Mega Man has seen many awesome games over the years and these portable titles from Inti Creates are prime examples of 2D action.
Mega Man Zero games
First up, Mega Man Zero debuted in 2002 and I have fond memories of playing it back in the day on my Game Boy Advance. Playing through it again in this collection made me realise just how dated it feels compared to the other included games but it's still a heck of a lot of fun. You basically attack using 2 equipped weapons and jump and dash through stages while taking out many tricky enemies and bosses. Meanwhile, you'll collect Cyber Elves which can provide cool boosts but some require you to raise them with earned currency and you have to grind a lot in order to be able to do so. You also get elemental chips that you can equip to your weapons which include the Buster Shot, Z-Saber, Shield Boomerang, and Triple Rod. Anyway, it's one tough game but supremely rewarding at the same time.
Mega Man Zero 2 continues the formula yet introduces new features such as EX Skills, Forms which alter your colour and base stats, and the Chain Rod, a new weapon that allows you to attach to and swing from walls and ceilings. It's a much more polished game than the first and about as challenging. Next, Mega Man Zero 3 includes the Recoil Rod as its unique weapon, a revised Cyber Elf system which features the very versatile Satellite Elves, Secret Disks which remind me a lot of Mega Man & Bass, Cyberspace areas, and Chips which replace Forms and are more customizable. It's a huge step up for the series and the boss fights are just awesome. Finally, Mega Man Zero 4 expands the formula further with the ability to create chips from found materials, a streamlined Cyber Elf system, the option to change the weather which alters stage layouts and difficulty, and the impressive Z Knuckle which allows you to copy enemies' weapons.
Mega Man ZX games
Whereas the Zero games were originally released for Game Boy Advance, the Mega Man ZX titles were exclusive to Nintendo DS. As a result, they're very different kinds of games with the most prominent change being the fact that they're set in large open Metroidvania-style worlds. Before starting, you can choose between a male and female character named Vent and Aile. Character progression is quite clever as you obtain Biometals which grant you access to various upgradable forms via the M.E.G.A. System. Some of these forms allow for elemental attacks while they all feature special moves that consume energy which is similar to the classic Mega Man games. Exploring the game world is a lot of fun and you can even transform back into human form so you can talk to NPCs and crawl and such.
Mega Man ZX Advent continues the previous game's formula albeit in a more expansive way and it stars 2 new heroes: Grey and Ashe. Soon into the adventure, you acquire a Biometal that allows you to transform into Model A which plays a lot like Axl in the later Mega Man X games complete with an enemy copy ability and dual guns. Overall, it's a challenging game that fits right in with its predecessors.
Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection includes some cool extras such as a gallery of artwork for each game, lovely wallpapers as you play, all 100 e-cards for Mega Man Zero 3 that were used with the Nintendo e-Reader, and a music player which includes 9 new songs made just for this collection. On top of this, there's a new mode called Z Chaser which basically tasks you with racing through stages as quickly as possible and you can even race against a friend. It's a pretty nifty mode for sure but it definitely isn't as substantial as the extra modes that were included in past Mega Man collections. I wish there was a mode that felt more fleshed-out and had wider appeal.
Odds and ends
The games within Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection are ported wonderfully as they all look, sound, and play great. Even the ZX games feature a small touchscreen that you can use the right stick to interact with. On the downside, I wish you could alter the controls for every game in a central location because in my opinion, the default controls are awful so I had to change them in each game before I could play them effectively. Even after I did, the controls remained default while playing Z Chaser mode which bothered me a lot because pausing to change the controls will waste time and that's the whole point of that mode. I also wish you could assign weapons to more buttons than just 2. That would have been awesome! Last but not least, these games can be absolutely maddening such as when you have to carefully jump between sparse platforms as enemies fire at you so make sure you have plenty of patience.
The fact that Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection exists is incredible as it's comprised of some of the most enjoyable and underrated 2D action games ever made. If you're a fan of the genre, you need to add this to your gaming library.
- + Contains 6 great games with plenty of exciting and challenging 2D gameplay
- + Includes museum content and extra mode
- + Well-adapted for play on modern consoles
- - Could use a more fleshed-out extra mode
- - Custom controls could be handled better
- - Some parts are downright infuriating