You got: “A refund!”
When Capcom started running out of proper nouns to use for their boss robots, they should have gone straight into verbs. Sure, "Teleport Man" and "Regenerate Man" might not have been any better than "Dust Man" and "Centaur Man", but every Verb Man power would give a memorable new ability, guaranteed. Just imagine where the series would be today if every sequel had brought new abilities like that. You got: "Something Awful"!
Capcom's designers have instead been at work blending classic Mega Man Zero
gameplay with an open world setting to bring us an interesting series entry, Mega Man ZX
. Just as the game blurs the boundaries between action and adventure, its story occurs in an era when the boundaries between humans and robots are transparent – a time when prosperous coexistence between man and machine is the norm. Everyone lives in a futuristic Utopia until small pockets of robotic citizenry begin attacking people, including your parents. To reinforce the peace, a vast and dubiously named corporation, Slither Inc., declares itself ruler of everything.
The company's archeological digs for ancient technology unearth self-aware weapons of immense power, Biometals, which fuse to the cells and minds of their hosts. During one of the initial excavations, a fragment of Biometal "W" (a remnant from Dr. Weil after he was destroyed in Mega Man Zero 4
) was discovered by the Slither Inc. president, and fused with him. In so doing, it granted him great power as well as an unstoppable need to collect the other six Biometals. If successful, he will awaken the complete Biometal , which will make the world go *pop*
. It’s actually based on the true story of the Monsters of Metal DVD
Conveniently for us, Biometal "X" (a leftover from Big Blue himself) is entrusted to you, a glorified delivery boy, to transport to an independent faction investigating the true cause of the Maverick outbreak. But when you're attacked by a group of Mavericks en route, the package opens, Biometal "X" slobbers all over you, and wham, you're Mega Man.
Rather than turning to a life of profitable thievery or stalking Spider-Man, you develop a Jesus complex, swearing to save everyone and everything instead. Armed and righteous, you continue deeper into this whole mess one mission at a time, collecting new Biometals before the final fight with Biometal "W".
Throughout the game, you can choose from a handful of missions at any given time. They are either of the go-kill-a-boss or go-find-an-object variety, and some are mandatory while other, optional quests can be gained by chatting with NPCs. Because you can abort missions and accept new ones at any time, you have the freedom to play the game any way you like. So off you go on the mission of your choice, as long as you can find it.
Despite similarities to maps in games like Castlevania
, the map in Mega Man ZX
is preposterously complicated. Instead of displaying hallways, rooms, or doors like they would in some kind of smart, futuristic map, what you get is a web of zones arbitrarily labeled A-2, D-3, H-1 and so on. Don't let their alphanumeric tags make you think these zones are arranged according to any sort of logic either. The zones seem randomly connected to one another. Zone K-1 can just as easily be near zone A-4, E-7, or D-3. This system guarantees hours of “gameplay” spent just staring at the map trying to find your destination. If only there were a "Navigation Man" I could have destroyed first. You got: “Google Maps!”
Simply progressing through the story will bring you to every zone in the game, so there's little reason to veer from the course in search of what few extra power-ups Mega Man ZX offers. After you've spent so long aimlessly slicing through easy enemies looking for the elusive purple door, you'll ironically just want to scrap with the boss, not search all the nooks and crannies for an extra life container, defeating the purpose of an open world.
You don't get much benefit from killing enemies over again either, outside of the typical power cell farming to max out your energy tanks. Some kind of extra depth would have definitely helped, like equipment, Biometal points -- anything to augment the shallow cash drops or fill out the mostly-for-show inventory screen. The money you collect can be used for a handful of mediocre minigames or to extend the special meters of your Biometal suits. "Reward Man" would have been my next victim. You got: “Character Stats!”
The special abilities you gain are used mainly to spice up the gameplay a bit. You'll never need to use the Water Biometal's ice block, or the Ninja Biometal's shuriken, since the Zero Biometal's standard-issue light saber and blaster combo is so effective. You'll just stick to him for the most part. But with its sleek and easy way of shifting between suits, you'll jump from the Hover Biometal to the Fire Biometal for kicks anyway, or get stuck all day in human form playing with Mega Man ZX's groundbreaking bend-at-the-knees technology. You got: “Duck!” And to think it only took twenty years.
Each suit has its own bottom screen display that changes when you do, but only the Fire Biometal has something worth touching on. A grid pops up letting you change the pattern of your bullets' flight for each of your arms, so you can make you left arm's shot zig-zag its way up while your right arm's flies straght ahead, for example. Good idea, but it basically ends there. The bottom screen for the Water Biometal shows a little wisp that flies to the location of any item in your top screen's area, while the Ninja Biometal marks enemies that have items inside of them. But since you’re going to pass by there and kill that enemy anyway, neither are actually useful. Finally, Hover Biometal's display shows the life meter and weak point of enemies, as if the bright, flashing core in the middle wasn't enough.
But at least they show something, unlike the Zero Biometal, which should have played a constant loop of yourself ducking, but alas, it just shows a flat image.
At least that’s the only real eyesore you'll have to contend with. The graphics are SNES quality, which are fine for 2D action. You get a fancy-pants explosion after downing each boss and anime-style cut scenes for key encounters, but the visuals are really nothing beyond good old Mega Man. Though the game doesn’t push any envelopes, it runs as smooth as butter. The music, on the other hand, is not composed as tightly as the classics were, and the cutesy sound effect after every jump is annoying. You got: “To turn off the volume.”
Mega Man ZX isn’t bad, with smooth graphics and fun, intuitive play mechanics, but its shallow Biometals and terrible map will leave you lost and under-stimulated. Let's hope that "Sequel Man" brings us a lot more substance in the future.