Mega Man X: A First-Timer's Perspective

Mega Man X: A First-Timer's Perspective

Mavericks and mayhem

Alex Legard

Written by for Retrospectives on

I love classic SNES games and Mega Man X was one such title that I felt compelled to play and I finally did so on the SNES Mini. It doesn't have many action games and the only other 2D shooters are Super Metroid and the controller-throwing Contra III: The Alien Wars.

What I got by playing Mega Man X for the first time was definitely a mixed bag. On one hand, it features some of the best action that the SNES has to offer. On the other, it has a few glaring problems that are just about impossible to ignore. So, let's dash to it!

Mega Man X1 screenshot 1
You learn the ropes in the memorable first stage

I'll start with the good bits. Mega Man's basic weapon is the X-Buster which is an arm cannon that shoots bursts of energy. Tapping Y shoots the X-Buster but if you want to do a lot of damage, you can hold the button down to fire a charged shot. The X-Buster only fires horizontally which opens up a lot of interesting gameplay but it can also be frustrating at times. Anyway, enemies shoot bullets that move toward you, encouraging you to jump or move out of the way. It's always exciting to make it to the end of a difficult stage while skillfully dodging attacks and making it to the boss with maximum health.

Mega Man also possesses a lot of movement possibilities with dashes and wall jumps. You can hold A to dash and you can also jump while dashing to perform a long-distance jump. Now, to quickly explain wall jumps: if you hold the D-pad in the direction of any wall while in mid-air, you'll start to gradually slide down the wall and you can then easily jump up or off the wall. You can also combine a wall jump and a dash to do a very fast wall jump. Mastering Mega Man's movement is very fun as you can run through stages quite fast and you'll need to make use of dashes to collect items and dodge certain boss attacks.

Mega Man X1 screenshot 2
Wall jumping in Mega Man X is way easier than in Super Metroid

After you complete the intro mission (which ends after you lose a battle to a powerful robot named Vile), you're dropped into a stage select where you can choose to play any of eight selectable stages. Some of these are definitely harder than others so the difficulty curve can get pretty wonky and it can be frustrating for newcomers like me to choose a tough stage only to lose over and over. The levels offer solid platforming and you can find some deviously hidden power-ups like armor parts and health upgrades. You'll need a lot of these upgrades if you want to complete the game because the last boss can be rather difficult.

Fighting bosses is a huge part of Mega Man X and it deserves some explanation. There are eight Maverick boss fights, each with their own stage: Chill Penguin, Launch Octopus, Armored Armadillo, Flame Mammoth, Storm Eagle, Boomer Kuwanger, Spark Mandrill, and Sting Chameleon. Each one has a different attack pattern and grants a new weapon upon defeat. It's fun to collect these weapons and try them against different enemies, especially considering each boss has a weakness against one of the weapons. However, the bosses' weaknesses aren't mentioned anywhere in the game which I found annoying. It took quite a while before I learned that the bosses even had weaknesses. The worst of all was Armored Armadillo as I died way too many times against him; not necessarily because I was fighting him wrong but because I didn't have the Electric Spark, a weapon that destroys his armor as soon as you fire it.

Mega Man X1 screenshot 3
The Electric Spark gives a huge advantage against Armored Armadillo

On another note, I wanted to mention some aspects that soured my experience with Mega Man X1. First of all, the Storm Tornado is way too good against non-boss enemies, making most encounters extremely easy. Next is the fact that if you move the camera even slightly away from an enemy spawn, it will reappear even if you killed that enemy less than a second ago. Enemies respawn way too fast and far too often. Finally, I wanted to curse the person who designed the floating platform sequence in Sigma Stage 1. Climbing up small moving platforms is not fun, especially when you keep getting intercepted by flying robots.

Mega Man X1 screenshot 4
Why did this robot decide to go right on top of the platform in the middle of my jump?

As I said, Mega Man X was a mixed bag for me. Sometimes, the levels were challenging and fun to overcome but too often, it's pointlessly difficult for the wrong reasons. I know a lot of gamers enjoy Mega Man X but man; much of it hasn't aged well. If you have a question or comment about Mega Man X or my opinion of it, feel free to leave it in the comments section below and I'll get back to you ASAP.

Gameplay video for Mega Man X 5:06
Which Mega Man Robot Master Are You?

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