A New Age of Mega Man Has Begun
Since his debut in 1987, the blue bomber, Mega Man has been busting his way into the hearts of gamers ever since. After five sequels the formula was beginning to grow dull. That changed in 1994 when Mega Man X hit North America like a charged-up X-buster shot. With new abilities and the same old formula for success, Mega Man X would become a new franchise all on its own and one of Capcom's most well-known heroes.
The year is 20XX. Dr. Cain has stumbled upon a capsule containing Mega Man X, a reploid designed by the late Dr. Thomas Light in an attempt to create a robot that can think for itself and know from right and wrong. It's just in time, too, as a sinister reploid by the name of Sigma has unleashed eight Mavericks onto the world, and it's up to X and his best friend, Zero, to put an end to them before Sigma's forces put an end to mankind. The story itself is an unobtrusive as possible. As soon as you boot up the game, you're thrown right into the first level, the Central Highway.
Mega Man X plays similarly to the classic Mega Man series, but it does have its distinct differences. For example, X can scale up walls unlike the original Mega Man. He can upgrade his armor by coming across hidden capsules strewn about the game's eight Maverick levels. These range from halved damage body armor to the ability to hold down a button to charge his X-buster. Additionally, X can obtain heart tanks to increase his health permanently. These are also placed in secret or hard-to-reach locations, one in each of the eight Maverick levels.
Instead of having bosses with names like Cut Man and Bomb Man, the bosses in Mega Man X are named after animals such as Launch Octopus, Chill Penguin, and Storm Eagle. Each boss can be beaten with X's default buster for a challenge, but the real treat is finding a given boss' weakness. You see, when a boss is defeated, just like the classic series, X inherits their weapon. For instance, Flame Mammoth's weapon unleashes a wave of fire that incinerates foes and just happens to be the weakness of Chill Penguin. The fun of this all is that you get to choose the order you tackle the eight Mavericks. You can make the game as easy or as hard as you want to in your choices.
Each level in Mega Man X has its own theme from the forest of Sting Chameleon to the power plant of Spark Mandrill to the tower of Boomer Kuwanger. Each level can last anywhere between five to ten minutes in length. They're littered with varying types of enemies from series mascot Mettaurs to standbys like Sniper Joe. In one level you'll be riding a handcart as it wildly runs down the track whereas in another you'll be leaping across platforms hovering dangerously over a bottomless pit. Each level is well-designed, and there's over a dozen to play, including Sigma's levels where you once again encounter the slain Mavericks you did battle with previously.
Visually, Mega Man X packs a huge wallop. The backgrounds are heavily detailed, sprites are meticulously crafted, and the special effects are impressive. There's sometimes a bit of slowdown and flickering sprites when things get overly-action-packed, but other than that the game runs like a dream. It's otherwise perfect and keeps up with the action nicely. On the audio side of things, the sound effects seldom grow grating, and the music is quite memorable.
Mega Man X is one of the best 16-bit platformers you will find. It has just recently been released on the Wii's Virtual Console, so if you lack the Mega Man X Collection (PS2, GCN) or the Super Nintendo original, you can download it for eight bucks directly from the service. It's definitely worth it as this game permeates the word "classic". X, indeed, marks the spot.
[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]