Tag Archives: mega man x

FGC #596 Mega Man X7

Mega times!I think Batman should die.

And speaking of the dead, today’s game is Mega Man X7. Mega Man X7 is a bit of an odd duck, as the Mega Man X franchise came to a logical conclusion with Mega Man X5, which then transitioned into the sequel series, Mega Man Zero. But there was also a Mega Man X6, which released nigh concurrently with Mega Man Zero. And, because of some foolish adherence to front-facing continuity (look, no one would mind a Mega Man X “interquel”), X6 continued the story of X5, forced Mega Man Zero to retcon its practically brand new continuity (now queen elves had to be involved!), and brought the whole cast back (from a death coma) for an adventure where the headliners were somehow simultaneously robots of the future and too-old-for-this-shit zombies. And then, while the Mega Man Zero franchise continued and eventually gained its own sequel franchise stretching the world even further into the future, there was Mega Man X7 and Mega Man X8 (and, to a lesser, more parallel degree, Mega Man Command Mission). Both of these titles attempted to leave the undead nature of Mega Man X6 behind and start brand new X stories with a continuity that was not even attempting to tie to past or future titles. No more overtures of Dr. Wily. Barely any references to a future where Mega Man X becomes Dictator X. Just the good ol’ Reploids hanging out and busting Mavericks with X and Zero.

And Axl. Axl’s the new kid.

Here we go!Axl is, arguably, the lynchpin of both Mega Man X7 and Mega Man X8. In X7, Axl is the former protégé of the wannabe villain of the story, and his defection to the good guys’ team is the inciting incident for the whole struggle. In Mega Man X8, it is revealed that Axl has always been the prototype of a new kind of Reploid, and a new conflict arises when Axl’s virtual children/brothers inevitably decide to take over the world. X8 even ends with the implication that Axl has been possessed or somehow infected with his brood’s big bad, and a theoretical Mega Man X9 likely would have addressed this dangling plot tentacle. In short, after Mega Man X6, the Mega Man X franchise basically became the Axl show, with special guests X and Zero.

And… that was not the worst thing in the world.

There are a lot of reasons to not like Axl. For one thing, he pioneered “Silver the Hedgehog” character design before that ‘hog telekinetically hurled his first crate. This is a situation where the original hero was already an “edgy” take on an adorable mascot, his partner/rival was already the marginally edgier version, and now we needed someone that was the edgiest. Axl is literally introduced as an amoral assassin, and, despite living in a world where people have guns for arms, he makes a big deal about being a gangster that always has a piece (and often holds it sideways, just for an added cool factor). Axl joins the noble Maverick Hunters, and he slightly slots into the traditional rookie-working-with-veterans role, but he also never completely drops his general bloodlust. He might be the “kid” of the group, but he is the kid that is going to dual-wield pistols and earn his hunter rank through an abundance of “retired” Mavericks. And, lest you check out for any and all Mega Man X plot details (cannot blame you), Axl’s design exudes a sort of… posturing personality. Prominent weapons, spiky all over, and “robo hair” that looks like a flaming porcupine (or hedgehog?). His color scheme even darkens between games! In short, Axl could easily be seen as an X replacement that is trying too hard.

It just sits thereAnd, make no mistake, Axl was intended as an X replacement. Despite being the eternal cover boy of Mega Man X7, X operates much like a “hidden character” for Axl’s maiden voyage. You can only unlock Mega Man X through playing a lot of Mega Man X7 (either beat all 8 of the Maverick Masters, or rescue 64 generic Reploids [with a possible max of 15 per stage if they don’t die]), and once you have X under your control, you’ll find… he’s just a better Axl. Sure, he does not have Axl’s unique copy ability or hover, but he has all of Axl’s subweapons, and X’s default shot allows for a charge that blows Axl’s offensive capabilities out of the water. It is pretty clear that X ‘n Axl are both 100% based on the same gameplay style, and Zero is the only exceptional butterfly (Morph Moth?) in X7. And why would that be the case? Well, you really cannot convince me that Mega Man X7 was conceived as anything other than a chance for Mega Man X to finally retire.

Axl is the star of the Mega Man X franchise going forward. So why is Mega Man X even here?

In a way, Mega Man X has been on his way out since his virgin voyage. The amazing Mega Man X was originally conceived with a character closer in design to Zero in its title role, but Zero was demoted to unplayable sidekick for a more prominent Mega Man descendant. This was probably a wise move, as an entirely new robot character (with a laser sword!) clearly would have blown the minds of 90s kids, and Capcom did not want to soil its collective conscience with overhyping an entire generation of children to an early grave. But Zero gradually took focus from X: his body was all over X2, he became temporarily playable in X3, and X4 allowed for the player to use Zero to the point that X could potentially not appear at all. Further games began to reinforce a sort of partnership between X and Zero (when they weren’t killing each other), but Zero did eventually get his own franchise (with a version of X as the villain!) when Mega Man Zero rolled out. Couple Zero’s rise to stardom with X’s very vocal desire to retire and raise robotic raccoons (conjecture on my part, but what else is X going to do with his free time?), and you can see how it would be very easy to let another Reploid take over the X franchise. As long as there is a game with running, dashing, and shooting, who cares who is headlining? Mega Man aXl is good to go!

Speeding alongAnd Axl taking over for X would be a good thing! Continuity-snarling holographic doctors that may or may not be sentient lurking around airports in century-old capsules making zero sense multiple games in? Not a problem for Axl! In fact, the omnipresent problem of our hero kinda sorta being responsible for every Maverick War ever is not remotely an issue with new protagonist Axl. He can just have hover-based fun in his world, and maybe occasionally be sad about his Red dead friend. And, from a gameplay perspective, it works perfectly. Axl is not beholden to the “controls” one would expect of a Mega Man, but he also benefits from being a clear Mega-descendant. If the technology was there from the start, Mega Man could have always “transformed” into Robot Masters rather than merely change colors to match their weapons. X was gifted an adaptive, chargeable buster, but was similarly constrained by SNES-based abilities. Axl, though? Playstation 2 hero Axl? He could do his own thing! He did not have to be obligated to continue 8-bit traditions; he could do something new! And if he wanted to wholesale steal a robot’s body, he could do it!

And, dammit, we could use more heroes that are totally divorced from their original constraints and requirements.

Look, we have all been through the reboots. A wiki would probably provide the correct answer, but, by my estimates, we are currently working on Batman #6,381. But he is still Batman. He is still Bruce Wayne. He is still going to have a bad night in an alley. He is still going to watch his pal Harvey Dent endure some haphazard facial reconstruction. He is still going to pick up a young ward after the worst time a circus could ever offer. As long as Batman is Batman, he is going to be towing around nearly a century’s worth of “necessary” continuity. Same for Superman. Same for Spider-Man. Same for Goku. Same for Mega Man X. Same for so many protagonists we have been recycling and repurposing for years and years. And, while everyone is always going to recognize the likes of Batman or Black Widow, every comic, movie, or television show is going to have to pay the corresponding price of telling the same stories and being beholden to a reality that may be horribly outdated. “Wealthy Playboy Bruce Wayne” had a very different meaning in 1939, but we are still stuck with it in 2021, when the idea of a billionaire that actually helps people seems less likely than a flying white man from space. But can Bruce Wayne be anything else? Maybe for an issue or two, but he will be back to “iconic” by the next movie premiere. What is even happeningThe audience demands that a Mega Man always works like a Mega Man, and the same demands are made of every new Batman. You can deviate in a story a little, but you better believe you need to be back on track by the time Martha Wayne is putting on her pearls.

So why not let Axl have his day in the sun? Why not let X retire? Why not let Batman die? The old stories will still be there for future generations, no one is suggesting we burn down the Marvel Library of Alexandria. But maybe we don’t need another retelling of Steve Rogers doing magical drugs until he got to punch Hitler. Maybe we can lay off the characters with decades of “stability”, and start something new. New people are born every day, so why not allow new heroes to headline breakfast cereals? Let X retire, and let Axl take up the torch. It will be new, different, and good for everyone.

… Though, come to think of it, if we are going to kill and replace Batman forever, maybe Abatmanl could get a better premiere experience than Axl….

FGC #596 Mega Man X7

  • System: Playstation 2 initially, and now available on any systems that host the second Mega Man X Legacy Collection. Switch? Playstation 4? Xbox One? Whatever works for you.
  • Number of players: You can switch between two Maverick Hunters, but only one person can control them at a time.
  • See it throughMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: I might like the concept of the plot, but this is the worst Mega Man X game ever. Mega Man X6 is terrible, but at least it is recognizable as a Mega Man X title. Mega Man X7 attempts to shoehorn 3-D movement into the franchise, and it fails miserably. X should not have to aim! And everyone is so… weak! Every opponent soaks about a thousand more hits than necessary, and Maverick bosses have lifebars that border on the infinite. And robots can fall down for some reason! Just a miserable game to play.
  • Worst Change of All Time: Zero’s jumping slash is now not a screw attack-esque spinning blade, but a simple forward slash. This makes Zero about as useful offensively as damp cheese.
  • Favorite Maverick: Flame Hyenard’s battle is ridiculous in all the wrong ways (terrible voice clips, a giant horse mech, some kind of duplication power), and could be number one just for the novelty alone. That said, my money is on Vanishing Gungaroo, as we apparently have a Maverick that finally figured out how to use Ride Armor for nefarious purposes. See, Flame, you only need one gimmick, not seventeen.
  • An end: Who cares about the ending when the final battle against Red is a 3-D recreation of the terrible final Dracula fight of Castlevania X? Teleportation and small platforms do not mix on a good day, but please do not also combine that with an X7-trademark unwieldly health meter. Oh, and it is the middle of a gigantic final stage also featuring every Maverick fight all over again? Awful.
  • Watch it, buddy: Thanks to a weird “off-week”, this game was technically “chosen” by our Tuesday Night Streams. Missed watching it the first time? Well, here, give it a go:


    Marvel as I find my sea legs via dying in that stupid Bamboo stage over and over again.

  • Did you know? The back of the box shows Mega Man X in the intro stage. This is impossible, as, even if you have X unlocked through New Game Plus, you cannot choose your character(s) for that opening stage. So maybe this is evidence X was always intended to be more included…
  • Would I play again: Man, if it wasn’t for the stream, this would have been the one game on the Mega Man X Legacy Collection I didn’t play ever. I am okay with never playing Mega Man X7 again, though.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! for the Nintendo Switch. It’s going to be a boxy good time! Please look forward to it!

Time to die
Just don’t respawn this time

FGC #566 Rockin’ Kats

Let's go catsHow much does the happiness of your protagonist impact your enjoyment of a videogame?

Today we are looking at Rockin’ Kats, a forgotten gem from the good folks at Atlus. Long before Atlus produced videogames about teenagers obsessed with the subconscious and/or time traveling, there was Rockin’ Kats, a game about a cat-man fighting a bunch of dog-men for his cat-lady friend. It seems that Willy, aka “The Rockin’ Kat”, has caught the attention of a local mob boss, Mugsy, and Will’s girlfriend, Jill, has been kidnapped. Willy thus must defeat four of Mugsy’s chief lieutenants across four different bases, and then make the final assault on Mugsy’s compound to save Jill once and for all. But don’t worry about Willy, gentle reader, he’s got a “punch gun” that can clobber bad guys, grab objects, and even double as a grappling hook. Combine this with Willy’s natural, NES-born ability to jump around like a maniac, and he should have Jill home and loving the Jazz Age by lunchtime.

And, likely as result of being a “late” Nintendo Entertainment System title, Rockin’ Kats is oozing personality. The entire adventure is presented as a series of television “episodes”, so there’s the distinct feeling that this whole story is less a “videogame”, and more of a syndicated cartoon akin to Tom & Jerry. Dog kidnaps cat, other cat fights dog, the day is saved, repeat in half hour intervals at 7 AM every weekday morning. What’s more, every sprite is impressive, so the individual mooks are distinctive, every mini boss is a unique challenge, and the bosses are memorable for more than their patterns. And Willy! That dude is just having a ball scampering through cities, mountains, and sewers! He bounds and punches and flips through the air with ease. I mean, take a look at this hep cat…

Just flipping away like it ain’t no thang, and then landing with a perfect little flourish that is sure to wow the judges. Willy might be in a life or death situation here, but that’s not the first thing on his kitty brain. Willy is not worried. Willy is enjoying it.

And that got this glorious blogger to thinking: how many other videogame heroes actually enjoy their jobs?

Let us start with the obvious: Simon Belmont does not enjoy being Simon Belmont. Poor ol’ barbarian does exactly what he is destined to do, and is literally cursed to carry around assorted organs for his job well done. Similarly, it is hard to imagine any other Belmont actually enjoying their sworn duty, as, best case scenario for all of them is the opportunity to probably not be run out of town on a cross. Maria might be the sole exception to this rule in Castlevania, as she openly and loudly volunteers for vampire-slaying duty, but she is all mopey about every godamned thing in time for Symphony of the Night, so it appears this job is destined to take a toll.

Super fun parkAnd speaking of generations taking a toll, there is Mega Man. The super fighting robot could have spent the rest of his days working as a maid, but he famously volunteered to pew down his former buddies. And then he did it 82 more times. Or more? Are we counting the teleporter fights? No matter! What’s important is that Mega Man 2 laid the groundwork for solemn Mega Men way back in 1988, which eventually led to The Melancholy of Mega Man X five years later. Now there’s a guy that hates his job! Mega Man X is literally the most powerful reploid on the planet, has a great support group of family and friends that are seemingly invincible/immortal, and he gets a new set of armor from his dad every holiday season; but he still spends most of his adventures sitting around moping about how the cannon on his arm only knows for sure when he’s finally going to stop crying. In short, if you are playing as Mega Man X, you are playing as a character that hates his life.

But it is not all bad for iconic heroes! Mario initially was wholly mute in his adventures, and it was up to the player to determine whether or not Mario was enjoying his switch in vocation from plumber to pouncer. But from Mario 64 on, Mario has been “wee”ing and “woohoo”ing across battlefields, and, give or take occasionally drowning in silent agony, Mario visibly enjoys his time rescuing princesses. Conversely, anytime Luigi is in a group, he hoots along with his bro, but when he is alone, he is an unmistakable mix of scared and annoyed (sca-nnoyed… no, wait, that’s just what happens when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones come on the playlist). Luigi does not like exploring a haunted house, houses, or a motel, and the only thing he is not afraid of is someone knowing he is afraid. But between the brothers, there is a beoveralled tie-breaker: Wario. Right from the first time he stole a whole damn castle, and then immediately afterward when he tried to steal another castle, Wario has squeezed enjoyment out of his job just as easily as squeezing a garlic bulb. You can tell from that omnipresent wicked grin that Wario is not going to let some malevolent genie or gang of pirates get him down, so he is enjoying every time he gets to be a protagonist.

That gorillaAnd, in the same way you can just know that Wario enjoys Warioing, having a happy protagonist can impact your feelings on a videogame. It is not a coincidence that Mega Man X(1), a game that just generally nods to X having some issues, is a more well received title than Mega Man X7, wherein X is so depressed, you have to fight just to get him to leave his lounger. Similarly, Super Metroid is a game wherein Samus experiences untold trauma (you ever accidentally wind up blowing up the planet you once called home? It isn’t great), but does not dwell on such. If you want Sad Samus, you have to hit Metroid: Other M, which you won’t, because there isn’t a person alive that would recommend that game. Sure, you could easily argue that these “sad” games have other factors that make them terrible, but there is a greater reason that people so vehemently defend why these games are bad. It is one thing to play a game that is bad, but it is another thing to play a game that makes your hero feel bad.

And if you need further proof of this, look no further than the Prince of Persia franchise from the early 21st century. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was an immensely popular game staring a hero that loved his job. Sure, this prince had screwed up the whole of his world to the point that he accidentally murdered his entire family and friends, but he also could rewind time and run up walls. And what could be more fun than that? The whole narrative conceit of Sands of Time is that Prince is practically bragging about his adventure, and any flubs or errant deaths are just “that didn’t really happen”. Prince likes being Prince. Meanwhile, the sequel, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within had the exact same gameplay, some improvements to the battle system, and a protagonist that would rather take an angry nap than fight a relentless sand monster. Guess what everyone focused on? Guess why IGN dropped Sands of Time’s 9/10 score to Warrior Within’s meager 8.5/10? (Look, that 0.5 meant a lot at the time.) The main reason was inevitably that this new, surly Prince was dramatically less fun to play as and with.

Hey, it's a fun sewerWe play videogames for fun, dammit. Unless the whole point of the game is oppressive horror (yes, my Bloodborne create-a-saddy might be scowling right now), your protagonist should be happy. What is the point otherwise? Do you get off on making shirtless, Persian men do whatever you say, despite their persistent objections? Because, uh… if you’re into that… maybe shoot me a private message. There are some titles on Steam…

Bah! Never mind that! Just remember that it is important that a game’s protagonist actually enjoys being the game’s protagonist. Luigi might get a title game every console generation or so, but he’s sure not the dude hosting endless kart championships. By the same token, Willy’s exuberance has undoubtedly made him the most popular hero ever produced by Atlus, and we’re all awaiting this Rockin’ Kat’s next adventure.

Keep on rockin’ a complete lack of angst, Willy.

FGC #566 Rockin’ Kats

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System for its first and only release. You could technically count its presence on a PlayChoice-10 as an arcade release if you really wanted.
  • Number of players: Just the one kat. A sequel would have probably introduced Milly Kat.
  • The haunted dobermanMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is a great NES action-platformer with a fun character and expressive sprites. It is also one of those gauntlets that somehow makes the final, fifth level as long as the other four stages combined. Complete with including every boss and mini boss! It is… an odd choice. But regardless of a final stage that may as well be the entire game, it is very entertaining, and a fine way to spend a couple of hours having fun with a grapplin’ cat.
  • An end: The final boss is defeated by punching Mugsy so hard, he is launched onto the moon. Very good, very dragon ball. But after the credits roll, you are presented with an even harder “second quest” that drops all your weapons and items, and will end after an extremely limited three lives. This is Rockin’ Kats: Super Hard Mode, and if you feel like finishing that, you are a better cat than me.
  • Favorite Weapon: The… what are they called?… Two Balls? Double Shot? Whatever, those two thingys extend your weapon’s reach just enough so as to make practically every boss a cakewalk. I enjoy cake, so that’s my weapon of choice, even if the mace really looks cool.
  • Favorite Boss: You cannot go wrong with a four-handed robot that eventually transforms into some bastardized version of Cut Man. Dr. Wily would be proud.
  • Eat your heart out, CastlevaniaDid you know? There are a few codes hidden in Rockin’ Kats. If you pause the game and press Down+A+B, you will have six lives and full health. If you pause the game and press Up+A+B, you will lose all of your lives, and only have one sliver of health remaining. Please remember to use the proper code for the proper situation.
  • Would I play again: This is a great NES game! I would really like to see what could have been done with Super Rockin’ Kats, but we do not live in such a glorious world. I suppose I will be content with what we have for now…

What’s next? The season of love is upon us, so it’s time for Wankery Week yet again! Come back Monday for some mildly NSFW hijinks as we take a look at whether or not some Smash Sisters should be allowed into a boys’ club!

Gotta fly fast
Another blue dude that very much enjoys his job.

FGC #561 Mega Man Network Transmission

We gonna MegaThe Mega Man franchise has become vaguely unwieldy. A simple game about running, jumping, and shooting at robots has quickly become a franchise juggernaut that now contains thirty years’ worth of titles spanning multiple genres, systems, and epochs. If you want the whole of the Mega Man experience, you need multiple consoles, hundreds of games, and maybe even some time to watch an anime or two.

Or you could just play 2003’s Mega Man Network Transmission. That game has got it all.

This is Mega Man Battle Network!

At the turn of the 21st century, a great many videogame franchises went through a bit of an identity crisis. Nintendo declared Bowser was dead, or a dad, or maybe some kind of skeleton monster. Zelda drowned all of Hyrule, and Kirby got into star racing. The pervading thought seemed to be that old franchises had to change and grow to compete with the new generation, and, while there were some standouts from this period of change (hello there, Metroid Prime), we mostly now look back and lament Mario being strapped to a water gun for an entire console. Don’t worry, 2002 Goggle Bob, we’d regain our somersault jumps in time…

However, one success from this time was the reimagining of Mega Man. Completely dropping the Mega Man storyline that had been inexplicably going since 1987 (a storyline that had, incidentally, wiped out humanity), Mega Man Battle Network told the tale of an alternate timeline wherein Dr. Light/Hikari ditched robotics and really got into his own cyber-sona. This led to universe where Mega Man was not a super fighting robot, but a super fighting digital assistant that was also Dr. Light’s grandson and was also controlled by Dr. Light’s other, human grandson. In this universe where apparently human babies can be converted into immortal digital slaves damned to watch as their fleshy twin grows, ages, and dies, there are also viruses and “evil” net navigators to be fought, so the official Mega Man of the digital generation has a lot more to handle than existential crises in any given adventure.

Mega Man Network Transmission is technically the fourth released Mega Man Battle Network title (fourth or so, there is a little wiggle room with some of the other games that year), but is firmly placed in the franchise’s story as Mega Man Battle Network 1.5. Shortly after Megaman.exe’s first adventure, a mysterious “Professor” pops into the picture, and releases a terrible virus across the net. Lan the Human and Megaman.exe the Undying scramble into action to save the day! But this adventure is a little different from their Gameboy Advance origins, as…

This is Classic Mega Man!

Book it!First and foremost, Mega Man Network Transmission was designed as a retro title that harkened back to the gameplay of the original Mega Man titles. This was the 15th Anniversary of the Mega Man franchise, and MMNT was intended as a throwback to that “old style” that had died with the Sega Saturn. So, whereas Mega Man Battle Network had always paid tribute with its cast of Fire Mans, Proto Mans, and Wilys, now it was going to include actual movement options that recalled those bygone days. Megaman.exe can run, jump, and even slide (slide, slide!). Continually charging while jogging through a maze is encouraged, and memorizing a boss pattern or two is the name of the game if you want to make some progress. There are even some imitations of classic stages involved, like everybody’s favorite Quick Man laser gauntlet. You love instant death? Of course you do! It’s classic gameplay/horrors all over again!

But it’s not all classic gameplay here. Some bits of Mega Man Network Transmission are downright prescient, like…

This is Mega Man Starforce!

Eat some chipsThe big draw of the Mega Man Battle Network franchise (aside from stupid, sexy Dr. Regal) has always been its unique battle gameplay. To quickly summarize what is ultimately a very complicated system, it’s basically a card game, but including action movement, and sometimes the cards have letters that allow you to use multiple cards at once, and I think there are “classes” involved, and sometimes they combine into an “advanced” version, but only if you have the right cards, and you can only get cards from fighting viruses, or maybe by playing a lottery, and if you don’t have any cards, then you can still attack with a basic laser, but that doesn’t have an element, except maybe if you used a class change to be a different color Mega Man, but you can’t switch that during battles, and wood beats electricity. See? It’s simple!

Mega Man Network Transmission streamlines the chip system by a fair amount, allowing you to equip multiple chips at once without fear of matching letters or elements or whatever. Ostensibly, this is because you are using the chips for a much longer time (it takes goddamn forever for that gauge to refill before upgrades) and in a much wider battlefield (in “normal” MMBN, you only ever have to handle a maximum of three viruses at a time), but it works out to a more simplified version of traditional MMBN battle chip challenging. And that’s great! MMNT was meant to bridge the gap between old, new, and people that had just watched the surprisingly popular anime for the franchise, so simple is good!

And you know what else utilized a simplified version of Mega Man Battle Network’s battle chip system? Mega Man Starforce, the “sequel franchise” to MMBN. Was this inspired by Mega Man Network Transmission? Probably not, but it was an acknowledgement that MMBN might have had a little too much cruft from the get-go, and that could only be jettisoned in a spin-off or sequel franchise.

So enjoy Mega Man Network Transmission’s battle system. It’s like living in the future!

And speaking of the future…

This is Mega Man X!

These things are dumbMega Man Network Transmission is supposed to harken back to the good ol’ days of Classic Mega Man, but there is a significant dosage of RNA here, too. For one thing, there’s the plot, and it features the Zero Virus. That sound familiar? Yes, our favorite Wily reploid is now a literal virus that is attempting to cause netnavis to go maverick. And, as one might expect, Zero starts off as the obvious antagonist, but transforms into a helpful dude over the course of the adventure. He might not have as much luxurious girl hair as in his other appearances, but it’s pretty clear that the guest star du jour is straight out of Mega Man X.

And that gorgeous robot-virus-thingy is not the only item borrowed from Mega Man X. There are a number of gameplay flourishes straight out of the Maverick Wars here, complete with the increased speed, the likelihood of using a double jump, and these weird wire things that no one ever remembers fondly (or, often, remembers at all). It was clear that even the classic series was adopting Mega Man X moves later in its life (hi, Mega Man & Bass), but there is more Mega Man X here than Mega Man, even if there aren’t as many stages that directly harken back to that franchise.

But while we’re on the subject of Mega Man’s pal, Zero…

This is Mega Man Zero!

He got a haircutThe number one complaint about Mega Man Network Transmission? It’s too hard. In some ways, this complaint was completely valid, as it was a huge pain to restart entire levels because you got wrecked by a bad boss matchup. Sure, that had always been the way a Mega Man game played anyway, but this was coming off a franchise that allowed for saving anywhere, and a population that had gotten used to Mega Man containing save states. A “back to basics” approach also invited a “back to difficult” style that a lot of 2003’s audience wasn’t expecting.

But this was exactly what Mega Man Battle Network’s 2-D brother on the Gameboy Advance had been reveling in all along. Mega Man Zero was “classic Mega Man” on the GBA before Mega Man Battle Network ever even thought of testing the boundaries of the genre, and, as many had noted, it was super-duper hard. Or, if it wasn’t hard, it at least expected a lot of the player. “Save points” (or 1-ups) were stretched few and far between, and health was always at a premium. In much the same way, MMNT requires your best offenses always be locked behind battle chips, and you are often left unprepared if you blow all your mighty cannons on some middling mouse opponent.

But that’s exactly where Mega Man Zero and Mega Man Network Transmission are so similar: they’re all about resource management. Unlike the original Mega Man games that only encouraged weapon energy rationing (and provided a pile of powerups to help with that), MMZ and MMNT both demanded much more administration from the player. Whether it is battle chips or cyber elves, an inexperienced player is practically required to figure out what works for getting through a level, and then utilize those assets only when absolutely necessary. Of course, that winds up having its own kind of learning curve (and Mega Man Zero’s persistent ranking system seems to punish the player for using any resources, so mixed messages there), so, yes, these games probably could be considered hard. But whereas you only had one Flash Stopper to skip through Quick Man’s gauntlet back in the day, newer takes on that challenge offer additional options to the observant player.

Unfortunately, the challenge of Mega Man Network Transmission really did work against it. While you could claim Mega Man Zero was made for “hardcore” fans, MMNT seemed to aim for a different audience. In fact, you could say…

This is a Mega Man Cartoon!

PointyMega Man has had a number of animated tie-ins through the years. There was that Ruby-Spears nonsense, the anime about saving Christmas, and (particularly relevant to this article) an entire anime based on the Mega Man Battle Network series. It was popular. It was so popular, it rivaled Yu-Gi-Oh for number of stupid card-based plastic wads that were released through tie-in merchandise. And, even better than Yu-Gi-Oh, you actually cared about the characters, so buying action figures was not off the table. Stick that Bass/Forte figure on your desk with pride, young one, as any digital personal assistant that wears a cloak has to be badass.

Mega Man Network Transmission seemed to be catering to the audience that watched that anime. This, the first MMBN to be played on console (and presumably a big screen television), was pretty as a princess riding an oddly attractive horse. It is cell-shaded, various viruses have twinkling auras, and Megaman.exe rarely looked so good (in 2003). It was a feast for the eyes, and the graphics style certainly seemed to be designed to appeal to anyone that was watching cartoons (as opposed to the more “realistic” graphics of its contemporaries).

What’s more, it had full voice acting (albeit, not in many languages), and an easy to follow plot that was more about making friends with your potential enemies than blasting robots into everlasting pieces. Whether it was difficult or not, the general presentation of Mega Man Network Transmission seemed to harken to the many times Mega Man had mega fun with his mega pals on the mega television screen.

Though if you really want to compare Mega Man Network Transmission to another Mega Man experience, you probably should consider…

This is Mega Man Legends!

ShinyMega Man Network Transmission, for one reason or another, was not received well. According to reviewers it was too difficult, too cartoony, and/or too different to survive. Or maybe it wasn’t different enough to be its own thing? Regardless of the reason, MMNT never saw a direct sequel to its distinct kind of gameplay, and the franchise moved on, never taking the time to look back at what might have been in the parallel universe where Mega Man Network Transmission was popular.

So, like Mega Man Legends never continuing again, Mega Man Network Transmission was a gaming dead end.

And nobody has gotten around to releasing it on modern consoles, either!

Mega Man Network Transmission is every Mega Man game all rolled into one. The good, the bad, and the heartache.

FGC #561 Mega Man Network Transmission

  • System: Nintendo Gamecube, and then never anything again. And Capcom loves porting titles!
  • Number of players: The Mega Man Battle Network series is usually two player, but, sorry, only one netnavi at a time here. We can’t always have Mega Man 7.
  • MONEY!Cold Hard Cash: If you want to even stretch it a little further, the frequent zenny coins scattered around the levels are very similar to how screws were used to tempt players in the Gameboy classic Mega Man titles (Mega Man Land?). That said, “Mega Man collects money” is something that seemed to show up all across the franchises eventually, whether that be through screws, alloys, or zenny again. So you’re not getting a full section, Gameboy Mega Man, but you do at least earn a bullet point.
  • What about Mega Man ZX? I guess you can summon bosses? I don’t know. Ask me again at some point when I haven’t typed “Mega Man” 66 times.
  • Favorite Rival Navi: If we’re going with any navi, I choose Shadowman.exe, because I am secretly a twelve year old that loves ninja. If we have to choose one distinctly created for this adventure, though, I’d pick Gravityman.exe. That dude was never going to work in the constrained, “who cares about gravity anyway” world of MMBN, and he feels vaguely weighty (ha!) as a foe. He big. He round. He’s an absolute unit of an opponent.
  • Favorite Chip: For the second game in a row, I’m going to choose the humble sword. I like getting up close and personal with my opponents, and sword chips are so plentiful here, Megaman.exe practically becomes Protoman.exe. Runner-up is the life virus aura, but that does feel like cheating.
  • Did you know? Zero appears and becomes the first Mega Man X character to enter the canon of Mega Man Battle Network, but he would later be joined by Colonel and Iris. Unfortunately, none of the main Mavericks ever had a chance to shine in Battle Network or Star Force, so Wire Sponge got robbed.
  • It's too bright in hereWould I play again: If I was stuck on a desert island, and could only play one (non-compilation) Mega Man title, I would choose this one to get my Mega fix. That said, it is by no means the best Mega Man game, nor is it the most accessible, so the odds of me actually playing it again are slim. But maybe if Capcom deigns to release it again, it could happen…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Q*Bert! The little orange hopping whatsit rides again! Please look forward to it!

FGC #448 Mega Man X4 & Mega Man X5

MEGA!Let us consider a simple truth: Mega Man X4 was the culmination of three iterations on the Mega Man X formula. And Mega Man X itself was the culmination of the many adventures of baby, regular Mega Man. With this in mind, it is appropriate to recognize Mega Man X4 the pinnacle of the Mega Man X franchise, and, by association, an all-time high point for the thirty year old franchise as a whole. In short, Mega Man X4 is the peak of the Mega Man X formula.

And then there was Mega Man X5. Mega Man X5 was originally intended as the final Mega Man X chapter, so it would have been appropriate for that title to be the crowning achievement. It wasn’t. It had… issues. What were they? Well, they were all simple variations on the typical Mega Man formula, and every single one of them turned out for the worse. They may have seemed like good ideas at the time, but to get this pity party started, Mega Man never needed…

Ducking is boring

I'll be right hereFor years (decades!) people complained about dear Rock Man’s inability to duck. Every other platforming hero could do it! What’s wrong with the Blue Bomber!? No, that silly slide doesn’t count! Sure, that cuts a few inches off the vertical real estate, but it’s not a substitute for good ol’ ducking and sitting. We want to see those bullets sail right over Mega’s helmet, not ping right into the metal chump’s face!

And Mega Man X5 finally introduced ducking for our dear X (and any robotic heterosexual life mates that may be around, too). And, while a great many of us rejoiced at this news, it did not work as well in practice as we had expected. It turns out the gameplay that was never built for ducking just plain wasn’t built for ducking. Whether by a fault of the current designers, or as in an effort to maintain the action of the previously established titles, the Mavericks of Mega Man X5 did not find fun ways to accommodate ducking. By and large, the number one place you’d find ducking in Mega Man X5 is against bosses that require crouching to avoid a certain attack… and then all you’re doing is… ducking. Ducking is boring! It’s just sitting there! It’s much more dynamic when Mega has to dash or slide to avoid an oncoming barrage, and ducking simply encourages doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. It doesn’t have a place in giant robot fighting! We were wrong to ask for ducking!

And you know what else we were wrong for asking for?

Switching characters doesn’t work

Buds!Mega Man X4 was the first Mega Man X game to allow the player to choose Mega Man X or Zero for venturing through the entire adventure (X3 made Zero a playable character, but he was limited to about three total rooms before inevitably exploding). This was a godsend… but it came with the unfortunate caveat that you were tied to your chosen hero for the entire adventure. Within the opening seconds of Mega Man X4, you chose your fate, and if you made the “wrong” choice, you’d have to start everything over all over again. Granted, Mega Man X4 wasn’t the longest game in the world (even by Playstation 1 standards), but it was still rather annoying that wanting to use the X-Buster against Cyber Peacock would mean you’d never even see Zero.

Mega Man X5 rectified this mistake, and X and Zero were freely selectable at any time. You want to switch between the two super buds every other level? Feel free! …. Actually, maybe you should do exactly that, because if you don’t, you’re going to be screwed come the final areas…

Not all Replopids are created equal, and, unfortunately, X & Zero live in a meritocracy. As per Mega Man X tradition, permanent powerups can be collected across levels. Regrettably, the majority of these powerups do not apply to both Maverick Hunters. And, given a number of those powerups can only be accessed by individual heroes wearing specific armor or using specific abilities, it is very easy to “unbalance” the hunter duo. In the end, you might wind up with an X that possesses 7 health upgrades, and a Zero that can barely survive a stiff breeze. And, while this might be thematically relevant for the series, it is something else entirely for being able to “freely” switch between characters. If X is going to have five times the health of Zero, then why ever choose Zero? There’s no choice at all when one choice is a walk in the park, and the other is attempting to survive instant death.

And this pairs horribly with…

Bosses have levels (and that’s awful)

This is gonna be a whileIt seems there was an attempt to mitigate the “separate powerups” issue… but it went horribly wrong.

Each and every Maverick “boss” has the potential to impart additional items upon defeat. Depending on the level of the boss, you could receive absolutely nothing, or something amazing, like a weapon powerup coupled with a health increase. But how do boss levels work? Apparently they are tied to defeating other Mavericks and your own hunter’s rank, so the longer you take before tackling a stage, the stronger its boss will become. This all seems well and good until you get to the sad, sad way that levels are implemented with bosses: it only increases their health. It does not change their attack patterns, add extra attacks, nor increase the damage dealt. It simply turns average Mega Man bosses into damage sponges of Yiazmattian proportions.

And you better believe that makes the final boss rematch area an absolute waste of a Maverick Hunter’s time and energy.

This would be passable if the Mavericks gained new moves at different health levels, or switched “stances”, or… something! But, no, it’s just the same fight, but much longer. What’s more, we’re looking at a Mega Man 7/X situation where the best weapon for the job often activates some kind of special animation or reaction, so things take even longer. Nobody wants to stand around and wait for Dark Dizzy to get flying again! There’s a T-Rex I have to deal with in the next room!

Then again, there’s a strong chance I won’t get to the next room, because…

Modular Armor is unpleasant

It's a kind of armor...In Mega Man X4, you had the choice of obtaining one of two weapon powerups. Much like X3’s “choose your golden powerup” system, this gave the player a marginal choice in steering X’s development. It may have been a teeny tiny choice, but it was a choice all the same, and I’m sure there are some people that swear by one arm powerup over the other. After all, there are always going to be people that pick something other than plasma/are wrong.

X5 decided to run with that concept, and presented not one, not two, but three completely different armors for X. X could utilize the “fourth” armor from X4 (complete with plasma attack, natch), the highly mobile Falcon Armor, or the… well… whatever was happening with the Gaea Armor. The Gaea Armor seems like it was intended to be the “strong” armor to Falcon’s “fast” armor, but its abilities are all over the place. You can stick to the walls like Spider-Man! You can push blocks with a dash! You’re invulnerable to spikes!(!!!) The only drawback is that you can’t use special weapons, and you can’t air dash. That’s fine, right? No big deal! It’s not like entire levels are based around possessing either the air dash, double jump, or special weapons to make it through areas. It’s not like equipping the Gaea Armor will make certain areas almost completely unwinnable.

Oh? It does do that? And you can’t unequip an armor if it isn’t working out for a level? Oh. Well, that’s not very well-thought-out.

And that’s Mega Man X5 in a nutshell. Mega Man X4 was an excellent culmination of everything in the franchise, and Mega Man X5 decided to toss a lot of failed experiments into the mix. Later games would go on to perfect some of these decisions (Mega Man X8 is particularly good for character switching, and Mega Man Zero offered variety in boss fights), but, as a game that was intended as the finale of the X series, X5 falls far behind its predecessor.

Mega Man X4 might be the best in the franchise. Mega Man X5 veered too far off that path to be the best.

FGC #448 Mega Man X4 & Mega Man X5

  • GET IT!?System: Playstation initially, and then ported to everything that could support it through various compilations and digital releases. Including, but not limited to: every Sony platform, Gamecube, Xbox, Switch, and probably the N-Gage at some point.
  • Number of players: X and Zero may only be controlled by one player.
  • Other issues: Oh yeah, Mega Man X5 introduced Alia, who constantly interrupts the gameplay to provide important information like “shoot things” or “duck under boiling lava”. She’s largely a pest in this adventure, but I can’t fault the game too much for trying to be more inclusive for the kiddies that might need a little extra help. It was only the fifth game in the series, it’s not like there was any precedent for how to play the thing…
  • Further Issues: My bad, Mega Man X4 can’t be the best in the series, as it, like its descendants, has an annoying vehicle stage. But Mega Man X5 did introduce the concept of having to collect a bunch of stupid doodads on an instant death track, so it is still somehow worse.
  • Favorite Maverick (X4): Storm Owl. Say it with me now: Storm Owwwwwl.
  • Pew pewFavorite Maverick (X5): I appreciate that Mattrex is a weapons dealer before the virus drives him mad. When you’re an enormous, flaming dinosaur living in a volcano, there are only so many vocations open to you.
  • Did you know? I am required by law to note that the original names for the Mavericks of Mega Man X5 were all Guns ‘n Roses references, and they were suggested by the localizer’s wife. I should also note that all these names were dropped for the most recent X compilations, so Axel the Red is forever lost to time. More’s the pity.
  • Would I play again: Both of ‘em are a solid yes. Mega Man X5 may have made some poor choices, but it’s still a mega game. And X4 is exactly the kind of thing we’re all fighting for.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Cave Story! Oh boy! Caves! Please look forward to it!

Stupid devil