The Japanese PlayStation 2 version of Rockman X Command Mission has just hit store shelves, so you can check out our impressions of the game here. And just to make things clear, Rockman is better known as Mega Man to us Westerners. Luckily, one of the unlockable items in the game is a short demo of the upcoming Rockman X8, so we took a run through its demo to find out what to expect from the upcoming new installment in the Mega Man X series.
In the demo level, we were immediately placed in control of X and were tasked with running headlong through a jungle environment while blasting everything in our path. Recent Mega Man X series addition Axl was also available for play, and we could switch between the two characters with a tap of the L1 button. X plays just like you remember, so he can jump normally, and he can only fire horizontally with his regular cannon. As usual, he also has a more powerful blast that you can charge up. Axl is a little more interesting, since he has a rapid-fire shot that can be employed in eight directions. If you jump and hold the button down while in the air, Axl will hover and can be made to fly left or right for a short time. Holding down the fire button in midair will cause Axl to hang there for a time while he unloads some pain on nearby enemies. Finally, both characters can also wall-jump equally to reach greater heights.
Though you begin the demo level by being able to switch between Axl and X, soon you'll be forced to use just Axl after a short bit of dialogue. Before you reach the midlevel miniboss, you'll gain access to a third playable character--X series mainstay Zero. He comes equipped with his trusty energy sword, which he'll swing in a rapid multihit combo if you hammer on the attack button. Zero can also double-jump, allowing him to reach greater heights with ease, as well as wall-jump like the other two characters. Throughout the demo, you'll encounter sections that require you to use just one of the characters, and other parts will give you a specific combination of the two that you can switch back and forth between.
Anyway, the action in Mega Man X8 is pretty typical of the series. As a result, you'll be running from left to right while blasting all the bad-guy reploids that you encounter as you move along. There were two giant robotic minibosses in earlier parts of the level that we had to fight before we actually made it to the last boss, who pretty much cleaned our clock. There are tons of tiny enemies that get in your hair and are a general nuisance. Meanwhile, there is a smaller number of larger enemies that launch rockets at you and engage in other such pusillanimous hijinks. It's all pretty much classic Mega Man X, which is what fans of the series have surely hoped for.
Though we've only seen this one level, Mega Man X8 is looking pretty tasty from a graphical standpoint. The demo level is initially set in the jungle, so we soon came to a canyon area with a large waterfall on the side. This is where the second miniboss came in. Afterward, we moved directly into a typical Mega Man X-style high-tech facility that was, of course, filled with plenty more reploids to blast. In classic series style, many of these reploids appeared in the guise of animals. The game looks strikingly good, but we saw some unfortunate instances of slowdown as we were playing. Because the game's not even out in Japan yet (much less America), we hope that this issue can be addressed before it finally arrives.
Lastly, the demo we played of Mega Man X8 is actually pretty challenging. None of the three characters gets a whole lot of health, and the enemies can inflict a considerable amount of damage (even the small ones) to you. We wiped out several times just trying to get to the last boss in this one level, so it seems like Mega Man fans will have a considerable uphill climb when they finally get to play the game in English. Look for more on Mega Man X8 in the coming months.