From Capcom Unity: Mega Man Zero 2 Recollections

The following was originally posted by JGonzo on Capcom Unity in May 2010, and with the re-releases of the Mega Man Zero games on the Wii U Virtual Console, have been reposted here with permission for posterity.

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Last week, we asked several guests to write about their recollections from playing the original Mega Man Zero on the Game Boy Advance. This week, we're focusing on the 2nd game in the series, Mega Man Zero 2, released in late 2003.

Today, Heat Man steps in as the representative from Mega Man fansite, The Mega Man Network, to share his memories.

From Heat Man:

It's actually been a few years now since I really sat down and played any of the Zero games. From what I can recall then, they were good standby games for the times. Battle Network was taking center stage, and the X series was jumping into 3D. At that time, the Zero series was what came closest to the authentic, 2D action gameplay people like myself were craving. Truthfully, none of the Zero games ever knocked my socks off, but they were fun games -- if you could get past the difficulty.

In doing "research" for this article, I popped Zero 2 into my Nintendo DS Lite. And... man. What can I say? After the intro stage, I got my clock cleaned. It'd been so long, almost everything felt unfamiliar, and getting my bearings back cost me life after life. If anything, this game made me appreciate how far Inti Creates had come. Zero 2 contrasted so starkly with a game like Mega Man 10 from today, which is really well balanced. I always felt like the Mega Man series didn't really get its reputation for cruel difficulty until the Zero series, and jumping back into Zero 2 reminded me why I thought that.

The game does have a few new advantages. You actually get lives this time around, so you don't have only one shot at motorcycle jumping through flaming hoops over a pool of hungry sharks. Of course, with as much as you'll be dying anyway, it doesn't seem like it helps much.

Mega Man Zero 2 also expands on the number of Cyber Elves available to use. But again, they make you feel guilty for using them, and they lower your overall rank. Next, Zero 2 introduces EX Skills, which are special weapon abilities you can get from bosses -- not unlike many other Mega Man games. But you have to play at a consistently high rank to keep getting them. See a pattern here?

Zero 2 is a game that doesn't give without taking away. The game literally makes you feel bad for using crutches and not trying your best. This is especially notable in how the game ranks you after each stage, a feature I've come to hate in all games. You could spend 15 minutes struggling through a stage, barely making it by the skin of your teeth, just to then have the game tell you "Hmm, you didn't do so hot! You get a D! :D"

So, if Mega Man Zero 2 is so punishing, then what makes it so good? Well, the game's got style. Right from the get go you know Zero is a bad ass because he's been trudging around in the desert, fighting Neo Arcadia on his own, for a year. And then in epic cut scene glory, he wastes no time letting the latest mob of cannon fodder know he's the man.

The game is littered with awesome scenes like these, and has a pretty neat story that expands what happened in the first game nicely. Especially of interest is Elpizo, who I think is one of the more fleshed out characters of Mega Man entirely. It's seldom we really get to see how a character succumbs to his own flaws and turns into the villain. Unlike most Mega Man villains, he has a bit a depth. Well, as much as a two hour game can portray, anyhow.

Zero 2 really builds on what came before. You're now stationed in a fancy, new Resistance base, with lots of new characters to converse with. The game has plenty of cool bosses, included "powered up" forms of the three remaining Guardians. Not to mention that rematch with Kuwagust Anchus, where you face both him and his "brother" from the previous game. That was a neat twist.

One of the things I love most about the Zero series are the bosses, which are a fantastic mixture of mythology and ornate mechanical design. Also, Zero 2 forgoes the previous map-style stage layout with a more traditional stage select, which was kind of disappointing but allowed for a greater variety of stages.

Also, it's pretty much impossible for me to talk about a Mega Man game without mentioning its music. And Mega Man Zero 2 has some fine music. It builds on the style from the original game, which was much more environmental and moody sounding, and throws in the distinct melodies and beats we expect from a Mega Man game. That classic video game-ish sound that invigorates you and pushes you to play more. Check out a sampling of the game's music below.

But honestly, while the presentation elements are great, what really makes a game is how fun it is. And despite my bemoaning on how tough the game can be (I've never been able to clear the laser sections, where you temporarily disable them by destroying the generators, without taking tons of damage), it is a fun game. The play control is solid, and you have some cool weapons and abilities to play with, including the new Chain Rod. I have a little trouble swinging with it, but it's pretty fun to mess with otherwise. And I mean, I did beat this game back in the day, so it's not that hard!

With the Mega Man Zero Collection coming next month, I'm actually looking forward to giving Mega Man Zero 2, and the rest of the series, a second shot. God forbid, I may even use Easy Mode.