It's been a long time since the world saw anything resembling a new Mega Man X game -- December 15th, 2005 in the case of Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X, and even longer if you want to find the last game in the series. With the release of Mega Man X Legacy Collection, the hope is that some new content will mesh well with the gathering of old.
How well does it all come together? Read on to find out.
As I've said before, if you're visiting a site called "The Mega Man Network" on the regular, you probably don't need me to review each individual game in the collection. The purpose of this review is to look more at how the collection treats the games and what new material it brings to the fore. Still, I'll give you a brief summary of each title here, as I see them:
Mega Man X Legacy Collection
- Mega Man X - Arguably the "Mega Man 2" of the series, Capcom struck gold on the first try, achieving a level of platforming perfection one might say they've never been able to recapture. The flaws in this one are few, and generally minor enough to overlook. There's a reason this was the one included in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition.
- Mega Man X2 - A good, solid sequel that feels like it might come up a step or two short against the original, though some prefer it (which could be said about any of these titles, really).
- Mega Man X3 - Rounds out the Super NES trinity of games, "more" feels like the mission statement for the developers, as this one tries to bring more of everything -- including toughness.
- Mega Man X4 - Zero becomes playable full-time, doubling the play time and value. Rivals the first game as being the "Mega Man 2" of the series.
Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2
- Mega Man X5 - Not as good as the game that preceded it, not as bad as the one to follow. Perfectly decent, but you could practically hear Inafune telling the Capcom developers to shut the lights off before they leave as he went to work on Mega Man Zero with Inti Creates. The series deserved a better send-off, which is why some might posit it's a good thing this wasn't where it ended (though for others, it probably should have).
- Mega Man X6 - Someone saw dollar signs after Mega Man X5 and rushed this one to market. Might have been good with more time in the oven, but it's not much fun unless you cheat to circumvent the problems with sloppy design and a seeming lack of playtesting.
- Mega Man X7 - Mega Man X goes 3D! And presents a solid argument for staying in 2D. Looks good, at least. Introduces new playable character Axl so he can be sent out to die in the wake of this game's reception (fortunately, he gets better).
- Mega Man X8 - A return to 2D, or 2.5D at least, with vehicle sections in 3D. Arguably the most varied entry in the series, with six playable characters, three levels of difficulty, and tons of different weapons to obtain to various effect. Many levels feature unique objectives as well. If Capcom had ever decided to make a Mega Man X arcade game, I could see it being like this.
The presentation of the games is on point, and there are a variety of options for many of them. Among the first six are three filters allowing you to view the games with the pixel edges smoothed (this actually wasn't too bad for the 32-bit titles, I found), an approximation of CRT television scan lines, and a sharp pixel-perfect mode.
However, the last two entries in the series, the 3D-rendered Mega Man X7 and Mega Man X8, lack these filters. Instead, they've been sharpened considerably, and while perhaps not on the level of a high definition remastering, they look better than they ever have before (save for maybe the PC version of Mega Man X8). That said, not everything benefits from the new polish, as the in-game text and portraits remain rather pixelated, even though the high resolution versions are available in the gallery.
Another neat touch is that if you'd like to play the Japanese versions of the games, it's as simple as pressing a button for each title on the main menu screen. Unfortunately, though, this isn't likely to mean much in most cases, save for the odd title screen difference or the voices in Mega Man X4 (the other games with English voice tracks, X7 and X8, have multiple language options anyway), as all the Japanese musical tracks have been scrubbed from these releases -- even Mega Man X6's.
(Speaking of the vocal tracks, switching to a Japanese voice track in Mega Man X7 now changes all of them, rather than just some of them as in the original PlayStation 2 release.)
Other differences have been consolidated as well, as the cygar-chomping Reploid at the beginning or Rockman X7 is now missing his stogie in both versions, and the opening stage of Mega Man X6 lacks the guitar riff in its tune that was missing in the Japanese version.
Interestingly enough, while the developers of this collection were so thorough as to rename the Mavericks from Mega Man X5, divorcing them from their Guns 'n Roses-inspired monikers for the sake of continuity, little else seems to have changed in the scripts. Volt Kraken no longer refers to "Octopardo," but other typos and lackluster translations remain, right down to Magma Dragoon being called an "Irregular Hunter" in Mega Man X4.
For what it's worth, however, the script from the Super NES version of Mega Man X is used here, rather than the slightly revised one from 2006's Mega Man X Collection.
Irksome gameplay elements remain as well, from Zero's Sentsuzan attack in Mega Man X6 still calling for Up + Attack (despite the game telling you to press Down, and making it a hazard when fighting on wires) to not being able to skip cutscenes or Alia's dialogue in Mega Man X5.
Like Mega Man Legacy Collection 2, both collections also lack what's become something of a staple of modern-day collections, a "rewind" feature, which has been seen in Rare Replay, SEGA Genesis Classics, and various home "mini" consoles, as well as the Mega Man Legacy Collection and The Disney Afternoon Collection that Digital Eclipse made for Capcom. What's more, there are no save states here: Saving works just as it did in the original games, right down to being unable to save the Hadoken in the original game (a pain for the more time-constrained among us).
Fortunately, all codes still seem to work, or at least all of the ones I tested. Ultimate Armor in the PlayStation trinity works like a charm, and all the fun stuff you can do in Mega Man X8, from fighting Cut Man to playing as the Navigators is intact. Unfortunately, the Metals glitch from Mega Man X8 no longer works, which is unfortunate for those with little time to grind.
The games from the PlayStation era all seem to load more quickly than ever before, which is good -- unless you like listening to the loading music in Mega Man X8, that is (you'll have to go to the Museum for that). That said, while the slowdown in stages such as Gigabolt Man-O-War's seems to be gone, it still remains in the 16-bit titles, perhaps having been programmed into the original games in some instances as with the NES Mega Man games.
Other titles have some things that are noticeably off, such as one layer of the Sky Lagoon in Mega Man X4 being pitch black instead of the dark blue it was originally. What's more, some sound effects seem like they're turned way up -- the dragonfly Mechaniloids and spiked bulldozers in the aforementioned stage, and the bullets from the Ride Chaser in Volt Kraken's stage in Mega Man X5 are two examples that stick out in my mind.
Interestingly, while I attempted to capture some footage via the PlayStation 4's built-in software, the volume seemed to even out in the recording. Fortunately, both instances are brief, and don't detract too much from the overall gameplay. Hopefully there will be a patch to fix this, but Capcom's not delivered any news of such as of this writing.
For the most part, the eight games are just as you remember them (unless the PlayStation version of Mega Man X3 is what you remember, that is), with some slight touch-ups and a few minor blemishes here and there. Nothing about them has changed too much, and they all play as good as they ever did.
So that's the games at a more or less basic level. Now it's time to look at the wrapper for this entire package, the container it came in. Bonuses, features, and how some of them affect the games mentioned above.
The Options menu provides a slightly erroneous manual (the first collection says L2 and R2 aren't used, ignoring the Nova Strike in Mega Man X4), language settings (English, Japanese, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Chinese), and the aforementioned Screen Settings, which can be toggled in-game via a menu brought up with a press of the PlayStation 4 touch pad.
You'll also find the credits for the Mega Man X Legacy Collection, which feature a playable X. Destroy enough of the staff's names with X Buster shots, and you can unlock an extra song.
Then there are the "Hunter Medals," which is the in-game term for Achievements/Trophies, and is where things get a little troublesome. As noted, this collection has some unlockable content, such as songs or additional wallpapers, but following the instructions presented for the Medals doesn't always yield results -- or they'll unlock seemingly unprovoked.
"Reconnaissance Complete" is one example, prompting you to view 20 images from across four titles, then "change the wallpaper to the secret image." Or "Audio Signal Incoming," which asks you to listen to ten tracks "for long enough" (I listened to more than that all the way through), then "listen to the secret track."
Except no wallpaper comes up, though it might unlock on its own later, and no secret track opened up, either. I did unlock one through the credits, as noted above, but I didn't see it in the gallery, and so it's kind of a mystery how these are supposed to work, or if they're even working as intended.
For what it's worth, less-complicated Medals -- such as "defeat an enemy using the Ultimate Armor" -- seem to unlock just fine.
The Museum provides a Gallery full of high resolution artwork from across the respective games in the collection, including those created for the collection itself. Unfortunately, those images you find upon beating X Challenge or finishing the credits aren't added to the gallery, meaning you'll have to go through performing those acts in order to view them again -- or just take a screen capture, though that's a rather inelegant solution.
The Music Player features tracks from each title in a respective collection, including the collection itself. There are a variety of ways to listen, including a single loop of a track, looping all tracks in the game, looping all the available tracks period, or no loop at all. You can also view the titles, or choose to watch some silent gameplay footage as the music plays.
Then we come to some of the more questionable content. There is a Product Gallery featuring a lot of Mega Man X merchandise from over the years (though like a handful of images in the Gallery, you unfortunately can't zoom in on them), "The Day of Σ" original video animation from Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X (upscaled to a glorious full-screen size), and a variety of trailers for every included Mega Man X game except, oddly, Mega Man X3.
So what makes it questionable? Simply put, everything included in that last paragraph is on both collections, whether it's relevant to the contents or not. In one way, this is good, as people who buy one but not the other won't be missing out. On the other hand, if you're planning to download both collections to something like, say, the Nintendo Switch, I have to wonder how much room two of everything is going to take up.
Still, what's here is largely good, double the storage or not. They even added the opening and ending themes from the PC/PlayStation/Saturn version of Mega Man X3, though I wish they'd also added the animated cutscenes as well (especially as that's the one game lacking in video content anyway). Rewind/fast-forward features on the video content would have been nice, too.
Finally, this collection brings us "Rookie Mode", which is another name for the "Easy Mode" found in previous collections. This can be toggled on and off at any time, and has a variety of effects -- I don't even know the full range, but here's some of what it can do:
Damage is drastically reduced, to the point some enemies can't even hurt your character -- at least, not without repeated blows. You get nine lives if you start with it, your attack power seems to be increased, falling down a pit just teleports you back to the nearest ledge, and even spikes aren't instant-death. I haven't gotten to try it myself yet, but I'm now curious if this means you can potentially tank your way through that one area of Gate's stages in Mega Man X6.
My favorite part, though? Rookie Mode slows down all vehicle levels, making stuff I've never done before myself (such as Avalanche Yeti's stage in Mega Man X8) possible. Plus, if you really need to, the Slow option in Mega Man X5 works on top of that, making the collection of all the orbs at the start of Volt Kraken's stage an exercise that involves far less hair-pulling.
Suffice to say, if the vehicle sections of these games are your bane as they are mine (barring Jet Stingray's, aka the only remotely good one), then this is an ideal option to quickly toggle on and off as needed. I can safely say this will reduce my dread in enduring a lot of the frustration some of these games come with.
That leaves us with one last element to look at:
As I said at the top of this article (waaay up there), it's been a long time since we've seen anything new from the world of Mega Man X, and X Challenge was looking to be our first piece of new content for the series to finally end the drought. Unfortunately, it might have been somewhat overhyped in the months leading up to this release.
While X Challenge does indeed present a story mode, it's really weak. Like, really weak. To call it "fluff" is being generous with it, so if you're expecting a side-story like Mega Man Xtreme or Mega Mission, you're setting yourself up for a huge disappointment.
Going in, you get a basic premise: You (X) have beaten a whole lotta Mavericks over the years, and now they've "somehow" returned, so you've got to go stop them again.
That's basically it, open and shut. There's no throughline of a plot, there's no epic reveal, or really much of anything. Just a bunch of scenarios ranging from the neat (Storm Eagle and Storm Owl taking the Death Rogumer II out for a spin and causing some havoc on the city below) to the almost endearingly asinine (Tunnel Rhino is so good at digging, he decides to try data mining in Cyberspace with Cyber Peacock). A scenario with Doppler and Godkarmachine O Inary is even stated to be a "what if" simulation.
So you can pretty rule out anything substantial lore-wise (I still don't even know what the deal is with that new armor). But how does it play?
For those unfamiliar, X Challenge is a mode that replaces the challenges found in the two Mega Man Legacy Collection releases with a series of two-on-one boss battles against a variety of tag team combinations from throughout the first six games.
Going into battle, you've got two choices: Equip the new canonically-not-Ultimate Armor (it just lacks the Nova Strike) and three weapons from among a limited selection, or (as is only explained in the second volume, but applies to both), press the Options (or equivalent) button to go as normal X, with no weapons. You know, in case the Easy, Normal, and Hard modes weren't enough for you.
You'll have to face three pairs of Mavericks in a row with no time to swap out weapons in-between, so you'll have to choose carefully.
Two things bug me about X Challenge, though.
One is that two-thirds of the content seems to be duplicated between both volumes. I haven't explored this fully, but it seems that the first two battles of each three-battle stage are identical between volumes, with only the third being different. I didn't even realize that much was different at first, as that third battle is kind of shoved off to the side as you start up, making the two volumes seem identical at a first glance; it's just an odd distribution of content.
The other thing is the control scheme.
Later Mega Man X games decided to mess with what worked by moving the Special Weapon button to the Triangle/topmost face button on the controller, rather than letting a weapon swap actually swap your main weapon with the X Buster being secondary. This isn't normally a problem in most instances, save for the games where you need to swap characters, as you can just change the Triangle and Square buttons, and everything is just like it was in the first few games.
There was one exception to this, however: Mega Man X6.
In Mega Man X6, the Triangle button is not only your Special Weapon, but it pulls double-duty by activating the Z-Saber as well. And this is the version of X they chose to use in X Challenge, so swapping the buttons means that your default weapon button is now the Z-Saber as well. And there's no way to separate the Special Weapons from the Z-Saber.
This honestly spoils things in this mode for me, as I don't feel like I'm able to play at my very best, being hobbled any time I want to jump and use a Special Weapon -- which, believe it or not, comes up on occasion during these battles. And an X = Jump, Triangle = Attack control scheme doesn't feel particularly natural here.
I was able to adjust my strategy a bit and get by, but it just never felt "right" to me.
On top of that, the balance of X Challenge feels a bit off. Normal is pretty tough, living up to the mode's name. In all honesty, the Mavericks feel like they're able to absorb more damage than they can "normally". On the other hand, Easy feels too easy -- Mavericks feel like they're taking the right amount of damage, but X is a lot tougher now, too. Neither feels quite fully "right," at least going by the instincts I've honed over the years.
It is interesting to see how the Mavericks' programmed routines and patterns fit into new environments, though. When fighting Magma Dragoon and Neon Tiger in Dragoon's lair, Tiger wound up in one of the lava pits. It didn't kill him, but did leave him a sitting duck for my Spinning Blades.
In other cases, things can kind of go horribly wrong. I don't remember ever being able to fall through Tidal Whale's ice block barrage in Mega Man X5, but you certainly can here, and damage racks up quickly, making the encounter with him and Jet Stingray feel very cheap.
All in all, I have mixed feelings about X Challenge, and I'm not sure if it's preferable to the challenges we've received in past collections.
Wow, this has been a lot to say about these two collections of games. I realize a lot of it may sound negative, but there are plenty of positives, too.
While I feel that Digital Eclipse has set a bar that Capcom themselves has yet to reach in terms of these collections, I don't feel that this is a bad one at all. I really like having all eight mainline Mega Man X games in one place, and it's convenient for streaming on most platforms, or portability if you decide to go with the Nintendo Switch.
Do I recommend it? With the hope that Capcom might patch or tweak a few things post-release, and even if not: Yes, absolutely.
If you know which games you like already, that makes things easier as you decide whether either -- or both -- packages are for you. And if you're new to any entry in the series, especially the later ones, features like the Rookie Mode help ease some of these games' rougher edges as desired without overriding the whole experience.
There are some flaws brought on by these versions, but nothing so overwhelming or prolonged as to spoil my overall experience. If you're a fan of the Mega Man X series, then you're probably going to want at least one of these two collections in your collection.
Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 + 2 is available now on PlayStation 4 (version played for this review), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam for $19.99 each, or $39.99 for both. A copy was provided by Capcom for this review.