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Mega Man X2 (SNES) artwork

Mega Man X2 (SNES) review

"Every last one of those zones now has a hidden chamber. There, you can meet with the ones who seek to reassemble Zero, and battle them for supremacy and a piece of your old comrade. These battles are nasty, some of the most challenging in the game, and the best part is that some players wonít ever find them, not even a single one."

There is an ancient prophecy among the robots of the future, one that tells of the day Dr. Lightís final creation will betray his ideals and defeat the heroic robot known as X. Sigma, a rogue reploid with plans to enslave the human race and to defeat the maverick hunters that seek to eliminate his kind, clings to that prophecy. When it manifests itself, he knows that he will rule the galaxy unopposed. Brought back to life by some of his followers, the maniacal collection of scrap metal, bolts and ego tries his hand against the forces of good once more, in Mega Man X2.

As a game, Mega Man X2 is a fun follow-up to its immediate predecessor, an obvious evolution that succeeds because it knows what worked the last time around, and because itís not afraid to try a few new tricks. As an entry in the tangled plot strand that is the franchise, itís just plain fascinating.

Those who saw Mega Man X through to its conclusion, or to the moments just before (Sigmaís first attempt at world domination has been known to challenge some players beyond a point they find acceptable), know that his friend Zero sacrificed his body to give X a longer lease on life. The gambit was successful, and Sigma fell after a heated battle. Now he has returned, and he has his eyes set on Zero. The history books show that Xís brave red friend is the last creation of a scientist by the name of Thomas Light.

From his palace in the frozen north, Sigma orders his most loyal followers to gather the scraps of Zero together, to reconstruct him so that he will defeat X. As well, eight maverick robots are enlisted in the struggle, so that X doesnít have time to notice what else is going on around him. This is where plot and game merge, and itís just one of the reasons that Mega Man X2 is so much fun.

You already know the basics. After an introductory stage, you can tackle the following eight in the order of your choice, gathering weapons and using them to explore more deeply. However, there are some welcome twists. Every last one of those zones now has a hidden chamber. There, you can meet with the ones who seek to reassemble Zero, and battle them for supremacy and a piece of your old comrade. These battles are nasty, some of the most challenging in the game, and the best part is that some players wonít ever find them, not even a single one. If you know they wait you, somewhere beneath the surface, finding each one is a spectacular treat.

Mega Man X2 is good at hiding things. If you thought some of the heart tanks were deviously obscured before, wait until you see what the developers have up their sleeve for the second outing. There are trick floors, bottomless pits that arenít, dangerous leaps into the wild blue that find just a small foothold of land. Even when you can see an item or a ladder that you know you want to reach, itís likely guarded by a bed of lethal spikes, or a wall you canít get through.

Because of this system, the game is so much more than a trip through a few levels. If you see a wall that looks like itís made of weak material, you can come back with the right weapon to clear a new passageway. If it seems you got through the previous area just a little bit too easily, maybe you missed somethingóa shaft high above your normal path, or a block that might have let you reach a heart container, but slid out of sight before you could reach it. As before, there are four weapon upgrades, eight heart tanks and four sub tanks. These weapons donít seem necessary at first; itís easy enough to progress most of the way through the game without them.

Then you reach Sigmaís Castle and things change. After navigating a relatively simple stage, youíll come to new boss encounters. One finds you squaring off against a wall of laser lights while your nemesis hides behind them, impervious to your attacks. Another sees you climbing a shuddering chamber as your opponent reigns lasers and blocks down from above. These are battles that will test your fortitude at every turn, but theyíre only a taste of the final gauntlet. As you are at last reunited with Zero, Sigma leers from the shadows and pits the two of you against one another. When that battle ends, when the outcome could hardly be more uncertain, thereís a brutal struggle against your familiar nemesis that makes the final moments of Mega Man X seem like a walk in the park.

Challenging and rewarding, Mega Man X2 is the rarest of sequels that got everything right, even as it tried new things. You may grit your teeth when X explodes for the hundredth time into a thousand balls of light, but just try to put down the controller and play something else. Itís as difficult as the game itself. Donít miss out.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (January 04, 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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