The Blue Bomb.
There is a great divide between formulaic gameplay and innovation. The NES Mega Man series stuck to its guns a little too long, and with each tired iteration, cries of "been there, done that" rang louder and louder. Arguably, the best Mega Man games among that lot were 2 and 3.
Then Capcom tried something new with the first Mega Man X."Suddenly, Mega Man was exciting all over again!"The spiffy new dash move, animal bosses and futuristic gloss shined on the SNES."
But fast-forward several years and look where innovation has brought us: X, Legend, Battle Network, Zero, and let's not forget, Soccer."Over the past 15 years, Mega Man has repeatedly suffered from an incurable case of sequelitis. After wearing out his welcome in one series, he jumps ship into a new one."Mega Man should slow it down and come out with one sweet high-quality release or just retire from the game.
Ironically enough, the storyline of Mega Man X7 starts out with Mega Man in retirement." In the future, Mega Man's name is just X."Zero, his long-haired, sword-wielding buddy, still hunts Mavericks, masochistic robots out to make life miserable for everyone." This story has become so weighed down in its convoluted mishmash that you'll long for the days when it was just wacky old Wily at the helm.
There's a new ally here called Axl."He looks like Zero and X's secret love child, and sports the whiny, chirpy voice X usually has."Axl's arsenal includes lock-on guns best suited for the 3D areas."During the game, you can swap between any members of your team and take advantage of their different abilities. It's perhaps the one clever idea amidst the many failed ones.
After an initial action sequence, there are the classic eight levels to choose from, each guarded by a different robotic creature."These are a sad and pathetic lot of bottom-of-the-barrel design concepts."When an Onion is one of the end-level bosses, you know they're reaching (it's not a cool rapping onion like Chop Chop Master Onion, either)."As always, beat the boss, get their souped-up weapons, and ever onwards.
The game mixes 2D and 3D gameplay, mainly playing as a pseudo-3D scrolling thing while occasionally moving into a full 3D affair. Unfortunately, the controls simply don't have the tight feel and snappy reaction rate necessary for a solid action game." It's the same old variety of controls that the X series has developed (dash, charge, swords, etc), but it misses the mark - unacceptable for what ought to be the foundation of the game.
When the game switches into 3D mode, the camera shifts backwards to an awkwardly close behind-the-character point of view."You then maneuver yourself forward, much like Crash Bandicoot."It's goofy and out of place. Boss fights are also sometimes done in 3D, yet there's a noticeable lack of the patterns on which all the great Mega Man bosses are founded.
Influenced by the RPG stylings of the GBA Battle Network games, MM X7 features a chip system that allows you to upgrade your characters."When you rescue a Reploid, a helpful but lost NPC littered throughout the levels, you earn bonuses to crank up weaponry and stats."Reploids can be killed before you make the rescue, so it pays to be quick."What's nice about this system is that it allows you to build up characters, which is especially handy as you try over and over again to get through a difficult level.
The three-dimensional cel-shaded character modeling is fine, but doesn't suit the gameplay as much as the old sprite-based graphics."Little artistic details and animations are lost in the transition."Some of the environments, on the other hand, gain from the added depth an extra dimension offers, like the lush green backdrop of the jungle level."
The music and sound dip into the same tired pool of Mega Man effects and techno tunes."After so many years, why not try something completely new with the music?" How about some country tunes or pump up the blue bizzle with some pimpin' musizzle?" Seriously, after 15 years, something different couldn't hurt, including some actual talent for the voices.
Mega Man X7 falls into the same sad pit as the recent Mega Man Network Transmission on the Gamecube. The Zero series on the GBA trumps X7 with its tightened classic feel." The Mega Man Legend series (including Tron Bonne) worked the 3D controls much better. I'm all for change, but it has to come with improvement." The Blue Bomber has bombed out.