The first collection of Capcom's high-octane 2D action classics is nothing short of great. So, how well do X and Zero (as well as their new friend Axl) hold up in their latest adventures?
Considering this collection is set up almost identically to the first, I figured I'd focus on the actual games in this review. Before getting to them, however, I wanted to discuss a few high level aspects. For starters, head over to my Mega Man X Legacy Collection review before reading further to learn more about the extra content and presentational aspects as everything remains pretty much identical in this collection. The only substantial difference is that this features X Challenge Vol. 2 which merely contains some different boss fights.
Thankfully, Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 doesn't have any noticeable performance problems like the first compilation has. However, the fact that they split this collection up into two volumes is still annoying. Also, I wish the collection as a whole was more complete. Specifically, if they included Mega Man X: Command Mission and Maverick Hunter X even as bonuses if you buy both games then that would have been awesome. Heck, even the two Game Boy Color Mega Man Xtreme games would have been cool additions.
Mega Man X5
To start things off, Mega Man X5 is very similar to X4 as it features fantastic 2D action that's smooth and full of exciting stages and boss fights. It also introduces some interesting elements such as the ability to rescue Reploids and hang on to ropes. There are plenty of references to previous games in the series, too, with one stage even having remixed music from Mega Man X2. One part of X5 that I've always found ridiculous is how they named the bosses after members of the rock band Guns N' Roses. In this collection, they renamed the Mavericks to more appropriate names so Duff McWhalen is now Tidal Whale and Axle the Red is Spike Rosered.
Anyway, the campaign has an unconventional setup where you must beat it within a time limit and it features different endings, too. That being said, reaching these endings is completely random which can be downright irritating if you're aiming for a specific one. Another annoying aspect is that Alia now interrupts the gameplay to provide obvious tips and story tidbits that you probably wouldn't care about. On the plus side, there are two brand new armor sets that you can unlock in the form of Gaea Armor and Falcon Armor. There are also parts that you can unlock to provide boosts which is a welcome complexity. Overall, I thoroughly enjoy Mega Man X5 even with its frustrating aspects. The stages and bosses are great fun and the added mechanics can be quite rewarding.
Mega Man X6
For many fans of the series, Mega Man X6 marks the decline of the franchise. However, I just don't see it. In fact, I find Mega Man X6 to be one of the best games in the entire series. One of its coolest innovations is that every rescued Reploid is now collectible and there are 16 in each stage. Being able to find and catch 'em all poses a significant challenge, especially considering they can be infected with viruses if you're not fast enough which renders them beyond help. This is where a lot of gamers become annoyed at X6; it can be unforgivingly difficult. The stages are absolutely brutal complete with plenty of instant death traps and witnessing a Reploid becoming infected is disheartening to say the least. Personally, it's this challenge that makes Mega Man X6 such an appealing game to me.
I absolutely love conquering the brutally difficult stages in X6 even in their absurdly challenging nightmare variations. The only downside is if you're using a particular armor then head down a wrong optional path which can lead to you having to restart the stage but if you know what you're doing then this is no longer a problem. Alia's persistent messages aren't an issue either as you can choose to ignore her calls most of the time. Also, Zero's Z-Saber is just awesome in X6. It's more like a lightsaber and it feels like it really packs a punch. X's brand new Blade Armor and Shadow Armor are super-fun to master, too. X cosplaying as a ninja is so cool. All of that being said, the translation is horrible. If they changed the boss names in X5 then why couldn't they tighten up the translation in X6?
Mega Man X7
Mega Man X7 is the first game in the series to feature 3D gameplay. Do I really need to say more than that? Basically, the intense action of the previous 6 games is replaced with slow-paced tedium. You also get to play as a new character, Axl. Plus, X is now unlockable so you have to play as either Axl or Zero until you rescue enough Reploids to unlock X. Yes, the collectible Reploids are back although this time, they're incredibly easy to find except some will quickly die if you don't notice them and react instantly which is infuriating.
I really don't want to keep talking about Mega Man X7 because it's such a bummer but this is a review so I'll mention a few more stand-out aspects. Axl can copy some enemies but his ability to do so is extremely limited as he can only transform into 5 different enemies and they're mostly clunky and sluggish so why would anyone prefer to transform into them over playing as Zero? X and Axl can shoot in multiple directions so that's something, I guess. In the end, X7 is a boring entry in the epic series and its final boss is just awful.
Mega Man X8
Thankfully, Mega Man X8 brought back the 2D gameplay and its fast-paced action. Considering its graphics are 3D, the fact that it plays very similarly to the 2D entries in the series is something to be admired. Axl is back but this time, he's entirely optional. There are also a couple of extra navigators besides just Alia: Layer specializes in boss strategies and Pallette excels in stage layouts, including their hidden goodies. Speaking of the navigators, you can even unlock them as playable characters. How awesome is that?
The stages in Mega Man X8 are quite fun. Most of the gameplay is 2D but there are a couple of vehicle-based stages that'll have you control the flying Sirius Ride Chaser through a city and the snowmobile-like Barius Ride Chaser within snowy fields in Avalanche Yeti's stage. Overall, the stages are full of unique challenges including the odd arena-style room and the bosses are great fun to battle.
Mega Man X8's gameplay is super-tight compared to X7 as well. X can only shoot straight ahead which is much more satisfying for long-time fans and Axl can stand still and shoot in various directions instead of being able to lock-on to anything in sight. There's also a team dynamic in that your reserve partner can replenish some damage, you can swap characters in order to break your current one out of a hold, and you can perform a Double Attack whenever its meter is full. One very cool component is that you can redeem earned metals for chips that provide temporary items as well as permanent boosts and unlockables. Plus, X now has the customizable Neutral Armor that allows you to swap between parts of the Icarus Armor, Hermes Armor, and Ultimate Armor. Talk about going above and beyond!
If there's one thing that Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 provides above all else, it's variety. Not everyone will enjoy each featured title but there's no denying that these four games are unique and offer plenty of memorable challenges.
- + Varied assortment of Mega Man X games
- + X5 and X6 are fantastic representations of what 2D action games can be
- + X8 succeeds in offering a unique dynamic
- - Collection being split up is annoying
- - Many will find Mega Man X6 to be too frustrating / X7 is slow-paced and not fun
- - No Command Mission or Maverick Hunter X