Words can't express my love for this fucking bird.
I’m just gonna go ahead and say this: I believe that Storm Eagle’s level, from Mega Man X, is the greatest level in any action/shooter video game. It’s one of the best levels from what I’d call my favorite game ever created. It’s got everything that Mega Man X exemplifies (interesting level designs, an assload of secrets, killer boss battles, BEST MUSIC EVAR) in one single level. Plus, it’s one of the only levels in the game THAT AFFECTS ANOTHER LEVEL! Come along, and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.
Mega Man X is the story of X, a Mega-Man-like robot Dr. Light created 30 years ago, who’s brought back to life. He is then used in a squad known as The Maverick Hunters to quell the rebellion of evil robots known as the Mavericks, and their leader, Sigma. One of these robots is Storm Eagle, an avian-type robot whose home base is at Airport 1001. Get ready; I'm about to cram your face-hole with some awesome:
1. The Music
Do yourself a favor: listen to this on a constant loop while reading this.
If you’ve never heard the Storm Eagle theme music (which plays over this level), kill yourself. You haven’t lived properly until you’ve been introduced to one of the best themes in all of gaming. From the grinding guitar solo opening it, to the twinkling keyboard in the background, this song delivers the intensity you expect from a Mega Man song. Fuck you Mega Man 2 lovers: the best MM music is here.
2. The Level Design
Yeah, you fucking destroy this building...somehow.
Oh sweet God, is this level frustrating. But, that’s where its charm lies: you get such a thrill beating it. This level, being a sky-themed level, is all about floating platforms. It all starts out with a conveyor-belt-like platform system that raises you up past a few ledges to the billboard of the airport. Then, after you destroy a turret on a hydraulic lift, you can either run along the roof of the building you’re on, or go on the lift to another building, where an Energy tank (and pretty cool effect) is. After shattering that building, you get to Death Valley. If you’re not experienced, or rush yourself here, you WILL die, A LOT. It’s a series of floating platforms, with a flame-throwing robot every other platform. I can’t tell you how many times this area caused me problems. After this, you’ve got another building to climb up, some platforms to rush through, then you reach Storm Eagle’s airship. Interestingly enough, it’s the same airship that brought your nemesis Vile down upon you in the opening level. After making your way down the airship, you fight one of the best robot battles in all of Mega Man.
3. The Boss
First, some back story for those that might not know: Storm Eagle was the leader of the Maverick Hunter Air Force, and once a good friend of X. He was a respectable and noble fighter. Then, once Sigma rose to power, it was his duty to follow his former leader’s commands and become evil. This isn’t explained at all in the game itself (you find out about it in the movie in MMX: Maverick Hunter, the PSP port, which is fucking amazing), but it’s still an interesting facet of the character that makes him even more badass. As for the fight itself, rather than fight him in a little room, X and Storm Eagle duke it out on top of a FLYING AIRSHIP. The whole time, you have to contend with wind from Eagle’s wings, his tornado attack, an egg that releases 4 of his minions, and, the scariest attack in his arsenal, his dive-bomb. Once defeated, you receive the Storm Tornado, one of the best weapons in the game.
4. The Secrets
MMX is known for having a wide variety of secrets, upgrades, and power-ups. There’s the Heart Containers that increase your health capacity, Energy Tanks that hold your energy to be used later, and Suit Upgrades that increased everything about X. Airport 1001 has all of these. You can grab a Heart Container right off the bat, an Energy Tank in the middle of the level, and the Helmet upgrade towards the end (though, to be honest, it’s the most useless upgrade in the game). Also, if you have the right weapons, you can get 2 extra lives that will always appear on the level. So, there’s that.
5. SAS (Stage Affection Syndrome)
You've gotta be fucking kidding me...
One of the most interesting aspects of MMX that a lot of people overlook is something I call Stage Affection Syndrome. SAS is caused by defeating one of 3 enemies in the game: Chill Penguin, Launch Octopus, and, of course, Storm Eagle. The main symptom of SAS is changing the make-up of another level. For instance, if you kill Chill Penguin early on, Flame Mammoth’s stage will be completely frozen over. Storm Eagle’s symptom affects Spark Mandrill’s stage. Normally, when playing through the first part of the stage, sparks shoot through these glass tubes under you, damaging you in contact. If you kill Storm Eagle before entering the level, though, his airship (that you fucking fought him on) has FUCKING CRASHED INTO THE LEVEL, destroying the tubes, and eliminating the sparks!!! On top of that, the beginning area has a sweeping blackout, making it a bit harder to see where you’re going. My mind was blown the fuck away when I found out about SAS as a kid, and Storm Eagle’s symptom is the coolest form of the disease in the game.
(Skies of Arcadia)
Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem
(Zombies Ate My neighbors)
Temple Of Ice
(LoZ: Phantom Hourglass)