For those reading one of my DS review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
The DS is one of the greatest consoles ever, and it had a massive games library. Despite playing a lot of DS games a huge number of great under-appreciated games flew under the radar. This series attempts to review those games and see if they should have had more time in the spotlight.
Without further ado, here is:
Mega Man ZX
Developer: Inti Creates.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
Fans of the Mega Man X series were surprised by the release of the Mega Man Zero games on the Game Boy Advance. I am sure very few people expected a series of such quality, difficulty, and precision in control.
While the excellent Mega Man Zero reached its conclusion on the GBA, its spirit continued in Nintendo's portable consoles with this game, which is a worthy successor in some ways, while in others, some steps forward were actually steps into tedium.
"The chosen few are the shepherds for guiding the flock in a new world"
The story takes place decades (and maybe centuries) after the events of the Zero series in an ostensibly better world. Yet, it's not all trouble-free, as the world still suffers from the occasional Maverick raid.
You have the choice of the player character from a boy (Vent) or a girl (Aile), which has minor effects on the story but none on the gameplay. Either character starts the game the same, as a "Transporter" transporting an important piece of cargo when a Maverick attack turns things south. Luckily for the player characters, the piece of cargo they are carrying is the "Biometal" of Mega Man X, which fuses with them at the time of danger, granting them the powers and abilities of X.
And eventually the cooler powers of Zero
The story then progresses into a pursuit of other "Biometal" forms, which are basically sentient orbs of power that contain the forms of previous heroes in the franchise with the "Z-Form" being the first one you find next. Meanwhile, the bad guys (who are immediately obvious by the way) are trying to revive the ultimate evil Biometal, Model-W.
Admittedly, there are good parts to the story and characters, but it honestly never reaches the heights of the Mega Man Zero series. First, either hero does not convince in their roles compared to the legendary awesomeness of the original Zero. Second, the supporting characters are not as interesting, and stakes do not seem to be high enough.
Overall, it's a serviceable story that is a step down from the deeper and better series.
Weak Central Character: -2
Servicable Story: +1
"Brave! Hardly. I just know if I didn't at least try, I'd always regret it"
Classically, the Mega Man formula evolved to consist of an introductory stage, then eight stages with bosses, and finally a series of harder stages just before the gauntlet fights and the final boss. The Mega Man Zero series shook things up a bit by having the stages being a part of interconnected world, but the connections were linear and didn't require much backtracking.
In Mega Man ZX, the game leans heavily into the Metroidvania genre, offering a large interconnected world with robot bosses giving key (instead of power-ups) that gradually open more of the map. The game also leans into the "Transporter" theme by providing a number of side quests (with most being fetch-quests).
This by itself dilutes the typical Mega Man experience, creating many areas which you need to backtrack through and loosing the focused stage development that is paramount to an Action Platformer. Designing the game as a Metroidvania meant that each of the key stages became actually shorter and less satisfying.
Damn, I am lost and now its raining
However, what kills the concept is the "Mission" structure the game opts to use. Simply, each and every mission, including the stupid fetch-quests, must be activated in a terminal before it becomes active. This marriage between traditional stage structure and Metrodivanias ends up diluting both.
Thankfully, the gameplay is still great, with a lot of fast movement options and the basic bad-ass vibes of the Mega Man Zero series. One shake-up that again is more of a step back than forward is the inclusion of the other Biometal forms. Model "Z" is going to be your bread and butter, but Model "H" is super useful for aerial movement but its weak attacks leave you vulnerable. I just wish you could have modded the basic form with extra functionality.
Metroidvania Concepts Dilutes the Gameplay: -4
Still Good Gameplay: +2
"I can't wait in the sidelines wiping my tears away while the world falls to pieces"
Once you get through the hassle of accepting a mission and getting into a stage, the game once again becomes closer to the core Mega Man experience. With a focused stage with a consistent them and a boss battle at the end.
One thing I enjoyed is that each stage had a mini-boss, with most being good fun.
Yet, they are surely no match for the main bosses of each stage, which are mostly great. In the Mega Man Zero series, there are no big elemental weaknesses that instantly renders a difficult fight east. Instead, each fight is competitive from beginning to end. In ZX, a great addition to each boss is a weak point in their body that has a satisfying clank every time you slash it.
And a satisfying clank when you shoot them (sometimes)
This is the point where I should address criticisms about the game's difficulty, which I dismiss outright. Not only is the game less difficult than the original Mega Man Zero series, but it also provides an easy mode and several tanks to help you circumvent whatever challenges the game throws at you.
On another note, I wish there was an option to play those fun mini-games in the title screen or something instead of having to go through several in-game screens.
Great Boss Battles: +4
Fun Side Games: +1
"It is time to see the legend in action"
With Inti Creates helming the production, quality sprite work and background graphics are expected, and they don't disappoint here. Simply put, the graphical works and animations are very well-done, with an excellent design sensibility on top of that quality work.
Compared to the GBA games, which still had a lot of charm and quality despite the weaker console, the DS games are an obvious evolution in form. Still, the game still is too zoomed-in, with some enemies hiding at the edges of the screen shooting at you while you dash forward.
This is a minor nitpick when the game world is as well-realized as here, especially with all the suitable sound and visual effects that accompany the kinetic action of the game.
Always fun to slash a robot into two
Of course, this is also accompanied by an amazing soundtrack that doesn't betray the franchise's quality standards. Tracks are varied and express different moods, but most are designed to pump you up for action, and they succeed at doing that.
My favorite tracks are "Onslaught (Attack on Guardians)", "Green Grass Gradation (Area A-Forest)", and "Misty Rain (Area I-Imprisonment)".
Very Good Graphics: +4
Very Good Music: +4
It says something about the game that its biggest weakness is its biggest addition. By tinkering with the well-worn format of the series, Mega Man ZX added in a lot of busywork that detracted from the excellent gameplay.
Honestly, just by removing the "Mission" structure, the game would have improved a lot. At least, it wouldn't have hidden the great gameplay, graphics, and music behind some repetitive nonsense.
Looking Back at Destructoid's Review:
This was pre-Dtoid DS release.
I am generally not interested in the sales of the games I like, and I don't measure my penis size through the success of games I like. However, sales data is interesting in studying market trends, people's general interest, marketing strategy, genre effect, and other factors. Which is why I am going to check the sales data of every modern game I review (Gen 4 and beyond).
If anyone is wondering now why the Mega Man series went under a cliff at the start of the last decade, they should go and review the sales numbers of their key games in that period. Mega Man ZX was a high seller at 300K Units Sold, but that was a point were game releases were blending together and games of the same series cannibalized the sales of each-other.
There is a cool secret boss fight, don't miss it
1- Start missions at the terminal closest to the mission location.
2- Grind for lives before the final mission.
3- Use the "F" frame to shoot vertically up (you can manipulate the shot trajectories.
4- Use the "L" and "P" frames to look for secrets.
5- The "ZX" frame is your best offensive weapon.
6- The great majority of side quests are a colossal waste of time.
For Previous DS game Reviews:
For More Screenshots: