The year is 21XX and the world is in disaray. The brilliant Dr. Cain discovered the mysterious robot, Megaman X, in the ruins of a century old laboratory. Having activated this shockingly sophisticated machine he replicates the technology to make new robots. These robots however begin to disobey orders and start hurting humans. Dubbed Mavericks, these renegade robots have to be destroyed by Maverick Hunters.
The moody lighting and the perpetual frowns of the enemies set the scene.
When the Super Nintendo was released, it was a common practice to create upgrades and new spins for old series. This typically involved putting the word ‘Super’ in front of the title of the game (Super Castlevania, Super Mario World, Super Turrican, or Super Robot Taisen Gaiden – Masou Kishin – The Lord of Elemental). Megaman X was the new game for Super Nintendo meant to reboot the Mega Man series and it’s got an ‘X’ in the title, so you know it’s got to be cool (So cool it doesn’t even need ‘super’ in the name). The jump to the SNES was not seemless. The new powerful technology left Capcom a little lost. The new sound chip allowed more advanced compositions and the artists were shocked with the much more advanced and diverse pallet at their disposal. The increase in technology was almost paralyzing.
The main name associated with the development of the the Mega Man series is Keiji Inafune. He is the most vocal of the Megaman team but he is only the lead artist, not a programer or designer. There was a lot of debate on what to do with the Megaman X series. Roleplaying games were getting big but Keiji wanted the game to stick to its action game roots. That being said, Keiji wanted to create a giant difference in the main character of the game, thus Zero was created. Zero was originally meant to be the main protagonist, his red toned armor being a stark contrast to the original Megaman’s blue armor. After some thought however Keiji decided not to rock the boat so much and made him a very important side character instead.
This is Zero. He doesn’t use that sword until the 3rd game for some reason.(What’s the hair for?)
The villain in this game is also completely different from Dr. Wily, the villain in the original series. Wily has a quality that makes him difficult to hate, he’s cowardly and bumbling at times. He turns to dirty tricks instead of true ingenuity. Sigma on the other hand was not going to be like this. He was designed to be bitterly evil, vicious in combat, brutal in tactics, conniving in strategy, and utterly undying. Wily surrenders when he’s cornered, Sigma persists when he is “destroyed”. Sigma was also able to be destroyed because he’s not a human and as we all know, if it doesn’t have flesh then it’s not really violent.
Megaman X was released in December of 1994 against Heretic for the PC, Master of Magic for the PC, and Donkey Kong Country for the SNES.
Holy hell, this game was a huge part of my childhood. When I started it and couldn’t get past the first level for a few days. I had a difficult time figuring out how to jump up a wall. When I first played I figured that these were men in robot suits, so I didn’t figure that wall jumping was possible. I was so amazed that I had learned this skill all on my own. The opening fight with Vile and his giant robot suit. I was so terrified. He moves so fast and hits so hard, I had no idea how to defeat him. I died 3 times before I got caught by his stunning net and the game continued. I remember seeing Zero blow off the arm of Vile’s suit and jet in to the rescue. I saw Zero’s blond hair streaming through the air and thought, “That’s the character I want to be. How do I play as that guy?” I played through the introduction a few more times trying to defeat Vile’s giant robot suit but it’s an impossible fight (Litterally impossible, X is supposed to lose).
This game was pretty tough, so tough that I used to ask my father to help me with it sometimes. He was the one that taught me that certain bosses were weak to other boss’ attacks. He called out, “Use the boomerangs on the Chameleon there.” That blew my mind! I thought that the weapons were just useful for hitting certain targets, not for completely wiping out bosses. My father and I would also look around, trying to find all the secrets, all of the health increases and Emergency Tanks. I would bring him in to read some of the words that I didn’t understand, like the weapon names (I get how Shotgun Ice is a weapon but Chamelon Sting still eludes me) and the uprgrade dialogues. We journeyed together, defeating all 8 bosses and getting to Sigma’s lair. I remember watching Zero’s death but I was in such denial that I thought he had “teleporter out” as opposed to fading away. But it was around this time that my father got a little out of his league, so was I for that matter. I remember reaching Sigma once at that age and then I got trashed by Sigma’s dog no less (My friends and I agree though, that dog is the hardest part of that fight). I would pick it up occasionally but I never thought about getting to the end, I never thought about beating the game. I had been defeated by his dog, not even Sigma himself. I thought I just wasn’t good enough.
I gave it another shot though when I was about 14. I was nearly twice as old and more than twice as skilled. I remembered so many thing I’d thought I had forgotten, armor locations, health power ups, boss weakness, they all came flooding back. I had all the passwords in the manual but I played through the game anyway. I got to Sigma’s tower again and this time I was old enough to read the dialogue and understand what was going on. Zero was dead and I got mad. I realized that I couldn’t let this stand, that I had to destroy the villain responsible. Back to Sigma’s chamber I went. I fought the dog, I beat the dog. I fought Sigma, he pulled out a lightsaber, I thought my brain was going to explode from the sheer awesome of destroying a robot jedi. The sheer awesome got knocked out of my head after I died two or three (five or six) times. When I finished him off I used my last emergency tank of health just to make sure that I’d finish him. But it wasn’t over yet. His head rises into a giant machine that fills the whole background and I called bullshit. I proceeded to get horrifically destroyed. It was one of my first gaming failures, it was one of the first times I got to the very final fight and then gave up because it was too tough. I didn’t get vengeance and I wouldn’t until I was 18 or so when I gave it another chance.
Storm Eagle’s stage opens up after the fight inside tears the ship apart.
There’s so much cool stuff in this game. The fact that shooting down Storm Eagle’s jet causes it to fall and destroy a lot of the damaging environments in Spark Mandrill’s power plant was such an interesting idea to me. Finally beating this game created such a huge rush in me. I felt like I had conquered a part of my past, a part of myself that was weaker. It tells me that I’m better than I used to be. And that’s the point of the game really. It’s all about X becoming stronger and that’s sort of what it means to me too.
This game is amazing. Sometimes I take a Sunday to myself and beat it. I’ve got the boss order down, the armor pieces, the health pieces, the E-Tanks. I’ve got everything in my head. I look back on those days when I was defeated by Sigma and laugh. I crush him beneath my boot and see how far I’ve come as a gamer and then I remember that I’ve got a blog entry to write and a job to go to tomorrow and wonder why I stayed up until 10 playing this game when I should have gone to bed an hour ago. This game has a way of making the player to want to beat it. X’s story is one of rising in strength to defeat his opponents and it really brings the player along for the ride.
But this game is hard, it’s unpleasantly difficult at times. It took me three stages of my life to beat it. It also took me weeks to find all the armor, health, and energy tanks when I was a kid. Maybe that means that I suck at videogames but it seems more like it just takes more effort than its really worth.
This is what a thematic hook looks like. See Egoraptor’s Sequelitis series for more.
This game is incredible. It was great when I was a kid and it’s still good now. I’m not being blinded by nostalgia at all when I go back to play and beat this classic.
Next Week: Speed Racer for the Super Nintendo.