best entry into the series.
Too bad the rest of the series went to Hell.
Mega Man X5 picks up with Sigma’s reappearance. Apparently, getting thrashed so many times hasn’t fazed him; he’s attempting to infect the world with a powerful virus and start up another rebellion. He’s also commandeered the space colony Eurasia and steered it straight into Earth’s path. With only 16 hours until impact, X and Zero will have to do what they do best: explore a bunch of platform-styled levels (with more spikes than ever before!) and annihilate countless goons, laser cannons, and whatever else gets in their way. While the combat is essentially the same as it was in X4, the game has a few nasty surprises that make the game a chore to play. The levels are of the most difficult that you’ll ever find in a Mega Man X game; you’ll have to duck into strategically-placed alcoves to narrowly dodge screen-wide lava flows, deactivate a bunch of time bombs with mere seconds to spare, and plenty of other ridiculously difficult challenges. Since the Eurasia colony will crash in set number of hours, dying in a level will set you back some time. Should you botch enough of these attempts, the collision will occur and you’ll get the worst ending. The fact that the game shoves a bunch of unnecessary dialogue (complete with cruddy voice acting) down your throat doesn’t help, either. The only saving grace comes with the graphics; you’ll get to see the cracks coursing through the colony streets, flowing tire treads, and more shiny armor and attacks than you can shake a stick at. Unfortunately, the rest of the game is horrid.
But you haven’t seen a bad Mega Man X game until you’ve given X6 a shot. The game begins with everyone having nightmares about Zero’s presumed death, but the hero conveniently shows up with no explanation as to how he survived being turned into filet o’ robot earlier. In the meantime, some generic villain explores the ruins of Eurasia and gets possessed. This new guy blames the chronic nightmares on Zero, and dispatches a bunch of investigators (aka the latest batch of bosses) to bring everything under his control. While smacking around these giant turtles, space-faring squids, and metal-munching sharks is fairly easy, actually getting to them is a pain in the ass. You’ll have to duck under massive trash compactors while sliding across sheets of ice, destroy legions of fighter jets while dodging the laser blasts from a giant enemy in the background, and dismantle a weather machine while getting slowly eaten away by acid rain. That’s on top of all the mindless drones that will swarm you from every direction, innumerable spike strips, and the small army of lost Maverick Hunter NPCs that you can save to increase your score. The fact that X and Zero have gone soft doesn’t help, either; Aside from making a feeble sword slash, X can barely shoot his gun without suffering from the kickback. Zero’s neutered attack range and lack of health make playing as him tedious at best. Needless to say, Mega Man X6 is only for the masochistic at heart.
Thus, these six entries comprise the Mega Man X Collection on the Gamecube. All of the games retain their quality (or lack thereof), challenges, and charm. Everything is accurately portrayed, from the hornet-shaped helicopters terrorizing the city streets in the first game, to the hazy rubble and collapsing bridges of the Sky Lagoon. All of the bosses, from Chill Penguin, Bubble Crab and Neon Tiger to Sigma’s lackey Vile are present and accounted for. You’ll be able to see the light gleaming off our heroes’ armor, notice Zero’s golden mane flow through the breeze, and watch Sigma get beaten into a pile of flaming scrap a few times. The collection tries to substitute the original SNES and Playstation controls, but with limited success; using the Gamecube’s analog stick will make the older games seem stiff. The tiny directional pad and jumping/attacking buttons can make thins awkward as well. But if you can manage to sweat it out, you’ll unlock some bonus artwork and a mediocre kart racing game. It’s a far cry from the loads of extras found with the first Mega Man Anniversary Collection, bit it is still something to look forward to.
Even if the extras aren’t entirely stellar, you’ve got the first six titles in the Mega Man X series at your disposal. While fans of the series certainly shouldn’t miss out on this collection, interested newcomers will find this to be a great introduction. Mega Man X Collection features the triumphs and failures of Capcom’s most dynamic duo. It faithfully renders all of the aspects of the games, be it the quality platforming, the tough bosses, or the less savory things like bad level design and ridiculously challenging obstacles. But even if the minimal selection of extras doesn’t sway you into loving this game, the sheer onslaught of nostalgia certainly will. Besides, you get to see X and Zero at their finest, and that’s always a good thing.
Community review by disco (April 29, 2007)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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