Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1+2 Xbox One Review
The Mega Man X series is one of those rare instances where a company successfully applies a “Darker and Edgier” spin to its established franchise; while most attempts have ended in eternal ridicule from fans (Sonic, Bomberman, Prince of Persia, Sonic again…), the gamble to take the family friendly Blue Bomber to a darker setting involving human genocide, robots that can bleed and feel pain, and a pacifist-driven protagonist who must lament having to use his power to kill in order to protect the planet, Mega Man X became a commercial success in its own right and spawned nearly as many sequels as the original series.
It is also a franchise that fans have been begging for a revival as much as Mega Man itself, which is why Capcom is also releasing a collection of X’s greatest hits (and a couple of really, really bad misses) with the Mega Man X Legacy Collection. Comprised of eight games spread over two parts, the Legacy Collection contains no-frills ports of X’s campaign across three consoles: the first collection includes the original trilogy of games that debut on the SNES as well as X4, which marked the series’ move towards the Playstation. Legacy Collection 2 continues the PSX tour with X5 and X6, capping things off with X7 and X8 as originally released on the PS2. Those hoping for the PSX version of X3, which included an alternate arranged soundtrack and several anime FMVs, are sadly out of luck. There are little-to-no changes made to any of the games in the collection, which is good news for purists and bad news for anyone hoping for improvements to the spotty localization and overall terribleness of Mega Man X7.
The plot of the X series begins with Thomas Light, the kindly Santa-bearded doctor and creator/father to the original Mega Man, devoting the remainder of his life to creating the next evolution in robotics: X, with the ability to think and make his own decisions, was excavated one hundred years later by Dr. Cain, who would then take X’s blueprint to create an entire society of free-thinking robotic humanoids, known collectively as “Reploids”. While most Reploids learned to co-exist with humanity, they also have the probability to go “Maverick”, turning them into violent harbingers of chaos. It is up to X, his partner Zero, and the rest of the Maverick Hunters to take out the Mavericks and their leader, Sigma, before the whole world is wiped out. Rinse and repeat for eight games and various spin-offs, and you’ve got the makings of a whole new Mega Man franchise.
A big part of what makes the X series work is that, despite the darker tone and dystopian cyberpunk setting, the games still adhere to much of the gameplay foundations of its 8-bit predecessor. With the exception of X7, the games still follow a 2D perspective filled with shooting and platform-hopping, as well as a group of powerful bosses that carry a specific weakness to the other’s weapons (the games were inspired by Rock-Paper-Scissors, after all). Mega Man X follows this classic formula while adding a few additional tweaks to the gameplay, most notably the ability to dash as well as wall-hopping. Additional power-ups are also hidden in each stage, in addition to armor upgrades left behind by the late Dr. Light. Later games also allow players to take control of Zero, who eventually gets his own unique weapon with the Z-saber, while a third character is introduced late in the series with the gun-toting Axl.
As mentioned earlier, the games have all been preserved in their original format, with virtually no touch-ups or changes whatsoever (save for the renaming of X5’s villains, which are no longer named after parodies of Guns n’ Roses. This will either be a relief or an injustice, depending on the individual). For newcomers, this collection represents some of the finest 2D action that has ever graced videogames, with each game adding more polish and additions that arguably peak at the fourth game. The steep decline can easily be felt starting with the sixth game, however, with X7 being one of the worst sequels of all-time and one of the worst videogames ever put out by Capcom. X8 redeems things somewhat, but the stiff and lifeless animation really stings when compared to the gorgeous sprite work of the original games.
For fans, this collection suffices in bringing the X games to modern consoles, though a few factors keep this edition from being “definitive”. The older titles, particularly the first game, suffer from additional input lag and audio glitches, something that would be immediately noticeable for anyone who recently ran through the game on the SNES Classic. Emulation issues aside, the amount of options is also disappointingly sparse…aside from some screen filters, the games lack true save states, meaning that players who want to run through the final four stages of each title will have to do so on a single playthrough. There is also no way to remap buttons to player preference, save for the X Challenge (more on that below), and while being able to switch to the original Japanese versions of each game is a neat novelty, they lack the original J-pop songs for their respective openings.
Newbies will appreciate the Rookie Hunter Mode, which can be toggled at any time and offers several beginner-friendly handicaps such as increased health and no deaths through bottomless pits (they are instead magically teleported back to even ground). For the hardcore players, the most interesting addition by far is the X Challenge, a mode that features a series of challenges where players must take on two bosses at a time. These challenges tend to follow a specific theme, like pairing two ice-based adversaries together (Chill Penguin and Frost Walrus). Things only escalate from there, resulting in some fun and chaotic two-against-one battles the likes of which are usually only seen on Salty Bet and other fan-made free-for-alls. Players have a limited number of lives and are only allowed to carry three sub-weapons, resulting in strategic thinking to figure out which loadout is suitable for the challenges ahead. As fun and hectic as these challenges are, both collections feature the same enemy layout save for the final boss.
As sparse as the extra options are as well as the inclusion of a couple of legitimately awful titles, both of the Mega Man X Legacy Collections pay adequate tribute to one of the premiere 2D action franchises of all-time, which itself spun off a legendary franchise. One can only hope that Capcom will continue to give the Blue Bomber and his distant predecessor more love, both with additional updates to the existing collection as well as some long overdue sequels.