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Quick: Home game consoles just made the jump from 8-bit to 16-bit graphics and you need to re-invent an iconic character so that he looks good in new more detailed sprites and stays relevant with the hip young crowd. What do you do? Well, if it’s the early 90’s you do the only thing you can: You make him “X-TREME!!”.
This month we bust out our SNES game pads, go straight to Chill Penguin to get those sweet, sweet dashboots, and debate whether to get the buster upgrade early or let the narrative play out the proper way in the first level of the boss’ castle. It is time for Megaman X.
Megaman X is a re-imagining of the NES classic series in the style of the worst trope to hit entertainment in all of the 90s. Where the original games were heavily inspired by themes just has heroism, friendship, loyalty, and courage that permeated the cartoons and comics they read as children, Megaman X is about determination, fear, and sacrifice mixed with just a dash of hope.
Megaman X is what happens when you take a story about a robot boy who is assisted by his equally robotic dog (who turns into a jet board, btw) in saving the world from enemies such as a menacing anthropomorphic choochoo train and strip out the fun parts. No more dog. The loving scientist / father figure is long since passed away. The enemy is no longer content to rule the world – humanity has to go either off into slavery or out into the night.
It can’t be emphasized how amazingly desperate the world and protagonists of Megaman X are. It inspired and thrilled an gaming generation to see how bold and daring Capcom could be with what had sadly become a predictable staple of gaming (what a weird compliment to pay Capcom here in 2015) but it worked. The game was a smash success, it revitalized what was once one of the hottest properties in all of gaming, and paved the way for an endless rush of sequels, spin-offs, pseudo sequels, and whatever the Battle Network/Starforce cash-ins were. .
At some point in the far flung future of the classic Megaman series, Dr. Light and our hero Rock won the fight against Dr. Wily once and for all. The source material is really not clear what this victory looked like or what robots were intact at the end but an era of peace was rushed in that was significant enough that in the era of Megaman X, hardly anyone is even aware of Dr. Light, Wily, or Megaman. During this time of peace, Dr. Light finished his final project – a new iteration of Megaman. This version would have the one ability that the original lacked: A fully functional intelligence system that could think and reason on its own.
Dr. Light, recognizing the inherent danger of unleashing a robot even more powerful than Megaman that could reasonably decide something like “Hey, I should kill the humans”, decided to place his robot in a testing capsule that would run its robot brain through endless scenarios and validate the robot’s capacity for good when it could of its own volition choose evil. The process would take 30 years. Dr. Light knew he’d be dead long before then. He left the capsule and hoped for the best.
100 years later a scientist named Cain found the capsule and recognized X for what he was: A fully sentient robot. He then did the exact thing that Dr. Light was terrified of and mass produced millions of reploids that could think for themselves and was surprised when they decided something like “Hey, I should kill the humans”. These evil robots are Mavericks and where our story picks up, a confused and scared X is trying to figure out a way to challenge the technologically superior Mavericks with only his obsolete weapons and Zero, the last true Maverick Hunter, at his side.
As far as stories go, it’s not bad. It set up the stage for the 11 games in the Megaman X series as well as a few sequels and although the quality tanks after Megaman X5. It is not nearly as charming as classic Megaman but the X series do a great job of making you feel like the stakes are high and that humanity needs you to win.
As a person who even knows what Racketboy.com is, you are already aware of 50% of Megaman X’s gameplay. You start on the left side of the screen and do your best to make it to the right side of the screen. You’ll jump and shoot. There are 8 bosses waiting for you to hunt them down and kill them so that you can drain them of their life essence and steal their powers. That’s Megaman. What made this ‘X’ was the addition of new abilities that expanded Megaman X’s range of movement and increased his durability and power.
In the original Megaman X, you’ll gain the ability to dash across the screen, leap up walls, head butt boulders, and create energy blasts that make anything the original 8-Bit Megaman shot look laughable. It’s a game that does a wonderful job of letting the player feel increasingly powerful while never losing the challenge.
The general goal of Together Retro is to make sure the games we play are easily accessible without much of a financial burden on our club members. Megaman X is available on the Super Nintendo in its original form and as a digital download from Nintendo’s WiiU E-Shop.
It was also included in the excellent Megaman X collection for the Playstation 2 and Nintendo Gamecube. If you can find an affordable copy, I really do recommend this route as it includes the first 6 Megaman X games and a new PS2 copy on Amazon is only a few more dollars than buying the digital copy on the WiiU.
A remake for the Playstation Portable was created in the mid-2000’s. Titled ‘Maverick Hunter X’, it is the lesser sibling of Megaman Powered UP! in that it included a remixed version of the game with updated polygonal graphics, music, and an extra player character. Unlike Powered UP!, it lacks the original version of the game and doesn’t have much additional content beyond a short anime movie that contradicts most of the canon Megaman X storyline.
If the original Megaman X pulls you into the series, there are other Megaman X games on the Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, and Sony Playstation 2.
Tell us on the forums about how many attempts it takes you to get past Sigma, your theories about how Zero is just Protoman with a training bra, or what clues you find in the game’s narrative about the true fate of the classic Megaman cast.