Mega Man ZX DS Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Nintendo DS, Reviews

Fact: there have been over 100 games featuring Mega Man since his “birth” in 1987. His popularity is such that his brazenly blue behind has been featured in anime, manga and a whole plethora of spin-off titles. In fact, the azure android has more of a back-story than even the most long-running of more modern story-driven franchises. Essentially, however, the games have stayed true to Mega Man’s humble origins; running, jumping and blasting all manner of evil robots, to free up a path to the level’s inevitable boss encounter – hardcore platforming action to the core.

With Mega Man ZX, the advent of the latest Mega Man series of games, not much has changed. From first impressions, the game still revolves around jumping, running and blasting. Mega Man is still blue, and still can’t shoot any way but forwards. So far, so good, at least from a retro purist perspective. The graphics are excellent, with highly detailed sprites and backgrounds, along with clean, clear menu systems and a lot of well-animated, extraordinarily varied enemies to blast into shrapnel. The ravaged cityscapes in particular appealed to me, with deliciously cracked and chasm-like freeways to leap across, and abandoned cars to blast. Maybe that’s just me, though. It reminded me of my delightful Belfast childhood.

*ahem*

So, the graphics are good. Capcom obviously put some thought into things. Nice little graphical touches, such as the way cars sink into their suspension when you jump on them, or the funny little Japanese anime videos that occur during important plot points, really bring the game to life. However, as the cliché goes, graphics aren’t everything. For Mega Man ZX to have any lasting appeal, the gameplay must be top-notch. Fortunately, Capcom would have struggled to make a mess of the Mega Man formula. The platforming element is as pleasurable as always, with a real sense of achievement coming from conquering a particularly difficult section of precision jumping. Furthermore, the combat is fast-paced and fun. As already mentioned, Mega Man can’t shoot up. It isn’t very clear why. Possibly his gun-arm rusted up during the twenty years he’s been on the go. Who knows? As a game-play mechanic, it means that half the battle is getting a vantage point from which you can actually hit your enemy, before moving to dodge their slow-moving projectiles. Your opponents all move and fire to pre-determined patterns. Gears of War-quality AI it might not be, but the old-school appeal is absolute.

The plot of Mega Man ZX is surprisingly intriguing. Following on from the previous games in the series, this iteration sees you take control of either a boy named “Vent” or a young lady named “Aile”, 200 years after the end of the last series. Apparently, humanoids and Reploids now live in harmony. Further gibberish occurs as maverick robots (known collectively as Mavericks, handily) start attacking, while a shadowy corporation known as Slither Inc. attempt to keep order. Rather unsurprisingly, Slither Inc. turn out to be quite nefarious as well as shadowy, though what people expected from a large conglomerate with a name like “Slither”, I’m not sure. The player comes into contact with biometal, a high-tech remnant of old warriors from aeons past, that literally give Mega Man a fresh breath of life. Not only does it actually bring Mega Man back to life, but collecting the various shards of biometal give him new abilities. Fairly early on, a new weapon beyond the blaster opens up. Mega Man was cool enough with a gun, but with a sword that chops enemies in half? Defeating bosses gives you access to new Mega Man models, with new weapons and abilities. These new abilities are the only way in which the touchscreen is used in Mega Man ZX. Aside from triggering these bonus weapons, the game is controlled entirely by the DS’s buttons and D-pad. For a platformer, though, this isn’t much of a handicap.

Another interesting aspect of Mega Man ZX is the actual layout of the world in which you battle. Missions are accepted from terminals scattered throughout the environment. After receiving the brief and location of the target, it’s entirely up to the player to navigate the world and track down their objective. The world is laid out in zones, through which you will have to battle many times on your travels. It may sound tiresome to have to move through the same environment time after time, but in fact, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be found in traversing familiar territory in order to use your new abilities to open up new areas. Furthermore, by offering multiple missions at once, the player is given a sense that the game is non-linear to a certain degree.

If you’re after a game that will entertain you throughout those boring summer holidays, or if you’re looking for a retro rush of nostalgic, yet fresh gameplay, Mega Man ZX is your game. It’s perfect for short action-packed blasts, and will always leave you hankering for more, and the lack of fancy 3-D visuals is more than made up for by quality, solid gameplay. So long as the cheesy plot and the occasional frustration of getting lost on the way to a mission doesn’t bother you, Mega Man ZX will provide hours of enjoyment.

8/10

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