Mega Man X is an action platformer from Capcom released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States in 1994. In the years since ‘94 Mega Man X has been subsequently released on DOS computers, Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, IOS and even a remake on Sony PlayStation Portable. From the first sounds of the Capcom logo to Dr. Cain’s computer and the main menu theme, Mega Man X pushes the nostalgia to 11. But just how good is this retro classic?
Mega Man X tells the story of a new breed of robot known as reploids. X, the last creation of Dr. Thomas Light, was the first reploid created. Fearing the abilities of his creation Dr. Light sealed X away. After an undisclosed amount of time Dr. Cain, another robotics inventor, discovers X in the remains of Dr. Lights lab. Realizing X’s advanced abilities, Dr. Cain has reploids mass produced to better humanity. Because reploids can think and feel and grow like humans many became prone to criminal behavior; these reploids become known as Mavericks. Eventually, an elite reploid force known as the Maverick Hunters is established to put a stop to Maverick activities. Dr. Cain creates Sigma, a reploid with systems immune to Maverick behaviors, to lead the Hunters. One day, the unthinkable happens and Sigma turns Maverick and takes over an island with eight of his strongest reploids. Feeling responsible for Sigma’s betrayal, X joins with the new leader of the Hunters, Zero, to take on the threat of Sigma and his Mavericks.
Mega Man X builds on the gameplay of the previous six Mega Man games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The basics are all here: run, jump, shoot, get the weapons from the eight fallen stage bosses, and then head to the final showdown with Sigma. New mechanics introduced with X include hidden body and health upgrades hidden in certain stages. One of the new upgrades is a dash ability, which speeds up gameplay. X also introduced a wall climbing mechanic which added a new sense of verticality to stages compared to their NES forbearers. Over the years both new mechanics have been used to find tricks or been exploited by players in interesting ways for players to beat the game faster, making this game fun to watch speed runs of if you’re into that sort of thing. Stages also have a dynamic element which changes the way they play based on what order you beat them in. Beating Launch Octopus adds water to Sting Chameleons stage. Beating Chill Penguin freezes the lava in Flame Mammoths stage. If you are having difficulty beating a certain stage, try to beat others and come back to the one you were stuck on; something may have changed! For you Easter egg hunters out there Capcom also hid a fun Street Fighter reference for you to find and exploit!
The sound quality in Mega Man X is top notch. Each level has its own distinct and catchy song, Storm Eagles stage theme being a personal favorite. Sound effects are also extremely crisp; shooting, normal shots and charged, dashing, jumping, damage and explosions are all very distinct. Some levels are unfortunately affected by too much reverb which does detract from the overall quality of the sound experience. The reverb effect is not present in the GameCube and PlayStation 2 version however.
Being a 16-bit era game the graphics are dated by today’s standards. Even compared to other SNES games of the time the graphics are nothing to write home about. Sprites are pixilated but show off the retro charm and colors that made the era great. Backgrounds likewise are interactive and colorful. Each of the enemies have their own unique look and bosses got to show off how much bigger SNES game sprites could be compared to NES. Some level enemies even make a return from the prior Mega Man games in new 16-bit glory!
Mega Man X represents a revival in an aging formula that resulted in a great success. Despite some levels being a little less exciting than others, X delivers on every aspect. Mega Man X is a retro classic easily in my top five favorite games of all time.
TL:DR Go play this game!
Alright, I convinced you, huh? How can you play this game?! Mega Man X has been released on numerous platforms and each has its positives and negatives.
Choosing which version is best for you:
SNES (~$40) – The original version of this great classic. Best graphics but prone to lag.
Wii/Wii U Virtual Console ($8) – Identical to SNES but graphics are filtered which results in a slightly more blurred look.
GameCube/PlayStation 2 (~$45/~$10) – Includes X 1-6, a new save function, and lag has been eliminated. Graphics are filtered which results in a slightly more blurred look.
DOS (~$13) – Avoid… Just don’t do it… No No No…
IOS ($5) – Barely better than DOS, gameplay-wise, but graphics are remastered.
PSP (~$10) – Complete remake of the original with new 3D graphics, cut scenes, and stage layouts. This version is not covered in this review.
My favorite way to play Mega Man X is on either the original SNES cart or the GameCube version. But, for the best bang for your buck, grab the PS2 version.