Mega Man X is the first in the series of side-scrolling run and gun platformers by Capcom for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It is a follow-up series to the original Mega Man series. I’m sure I’ll butcher the hell out of the lore here, but let me try to explain the plot as best I can. So this is even further in the undetermined future of the Mega Man universe where robots have humanlike sentience. They are known as reploids. A faction of them splintered off and have been all about destroying humanity in order to rule the world themselves. They are known as Mavericks. So a force of reploids bent on stopping them have been dubbed Maverick Hunters. The two you’ll see in this game are X, a reploid created by Dr. Light and bearing strong resemblance to a certain blue bomber of years past, and Zero, a much more powerful and skilled Maverick Hunter. Together they are working to find the leader of the Mavericks, an extremely powerful and cunning ex Maverick Hunter, Sigma. Will they find Sigma in time? Will X become powerful enough to stop Sigma even if they do? And just how far will Marvericks go to destroy humanity? Play and find out!
The gameplay is fairly similar to classic Mega Man games. You can move left and right, jump, shoot, and charge your shot up to be a more powerful one. A new addition to the starting abilities here is climbing walls. Basically if you jump and move towards a wall you’ll kind of latch onto it and start slowly sliding down it as you hold that direction. If you jump while sliding on the wall you can jump off of it. If you keep holding that direction while you jump you can use it to actually scale up the wall. Once you finish the introductory stage you are taken to a stage select screen where you can pick from the eight bosses and their stages. These bosses usually have some sort of power or elemental theming to them as is custom for Mega Man games, but this time they are robot animals rather than being mostly based on robotic men. Once you select one you’ll be taken to that boss’s stage. If you can run, jump, and gun your way through the enemies and stage hazards you’ll be faced with the boss. If you can defeat the boss you’ll gain a new weapon based on their abilities. Each boss has a weakness to another boss weapon to create that classic wheel of weaknesses with their special weapons. These run on a limited amount of ammo that can be replenished by ammo pickups or after going back to the stage select. You can find energy pickups as well. You can even find what are called subtanks. These are similar to the E tanks from classic Mega Man in that you can use them to heal yourself whenever you’d like from the pause menu, however you can keep them permanently and refill them by collecting health pickups while already at full health. You can also find permanent health increases via heart tanks. And you can power yourself up by finding armor upgrades for different parts of your suit. Once such upgrade is unavoidable for your legs. This upgrade allows you to hit a button to dash forward for a short while. This can be used for speed or for making long distance jumps in combination with timing your jumps or wall jumps. Each stage has one heart tank and either an armor upgrade or a subtank. Once you beat all 8 bosses you’ll be sent to a series of Sigma stages, each containing their own unique bosses to defeat with all of these powers, one boss rush where you must defeat every one of the 8 bosses again, and a final showdown with Sigma himself.
This game is pretty damn awesome. It keeps that great Mega Man action but gives it a new style with more details and a more mature edge to it. It felt like things were getting more serious and deep. The extra mechanics definitely feed into the gameplay strategy and even helped with the exploration by sliding down into pits or climbing up high walls to find hidden powerups. It feels very smooth to do the actions, too. It’s just loaded with polish. The music is also really rad with its SNES guitars rocking out in a style that somehow still definitely fits into the Mega Man universe. A lot of the tones used here are actually really cool despite me not being a big fan of the SNES soundchip. In fact, the visuals are pretty good for me not usually being into the SNES aesthetic either. So I guess it must be pretty great composing and art style if even I like it! Bosses are all pretty well done. I mean, it’s cool that they are robotic animals with some type of power associated with them to give their stages and abilities more room to be unique, but I really thing their balance is done well too. Most of them are very doable with just the X buster if you get their patterns down. Their weaknesses make them easier if you need that help, though. Plus this means you can use your weapons for the levels themselves more too. You can even use the arm upgrade to charge every one of these weapons for a unique secondary fire. The game manages to be difficult yet really fun and fluid. It’s just such a great amount polish on it that it’s hard not to appreciate even if you don’t necessarily like that game. And if you DO like the game… you’ll love it. Oh, and the ending is surprisingly heavy too, which proves this ain’t your friendly cartoon Mega Man no more.
The downsides are few and far between. I think some of it is pretty hard without the leg upgrade so you can dash, and there’s no indicator that you should start with the stage where you get it, which is also the easiest boss to fight at first. I also think a few of the secrets are a bit obtuse. Some require you to beat a boss and go to a different stage to see how winning there has changed it. It’s a cool concept but it doesn’t really illustrate that these things have happened outside of looking through all of the levels over again once you’ve beat them. And why would you do that unless you somehow also knew you were missing powerups in them you had to look for still? Also, the super secret powerup requires such a ridiculous set of circumstances you’d never find it without prior knowledge of it. You won’t get it by chance. I will also admit I think the boss rush idea near the end is a bit tired, even if it’s interesting to do with all of the powers and in a row. It just feels kind of like padding. Oh, and you still can’t save your game yet. It’s very very minor, but you have to use password on this one still. Eh… the post credits teaser is kind of lame though.
Look, you probably already knew Mega Man X was great before you read this. It’s a classic and a great new breath of life for an old concept. It opened up the potential for what Mega Man could do without losing touch with what was such a big part of the core of the series. It’s a game that I’d generally recommend. I’d even say it’s worth up to 30 bucks if you can find it for that. Maybe more if you think you’d be into it. Mega Man fans need to get on it for sure. It’s out there in many forms and while it might be spendy for the genuine article, it’s well worth getting in some other form if you get the chance. And now I’ll have to find my way through the X series after finally conquering this one. Wish me luck, give me strength, and I’ll hopefully be seeing you soon for Mega Man X2.