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Lightning Reviews: Mega Man Series Part 2
*NOTE* Sorry for the delay in Part 2, things have been pretty busy in the office this week. Also, look forward to the Fallout: New Vegas review coming on Monday.
In celebration of Capcom’s announcement of Mega Man Legends 3 for the Nintendo 3DS, I have decided to return to my gaming roots and review some of the best and worst of Capcom’s long running franchise. Join me as I journey throughout the several different series that span the Mega Man Universe and take a glimpse into the past, present, and future.
I have always been a fan of Capcom’s Blue Bomber. Mega Man, the original for the NES, was the first game I had ever played. My father had picked it up for me to play on his NES while he hoarded Super Mario Bros. Mega Man wasn’t exactly an easy game for a three year old to play but I did it quite effortlessly. I continued to play the Mega Man series and followed it into the X series, Legends, Battle Network, Zero, ZX, and even Star Force. Over 20 years since the beginning, I am proud to say that I have played every Mega Man game that was localized and even most that weren’t. I am a Mega Man fanboy and recently I have rekindled my passion for the franchise by going back and playing some old games and recent additions. I went through each and every series and have picked out my favorites and the Mega Man games that I loath. This two-part Lightning Reviews debut will give an overview of the game I played, my favorites, my most despised, and my synopsis of the entire franchise.
Briefing: 200 years after the Zero series ended, Humans and Reploids are actually living peacefully together again. Earth is starting to heal and even some cities and ruins are fixed up and running. In ZX, Maverick Hunters such as X and Zero are long gone. The glory days of heroes and villains are gone, but the Mavericks remain. ZX uses an armor changing system called M.E.G.A. (or R.O.C.K. if you import the series). Through M.E.G.A., your character is able to don variants or past heroes (and villains) to help propel you through missions and progress in the story. It is a unique way to play a traditional 2D Mega Man game. Being able to switch powers and armor on the fly is fun and makes game play a blast. Do you want to use a Buster? Choose the X BioMetal. Want to act like Zero? The ZX BioMetal has it for you. The list goes as you can mimic certain characters from the Zero series (and a hidden X series character). Using a 2D view with an area map feature, the game is distinct from the Zero series but still borrows from it. Spanning only two games, we’ll go over both to cover the series.
Mega Man ZX: In the debut of ZX, players are able to choose from two characters: Vent (male) and Aile (female). Both work at Giro Express, a delivery/courier service that transports goods. The chosen character is given an extremely important parcel but is ambushed on the way. The character then finds out that the parcel contains a BioMetal. BioMetals are what the game (and series) revolve around. The BioMetal allows the character to transform into a Mega Man. Mega Men are powered-up soldiers using abilities, armors, and AI based on past heroes and villains. As the game goes on, the player will acquire more BioMetals. The more BioMetals, the more unique the game gets. ZX allows the player to decide how his game will play. Of course, certain BioMetals work better against certain enemies and bosses, but that doesn’t stop you from being able to choose your favorite and stick with it for mission stages. That is the best part of the ZX series. Keeping true to the successful Zero forumla, ZX is 2D side-scrolling at its finest. The series borrows much from Zero but improves on each aspect in every possible way. ZX is the perfection of the Zero game play. The story is fun, music is exceptional, and controls are just as good as Zero’s were. Boss characters get even weirder (which is an unfortunate aspect they took from Zero), and the main villains are as quirky as the Guardians. The worst part about ZX is the map system. It is easy to get lost using the map and takes a bit to get used to. However, the layout of the game is unique to a 2D Mega Man game. Every area is connected and the game is presented in a city-to-town layout. Overall, ZX is a great addition to the Mega Man franchise. If you can get over the poor map system, and you were a fan of Zero 1-4, pick this up.
Mega Man ZX Advent: Advent continues the ZX story with more BioMetals, totally weird bosses, returning villains, and a much better map system. Advent improves on the overall experience. Unlike ZX, Advent has a full English voice cast that spans both the cutscenes and the 2D stages. ZX had this as well but only in Japan as the English localization took them out for the 2D part. It definitely helps the experience. Advent is also the first Mega Man game where you can play as a human. Ashe, the female character, is fully human and has an interesting story. Players are also given the choice of Grey, a “defective” Reploid. The main BioMetal in Advent is Model A, which takes on aspects of X7 & X8’s Axl. Gunplay is a huge part of Advent’s game play. A cool addition to the series is the ability to transform into the bosses and use their powers in stages. This gives some dynamic playing as a way to evolve the series past the very fun and immerse M.E.G.A. system introduced in ZX. While there are many new additions and revamps in Advent, the game doesn’t exactly hold up to its predecessor. The game is good, fun, and an enjoyable adventure but the excitement and hype that Capcom created for ZX just doesn’t hold up here. I’d definitely pick up as to finish the series, however.
Synopsis: ZX wraps up the series that make up the proposed timeline. It is another fun 2D series that adds to the franchise. It remains to be seen if Capcom will continue the series, however. Nothing has been heard of ZX since Advent’s release and it looks like Capcom has moved on.
Recommended Games: Mega Man ZX
Passable Games: Mega Man ZX Advent
Break Time: Let’s take some time out of the article to talk about the proposed timeline of Mega Man. The reason I want to spend some time on this is that the timeline is some of the most speculated and interesting timelines I’ve ever read about in video games. Capcom and Keiji Inafune do not like to get too in-depth about this which has brought about some very interesting fan speculation which really helps to fill in some blocks, canon or not. Let’s go into what is pretty much confirmed. Also, beware this is a spoiler section with heavy speculation.
1) The series timeline goes like this: Original -> X -> Zero -> ZX -> Legends. Original’s year setting is 20XX. X’s time is 21XX. Zero’s year is 22XX. ZX takes place in 25XX. Legends does not a defined time but it is speculated to be at least 70XX.
2) X was created by Dr. Light. Zero was created by Dr. Wily. This confirmes that Original and X are connected. However, the timeline between Original and X is never uncovered. This is where some very interesting speculation comes into light. A fan, and for the life of me I cannot remember who or the site I read this on, wrote this up. In X4, during Zero’s story we see a flashback to when Zero was a Maverick. We also see a quick flashback to when he murdered countless robots. That flashback could have been before 21XX. This is where the fan wrote up about a Catastrophe. The Catastrophe is when Zero betrays Dr. Wily and takes the Robot Masters under his control and begins to destroy civilization. Dr. Light activated X and alongside Mega Man stop Zero’s onslaught. X is deactivated to continue his construction and it is unfinished before Light’s passing. Years later, X’s capsule is found by Dr. Cain.
3) At the end of X5, we see Zero going into an exile-esque sleep. X takes the Z-Saber for use and pledges to create a utopia for human and Reploids alike. Zero series begins with Zero still asleep in a ruin. That is why X5 was supposed to be the end of that series. It connects both of these series perfectly and Inafune knew that.
4) During the Zero series we hear about a conflict called the Cyber Elf wars and apparently X was apart of it. This had to of occurred after Sigma’s Maverick Wars. This is also when X may have died and became a Cyber Elf. We also get a glimpse of Zero’s original body. Since Zero’s memory was implanted in the body we see and play as, Omega recovers Zero’s original body (which suspiciously looks like the new updated one) and pits the two against each other. After the fall of Ragnarok, we see that Zero has perished in the destruction. Ciel goes on to create a group called the Guardians.
5) This brings in the ZX series where the Guardians are still going and help the player character control the BioMetals which house replicated spirits of past heroes and villains. It is unknown if the BioMetals house the actual spirits of the designated Reploids or not. Since they are found in ruins, there is a good chance.
6) This is where the timeline is hit and miss. Mega Man Legends has always presented more questions than answers. Let me try to explain what the series has told us. Some time after the ZX series, the world started into another Ice Age. The fate of humans and Reploids are unknown. The world is now populated by a humanoid species called Carbons which are controlled by ancient Reploids. Everything is controlled by a unit called Master. Under Master are Trigger units designed to protect Elysium, the control center in space. There are also Bureaucratic units charged with overseeing Carbon systems in populated areas. While this is all very confusing and new for a Mega Man game, it makes sense as you play the series. We know that Mega Man in Legends is a Trigger unit that was one of the best protection models. He was once told to destroy the Master unit by the Master and had to fight the Mother Unit, Sera. Even though Mega Man beat Sera, his body was so damaged that his memory had to be wiped and placed within a traveling unit called Data. He was then orphaned and later found by Professor Barrell in a ruin. Lost yet? Legends can be confusing especially when Capcom takes 10 years to bring another installment to the series. However, we still don’t know how or when Legends fits inside the timeline. We only know that it does, somehow.
So there you have it. Confusing and convulsive but there it is. This is also the end of the spoilers. Back to the article!
Briefing: Back in 2001, Mega Man made his debut on the GameBoy Advance with Mega Man Battle Network. A 2D hybrid adventure that uses a card-esque battle system infused with 9-square combat. Players controlled Lan Hikari, a grade school kid living in a digital age who is given a digital helper whose name is Mega Man.EXE. The adventures Lan and Mega Man have throughout the series allow them to bond together and meet friends along the way. The series spawned through six games and have been compared to series like Pokemon for its collection aspect. They even started to have multiple versions of the game starting with Battle Network 3 (Blue, White, and even Black in Japan). The deep systems involved in Battle Network have garnered the series success and scrutiny that the game seems too similar throughout the entire series. Let’s check it out.
Mega Man Battle Network: We’re introduced to the main characters that we spend most of the series hanging around with here. Lan and Mega Man begin their journey as they battle Dr. Wily and the evil World Three (WWW). Make no mistake though, this is not a part of the timeline of Mega Man. This is more like an alternate universe that takes on the story of the Original series. Combat in Mega Man Battle Network works like a card game with a 9-grid system. Both the player and the enemy/enemies are given a 3×3 grid to move about as they try to defeat the opposing side. In the first outing, everything is pretty basic. It isn’t very entertaining to play after you see the enhancements that BN2 and further bring in, but storyline-wise, it is essential. I’ll get into the systems next as they are just too basic and forgetful in BN1.
Mega Man Battle Network 2: BN2 gets right everything BN1 did wrong. The overly simple game turns into an in-depth and entertaining game. BN2 introduces a lot of new systems and makes the game a bit more challenging. Mega Man no longer heals to full health after each battle. Now, there are items called Sub-Chips that allow players to heal and perform other support outside of battle. During the course of the game, Mega Man also gains the ability to change his “style”. Style Changes enhance Mega Man’s buster and combat performance. Depending on how you battled, your next Style Change would be different and you had the choice of keeping it or staying with your previous change. There are also hidden Styles that are very powerful and may have consequences. Battle Chip folders saw huge upgrades as well with * codes chips. This allowed for awesome chip combos and an upgraded Program Advance system. Overall, BN2 is the real start of the Battle Network series; maybe not for the story but definitely for the features and game play.
Mega Man Battle Network 3: In my opinion, BN3 is the highlight of the series. Multiplayer is introduced which was a huge part of the series for my friends and I back when it was released. Net battling with your friends and obtaining their chips in success is great. Also, the game can reward you for playing against your friends and winning. Chips are now classified in three distinct categories that define their power and rarity. You have your standard chips, Mega chips, and Giga chips. Power-Ups that change the power of the Mega Buster are gone and replaced with the in-depth Navi Customizer. The Navi Customizer changes the way Mega Man battles and how he performs using Customizer parts. You can also capture and feed certain Viruses. BN3 is very deep, engaging, and definitely a highlight in the series if not the best.
Mega Man Battle Network 5: BN5 is very different from the previous entries. Most of the game remains the same and the systems used in previous titles including the additions found in BN4 make a return. However, the player is now able to control various Net Navis while trying to “liberate” sectors of the Cyber World. The Net Navis you control are different if you play either the Colonel or ProtoMan versions of BN5. While trying to liberate sectors, players controlled Team Colonel or Team ProtoMan in a strategy type of game play. You only had certain moves within each turn and after every Navi moved, the Viruses and evil Navis had their turn. In battle, you had a certain amount of time to defeat the enemy. It was a very different style of game play from the previous games and was scrapped for BN6. Soul Unisons, which were introduced in BN4, make a return and the system is largely changed. Soul Unisons, since I didn’t delve into BN4, are a great upgrade from the Style Changes. They allow you to take the form of a boss or friend Navi and fight with their powers. Overall, BN5 is annoying but the story and game play (aside form liberating) is fantastic and features some of the best of the series. There was also a Nintendo DS version of BN5 called Double Team. BN5 Double Team features both Team Colonel and Team ProtoMan on the same cartridge. If you played through Colonel first, you will accumulate points that allow you to transfer over team members to the other version.
Synopsis: Battle Network is a great series, though frowned upon by old school Mega Man fans. Certainly it is very different from the past series, however, given a chance you will find a great story with very likable characters and a deep, deep game play system that evolves from game-to-game even if reviewers fail to mention it. If you can get past BN1 and BN2, continuing on to BN3 and further will be a rewarding experience.
Recommended Games: Mega Man Battle Network, Mega Man Battle Network 2, Mega Man Battle Network 3, Mega Man Battle Network 5
Passable Games: Mega Man Battle Network 4, Mega Man Battle Network 6
Briefing: Star Force takes place 200 years after the Battle Network series. It is identical to the BN series except for the items used, how you connect to the Cyber World, or Radio Waves in Star Force, and the biggest change being the combat system. It is relatively the same except you now view Mega Man from the back and the view is 3D as you see enemies from the front. You play as Geo Stellar, who comes across an alien named Omega-Xis. When Geo merges with him in the Wave World, he becomes Mega Man. You can also perform a kind of Style Change with Satellite Admins depending on which version of the games you buy. Unfortunately, after six Battle Networks and a wonky ending for Lan and Mega Man.EXE’s journey, Star Force fails to capture the fun and reason why fans played the GBA games. I won’t even go into detail on why I am labeling this series as passable, just know that even with the changes in the battle system, Star Force could not capture my attention after the first couple of hours. I finished the series and am not looking forward to a fourth installment if Capcom does one.
Passable Games: Mega Man Star Force, Mega Man Star Force 2, Mega Man Star Force 3
And last just not least, the side games in all the series. Let’s have a quick overview of them.
Briefing: Capcom has released many side games that are attached to the franchise and span across three of the series. Some are sports titles such as Mega Man’s Soccer, others are just side missions or stories that play just like their counter parts. Let’s look into some of the good ones.
Original Series: The GameBoy Mega Man (Rockman World) games, Mega Man’s Soccer, Mega Man Battle & Chase, Wily & Right’s Rockboard (Japan only), Super Adventure Rockman (Japan only).
The GameBoy Mega Man (Rockman World) games: These portable Mega Man games are awesome. They feature normally four bosses that resemble the Robot Masters from the Original series. Mega Man V for the GameBoy had a completely new set of bosses called the Star Droid and they were based off the planets in the Solar System. These rare games are a blast to play.
Highly Recommended… for people with a lot of money.
Mega Man’s Soccer: This game shows that they should have continued with the sports knock offs. Soccer was a great game to play albeit some wonky controls. You were able to select heroes and even some Robot Masters to play as (I was always Skull Man). It was always great to see your friend’s face after you used your special power on his goaltender and get an easy goal. Quick, fun, and an all around nice intro to sports for Mega Man. Now, where’s my Mega Man Baseball!?
X Series: Mega Man Xtreme series, Mega Man X Command Mission, Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
Mega Man Xtreme series: This GameBoy Color series span only two games but were some very enjoyable experiences. They are pretty much watered down ports of X1 and X2 and borrow heavily from both. The storylines and most content from Xtreme 2 are new, however. Zero isn’t playable until the second game but the game gives a unique way on how to play as both of them. They are fun little games that shouldn’t be missed if you still have a GameBoy Color.
Mega Man X Command Mission: This was another RPG outing for Mega Man, this time in the X series. The game suffered from a mediocre cast, bad dialog, and bland surroundings. The story wasn’t so bad, but the game is short and very linear. It definitely doesn’t look to Legends for any help on success. Controls on the field are a bit weird, especially when dashing. However, the battle system was quite fun. If you liked any of the PS2 Breath of Fire games, you can look at Command Mission and get a nice reading of it.
Mega Man Maverick Hunter X: This is a remake of Mega Man X1 for the PlayStation Portable. There are slight changes to the game and added anime cutscenes which delve deeper into the X story. We get to see how Sigma went Maverick, and even some time with Dr. Cain. If you are a fan of the X series and own a PSP, do NOT miss out on this. It is exceptionally good. The only bad part of Maverick Hunter is that Capcom promised to do the same for X2 – X6 (though I’m not sure why X4- X6 needed it) but nothing was heard of the remakes after that statement. I would have loved to play X2 in the nice new shell of Maverick Hunter.
Battle Network Series: Mega Man Battle Network Transmission, Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge, Rockman.EXE 4.5 Real Operation (Japan only), Phantom of Network (Japan only), Rockman.EXE Operate Shooting Star (Japan only)
*NOTE* Rockman.EXE is the Japanese name for Mega Man Battle Network and Shooting Star is the Japanese series name for Star Force.
Mega Man Battle Network Transmission: This GameCube title was basically Battle Network infused with classic 2D game play. Besides the sometimes unresponsive controls, this game was a blast! You still had battle chips that you needed to send to Mega Man which stopped game play and allowed the player to send chips and Program Advances. The boss battles were enjoyable and challenging. The story was fairly good and introduced Zero.EXE as the main enemy. As I was talking about in the Break Time about the timeline, Zero was created by Dr. Wily so its not surprising to see him make an appearance in Battle Network. Unfortunately, Zero.EXE wasn’t heard of again in America. He wasn’t see again until Rockman.EXE Beast+, a Japan aired anime series.
Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge: This game featured the Battle Chip GP tournament where characters and their Navis entered for a grand prize. Battles used a tier system of chips to try and defeat their opponents first. You could gain new chips and upgrade your tiers accordingly. Best part about the game was the ability to play as several different Navis such as ProtoMan, Roll, GutsMan, and even Bass. Unfortunately, the tiered combat is slow and not exciting.
Rockman.EXE 4.5 Real Operation: Even though this game never came out in America, I have an obligation to mention it for how awesome it is. If you are a fan of the Battle Network series, you should be angry this never made it over. Though, you can blame the dubbed anime NT Warrior for sucking so bad since the anime helped propel this series into soaring heights over in Japan. 4.5 Real Operation is basically a normal Battle Network game that allows you to pick which Navi to play as. You could unlock more Navis as the game progressed and some more only through special means. Which special means? Through an add-on for your GameBoy Advance called the Battle Chip Gate. This add-on would allow you to actually use Battle Chips (collectable in Japan) and slot them through. Once you slot them through, the game would recognize the chip and allow your Navi to use them in battle. In essence, you were Lan and you were helping Mega Man defeat viruses and bosses directly. Since I was a huge fan of the series, I imported 4.5 with a red Battle Chip Gate and a starter pack of Battle Chips. My friends who I regularly Net Battled with using Battle Network 3 were jealous as they watched me slot in real chips to the game. As I look back now, sounds a bit corny, but it was extremely fun and if I could find my Battle Chip Gate, I’d so go through that game again. If you had money and the means to import, you could have some really nasty chips early in the game and even unlock Bass.EXE as a playable Navi.
Synopsis: Many of the side games for Mega Man were never released Stateside, which is a shame since some of the best ones are only available in Japan. Battle Network was is absolutely huge in Japan, nearly Pokemon sized. The anime series span five different stories (EXE, Axess, Stream, Beast, and Beast+) and as you can tell by my words of 4.5, the side games are extremely fun. Capcom also released many mobile games for Mega Man using their high-tier phones (phones that never saw the light of day here in the US). We Americans have missed on on some great games for Mega Man but overall, the main series are all here and shining brightly.
Briefing: Mega Man isn’t done entertaining us yet. While he had a period of silence, or rather mediocrity with Star Force being the front runner for the franchise, he’s coming back full steam. Let’s look at some of the upcoming titles.
Mega Man Universe: MMU looks to bring back the classic 2D side-scrolling from the Original series with a twist. Players are able to customize and create levels and playable characters. Think LittleBigPlanet with Mega Man/Capcom mixed in as the theme.
Mega Man Legends 3: Capcom threw a bombshell at us recently announcing Legends 3 for the upcoming Nintendo 3DS. We don’t know much yet except that the fans will be a huge part of the creation of the game. First event available to vote on is the character design for a new female spotter. A short bio for the character was released but features many sections blank as to not give out too much info just yet. Hard to determine what Inafune and the team have up their sleeves but nonetheless, fans are ecstatic at the news of Legends 3 finally coming out.
Synopsis: Although the release list is short, the upcoming titles are strong and most of the members that worked on the Mega Man franchise on tied up in these two games. It is easy to see that Mega Man isn’t nearly done as Capcom finally saw fit to bring over the “Complete Works” art books to America. These books were previously stated to be in hold for the US until demand was high enough. The fans look forward for the bright future of the Blue Bomber. Let’s hope for some more good years ahead for one of Capcom’s greatest stars.