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A Tale of a Mega Man (Or, How I Spent My Summer Blue)

This weekend past, I did something I don't think I've ever done before; I did nothing but play Mega Man. I'm not sure why the mood struck me, but it probably had something to do with all this hubbub about the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 and how much Capcom "supposedly" doesn't care about the little blue guy anymore.

Now, I'm not like Destructoid's Tony Ponce and going to prematurely claim that the Mega Man franchise "is finished," but I will say that I'm having some doubts about it in the same way I feel about the Resident Evil franchise after RE5 (seriously, that game was an unfinished pile of junk) and how Devil May Cry fans think DmC is the beginning of the end of that franchise. With that said, there have been many, MANY incarnations of the little Blue Bomber, but I spent the majority of my weekend with my personal favorite version: Mega Man X.

I want to get this out in the open: as much as I love the original Mega Man series, Mega Man X is where my love for the franchise took off. When I was a child, I had Mega Man 3 on the NES (and still have the cartridge today!), but it wasn't long after that when my console broke (that's another story) and I didn't have access to the series for quite some time. I received a SNES as a Christmas present I believe that year, (the happiest day of my life) and a few years after that, got a used Blockbuster copy of Mega Man X3. Well, technically it belonged to my younger brother, but you know how older brothers can get sometimes.And even after all these years, to this day you STILL won't convince me that there is any better game in the series' history (yes, Mega Man 2, 3 and Zero are great, if not fantastic games, but the attention to detail, level and boss design and awesome music make X3 stand out, in my humble opinion).

Earlier this year, while still living in San Francisco, I stumbled upon a copy of Mega Man X Collection for the GameCube at a local Gamestop, and after not picking it up the first time around, it wasn't long until I came rushing back to buy it. Six Mega Man X games for twenty bucks ($20!!), how could I be so foolish to not pick this up?! I never really got around to playing it what with all the other distractions and work I had at the time, until finally last weekend when I suddenly had the urge to pop it into my good 'ole Cube. The collection consisted of Mega Man X 1-6, as well as the more obscure Battle and Chase, which I didn't spend more than five minutes with.

I felt like my 7 year-old self again, blasting through waves and waves of Mavericks. Needless to say, I had a LOT of fun this past weekend... at least, with the first four games on the disc. The original Mega Man X is a undeniable classic filled to the brim with cool robot designs (who can forget Chill Penguin?), unique level structure and a story I couldn't believe was... good. Managing to take something that was goofy to begin with and make it mature but still keeping the original idea fun is something a lot of development studios still struggle with today, and here Capcom managed to pull it off flawlessly. X2 was an interesting experience for me because I hadn't really ever played it for more than ten minutes when I was a child. It was the only game in the X series I had never really gotten the chance to play (except for X7, but that game never happened in my opinion), and although it was definitely weaker than its predecessor, it still retained that classic Mega Man feel and managed to have some cool ideas.

When I got to X3, I was... a little disappointed, to say the least. What was this opening cutscene? Why did the music sound like Van Halen playing keyboard when he should have been playing the guitar? The SNES version I have didn't have any of this unnecessary crap to it. After a quick Google search, I discovered that Capcom decided to go with the PlayStation version of the game, which until that point I had totally forgotten even existed. I guess they've never heard the saying that "sometimes less is more." Personal gripes aside though, the game was still fantastic and seemed even more fun than I remembered. Searching high and low for all those Heart Tanks, Subtanks and Upgrade Capsules was addicting, and attaining X's Golden Armor was even sweeter knowing I could combine all the even-more-secret-but-you-can-only-pick-one Capsules into one. Needless to say, this game kicks so much ass.

When I reached X4, things felt... different. It's hard to explain, but have you ever played a sequel that just felt different, even when there were similarities between it and its predecessor (F.E.A.R. 2 and Prince of Persia 2008 come to mind)? Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed X4 more this time around then I did years ago when I first played it, but it was definitely easy for me to see when and how this series was starting to go downhill. The anime cutscenes created for this game were so lame and made me feel stupid thinking that this sort of thing was "cool" when I was a teenager. Ugh.

Anyway, the game was still pretty great and even better was the fact that I could play as Zero from the get-go. And not the watered-down X3 version of him, either; no, no, here he would swing his Z-Saber as fast as I could mash the button and could be upgraded. Awesome. I played through the game twice, as X and Zero respectively, and was proud of myself for finally completing it, all items collected and all.

And then it was time for X5.

Boy, time has not been kind to this one. I remember absolutely loving this game when it came out over ten years ago (yikes!). And to be fair, while the story was definitely cheesier than I remembered it, it was still pretty cool; Zero sacrificing himself for the good of the planet and leaving X his Z-Saber? Again, it's pretty cool to see the source material being used as maturely(?) as this. But the gameplay... Well, I don't like stopping in the middle of the action to hear intel stating the obvious to me, and I hate it even more when that happens every two minutes. Seriously Capcom, this is MEGA MAN, not METAL GEAR SOLID. Sheesh.

Anyway, the game was still pretty good (when you return to each stage to complete your item collection, all the talking STOPS), and I was satisfied I got the best ending for X. But that first stage when you're heading off to fight Sigma? TOTAL BULLSHIT. Listen up my fellow level designers; designing a level where nearly EVERY obstacle one-hit kills you so you have to replay it a hundred times to learn the pattern so you can get through it flawlessly ending with a boss that takes nearly TEN minutes to kill (not counting the extra time you spend dying) is NOT GOOD LEVEL DESIGN. It doesn't make you "hardcore," either; it's just frustrating beyond belief. If those stupid beams did serious damage to you instead, that would be much more tolerable, but instantly killing you? Bullshit, especially when the next two levels are easier than anything else in the game.

Intense stuff, right here.

As with every other game on the collection, I played through X5 gathering all the items in the game for a 100% completion rate, however, unlike X4, I didn't have the patience to play back through it as Zero a second time. I moved onto X6 and after the defeating my second boss, I decided to stop playing; the series had eventually pulled a Sonic the Hedgehog on me, and while it definitely had improvements over X5, the series had just moved so far into another direction that I just felt alienated from it. Remember how I said it felt different than those came before it? I could barely recognize the series anymore, and remembering how terrible X7 and X8 were, I decided to just leave it alone.

Besides, doing that makes the Mega Man Zero games more meaningful to me; leaving Zero dead at the end of X5 makes it that more emotional for me to see his return at the beginning of MMZ (which takes place something like 100 years after the Mega Man X canon), thus making the game more personal.

It's a shame that Capcom hasn't really been doing anything with the Blue Bomber as of late, but I still have hope for the franchise; Mega Man 9 and 10 were really solid games, and although the cancellation of Mega Man Universe and Legends 3 is a bummer, there's still hope for the little blue guy. And I think cheaper, digital distribution in the vein of the classics is the key. But I'm not going to get into that; instead, I'm going to offer what I want next:

A Mega Man X reboot available on WiiWare, XBLA and PSN, each game being remastered in its original 16-bit form (that's right, de-making and fixing X4 and X5) in glorious HD, although I'll be the first to admit that I'd rather play these games on my old, crappy TV than my HD monitor. Oh, and also pretending that X6, X7, X8 and X Command Mission never happened. I know they already tried something similar with X Maverick Hunter on the PSP, but c'mon; there's a reason why Mega Man 9 & 10 were so successful. They brought the franchise back to its roots rather than remaking it with 3D polygons.

Make it happen, Capcom!

And before I forget, Zero having nightmares in X4 about murdering Dr. Light, Dr. Wily and the original Mega Man family? Damn, that's some deep shit, son.
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About FireFox516one of us since 1:11 PM on 01.15.2010

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