IGN Review of Mega Man X Collection
The office fell in love with Atomic Planet's great Mega Man Anniversary Collection a few years back and we've been hoping to get an X compilation to follow it up for quite some time now. Needless to say, our wish has at last been fulfilled and now that Mega Man X Collection has finally been released, our retro library feels a little more complete... though to be honest, the set isn't as impressive as the last one.
If you're unfamiliar with the Mega Man X series then you're probably new to videogames. Developed by Capcom as a slightly more complex companion to its hit NES franchise (known simply as Mega Man), the X brand adds a new spin to what was an already familiar franchise way back in 1993. Instead of following an adolescent Mega Man robot and his creator Dr. Light in their efforts against the evil Dr. Wily, Mega Man X takes place several years into the future and introduces new characters like Dr. Cain, Zero, Sigma, and a massive supporting cast of Reploids bent on raising some robotic hell. The ongoing storyline is a lot more involving, more mature, and definitely has a bit of an edge to it (especially in the more recent installments) compared to the original series.
In addition to the more mature setting of Mega Man X, the franchise has also prided itself on its upgradeable characters and multiple hero selections. Whereas the traditional Mega Man line has always been about a little robot and his ability to assimilate the powers of his fallen adversaries, Mega Man X ups the ante by including things like additional suits of armor, health extensions, and various other special abilities that you never had before. It's because of this gameplay approach to that Mega Man X feels quite a bit different when compared to the primary franchise and why it's created its own unique cadre of fans.
If you count yourself among the group of X-nuts mentioned above then Mega Man X Collection will definitely be for you. The first six titles in the series included on the disc are complete with original password support for the first three games (yeah, they still work) and the emulation for each one is pretty strong. As is often the case with old sprite-based games on more recent systems, however, there is some obvious (and frequent) interlacing issues that you'll run into along the way. But if you've ever played an emulated game with some kind of special effect in it before, you shouldn't find this little graphical hitch much of a surprise.
Because the emulation here is so adept, the gameplay remains unchanged. In fact, in some cases it's slightly improved as the slowdown found in the older cart versions has either gone away or been significantly enhanced. Additionally, one advantage this collection has over its older Mega Man counterpart is that the games in the series advance with a much more noticeable curve. Whether it's the inclusion of the "G-Crush" ability in MMX2, Zero as a selectable character in MMX3, or the slightly more open-ended MMX4, you can certainly see the progression in gameplay here. Granted, some of the latter titles aren't as strong as the early ones (X5 I'm looking at you), but on the whole, the collection isn't bad at all.
As a special bonus for Mega Man X Collection owners, Capcom has also opted to include Mega Man Battle and Chase -- an action racing game previously only available in Europe and Japan. I was actually surprised at how entertaining this little kart racer really is, and while it's not on par with something like Crash Team Racing or the legendary Mario Kart series, it's a nice change of pace with some cool tracks. This extra game isn't available from the start, however, so expect to put some time in before getting your hands on it.
Unfortunately, and as I mentioned earlier, Mega Man X Collection isn't quite as moving as 2004's Mega Man Anniversary Set. In that game, the developer Atomic Planet added a number of sweet little extras (a platform-based selection screen, for instance, along with several enhanced versions of the original games with bonus soundtracks and maneuvers) -- and the overall quality of the source material was higher as well. Luckily, this compilation does offer unlockable soundtracks and artwork in addition to the Battle and Chase extra, but other than that, there isn't much else to get excited about. It would have been awesome if we were given a comprehensive history of the Mega Man X franchise or maybe comparisons with Mega Man proper and some commercial archives (ala Capcom Classics Collections), but as is, it's a bit bare bones.
The good news is that at least this time there's no real advantage for the PS2 version over the GameCube one. Whereas before, the Mega Man Anniversary Collection on PS2 had a number of benefits over its Nintendo counterpart, they're essentially the same product this time. There's faster load times on the GameCube disc and better audio / video compression on the PS2 version, and that's the extent of the difference -- control schemes are fully customizable for both.
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