Given the positive response elicited from gamers of all ages for its Mega Man Anniversary Collection, Capcom, never one to shy away from a good sequel, has been readying a new compilation of the blue bomber's console exploits. As one of the few video game mascots who has managed to change with the times, the old boy has more than enough adventures to go around. The Mega Man X Collection compiles the first six Mega Man X games on one disc and throws in some blasts from his past to boot. We got an exclusive look at the collection on the GameCube and PlayStation 2 to see how the retrospective was coming together.
For those who haven't followed Mega Man's career, the X games marked the first of several evolutions the franchise has undergone in the 15-plus years it has been around. The original Mega Man X debuted on the Super Nintendo, and, in keeping with trends at the time, was an edgier take on the classic hero. The X games were set in darker future and revolved around the conflict between opposing forces of robots, the Maverick Hunters and the Reploid Army. The discovery of an ancient but powerful robot named X (which would be our blue-shelled boy) pulls an Anakin Skywalker by introducing a strong new player that could shift the balance of the conflict.
Your main nemesis in the games is the villainous Sigma, leader of the Reploid Army and the minions that are loyal to him. As with every Mega Man game, you'll gain upgrades, either off of bosses or from your creator Dr. Light, who was kind enough to leave behind useful items for you to equip. So, by each game's end you're armed to the teeth and ready to stomp. However, even though you're already powerful, a number of new faces are added to the mythos to lend a hand in your adventure. The most significant is Zero, a ponytailed Maverick Hunter who wields a mean sword and eventually becomes a playable character.
The series was so well received that it became a separate branch entirely and alternated with the classic Mega Man games that continued to be released. The games stayed fairly Nintendo-exclusive for a number of years until Mega Man X4, which made appearances on the 32-bit PlayStation and Saturn platforms. They stuck pretty close to the established Mega Man structure and let you tackle the bosses in any order you liked. Of course, the catch was--given that each boss had a specific weakness--it was in your best interest to hit them in an exact sequence so you could collect the weapon you'd need to take out the next boss. The big addition to the formula introduced by the X games was the ability to cling briefly to walls and to perform an air dash. The simple additions made for some new platforming challenges that made things tougher. We're pleased to report that the password features from the first three X games have been brought over as well, meaning that your old passwords will still work, which will let you tear through the games if you want to.
The compilation offers a stroll down memory lane that lacks some of the comprehensive touches seen in the Mega Man Anniversary Collection. Aside from the games themselves, a gallery, and an unlockable game, you won't find a ton of historical material here. The big gun is obviously the unlockable game, Mega Man Battle and Chase, the never-released PlayStation kart game starring Mega Man and the gang. While it's a neat addition, and the first time an unreleased PlayStation game has even been playable on Nintendo hardware, you'll understand why it never saw the light of day once the nostalgia factor wears off. The gallery offers a neat mix of art assets, ranging from sketches to music, which should please fans.
The control maps out to the GameCube and PlayStation 2 controllers as well as it did in the Mega Man Anniversary Collection. Both pads have more than enough buttons to get the job done, and you'll be able to do some customizing if you like.
The visuals and audio in the work-in-progress versions we played were pretty much on point with their old-school counterparts. From a presentation standpoint, the collection winds up offering a good sense of how the games kept pace with the changing consoles. The first three games on the SNES are sharp but simple looking, and they are good examples of the work being done at the time on the 16-bit systems. X4 through X6 showed the fun that the developers started having with mixing sprites, as well as the multimedia capabilities of the new disc-based 32-bit systems. Though X4 starts out modestly, by X6 you'll see some ambitious visuals and a generous helping of anime peppered throughout. The voice acting is still as sketchy as it got in those days, but the music and the familiar sound effects are good.
All told, the Mega Man X Collection is looking like a fair but slightly uneven compilation for the Mega Man X series. While the historical extras could be better, the games themselves do a fine job of showing the evolution of the series, and they even manage to serve as a snapshot of the way 2D platformers evolved from the 16-bit era. If you're looking for a cool retro experience, you'd do well to keep an eye out for the Mega Man X Collection when it ships for the GameCube and PlayStation 2 next month.