Retrospective: Mega Man X3

As the SNES was nearing the end of its life, it was time for one last adventure with X and crew before they departed to the next generation of consoles. Having already looked at the first two in the series, it felt only right to round out the SNES trilogy and see how it all ended. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a damp squib.

The first X is a classic and its lofty heights have really never been reached by any future instalments. It was a remixing of the Mega Man formula that won people over, but unfortunately as time went on, the X series fell into the same trap as the originals. Originality falling by the wayside in favour of more of the same, only not as good.

The only real original touch in Mega Man X3 being the completely unnecessary addition of even more collectables. Like previous entries in the series, there are armour upgrades, energy tanks and heart containers. On top of that you now have Robot Rides. These picks ups allow you to call forth a robot from specific platforms located in each level. There are four in total, each having their own different weapons and abilities. Coming with their own health bar (and will be needed to find other collectables) they are quite useful, though not required to complete the game, they just help make it easier. And you really need the game to get easier, because if you manage to complete it without getting a decent amount of the upgrades then hats off to you sir.

The plot is entirely insignificant, though this is really nothing new for the series. Mavericks once again must be defeated, as X and Zero must stop Dr Doppler from building a new body for Sigma. After an initial opening stage where you get to control both X and Zero, you’re thrust onto the ever familiar level select screen and get to choose which maverick you go after first.

By now you probably know the score. Beating bosses gets you their weapon, some bosses are weak to specific weapons, so there’s a bit of trial and error in discovering the “correct” path through the game.

The sad thing is, a lot of Mega Man X3 is instantly forgettable. Level design is weak and the music, normally something you can rely on with this series, is mostly bad. We’re not sure on the specifics, but it does feel like a lot of the original developers of the series may have left, it just feels different, like it was worked on by a completely different team than the original. Or maybe they just ran out of ideas, after all, when you’re naming boss characters Crush Crawfish and Volt Catfish you may be running into trouble.

The good news is it has done away with the terrible FX chip boss fights that plagued X2 and in turn dropped the framerate into single digits. Not that X3 is devoid of frame drops however, during certain sections where the action is thick and fast there are noticeable dips in the framerate.

Reading back it does seem like we’re being overly negative, but then that’s what happens when you set a very high bar with the initial game. X3 is not terrible by any means, there’s still a lot here to like, it’s just this is what happens when the series sets a very high bar. It certainly managed to keep is hooked enough to see it through to its, rather annoying conclusion.

The annoyance not coming from the boss fight itself (boss fights in the game are mostly enjoyable, tactical affairs), but rather what followed. Without spoiling, it turns out that the destruction of the final boss wasn’t the end, and you would have to accomplish something else before the credits rolled. Fail to do so and it means death. And death means you’ll have to defeat the final two bosses again. When this happened to us controllers almost went flying.

And so Mega Man X says farewell to the 16 bit era, not with a bang, but with a whimper. With its availability now on the Wii U as opposed to the high price the SNES original goes for, it’s far easier to pick up now more than ever. If you’re invested in the series this far then it’s probably worth picking up. But it’s a shame that this is how its run on Nintendo hardware would end.