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Mega Man Zero Collection (DS) artwork

Mega Man Zero Collection (DS) review


"“Mega Man Zero Collection” contains one of the greatest action game anthologies of recent years and perhaps all time as well. In the realm of vigorous thumb and finger muscle exercise, you can’t do better than this on a portable game system. You can hardly do better on the so-called “home” consoles either. The "Mega Man Zero" series is among the upper echelon of games that have you sprinting and bounding across wild obstacle courses while terminating drones with extreme prejudice. "



“Mega Man Zero Collection” contains one of the greatest action game anthologies of recent years and perhaps all time as well. In the realm of vigorous thumb and finger muscle exercise, you can’t do better than this on a portable game system. You can hardly do better on the so-called “home” consoles either. The "Mega Man Zero" series is among the upper echelon of games that have you sprinting and bounding across wild obstacle courses while terminating drones with extreme prejudice.

The original “Mega Man Zero” was released in 2002, the same year that Sega released the unmatched “Shinobi.” These two games have some things in common. Their heroes stealth-dash, and they cut their enemies into neat pieces; they have uncommonly punishing final bosses; and they reward practice. The original “Zero” is not for the faint of heart. The faint of heart will be brought to tears before they even finish the second mission. In anticipation of this, Capcom introduced “Cyber-elves.” Cyber-elves are essentially a cushion for softening the blow of the game’s brutal challenge, and the cushion can be as thin or thick as you wish. Elves can heal you or make you stronger or extend your health bar, among other things. Some of these creatures need to be fed crystals before they can be used, and collecting the required amount can take a lot of time. It’s up to the player to decide if they want to “grind” or spend time actually mastering the obstacles and missions.

If it were up to me, the first “Zero” would have a different 1UP/“Continue” system. As it is, you are given a finite number of continues, which are best saved for the final level. I would also give the player at least one of the celebrated “sub-tanks” from “Mega Man X,” which can only earned here through the laborious development of Cyber-elves. Otherwise, this is a fine action game with some novel RPG/Adventure elements.

The immediate sequel starts on a good note by not only revamping the 1UP system, bringing it in line with the traditional “Mega Man” game, but also scattering a merciful two sub-tanks for the player to find. “Zero 2” is a somewhat kinder and gentler game than the original, especially in how it significantly cuts down the crystal grinding. (An Elf that needed 750 Energy Crystals in the first "Zero" only requires 250 here.) A lot of assets from the original "Zero" are reused, with some twists, which kind of diminishes things. Nevertheless, this is a fun, intense action game. Sometimes it's more intense than fun, but that’s the way it is in this genre.

The most notable feature introduced in the second “Zero” are “EX Skills,” which are special techniques rewarded for earning high ranks at the end of a level. Some of these are very useful, and some are just fun to show off with on YouTube or something. Alas, it is harder to score an “A” or “S” grade here than it was in "Zero 1."

The third game implements further innovations in the realm of appeasing diehard and "softcore" gamers alike. The Cyber-elf system is adjusted to allow you to equip two Cyber-elf effects without penalty to your score, which makes EX Skills a little easier to earn. (In the first two games, the use of Elves was frowned upon by the grading system.) In general, “Zero 3” feels fresher than the second game. Every level is a discovery, and aside from a brief stretch, no bosses are recycled from before. There’s a fun collect ‘em all diversion in the form of "secret disks." These contain Cyber-elves, special pieces of armor to use in addition to the Elves, and general trivia about characters and enemies and the game world. That is all for “Zero 3,” which is more worthwhile to play than to explain.

As nice as the first three games were, none of them hold a candle to the fourth and best of them all. “Mega Man Zero 4” is the crown jewel of this anthology. Everything that was great about the first three games, is great here as well. Every little thing you could nit pick, can no longer be nit picked, because the basics have been refined to perfection. There are two prologue stages, eight mission stages, two intermission stages, and four final stages. All of them are as good as the best levels of the previous three games, and many are better. EX Skills are no longer earned through rank, so players of all skill levels can acquire them if they wish. I say “if they wish,” because the player is allowed to adjust their game in many subtle ways. This is one instance where an effort to please everyone actually works. If you love this type of game, you will at the very least like this one.

I guess I should now talk about whether this is an accurate compilation, etc. All four games are flawlessly ported from the Gameboy Advance, even enhanced in some small details. The faint hearted will find the “Easy Scenario” mode to be the centerpiece of the package. It allows you to play all four games back-to-back in what is essentially a kind of “god mode.” Think of it as a sampler, something to prime you before you really start playing these games.

A real treat for fans are the “card mods” for “Mega Man Zero 3.” Back in the day, “the day” being about six years ago, Nintendo released a stupid peripheral called the “e-Reader.” It was a card scanner or something. Like many unfortunate Gameboy Advance titles released at the time, “Zero 3” had minor exclusive content that could only be tapped into through this infernal gadget. Nintendo’s experiment promptly failed, but their loss is now our gain. Here you can tap the touch screen and activate many of the effects that previously required you to spend a small fortune on trading cards. You’ll find a lot of the features aren’t worth a small fortune, but some of them are pretty charming. All must be unlocked by clearing the four games individually.

“Mega Man Zero Collection” currently carries a price tag of $30. Many games cost twice as much and aren’t even in the same league as these four. The only reasons not to purchase this collection are because you already own the individual games, you don’t own or want to own a Nintendo DS, you don’t like difficult action games, or you don’t play video games at all. If none of the above applies to you, then I strongly recommend picking this compilation up.

Rating: 10/10

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Community review by joseph_valencia (June 28, 2010)

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