Mega Man X was developed by Capcom and released in Japan in late 1993 and North America in early 1994. It was a run-and-gun in the same style as the original Mega Man series, only with a new title character and a LOT more interesting powers like the ability to cling to walls, dash along the ground at any time, and other abilities hidden throughout the levels. The difficulty was also ramped up, in my opinion, making for a much more fun and challenging game. I'm getting ahead of myself, though...let's jump in and take a closer look at Dr. Light's brainchild.
Mega Man X was another creation by Dr. Light, the creator of Mega Man. About 30 years after the Mega Man series ended, Dr. Light decided to create a new robot, one that, unlike Mega Man, had the ability to make his own decisions. However, as Dr. Light reasoned, what if X decided to be evil? Even worse, what if society wouldn't accept him? At best, he would be an anomaly, and at worst, an abomination. Realizing that he wouldn't live long enough to finish 'debugging' X to make sure he wouldn't become evil, Dr. Light sealed him in a capsule to finish testing. He was supposed to be released in 30 years, but the building the capsule was in collapsed.
Eventually, about 100 years later (in the year 21xx), an archaeologist named Dr. Cain stumbled upon the capsule and freed X. Together, they ended up producing a series of robots known as Reploids designed to replicate X's free will. However, the circuits weren't replicated perfectly; this left the Reploids vulnerable to a long-dormant virus created by Dr. Wily, the nefarious antagonist from the original Mega Man series.
|Dr. Wily, also known as Doc Brown. "Great Scott!"|
The infected Reploids became known as Mavericks. A group called the Maverick Hunters was put together to combat this new threat to mankind with a Reploid named Sigma as their leader. In time, though, Sigma also became infected with the virus. X felt it was his duty to join the Maverick Hunters, now led by Zero (another of Dr. Wily's creations), to take down the Mavericks and ensure that Sigma could never wreak havoc on mankind again.
The first game in the series introduces this backstory and begins with the Maverick Hunters going out to take down their first Maverick. I really love the Mega Man/Mega Man X backstory; I realize it's probably not too realistic, but all the same, I've spent hours reading about the storyline throughout the series. It got watered down and lame towards the end of the X series, but in these first few games, it's blissfully awesome.
Wow! For a SNES game, this one has fucking AWESOME graphics. VERY rarely, you'll find some minor slowdown during really action-heavy sequences, but otherwise, the game moves quickly and smoothly throughout. This is especially impressive considering that the Mega Man X cartridge didn't use the CX4 chip like X2 and X3 did, although to be fair, Mega Man X didn't have any wireframe sequences in it, rendering the CX4 chip more or less meaningless.
Still, this game looks absolutely beautiful. Capcom knew how to do graphics right, and this game is a prime example of that.
|Pictured: Robot excavator about to explode and X about to run into a wall.|
This game really shines in this section. At the start, you jump into a quick introductory stage, a staple of the Mega Man X series. Afterwords, you're taken to a level select screen similar to the one seen in the Mega Man series.
Rather than Robot Masters, now you're fighting Mavericks, each of which is usually modeled after an animal of some kind (Chill Penguin, Armored Armadillo, etc.).
The game plays a lot like the original series in that you run through a stage, killing enemies and doing lots of platforming along the way, and then you fight a boss at the end. After killing a boss, you gain the ability to use one of his weapons. There's always a boss order that's 'best' to take; one enemy will be weak against another enemy's weapon, his weapon is strong against another, etc.
However, Mega Man X really increases the fun. Certain stages will be affected depending on the order you play them in (beating Chill Penguin's stage will freeze the lava in another stage, etc.). X now has the innate ability to dash on the ground instead of the old slide move, he can jump and dash at the same time (making him jump much farther and faster), cling to walls, and wall jump. On top of this, there are hidden capsules throughout the levels that will give X added abilities like his dash (yes, the dash had to be found, but only in this game), halved damage, and the ability to charge all the weapons obtained from killing Mavericks.
The addition of all of these extras, especially the dash, allows for the possibility to beat through the entire game using only X's main gun, the X-buster. While challenging, it's entirely possible, and it makes for a helluva fun run through the game.
Other collectible items include E-tanks, tanks that slowly fill when you pick up energy pellets that can be used to refill your health when you're low, and hearts, items that increase your maximum health. 4 E-tanks and 8 hearts can be found scattered throughout the game.
It pays to find all of the hidden items and capsules in this game, though. Capcom threw in a great Easter egg in the form of a move straight from Street Fighter, the Hadouken. I won't give away where to find it or how to use it once you do find it; all I'll say is sometimes, death can be your friend.
This game is rare because it has both good sound effects AND a good soundtrack. All of the large robotic moving noises fit very well with the visuals and music, and the weapon and charging noises also fit well, never getting too annoying or intrusive as you play.
The soundtrack is absolutely amazing. The only reason it doesn't get a 10/10 is because I think the soundtrack for Mega Man X2 was slightly better; hence, not both can be perfect. I'm a huge fan of the music throughout most of the Mega Man games, but the X series especially had phenomenal tracks. Here's one of my favorites from this game, the music from Boomer Kuwanger's stage.
Interesting piece of trivia: a lot of people get all pissy about the fact that most Mavericks are based off of animals, but Boomer Kuwanger is not. After all, what the fuck is a 'kuwanger'? Well, it's based on the Japanese word 'kuwagata', or stag beetle. That piece of trivia was a gift from me to you.
Replay Value: 7/10
Sadly, this is where the game suffers the most in score. Once it's been beaten, there's not a whole lot left to do. One thing to do is go through the game, getting every upgrade and hidden capsule, as well as the Hadouken. Another thing to try is going through the game without getting ANY upgrades or hearts. The third, and hardest, is to go through with no upgrades or hearts, using only the X-buster.
Other than finding ways to challenge yourself, though, the only real reasons to go back to this game and replay it are that it's just mindnumbingly fun and that it has one of the top 20 best soundtracks in a video game ever.
If you've never played this game, what the shit is wrong with you? Go play it right now! Don't just trust me, read literally any review for this game; it's universally considered to be awesome beyond belief. It will turn your brain into awesome-flavored pudding.
If you have played this game, go replay it! What the shit are you waiting for?
Tomorrow or the day after, I'll be back with a review of the next game in this series (and my personal favorite), Mega Man X2. Until next time, keep your finger hovering over that dash button. You'll need it.