Monday, September 18, 2006

Mega Man ZX: How many Mega Man games is this now?

The first new Mega Man game on the Nintendo DS is Mega Man ZX, a game that will feel somewhat familiar to those who played the X games for SNES/PlayStation (the 2D ones), and those who played through the Zero games for the GBA.

How it Looks: Good
While it won't win any awards for its graphics, the game does look very good, with smooth animations and no hiccups whatsoever. Dual and sometimes even Triple scrolling backgrounds are present in every level, showing off what the DS can do with sprite-based games. There is no 3D graphics anywhere in this game, as the developers kept the same 2D look that has made the Mega Man series a household name.

How it Sounds: Good
The music in the game is typical Mega Man fare: Nice rock music that just fits in the place it is. The soundtrack in general isn't as loud as some previous scores (the classic Mega Man X score is still the best Mega Man soundtrack to date, and in my opinion one of the best ever! I can still remember the beat to the opening level, and as I write this, I'm humming that tune horribly off-key!), but it's still very good. There are very few moments where there are voice overs, but those are all done in japanese, but so far I've only encountered one use of it. The sound effects, though, are top notch, with exception to timing: the main character's yell is heard every time he shoots and slashes the Z-Saber. While rapid fire and swinging aren't prevailent much, the one form I like to stay in is quick-fire: attacks quickly and uses projectiles. To this effect, the main character yells a lot, and can get annoying very fast. That is the only problem so far in the sound of the game.

How it Feels: Excellent!
Controls are very intuitive and make use of every button (except for select so far). The Y and R buttons are attacks (Y is main, and R is secondary), L is for dashing (though pushing a direction key twice rapidly will dash as well), B jumps, X brings up a ring menu to change your suit, A puts you in overdrive (more on that later), and Start accesses the menu, where you can also switch suits, refuel using sub tanks, and check your map and mission log. The touch screen isn't used for controls at all, so the hands stay on the buttons at all times to keep the Mega Man feel of the game. Everything is quick, and it has to be: the action is fast, and mistakes cost lives, which leads to...

How it Plays: Fun!
Gameplay is simple: kill minor robots in a level to get to the midboss, then kill more minor robots to get to the big boss, then beat him and get his power. Same formula for every Mega Man game, and the same can be sa— oh, wait. They changed the Mega Man formula! How ludacris! How outrageous!
How... refreshing! While it hasn't changed much, you take on a human character this time around (you get to choose male or female), who is chosen by the X model Biometal. Biometal allows humans to get some robotic assistance. The X model, for instance, turns our hero into X from the Mega Man X series, with dash and charge shot included. Eventually, you get the Z model, and the X and Z model fuse to get the titular Biometal, the ZX model. This turns you into Zero from Mega Man Zero fame, with a weak buster and a strong Saber. There is a map, which connects each level with a couple of starting areas and a city. There are save points scattered throughout the zones, with some connected to a transporter for easy reach, since the map is fairly large. The main goal is overtaking missions (most of which means facing mavericks and regaining Biometal from them). The main missions yield new Biometal that fuse with the X model. Each model has a different play style with it: HX allows you to dash in the air (even up!), one allows you better movement in the water, one can destroy big blocks and melt ice, and one allows you to cling to roofs and ledges while throwing projectiles. Each one also makes use of the bottom screen in different ways: The ZX mode doesn't use it for anything however, HX shows the health of the last enemy you attacked, FX allows you to plot the course of its bullets (though how is unknown to me... maybe in the manual I haven't read?), LX shows a layout of the surrounding area and has a homing dot that moves to any item in the screen, and the PX shows a smaller version of the LX area map, but does show where enemies and secret passageways are.
Besides those changes, its straight Mega Man action: shoot stuff, jump over pits (bottomless or spike-filled), shoot more stuff, shoot bosses, shoot more stuff. Just be sure to save often, as you can die almost anywhere if you're not careful.

Game Length: 10-20 Hours (aproximation)
If you just complete the main missions, it will be over in 8-10 hours (less if you're on easy mode and/or are a Mega Man veteran), but factor in some optional missions, some minigames, and a normal (hard) difficulty, and you've got yourself some playing time. Unfortunately, this is a solo campagn, so no multiplayer.

Verdict: Buy!
If you are a Mega Man fan, you'd be nuts to pass this up, as it is the same tried-and-true formula, only evolved. Plus who doesn't love some platforming with large guns. If you aren't a Mega Man fan, this is definitely a game to try out, as it is a basic platformer that tests your quickness with the controller more than your brainpower. When the only downside to the game is finding where to go (and that isn't so bad in the age of walkthroughs), you know you've got a hit on your hands.


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