With the first Mega Man X Capcom took the formula and re-invented it, creating one of the best in the series. Then just a year later we got X2. It may not be the reinvention X was, but it certainly manages to stand alongside it proudly, even if it does have a few issues that cause it to fall a little short of greatness.
A direct sequel, X2 takes place just six months later where a number of new Mavericks (dubbed the X-Hunters) are causing all sorts of trouble and it’s up to X to stop them. A standard setup with an interesting key plot point. Despite being killed in the first game, the X-Hunters have pieces of Zero, with X able to obtain the pieces by beating them on specific levels. In addition the levels the X-Hunters appear on are random, and if you happen to beat a level without beating an X-Hunter along the way then they disappear and that piece of Zero is then lost. It adds an additional strategic element to the usual Mega Man weapon strategy. And if you don’t obtain all of Zero’s parts by the final level, then well, prepare to fight.
On the surface, graphically X2 isn’t much of a leap, aside from a few new unnecessary 3D effects. Overdrive Ostrich for instance makes his rather clever entrance by running along the background in the distance before jumping onto the same plain as X. The biggest graphical leap however is with some of the 3D wireframe boss encounters. There are only a couple, which is quite lucky really. The final boss for instance seems to be pushing the SNES a little far as the framerate gets absolutely murdered. Not something you want with a game that requires pinpoint jumping. Luckily with the right weapon the final boss is an absolute cake walk, not mattering how many times you get hit, just spamming him with the same weapon will do the trick.
All the elements that set X apart from the original series are largely present and correct. New suit pieces can be acquired by finding hidden capsules and energy tanks and heart capsules are also scattered throughout levels. The only thing really missing are levels not interacting with each in the say way they did in the original. For instance in Mega Man X beating Chill Penguins stage before Flame Mammoth would cause his level to be completely frozen over. It added a nice additional tactical nuance that is sadly absent from this game.
In the end, you can pretty much just sum it up with, “great, but not as good as the original” for pretty much every aspect of Mega Man X2. But then this is hardly a criticism. Mega Man X rejuvenated what was becoming a stagnant series and arriving only a year later X2 was never going to do the same. The level design and music is still of a high quality, and while still having the classic Mega Man challenge, it’s made easier by the upgrades you can obtain. If you manage to find them of course.
Readily available on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console it’s easy to get hold of and comes highly recommended. Now to wait for X3.