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.
Over the past few weeks, special guests have been invited to share their memories about the Mega Man Zero series. This week, we're focusing on Mega Man Zero 3, released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004.
Today, we're proud to have LBD "Nytetrayn" from Mega Man fansite, The Mega Man Network, recall his memories of playing through the 3rd game in this awesome series.
Mega Man Zero Collection will be out on June 8th and will retail for $29.99.
While recalling Mega Man Zero 2 last week, Jeremy Parish noted something he referred to as an "old wives' tale" about the second game in a Capcom series surpassing the first one. A related trend would seem to be that after Capcom uses the second game to perfect what was established in the first game, they tend to crank things to "11" in the third, thus leaving fans to debate whether the second or third title is the best.
One example of this is in Mega Man X3, as X essentially has double the armor upgrade options, four Ride Armors to choose from, and even back-up in the form of the ever-present crimson Hunter, Zero. Another example would be Street Fighter Alpha 3, which managed to take every character from the Alpha series and Super Street Fighter II, then added the "isms" system to help further customize the whole roster.
And then we have Mega Man 3, which often rivals Mega Man 2 among the hearts of fans as the best of the original series. Mega Man 3 managed to break the mold in a way that had not been re-created since by not only giving Mega Man a cool slide move and an equal robot rival in Proto Man, but also essentially extending the game by about a third through the re-use of the entire roster of Robot Masters from the second game across remixes of four stages.
Mega Man 3 is a favorite among fans for good reason, and Mega Man Zero 3 reminds me of it in a few ways.
What would turn out to be the penultimate entry in the Zero series starts off in an almost mundane fashion; Zero, Ciel, and some Resistance soldiers are investigating a fallen craft, and note how quiet Neo Arcadia has been. We then learn that Ciel has completed her new source of energy, and that this could put an end to hostilities between the two factions altogether. And from there, the story begins to pick up as new pieces come into play that will reveal the history of what happened to take us from general unease of the Mega Man X series to the post-apocalyptic landscape that is the Zero series.
As always, Zero has a new trick up his sleeve. This time, it is a tonfa-like weapon known as the Recoil Rod, which replaces the Chain Rod and Triple Rod of the past two installments and packs a mighty punch, allowing Zero to move larger enemies and obstacles that wouldn't budge under normal circumstances.
The rest of his arsenal remains intact, and since he hasn't been spending a year wandering through the desert since the last game, there is no need to grind away in order to bring them up to full functionality. Lucky us.
Cyber-Elves make their return, but as part of a larger, grander system. In keeping with the more detailed story utilized in this game, there are numerous Secret Disks hidden throughout the game -- 180 in total. These can contain Cyber-Elves, information on different enemies, background story, and power-ups.
The ability to earn extra skills from felling bosses returns, but additional skills are made available through the finding and collecting of Secret Disks. The abilities range from automatic charging or healing to negating the effects of terrain to allowing you to double jump, or jump off the edge of the water. And better still, they can be swapped out as needed at any time.
Another new addition is Cyberspace. Find the enemies of an area too difficult? Stepping through the odd glowing doors will take you into a virtual realm where most of your Cyber-Elves activate automatically (without sacrificing themselves), essentially powering you up into a god among robots. And if dealing with regular Mega Man Zero foes is too mundane for you, a connection with a Game Boy Advance running Mega Man Battle Network 4 will swap them out for viruses from that series. In return, the Battle Network player gets an awesomely devastating Z-Saber chip in return.
Going back to the Mega Man 3 comparison for a moment, you'll find that some familiar faces from past Zero games return to challenge our hero once again. Which ones? Well, if you don't know, then far be it from me to spoil it for you.
In addition to more things to do than in the previous Zero titles, I also found that the third in the series is more forgiving than its predecessors. Some say it's more challenging, but it is the one game in the series that I not only managed to beat without any great degree of difficulty, but even practically mastered. And that was without using the game's new Satellite Elf system, which grants you temporary effects within a stage without any penalty to your rank.
However, time can dull one's senses -- especially in a game like this. I picked up the game again in preparation for this article, and found that it was actually a lot more challenging than I remembered, but without the frustration the first two games wrought. In all, it felt closer to one of the more challenging X games than the sadism present in the Zero series up to this point.
All of this, and there is still so much more that could be discussed: Mini-games starring Zero, Ciel, and the Four Guardians, a New Game Plus mode, an Ultimate Mode, and the unseen-in-America eReader cards which opened up numerous possibilities, and will finally be available here thanks to Mega Man Zero Collection. Want a base full of cats? Use the right card, and you'll never have to worry about mice again.
Mega Man Zero 3 was originally designed to be the final game in the series, but was ultimately left open enough to allow for one more game. But even so, from the opening to the surprising revelation of the game's final confrontation, this is perhaps the Zero series' zenith.