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Super NES Classic Reviews Game by Game #11: Mega Man X

Join us as we review every Super NES Classic game. Today: Mega Man's brilliant 16-bit debut.

Review by Nadia Oxford, .

Join us as we review all the games on the SNES Classic Mini Edition in chronological order!

If you think of the game industry's transition from 8- to- 16-bits as a dinner party, Mega Man X is the guest who just kills it with his debonair ensemble. But he's neither arrogant nor overdressed; he's friendly, he's a witty conversationalist, and he's good-looking. Scratch the surface all you like, but you won't find any flaws worth mentioning. Mega Man X is nearly perfect.

Mega Man X is even tailored to be a great entry-point for anyone who might've skipped Mega Man's original exploits on the NES. I'd fallen away from the Mega Man series for some time before I glanced at the back of Mega Man X's box, but I still found myself intrigued by the "fresh start" the story offers: The original Mega Man is gone, and a fascinating new robot wears his peace-keeping mantle.

Though Mega Man X isn't a story-heavy game, it also evolved Mega Man's plot to make it a little more appealing for pre-teens and teens making the jump to the SNES in 1993. Gone are the original series' lovably silly robot masters and Dr Wily's weird schemes; in its place is a tale about robots aiming to wipe humans off the earth. There's even a sampling of moral conflict, i.e. X is the blueprint for the mechanically-advanced "Reploid" race. By extension, the Reploids that want to paint the streets with human blood are X's own kin – including the game's primary bad guy, Sigma.

[Muffled US National Anthem in the distance]

Mega Man X's slick, cool story inspirations (Blade Runner, Terminator) permeate its gameplay, too. X is Mega Man's successor, and Dr Light's opus. Consequently, X is blessed with a move set the first Mega Man has no claim to. He can dash, he can climb up walls, he can charge all the weapons he wins from bosses (Mega Man 1.0 is only capable of charging a few across all his games), and he can hunt down upgrades.

X can find eight Heart Tanks to permanently extend his health bar, and he can also find four body upgrades: A stronger helmet, dash boots, damage-absorbing armor, and a stronger arm cannon (if he misses the arm upgrade, he automatically gets it from his wild-haired mentor, Zero, after the latter kicks the bucket). Offing the eight Mavericks who've allied themselves with Sigma is your priority, but the search for upgrades takes you to every corner of every stage. It's a refreshing diversion next to the straight-shot stages that define the original Mega Man titles.

"Ow."

Digging up every secret in Mega Man X even means having to observe how one Maverick's defeat affects his fellows. Bringing down Storm Eagle's massive airship cuts off power to Spark Mandrill's stage, subsequently crippling its difficult mid-boss. Beating up Chill Penguin freezes over Flame Mammoth's hellish domain, making it possible to grab a heart tank that's otherwise inaccessible. Destroying Launch Octopus causes Sting Chameleon's forest to flood, and X can use the extra buoyancy to nab another heart tank. Even though Mega Man X is an action game and you can technically blow through it in an hour or two, it has innumerable loving touches that are worth seeking out.

Best of all, fighting through each stage just feels good. Very good. Whichever Maverick you choose to fight, getting to the final showdown requires a lot of shooting, charging, jumping, grabbing, and climbing. X moves with a graceful flow that makes the game's intro text redundant: A few minutes in X's company makes it obvious he's Dr Light's best work. Frankly, it's difficult to go back to Mega Man's classic controls after playing an X game or two, which is one reason a lot of Mega Man fans aren't hot on Mega Man 7.

Mega Man X's foundation and mechanics are sturdier than a titanium outhouse, but its graphics and sound deserve their own accolades. The classic Mega Man series on the NES was never a slouch in the visuals department, but Mega Man X experiments with detailed backgrounds and huge bosses. Seeing Flame Mammoth's bulk tower over X is intimidating when you're used to 8-bit Robot Masters who aren't much taller than Mega Man.

Heeeey, you might want to sit this one out, Zero -- you know what, never mind.

Music has likewise been an important part of the Mega Man games since day one, but there isn't a soundtrack in the series that rivals Mega Man X's. I've analyzed the soundtrack more than once. Realistically, I can write a book about X's playlist. There just isn't a single song on there that ranks anywhere below "fantastic."

Kat once asked me which game I'm going to play when (if) I secure a SNES Classic. I think Mega Man X might be the one. Like Contra III, it's a great warm-up game. This is a 24-year-old title, I've played it more times than I can count, and I still feel stoked whenever I play through the opening highway level. Death to Bee Bladers!

No video game is perfect, but Mega Man X is damn near close. You might even want to make it your first stop on the SNES Classic line-up (unless you're determined to adhere to alphabetical order or something).

5 /5

Super NES Classic Reviews Game by Game #11: Mega Man X Nadia Oxford Join us as we review every Super NES Classic game. Today: Mega Man's brilliant 16-bit debut. 2017-08-10T17:00:00-04:00 5 5

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Comments 18

  • Avatar for ShadowTheSecond #1 ShadowTheSecond 2 months ago
    As the writer alludes to, playing Mega Man 7 again really reminded me how much I prefer the X series. It's so hard to go back to dash slides when X can wall jump, dash anytime...and smash blocks with his head!

    If only they'd bring back Mega Man X--the "Maverick Hunter" remake on PSP was excellent between the cutscenes, remixed soundtrack, and (especially) playable Vile. You really can't go wrong with Purple Boba Fett and his shoulder (and kneecap) mounted arsenal.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #2 yuberus 2 months ago
    God, the first three X games were so good (even if X3 has some truly bullshit level design). I don't know what it is about the PS1 and 2 games, but they lost a chunk of their appeal (though X5 totally made it back with the Guns n Roses boss names). But man, I can go back and replay X1 endlessly.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #3 Roto13 2 months ago
    This is one of my all time favourite games. My only complaint about it is that you can only dash after getting the upgrade capsule in Chill Penguin's stage, meaning you pretty much have to start there every time you play.
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  • Avatar for perpetualgrimace #4 perpetualgrimace 2 months ago
    100% agree
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  • Avatar for perpetualgrimace #5 perpetualgrimace 2 months ago
    @yuberus X and X4 are my favorites in the X series by a pretty wide margin. In X4, the crappy story segments and text brought the gameplay to a crawl, but slicing through stages as Zero makes X feel like a snail.

    X5 was good, but felt like a rehash of X4 imo. Same with X2 and X3. Level design, music, and bosses (with the exception of X5) just weren't as memorable.
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  • Avatar for Thad #6 Thad 2 months ago
    @ShadowTheSecond I felt like Maverick Hunter X messed up the balance of the original with its juggling of the capsule locations (which would have been OK if it were just Hard Mode, but they should have kept their original placement in Normal Mode), and the conversion to widescreen was really handled poorly in the vertical sections; platforms that were clearly visible in the original 4:3 turned into blind leaps of faith, and, most bafflingly of all, there was a whole new shoddily-designed floating platform sequence at the end of Armored Armadillo's stage when you played as Vile.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #7 yuberus 2 months ago
    @jamesferrell See, I just couldn't get into X4 a whole lot. It felt kind of bland (and yeah, the cutscenes were awful). Letting you play as Zero the whole way through is its saving grace, but I felt like X5 did that better, too. I should revisit it, though. A couple years ago I went through the SNES trilogy and had a great time rediscovering 2 and 3 for the first time since the 90s.

    And geez, it really shows that X6, 7 and 8 were all pretty much unplanned afterthoughts, both storywise and just in general design terms.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #8 Vonlenska 2 months ago
    This was my first Mega Man, and probably still my favorite (though I expect that to change when I finally get around to the Legendses). I remember being confused by the title. Like, "Wait, what was the last Mega Man? 4? 5? And now they're using Roman numerals?" Kidlenska: bright enough to know Roman numerals, naive enough to think they just skipped 4 - 6 Mega Men. (Except, of course, that they kind of did, I guess.)

    ugh, but that music! This is my happy place:
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #9 SargeSmash 2 months ago
    I think the issue with Mega Man 7 isn't so much dropping back to the NES style, but that it doesn't actually ape that style well enough. Mega Man tends to move a bit slower, and the sprites are a bit too large, which makes the game feel quite a bit different from the NES games. Mega Man X did a better job of improving the visual fidelity of the spritework without making things feel almost as cramped as a bad Game Boy conversion.
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  • Avatar for JiveHound #10 JiveHound 2 months ago
    I bloody love this game. I still have fond memories of acquiring THAT power up.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #11 VotesForCows 2 months ago
    @nadiaoxford I don't think anyone has ever thought of the game industry's 8-16 bit transition as a dinner party, but I deeply admire your advanced metaphor skills.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #12 riderkicker 2 months ago
    Is Mega Man X really the Stefan Urquelle of the series?Edited August 2017 by riderkicker
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #13 Nuclear-Vomit 2 months ago
    @riderkicker He really is. Mega Man is so lame but, lovable. Mega Man X? The X is for Xtreme!!
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #14 BulkSlash 2 months ago
    I actually only discovered this game 3-4 years ago, I don't know why I didn't get it back when it was released, it was probably because I found Mega Man on the GameBoy so hideously hard.

    Anyway, let no-one tell you it has aged poorly or looks dated, it's still an utterly perfect Mega Man game (I still can't decide if I like this one or MM2 the best).
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  • Avatar for presidentcamacho #15 presidentcamacho 2 months ago
    Sacreligious as it is to say, I actually like X2 a bit more than the first. The music (barring the lack of variety in the x Hunter stages, though the main theme was killer anyways) is better, the stages are better, and the pacing just feels dead on to me- it just feels built for speed. The original X is still super high in my book, of course. X4 as Zero also trumps it, IMO.
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  • Avatar for docexe #16 docexe 2 months ago
    This is still one of my favorite action games of all time. Indeed, it was actually mind-blowing at the time how it expanded on the mechanics of the Classic series. I also remember being particularly hit by the melancholic tone of the storyline (as barebones as it was compared to modern games). The ending in particular pretty much cemented X as my favorite iteration of the Blue Bomber.Edited August 2017 by docexe
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  • Avatar for JohnnyBarnstorm #17 JohnnyBarnstorm 2 months ago
    I own this on the Wii, Nadia, and I can tell you that I've never got past the first boss. I'm so bad at this game. And not the usual "Johnny is bad at video games" level of bad. I mean, incredibly, painfully bad.
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  • Avatar for mganai #18 mganai 2 months ago
    If MMX, and the series for that matter, had a weakness, it was making each boss susceptible to one weapon, all but railroading the player stage path for everyone but the challenge gamers out there.
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