Maverick Hunter X is a wonderful update of the inaugural installment in Capcom's edgiest Mega Man franchise.
Dr. Thomas Light built and stored X in a hidden place during the final days of his life. X was designed differently from other robots. His creator had instilled in him the ability to feel emotions and autonomously make decisions. Fearing that X may choose to follow the evil ways of the rebellious Maverick robots, Light recorded and left behind a series of holographic messages informing those in the future to influence and use X for good.
Light's wish comes true as X joins the Maverick Hunter group: robots dedicated to terminating rebellious Reploids who desire to wreck havoc on the planet. The main perpetrator of the Reploid rebellion is Sigma, former leader of the Maverick Hunters who became a Maverick. Sigma gains the support of eight other Hunters, and it is up to X (and Zero, who is not a playable character) to fight the Maverick rebellion.
Not only does the X series' first title resemble the original series' first game in terms of its story, but the formula and gameplay are almost identical. Granted, X does have a few nifty moves that Mega Man did not. Wall kicking, for example, gives him the ability to ascend walls and other tall structures.
The eight main levels are quite linear: reach point B from point A. Hidden paths that lead to useful goodies offer a nice change of pace and sense of exploration. Mega Man X purists may be disappointed to find that some upgrades have been relocated to different locations in this remake. Nonetheless, the power-ups are still very useful and fun to seek.
These enhancements increase X's defense, allow him to dash, and break through tough material, among other things. Health tanks that increase X's overall health meter can also be found. In some levels, secret paths containing these items can only be accessed once certain other stages have been completed. Revisiting these well designed stages reveals a change in their makeup, making the retread worth the time.
Maverick Hunter X is a platformer at its core. Carefully timed, long jumps play a big part in the levels. Riding mine carts, running from giant enemies, and operating a small mech suit add a sense of speed and excitement. Such change-ups are rare, not overdone. Each stage's location usually reflects some elemental force. There is an underwater stage where X can jump unusually high, a factory stage with junk on conveyor belts and boiling lava below for the waste, and a jungle with all sorts of "robotic wild-life". And the levels are beautiful to the eyes.
Awaiting at the end of each stage is a Maverick robot. Though their names are not as lame as the robot masters from the original series, whose names always ended with "man", their goofy names and design retract from the game's serious tone. Unhelpful in this matter is the dialogue and voice-overs. Paradoxically, the voice-overs are quite good, and fit the characters, but sap away the seriousness of their threat.
Voices aside, the boss battles prove to be the most challenging aspect of Maverick Hunter X. Each boss has a small set of moves, but they do not execute them in a predicted pattern. These foes deal devastating damage; health tanks and armor are useful here. Utilizing newly acquired weapons from defeating a Maverick can alleviate the difficulty. Defeating a boss gives X one of their unique attacks, all of which are a weakness to one of the other bosses. A few of the weapons Mega Man can obtain: a flamethrower, ice shot, horizontal whirlwind, and a ball of electricity.
Giving the game great replay value is the ability to play as Vile, the lone wolf in the story who desires to destroy X and Sigma's agenda. Vile plays totally different from X. He does not obtain the Maverick robot's weapons, but instead receives upgrades unique to his own weapons and abilities. Before entering a stage, you are able to customize Vile by choosing what type of weapons he will carry with him.
Maverick Hunter X is a difficult game, especially if the player opts out of finding the hidden upgrades. Capcom should have allowed different difficulty options as they did with Mega Man Powered Up. Rarely does the game feel cheap, but there is the occasionally poorly placed platform that requires an almost impossible jump. It is especially frustrating when you miss a jump after surviving a difficult obstacle and defeating a mini-boss, only to be placed before those challenges, forced to complete them again. This exposes the game's inconsistent check-point system: sometimes generous, sometimes inconsiderate.
Maverick Hunter X is a gorgeous game that boasts the series trademark gameplay and rocking soundtrack. For the better, the first game in the series was successfully remade. Being able to play as Vile adds significant replay value. Fans of the series and those aching for old-school, challenging 2D shooting and platforming will do well to pick up Maverick Hunter X.