It’s weird that a console featuring the likes of Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country amongst others, the one platformer that took over my life the most was Mega Man X. Since it came out way back in 93, I’ve bought the SNES original twice, followed by the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console versions and finally the PSP remake (Maverick Hunter X), so yeah; I’m a bit of a fan. What had once become stale had new life injected into it and to this day is one of my favourite games of all time.
The core concept of Mega Man X remains the same, following a short intro stage you’re then given a stage select with eight robots (now known as Mavericks) to face. Defeating each will give new series protagonist X a specific weapon; with some Mavericks being weaker to certain weapons it once again brings this tactical edge of choosing the easiest route through the levels. Built around this familiar framework, Mega Man X brings a number of new elements that revitalise the once stagnant series.
The most obvious introduction right from the opening level is the introduction of new character Zero. Here’s a fun fact, originally the idea was for Zero to be the start of the X series, but I guess Capcom got cold feet and wanted a more traditional looking Mega Man design to front the series, reducing Zero to sidekick status. But a great character nonetheless, who would eventually get his own series further down the road.
Aside from newly introduced characters the way levels themselves would interact with each other made choosing your path through the game even more interesting. For instance, beating Chill Penguin would result in Flame Mammoth’s stage being completely frozen allowing you to simply walk across what would otherwise be deadly lava. This is something that really never got utilised the same way again. It gave another reason to plan the best path through the bosses. Also, with altering these levels it more often than not aids you in finding certain upgrades, energy tanks to use if you find yourself low on energy, heart containers to increase maximum health and most importantly, new suit pieces.
If you happen to own the original SNES box then you would notice the character of X looking a little different than his Mega Man predecessor. Although starting off in traditional blue, there capsules scattered across the levels that contain armour upgrades. As well as new abilities, from taking less damage to more powerful weapons, these also come with a nice, new shade of white. Collect them all and the “blue bomber” would be blue no more.
Mega Man X is such a tight experience, that while can be completed in one afternoon session if you know what you’re doing, everything from the level design to just the music will keep bringing you back to finish it all over again. And I did, time after time, it almost became a yearly tradition. To this day the music has become so engrained in me that I can recall certain themes instantly. It’s such a well-designed experience that you can tell so much love and care was gone into each factor. A far cry from today where Capcom seem to treat Mega Man as an embarrassment that remains locked away in a vault along with Power Stone and Onimusha.
Not to end this walk down memory lane on a downer, but it’s sad the X series eventually went the same way as the original, with the series suffering a similar fate as staleness set in. Not surprising when there are eight games in the main series, not to mention a few other spin-offs, like the surprisingly not that bad JRPG game Command Mission. With its availability in a variety of forms, from the Wii U/Wii Virtual Console to the solid PSP remake there are plenty of ways to track down a version rather than spend the ridiculous prices the original seems to fetch on eBay (£70 is a bit steep even for a game as good as this). And even just over a decade since its release, it’s still one of the best platformers around.