Mega Man ZX (DS) review
"If there is one word that can sum up the ongoing Mega Man series, it's "consistent". The series has spawned many games over the years and it consists of a few sub-series like the classic series, the X series and the Zero series. It has also been a very consistent series in many ways. First of all, the quality of the games is usually on a high level concerning action-platformers, bar a few. Second, the series is also known for its very consistent approach in its core gameplay..."
If there is one word that can sum up the ongoing Mega Man series, it's "consistent". The series has spawned many games over the years and it consists of a few sub-series like the classic series, the X series and the Zero series. It has also been a very consistent series in many ways. First of all, the quality of the games is usually on a high level concerning action-platformers, bar a few. Second, the series is also known for its very consistent approach in its core gameplay. Very few games in the Mega Man series have brought something innovative or even just different compared to the others. Instead, the games play it safe almost every time, repeating many of the gameplay elements that the Mega Man games have always been known for. Mega Man ZX is no different, for the most part.
Mega Man ZX is sort of a combination of the Zero and X series, leaning mostly towards the Zero series. You play the role of either Vent (a boy) or Aile (a girl). They're transporters and they do all kinds of good stuff for other people and the so-called reploids. They're sent on a mission by their boss, Giro, to bring an important package to an unknown person. While doing this, they get attacked by a big, mechanical snake. Fortunately, the package, the Biometal Model X, lends them strength and allows them to become Mega Man Model X, which will look familiar to people who played the X series as it looks like X. With this nifty new suit, they can battle this creature and continue. Soon after, things start going wrong, as Vent/Aile gets involved in a mission to save the world from the evil Serpent and a Maverick outbreak.
The story of Mega Man ZX isn't exactly what you'd call spectacular, but it's definitely one of the better ones in the series. There are actually quite a few story sequences and it's deeper than you might have expected. There are even a few plot twists here and there and some of the characters get quite a treatment when it comes to story. Nevertheless, it's still mostly an excuse to visit areas and beat them.
This game is a bit different in design than a lot of the other games in the series. Instead of choosing levels with a boss at the end, Mega Man ZX has more of a Metroid-like design, with areas being connected with each other through doors. As in Metroid, some of these doors can only be opened when you have met the requirements. The areas themselves still stay true to the traditional levels, though. The areas aren't very big and while a bit more open-ended than the traditional levels found in other Mega Man games, they're about the same size and they still follow a fairly linear path, with a start and a boss at the end. You can always revisit those areas though, to get some of the secret stuff you didn't get when you had a mission there. Also, navigating through the world can be sort of difficult at times. The game has a map which shows how the areas are tied together, but you can't really see where the areas are exactly. You just know the entrance is somewhere in a certain stage, but it's not very convenient to say the least.
You are sent to these areas by taking part in missions. In many of the areas are one or two of these data rooms where you can save, sometimes transport to other areas and choose between missions. Where the missions take place and what you need to do to accomplish them is explained there and, obviously, you need to go to that area and complete the mission. Then you have to report your accomplishment in a data room, where you get energy crystals or a new kind of upgrade every now and then. Some of the rewards are quite nifty, but taking part in these missions definitely shouldn't be done for the rewards alone as they're mostly fairly useless energy crystals that you're likely going to find enough already.
These missions are usually about going through an area and kill a Maverick to save the place. Sometimes you have to save people or get some data. Still, the missions stay true to the tradition of the series of shooting yourself through a stage and beat a boss at the end. There's quite a lot of missions to take and you'll have to do pretty much every one of them to beat the game. Besides these mandatory missions, you can opt to participate in some side quests. Side quests range from pathetically easy (although humorous) and fairly difficult ones and are always about helping some reploid or human. The rewards are usually some energy crystals, but you also get some really nifty powerups by doing them. These side quests are quite fun and help make the game a bit lengthier too.
Through his/her adventure, Vent/Aile can use more than just the main suit, the ZX suit, which comparable to the Zero suit. As you progress, you'll gain new suits that all have a special ability. These suits come in the form of Models that will join you when you beat a Maverick. The first time you get a suit, its energy is only halved, but as you progress, you'll be able to complete them. The suits have some cool powers and some are more useful than the others, but none of them are truly essential to beat the game for more than one instance, mostly. Some suits are required to collect some optional items that are otherwise unreachable, though.
The core gameplay is still the same as always though. Your character controls very similarly to the likes of X and Zero and the designs of the stages are also in familiar territory, with hostile robots you'll have to shoot or hack through, bottomless pits and all kinds of other dangers all over the place. It's still basically going through an area and beat a boss and you'll rarely have to revisit these areas a lot except for collecting some optional items, doing some sidequests or simply having to backtrack through them. Fortunately, while the core gameplay hasn't changed much, it's really a formula that has worked for a long time and still does. The stages are still fun and challenging as ever and the boss battles are still spectacular. Admittedly, easy mode will probably not satisfy the hardcore fans of the series as much as its true to its name by being quite easy, but normal mode and especially hard mode will give you some good challenges along the way. The game doesn't really make use of the DS's touch screen though, which is unfortunate, but not really much of a detriment to the game as it doesn't really need it.
Not only that, it's also one of the longer Mega Man games out there. The story mode will likely take you around 6-8 hours, but with the many sidequests and optional collectibles there are to get, you can add a few to that amount. You can still go and collect data discs that you find throughout the game and in a certain area, there's some sort of game hall. In one of the few instances where the energy crystals come in useful, you can play a few minigames in trade for some energy crystals. They're pretty simple, but they're a fun diversion. Besides, you can play through the higher difficulty modes or play as the character you didn't pick the first time, as they play slightly differently.
Fortunately, the visuals are also top-notch. They're not that much different from the Zero series on the GBA, but they're crisp and colorful. The areas are impressively designed and almost always very pretty to look at. Enemies look as good as ever, with some really impressive and large ones out there, filling much of the screen. You can even see some pseudo-3D influences occasionally. The animations are fluid and the game hardly ever suffers from any slowdown, although the framerate may drop slightly once in a while, but it never becomes an annoyance. The game also has a few cartoon-style cutscenes. There aren't many of them, but they look really impressive and really show what the DS is capable of. The game also features an energetic and high-quality soundtrack that the series is known for. Every area has its own theme and almost all of the tracks are great. There is also a good batch of sound effects that get the job done, like the slashing of your Z-saber or the piercing screeches of some of your foes. The cutscenes also feature some voice acting, but unfortunately it's all in Japanese. It does sound pretty cool, though, but if you don't know any Japanese, you won't know what they're talking about!
In the end, Mega Man ZX is still the same classic Mega Man fun you're familiar with. Fans of the series can cherish the fact that the game is still true to the gameplay mechanics the series is known for. It doesn't bring much new to the series, except having a slightly more open-ended approach, but it's still top quality action-platforming and it can be recommended to anyone who enjoys a good, action-packed sidescroller.
Community review by Spoink (December 08, 2007)
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