Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mega Man X8 (PS2) Retro Review

We're continuing our Mega Man X weekend with a retro review based on one of the games mentioned in our Rank Up! segment. It's the final game in the X anthology, Mega Man X8. How well does it hold up compared to the rest of the series?

Is Eight Enough?

Mega Man X has had it hard over the years. He's been in three essentially mediocre games in Mega Man X5, X6, and the failure to bring X into three-dimensions with Mega Man X7. Mega Man X8 does incorporate three-dimensional elements, but for the most part the title returns to its roots and for the most part succeeds. This is the Mega Man X game that fans have been waiting for.

Mega Man X8 begins looking upon the Orbital Elevator-- a colossal creation linking the Earth to the Moon to allow humans to populate the lunar landscape. When one of the elevator cars blasts off of the track and to the Earth below, X goes to investigate. What follows is an introduction to copy chip technology and Lumine, the leader of the Jakob Project-- the project to concoct the Orbital Elevator.

Hello there, big guy.

The first stage, Noah's Park (har-har), drops players into a heavily-forested area in the role of Mega Man X as he tracks down a nearby Maverick signal. Players switch between X, Zero, and Axl automatically within the various sections of the level all culminating to a boss fight with a giant clawed Maverick. Following the battle, the reploid that just won't die, Vile, blasts into the scene showing that he has Lumine in his possession. But as Jack Bauer would shout, who is he working for?

Mega Man X8 does not stray from the traditional Mega Man formula which in this case is a good thing. Players choose from one of eight levels all featuring various obstacles, different locales, and one of eight bosses to take out. X can take out a boss in any order, but the easiest way to beat a boss is to use a weapon it's weak against. A new weapon is learned by all three Maverick Hunters, X, Zero, and Axl at the conclusion of a stage.

Some stages incorporate a 2 1/2-D aesthetic to them.

What sets apart X8 from other series installments is the ability to choose two of the three Maverick Hunters at the beginning of each level. X is the most balanced and can gain armor enhancements in each of the preliminary stages including Noah's Park. This is different from previous X titles as usually the intro stage cannot be played over again. Zero is a close-combat fella as his only means of attacking is with his impressive saber skills. Zero can also perform a double jump for enhanced aerial acrobatics. Finally, Axl rounds out the team with his rapid-fire capabilities, the ability to copy and take the form of a number of enemies, and the ability to hover for a short period of time. When a special AT gauge is filled by attacking enemies and taking damage, a press of the R2 trigger while an enemy is in close vicinity will unleash a double attack. Where the two chosen hunters will combine strengths and pound the foe with an impressive flurry of destructive energy. Additionally, a new addition to the series, Rare Metals, are hidden in almost all of the levels. Finding one will allow players to buy a new item from the R&D (Research and Development). These items include extra health, combo abilities, and much more. Items are purchased with colored metals found in plentiful supply from enemies and scattered around in levels.

The presentation of X8 is top-notch. Full voice work performed by The Ocean Group is included, and no character sounds unbearable unlike X7. There's beautiful cutscenes throughout the game. Levels are wonderfully modeled, detailed, and full of paths to explore and secrets to find. X7 was full 3-D levels for the most part, but X8 is all 2-D with 3-D elements much like another one of Capcom's projects, Viewtiful Joe. Levels end with a boss fight and an intro full of dialogue for each boss.

Chicks dig giant robots.

Everything isn't perfect with X8, however. There are some very odd level design choices. The developers appear to like spikes a lot, and some are in unfair locations such as falling down a chute only to find no floor to break your fall but a pit of spikes. Burn Rooster's stage and one of the final levels are shining examples of this. Plus this serves the game with a difficulty that some players might not find fair. Also, two of the levels are not even designed in the traditional sense. These two are Gigabolt Man-O-War and Avalanche Yeti's stages. These are levels where you are in 3-D space and follow along a forced path blasting foes and dodging chasms. These could have preferably been traditional platforming levels like the others in the game.

There's numerous difficulty modes for X-- each with their own challenges. Hard mode players will see X8's story completely unlike easy mode challengers. By completing the game players unlock new items to be purchased in the R&D menu such as new armor for the three Maverick Hunters and even the ability to play as their navigators. Cool stuff.

Zero is one of the three main characters to choose from.

Overall, Mega Man X8 is one of the best entries into the Mega Man franchise in years. X9 is a possibility with the end's hinting, so hopefully eight isn't enough for the Mega Man X franchise. While some might feel the game is too cheap, the most true Mega Man X fan will most certainly be appeased by Capcom's latest offering.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10] - Fittingly enough, X8 gets an 8 out of ten.

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