Mega Man ZX (DS) review
"Once upon a time, two Maverick Hunters teamed up to save the future from evil. There stood X, a suped-up rendition of the original Mega Man that wielded a chargeable energy blaster. Then there was Zero, X’s undeniably badass partner that wielded an even more badass laser saber. These two heroes waged an epic war against Sigma, an evil robot psychopath held bent on destroying mankind and ruling the world. Sigma had ravaged cities, slaughtered plenty of innocent people, nearly destroyed the planet..."
Once upon a time, two Maverick Hunters teamed up to save the future from evil. There stood X, a suped-up rendition of the original Mega Man that wielded a chargeable energy blaster. Then there was Zero, X’s undeniably badass partner that wielded an even more badass laser saber. These two heroes waged an epic war against Sigma, an evil robot psychopath held bent on destroying mankind and ruling the world. Sigma had ravaged cities, slaughtered plenty of innocent people, nearly destroyed the planet, and somehow managed to survive being destroyed multiple times. After saving civilization from the brink of annihilation, enduring countless battles against their dastardly foe and his seemingly unlimited supply of homicidal Maverick lackeys, X and Zero could finally settle down and enjoy a new era of peace…
…And then they both died.
Despite their heroic deeds and amazing feats, not even these two heroes could stand against the march of time. Skip forward a few hundred years, and the names ‘X’ and ‘Zero’ have become nothing but folklore. That doesn’t mean that the Mavericks have stopped terrorizing humanity, however. While humanity has rebuilding massive cities and restoring order, the robots have begun roaming the rest of the post-apocalyptic planet. To help benefit what’s left of the human race, Slither Inc. has begun developing new technology and making the latest scientific advancements. Meanwhile, the Maverick Hunters have been disbanded and replaced by the Guardians, a clandestine organization whose sole purpose is to protect mankind from of the Maverick threat. In the midst of all the uncertainty, a delivery service has been hired to transport some precious Biometals across the dangerous terrain. But with a brief (and predictable) plot twist, these relics are shown to be more valuable and powerful than anyone has bargained for…
Needless to say, Mega Man ZX comes with a decent story to follow up with its predecessors in the Mega Man Z series. But in case you just want to skip the drama, here’s what the game is basically about: the delivery person is somehow linked to the relics and transformed into a hybrid of X and Zero. However, the dynamic duo aren’t exactly operating like they used to; instead of actively blasting and slashing through baddies, they’ve been reduced to talking pieces of armor. They’ve been attached to Vent/Aile, the game’s protagonists. Yeah, you read that right. You’re given the choice between male and female characters, each with their own advantages and weaknesses. Vent can take a hit and swim with remarkable speed, but he’s pretty slow with everything else. Aile is far more agile with ladders and crawling through holes, but she gets sent sprawling with damage recoil. However, these little quirks will be long forgotten once you’ve gotten a chance to wipe out some enemies with X’s chargeable energy blaster and use Zero’s Z-Saber to turn them into metallic chop suey.
Classic weapons aside, Mega Man ZX breaks from the traditional formula that has ruled over so many of its predecessors. You’ve still got to choose a mission, take down a bunch of super-powered Mavericks, steal their weapons, and use them to progress through the game. However, the missions are no longer separated into distinct levels; instead, the entire game takes place across a vast city that is linked via streets, hallways, and teleporter rooms. Instead of being transported directly to the next level, you’re obligated to search the city for the pathway to the next area and blast through everything that gets in your way. In true Metroid-esque style, you’ll be granted access to more areas as you gain more abilities; certain ledges can’t be reached until you’ve killed a certain enemy, some areas are far harder to navigate without the right items, and plenty of collectibles and powerups lay hidden in the most obscure nooks and crannies. But with no time constraints during the missions, you’re free to wander about the city and discover everything that it has to offer.
That’s assuming, of course, that you don’t get too distracted by the new Biometals you’ll come across. X and Zero may be the primary supports for Vent/Aile, but you’ll be able to acquire more heroic armor whenever you beat a boss. Unlike previous titles, these additions offer far more than adding another gun to your arsenal; each suit comes with its own unique abilities. The HX armor can dual-wield sabers, has air dashing and hovering capabilities, and displays an enemy’s remaining health. The FX suit comes packing a pair of flamethrowers that can be aimed in almost any direction via the touch screen, can and smash through certain walls. If you’re spending time underwater, the LX armor makes swimming a cakewalk and grants you an awesome spear with a few combos to overwhelm your foe. But if being a stealthy assassin is more your thing, the PX model comes equipped with night vision on the Touch Screen, can latch onto ceilings, and unleash a hail of throwing stars all over the battlefield. You can’t forget the chargeable attacks and elemental-based overdrive specials that each armor sports, either. That’s on top of the unlockable armors you’ll get if you happen to own the previous Mega Man Zero titles as well. With so many weapons at your disposal, it won’t be long before those diehard Mavericks go running for their mechanized mommies.
But if the deadly arsenal doesn’t send the baddies packing, then the badass armor designs certainly will. With each new armor that our heroes procure, their sprite will change drastically; as its name suggests, the ZX model looks like a combination of X’s signature blue helmet and Zero’s spiked visor and flowing golden hair. Once you’ve switched over to the PX form, your character will change from a blond into a redheaed bristling with lightning-fast attacks and masked helmet. To help Vent/Aile with watery areas, the LX armor comes with fins for each of the heroes’ limbs. The HX form comes with a pair of green horns and wing-shaped boosters, and the FX is covered in all sorts of red, yellow, and orange to complement its fiery weapons. However, not all missions require that you stay powered up; some NPCs (and even some enemies) will mistake Vent/Aile for a threat if they don’t revert back to their plain, child-sized human bodies. However, don’t let that stop you from enjoying the game’s presentation. Mega Man ZX is packed with awesome visuals, be it the wispy clouds flowing past the Guardian’s airship, the smoke-choked buildings covered with flames, the lush forests and rainy bogs, an amusement park bustling with rides and balloons, and plenty of other wonderfully detailed locales. Don’t forget about the anime cutscenes peppered throughout the game, either.
Mega Man ZX is one of those few DS titles that gets it completely right. The game builds on what its GBA predecessors have established; it’s got a decent story to continue the saga of the older games, plenty of intense and challenging gameplay, offers tons of weapons, upgrades, and other items to seek out, and has a presentation second to none of the DS. With a huge city at your fingertips and unlimited time to explore it, you’ll spend plenty of time getting to know every door, passageway, and area after you’ve come across it enough times. Its limited use of the Touch Screen is also a huge plus; it has practical functions as opposed to gimmicky spell casting and control schemes that have plagued so many other DS titles. So if you’re in serious need of a Mega Man fix, or if you just want to enjoy some incredibly awesome 2D handheld action, look no further. X and Zero are back. And this time, it’s personal.
Community review by disco (September 23, 2006)
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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