Like a lot of video game fans, I grew up playing Mega Man games. Their action-heavy, tough-as-nails platforming design was downright thrilling during the 8- and 16-bit eras, but as time wore on, the formula eventually became stale. By the time Mega Man Zero debuted in 2002, most of the biggest games on the console market had left two-dimensional platforming behind. As such, many series followers (myself included) completely missed the Zero line of games. And that’s a shame, not only because they’re excellent Mega Man games, but also because they brought a lot of fun new ideas to the table.
Thankfully, the folks at Capcom have brought the Zero series back into the fold in the new Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection. As its title implies, this latest collection bundles together all four Zero games as well as its two ZX-flavored siblings. And, as expected, it includes all of the polish and extra goodies that fans have come to expect from Capcom’s Legacy Collection line.
Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection Review | A Legacy Reborn
The Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is the fifth Legacy Collection to come out of Capcom in the last five years, and it’s one of the company’s most polished collections yet. It includes Mega Man Zero 1-4, the likes of which were originally released for the Game Boy Advance between 2002 and 2005, as well as Mega Man ZX and ZX Advent, which debuted on the Nintendo DS in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
For players new to the Mega Man games, the pitch here is simple: Challenging action that relies on level memorization and fast reflexes. However, players who missed the Zero and ZX games in particular will note several distinct changes to the iconic Rockman formula. Primarily, the Zero games ditch the level selection screen in favor of an overarching hub world and mission-style structure, while the ZX games add the choice between two distinct male or female protagonists.
While all of the Zero games are largely similar, they each have a few subtle differences. Building on the then-fresh foundation established by the first Zero, Zero 2 notably adds in the Chain Rod, which functions like a grappling hook, as well as several different unlockable Power Suits. Zero 3 introduces the Recoil Rod, vastly increasing Zero’s jump height, and throws in the possibility of combo attacks. Finally, Zero 4 introduces the ability to change the weather, which can affect the layout of each level, as well as the Zero Knuckle, which allows the hero to steal and employ enemy weapons.
Of course, the biggest change to the Mega Man formula introduced in the Zero series would be the Cyber-elf system. Cyber-elves are unlockable, sentient programs that serve as part-time upgrades, granting abilities like extra health or increased speed. These Cyber-elves are typically consumed after use, but in later games, they are able to stick around and provide more permanent bonuses. There are hundreds of Cyber-elves to collect across all four Zero titles, and most of them can be upgraded by feeding them Energy Crystals, which should provide plenty of replay value to completionists.
Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection Review | A Few Modern Touches
Longtime series followers will be happy to note that the controls in the Zero/ZX Legacy Collection can be re-mapped at any time. This is a good thing, because the default Zero control scheme designed for the GBA maps the shoot button to B (X on PS4 or A on Xbox One) and jump to A (Circle or B). Suffice to say, it doesn’t really feel natural. There’s little doubt that reconfiguring controls will be most players’ first stop with this collection.
As expected, this bundle also includes a host of different graphical enhancements and bonus features. Since the Zero and ZX games were designed around either a 3:2 or 4:3 aspect ratio, the games are presented in pillarboxed format, and players can choose from over a dozen different wallpapers to fill in the black bars on either side of the screen. There are also three different filter options, including one for smoother graphics and another for CRT monitor emulation. Topping it all off are four different screen layout options for those who prefer an adjusted (or stretched) aspect ratio.
One of the biggest draws to the Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is the new Z Chaser game mode. Clearly meant for skilled players, Z Chaser is effectively a timed run against either an AI or human-controlled opponent. With five difficulty levels, online leaderboards, and the option for offline competitive play, Z Chaser adds an entirely new dimension of replay value on top of a multiplayer aspect not traditionally seen in the Mega Man series.
As with other Legacy collections, the entire package is rounded out with loads of bonuses. Players new to the series can jump into the Casual Scenario Mode, which lowers incoming damage and removes death by falling into pits. There’s also the extremely helpful Save-Assist option, which puts quick-load save points at various places throughout each level. And last but certainly not least, there are robust Gallery and Music Player options for fans keen on checking out original artwork and jamming to the series’ high-energy tunes.
Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection Review | Zero is Back
The Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection perfectly encapsulates an exciting period in the history of Mega Man games. New mechanics like the Cyber-elf system, to say nothing of overarching hub worlds and a slew of suit upgrades, really help the Zero games stand out in a series that wasn’t exactly known for innovation. And while their handheld roots meant the Zero and ZX games flew under the radar of many home console players, they still offer the same easy-to-learn, tough-to-master experience that made Mega Man games so addictive in the first place. For die-hard series fans, the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection stands as one of Capcom’s most attractive retro collections yet.