The Mega Man X titles for the Super Nintendo are some of the best examples of two-dimensional gaming we have. Capcom, infamous for milking a franchise, raised the Mega Man formula they had been cultivating on the NES by a power of two and brought us Mega Man X in ?93, delivering a new focus to plot, graphics, gameplay, design and control. As is natural with better technology and a new direction, a sort of dimensionality was opened up in the formula, giving the player the freedom to dash through the air, climb and use walls strategically, and seek out hidden items. The platforming elements found thus far in the Mega Man series went from being something rudimentary to something spatially complex in the scope of two-dimensional level design. Following it was X2, possessing the same high-quality gameplay and graphics as its predecessor, but also featuring one of the best soundtracks in all of video games, even if you consider just the melodic quality. X3 showed a decline in overall presentation (music, design), but it was still a rather strong showing from the design team at Capcom. Then came the PS-era Mega Man X games: X4, X5, and X6, in descending order of quality. These six games and more make up the new compilation from Capcom, Mega Man X Collection.
The most obvious question or concern with a game of this type is whether or not it is a straight port or a remake, or to what degree is it both. I?ll give it to you straight: each are straight ports, at least as straight as you can make them from console to console, intended controller to current controller. The fact that Capcom decided not to embellish or polish anything will appease the hardcore fan; however, the controls will not. Of course, the purist subset of the hardcore will not be playing this one, opting for the original, unemulated experience and original controllers.
As far as straight ports and emulation quality, Capcom does an apt job in delivering this compilation to your Gamecube. In fact, I noticed in some cases that some events that used to slow down on the SNES Mega Man X games (some enemies exploding when defeated for example) no longer do, instead playing out at normal frame rates. Not that this is important: the MMX games had only sporadic moments of slow-down to begin with. I did notice graphical glitches that I had never encountered before on the originals, most notably a quite heinous one on a time-dependent stretch of stage in MMX3, where the screen was painted with random graphical artifacts that reminded me of when my NES would screw up back in the day. Just to note, this MMX3 is the Saturn port, not the SNES. Nevertheless, those occurrences seem very few and far between. It is the emulation of a few sound effects that this compilation noticeably fails to duplicate accurately. Additionally, the relative volume levels amongst the various MMX installments and of the various kinds of sounds within the games is offsetting. For instance, the main menu interface theme and sound effects are loud, while the actual sound content in the games is not. (Quite a bit of MMX2‘s sound effects are drowned out by the soundtrack.)
A more serious issue than the emulation quality, though, is controlling the X games with the Gamecube controller. Given the arrangement of buttons and the fact that all the X games on this collection were designed with an SNES-style controller in mind (which is what the PS controller is based off of), quite a bit of discomfort crops up for the player. By default, the dash button is set to ?x?. I suspect that, like me, people who grew up with this series on the SNES developed a technique of holding a charge in X?s buster while being able to dash through the air. This required using only your thumb to manipulate three buttons at one time ? but hey, it worked. This task seems virtually impossible or at least impractical with the default control. Therefore, in order to do this important task of being able to dash while holding in a charge, you will have to change the default controls at the start screen, maybe changing the dash to the ?r? button. The problem with this choice is that you are required to press the ?r? button so far down to get it to work; it just feels clunky. The ?z? button would be more appropriate, but it doesn?t allow you to map anything to it, at least in X1–X3. To compound this issue of control is the fact that you have to map the controls the way you like it EVERY time you start the game up, as it doesn?t allow you to save it to the memory card.
A brief overview of the gameplay found in the X franchise follows: Much like all successful franchises that underwent additions and modifications to their basic structures from NES to SNES, or from two dimensions to three, the Mega Man X series introduced some new ideas and improved other existing concepts. Since its beginning on the Nintendo Entertainment System, the game has always conisted of side-scrolling shooting action with platforming. You chose a stage to play?one built around themes of the stage?s boss?and then you navigated the various jumps and tackled the robotic obstacles until you made it to the boss. Beat him, get his power, use it on other bosses. Then you played through a multi-tiered final boss dungeon. This same premise was translated over to the X series. What X offered was an elaboration on the formula, more emphasis on everything from the platforming to the fighting; throw in some exploration and plot?all constructed by the hands and minds of more skilled designers and better technology–and there you have it.
If you muster the skills to beat X1, X2 and X3 (no small task), you will unlock Mega Man Battle and Chase, a PS1-era, 3d kart racer. It is a mildly fun derivative of the Mario Kart series that features a neat parts system. This game was never released in the US and makes for a decent distraction from the intense 2d-action that comprises the rest of this collection Other unlockables include pieces of an art gallery. Sadly, there is not much beyond those two pieces of content, a far cry from what was offered in the last Capcom Mega Man compilation.
To be honest, the score for this game hardly applies or is accurate if you consider the nature of a collection of games like this, so don?t put too much weight into it. My suggestion is to get the PS2 version of Mega Man X Collection if you have a PS2 because of the controller; if not, get the Gamecube version if you don?t have access to the original versions. For those of you who were too young or didn?t play the SNES Mega Man X titles for whatever reason, get the collection and enjoy this particular breed of 2d gameplay. What?s not to love about games where you play as a robotic savior who must navigate his way through an augmented, mechanized, futuristic Earth filled with bottomless pits and ditches of conical metal honed to sharp points that threaten your success, all played to rocking and memorable tunes? This is Mega Man X–enjoy the ride in all its two-dimensional glory.