The list of must-play SNES games runs long and deep. Over the years there have been hundreds of lists concocted and you could be sure of one thing: somewhere on those lists you would see Mega Man X. Released in January of 1994, it was a long wait coming for fans of the Blue Bomber… but boy, was the wait worth it. Mega Man never looked so good. 20+ years later, Mega Man X is still kicking ass!
THE ASCENSION OF MEGA MAN
1989 is a very nostalgic year and holds a special place in my heart. Uncle Jimmy was in his prime, Hulkamania was running wild, Saturday morning cartoons was must-see TV and the 8-bit Nintendo was kicking butt. Thanks in no small part to Mega Man 2. I still remember seeing the game for the first time in ’89 at Ben’s house. All seven of us were blown away by the amazing intro. We marveled at how it scaled up the towering industrial building, the calm and serene city nightlife just below… and that music… THAT EPIC MUSIC. We were instantly hooked. Capcom struck lightning in a bottle as a promising debut morphed into a legendary series the second game on. And so, the Mega Man revolution was born [and milked… -Ed.]
Thankfully, the gameplay didn’t disappoint. It was the total package. What could be cooler than controlling a heroic robot shooting down rogue robots, stealing their weapons and using it against them? It was packed with masterful tunes left and right, along with some memorable enemies and levels.
In a game era where floaty jumps and erratic control was the norm, Mega Man 2 hit us like a breath of fresh air. You always felt in total control of the little blue guy. The jumps were responsive, so if you died, it was entirely your fault and yours alone. The game also gave you a long health bar so you could mess up a bit and still be okay. Granted, this was all done in the first Mega Man but it was the sequel that took everything and cranked it up.
Another innovative feature that came from the Mega Man franchise was the player’s ability to pick which level to tackle next. This gave you the freedom and opportunity to go through the game as you saw fit. It was unheard of for its time. It’s yet another brilliant feature that made it stand out and endeared itself to millions of gamers the world over. Each robot ended in MAN, and most of them required a specific robot boss weapon to kill. Part of the fun was figuring out whose weakness was what, and which robot boss to go after next. After beating all eight, you can finally head to Dr. Wily’s Fortress. It was simple yet compelling. And for those who aren’t very good at the game, it even gave you the chance to at least sample the eight various stages, so that you’re never stuck on the same one for days on end. The NES would go on to enjoy a whopping six Mega Man titles. At long last, the SNES came calling…
SOUPED UP FOR THE SUPER NINTENDO
It was a long time coming, but Capcom finally unleashed the Blue Bomber in 16-bit glory. And what a glorious debut it turned out to be, as MEGA MAN X took everything sacred about the Nintendo entries and cranked it up to the max.
The game felt like a big fat post-Christmas thank you to the loyal fans. Capcom stepped up to the plate and smacked a home run when Mega Man was at last revitalized in a whole new world on the 16-bit frontier. A marriage made in Heaven, it became an instant classic and was adored by everyone in my gaming crew. Mega Man was back, and he was better than ever, jack.
THE STORY GOES…
The X-Buster is back and has three different forms. The third being the most powerful and is nearly as DAMN BIG as X himself! This weapon made its debut in Mega Man 4 but it was about the size of the middle shot there. It blew our minds to see how big the X-Buster shot was in this game!
Mega Man games up until this point always started out by allowing you to choose your path. Capcom threw in a slight wrench here. You had to first blow through this intro stage. All it really does is to serve as a “how-to” tutorial of sorts as well as build up the story, which Capcom pulls off really well here.
There’s something really cool about destructible landscaping that makes a level a joy to navigate.
And Mega Man X is friggin’ loaded with them! The first of which is the Bee Blader A.K.A. MECHA MOTHRA.
As we all know by now, you can actually gain access to the fabled Hadoken fireball in this game, and it’s powerful as all hell. It’s one of the best easter eggs of all time ^_^
Not happy to just roll out a standard short intro stage, Capcom took measures to ensure its memorability. One of which includes this awesome bit that sees the decimated bumble bee bot crashing down alongside you as the overpass collapses.
You’re no match for Vile. Prior to him you were blasting with the greatest of ease, and it felt like your new X body was all that. But Vile quickly shows you just how much you are still underpowered. After a brief spar, he grabs you to signify the end. When from out of nowhere, a mammoth shot breaks the ride armor’s arm CLEAN OFF!
It’s the spectacular debut of Zero, a class-A Maverick Hunter. Vile doesn’t waste time to make a hasty retreat. It suddenly becomes clear that as strong as you are right now, Zero is that much stronger. Zero looks up to see Vile flying away, knowing full well this isn’t the final battle… not yet by a long shot. Meanwhile, X is looking pretty sorry and down and out, so Zero offers the blue dude a few choice words of encouragement…
Remember the old NES Mega Man password screens? Yeah, I know you do. I always found them to be a bit cumbersome and clunky. Thankfully, in Mega Man X, like much else of the game, it’s as smooth and user friendly as you could hope for.
Select from any one of eight stages. It’s this wide open exploratory nature about the Mega Man games that I always enjoy and appreciate. If you couldn’t beat one level, you could try another instead of being stuck on the same one for days and days on end. The levels here aren’t innovative or anything, with your standard forest, snow and water levels for example. But they’re all a blast to play through.
For the first time in Mega Man history, the bosses are no longer [Noun] Man. Now they’re all based off some type of animal. I thought this was a cool and necessary change to further separate it from the NES series. Here are the eight robot bosses, respective to the stages above. And yes, they do remind me a lot of my old favorite toy lineup from the ’80s… BATTLE BEASTS. Launch Octopus, Armored Armadillo, Spark Mandrill, Storm Eagle, Boomer Kuwanger, Sting Chameleon, Flame Mammoth and the [Chill] Penguin.
Look, it’s Launch Octopus and Armored Armadillo! Well, not really, but, well… actually… kinda! The one on the right is actually really named Armored Armadillo — strange but true. I wonder if Capcom had any existing knowledge of this back when they created their own Armored Armadillo…
Remember Battle Beasts? If you grew up in the ’80s then you should. My favorite toy lineup, they sold in packs of two and were miniature two inch animal warriors. Their gimmick? Each beast had a stamp in the middle. When rubbed it’d reveal either wood, fire or water. The idea being that each has a strength and weakness. It essentially plays like Rock Paper Scissors. There was nothing better than walking into KB Toys or Toys R Us back in the late ’80s and seeing an entire wall blanketed by Battle Beasts. Well, one sad day I rushed to the usual spot where they sold them and it was just… GONE. I combed through the aisles to no avail. Finally, I had my dad ask a worker and to this day I still remember his haunting words: “Sorry, Battle Beasts are no more.” NO MORE!?! How could this be, why?! As a kid I just always assumed they would be around forever. I mean seriously, do you know how many different animal species exist? Hell, the brand should still be going strong today. Alas, that day I learned a valuable lesson. Perhaps it was the first time in my young life that I realized… nothing lasts forever. And that all good things must, eventually, come to a bittersweet end… whether you want it to or not. It’s a day I’ve never forgotten.
As silly as this may sound, or maybe not, one of the small pleasures in a Mega Man title is picking a boss and seeing its little introductory bit to said boss. I don’t know why but I swear it’s one of gaming’s sweet small pleasures ^_^
X’s ability to jump ON and OFF walls created a brand new experience for the player. This newfound skill opened up endless possibilities. Get to the capsule! [Don’t you mean choppa? GET TO DA CHOPPA!! -Ed.]
Capsules are scattered throughout the game. Each one gives X a major boost. As the game carefully plotted out in the introductory stage, there is a real palpable sense of X growing stronger and stronger, bit by bit, until he’s powerful enough to take on the evil Sigma himself. Capcom did a swell job of building this story.
So even though Mega Man controlled more smoothly than most other characters of the NES era, I still felt he was a little bit stiff. Sure, he could jump with the greatest of ease and yes, you had a decent amount of control over the direction of his jumps, but he could not duck and at times he felt a bit clunky. I guess you could argue it’s realistic seeing as how he is a robot, but damn if his newfound abilities in Mega Man X doesn’t make him a total flipping badass! The ability to scale walls and slide down them is just too sweet, not to mention practical.
The classic boss gate runway of the Mega Man games have always stuck with me. They do a good job of building up the anticipation as well as the tension. I just love the way the doors expand in slow motion while the screen scrolls to the right. One could almost think of this harrowing stretch as a “green mile” of sorts! Hell, it often is for first timers… until you can figure out the boss’ pattern.
Capcom nailed the drama aspect of the boss battles. After the runway, the boss drops out of the sky while a long energy bar fills up. This allows you enough time to sweat it out while the boss throws a taunt or two your way. Your finger is on the trigger ready to fire as soon as the battle commences. Good stuff.
Although the game can be defeated in a non-linear fashion, there’s usually a boss everyone likes to tackle first in any given Mega Man game. For this rendition, the winner is the Chill Penguin. He can be defeated rather easily with the X-Buster. But at least Mister Chill Pill isn’t without some ahem, cool attacks.
For purpose of effect, I took the hit here to show off this attack in full
[Yeah sure you did -Ed.]
The ability to jump on and off of walls, as well as sliding down them, created for a host of new gameplay opportunities never before seen in any previous Mega Man title. In particular, it brought a much needed breath of fresh air to the boss battles, as now you had even more strategy and options to evade the frantic enemy onslaught.
And, not one to just be defensive, sliding down walls also gave you the sweet option of charging your X-Buster for a mega attack upon descending. BOO-YAH!
After toying around with Chill Penguin for a bit, it’s time to put him on ice with a well placed mega charge X-Buster shot. Look at that serious swath.
All of the weapons serve different purposes. Some were ideal for certain situations. You had to tinker with the game to find out the pros and cons. And now having the luxury to switch between them with the Super Nintendo shoulder buttons? Sick!
I think I may have a slight affinity for the mid bosses over the regular bosses. I like the fact that they varied in size and shape, usually much bigger than X. I also like that there was no energy bar (it added to the drama). Sure you couldn’t steal their powers, but when they’re as cool looking as this guy here, you don’t really care about that.
Your shots sail off his armor harmlessly. You’re going to have to find a different point of entry. I love the visual of your bullets bouncing off his titanium armored body.
My favorite Mega Man regular enemies are any of the bipedal robots. I kind of wish the series saw more of them quite frankly. There’s something awesome about blasting the holy hell out of them. This guy here being a prime example. PELT AWAY!
Damn indeed. Back in the day my gaming crew used to speculate about how you could ravage the top wall down and enter this boss fight with armor suit intact. It sure was a fun thought. Sadly, that’s all it ever was, but it was a sign of the times. The memories you created with your gaming buddies pre-internet were sacred. Whenever I come to this point in the game part of me can’t help but reminisce of the good old days of early 1994 when life was that much simpler and so too were the video games.
A boss fight could go horribly wrong if you didn’t have the right weapon. If you had the right one though, the pendulum swings the other way. It certainly made for some serious note taking jones.
BEFORE GAMEFAQS OR YOUTUBE
I bought this guide back in 2006 when it was going for peanuts. Now like most SNES items, this strategy guide has skyrocketed in price (costing over $50). It’s a decent and cool little guide but it’s not worth it at that asking price. I love how it’s got my favorite mid boss on the cover there. RT-55J looks a bit like Auto (who was introduced in Mega Man 7) but there’s no proof that the two are connected. Nevertheless, I find it awesome how there’s one mid boss hanging out with all the main bosses on the cover. Maybe ole Stratton was a fan of RT-55J, too?
Speaking of tips and tricks, remember the Hadoken easter egg? It was brilliant. Back in the day this was one of the coolest secrets around. Capcom pulled off some other shenanigans, like seeing ole Chun Li in Breath of Fire, but nothing ever quite topped this one since it affected gameplay.
Not just a mere cosmetic fan service, the Hadoken is death dealt at its finest. It will take out any enemy or boss in just one hit, sans the final form of the final boss. Now that’s what I call playing with SUPER POWER. It’s done with the same down, down forward, forward command as in the Street Fighter II games. There is a half second charge time that leaves you vulnerable, but damn is it worth it. It’s yet another brilliant aspect that only helped to further cement Mega Man X‘s well deserved place in the pantheon of great Super Nintendo games. It’s not quite in that ultra elite Mount Rushmore discussion, but it’s certainly up there.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Mega Man X scored rather rave reviews, although a bit lower than most of its fellow classic brethren. EGM made it Game of the Month in their January 1994 issue (#54) when they rated the game with marks of 9, 9, 9 and 9. GameFan was the one that shocked me a bit as they only doled out ratings of 89, 89, 87 and 82. Keep in mind this is the same magazine that gave Clay Fighter a whopping 97%! Super Play Magazine rated it a healthy 88%. In issue #100, Nintendo Power placed Mega Man X on their top 100 games list at #58. The game’s legacy is firmly cemented in gaming history. Fans often cite it as one of their favorite Mega Man games of all time, and it is highly revered in practically every retro gaming circle I have ever seen. Platforming blasters just don’t get much better than this!
AND THE SURVEY SAYS… X MARKS THE SPOT
Several years ago I ran a survey asking which of the four traditional SNES Mega Man games people most prefer. The results weren’t surprising — Mega Man X won by a landslide. It had 55.56% backing it, while Mega Man X³ came in second with 26.67% of the votes. Mega Man X² and Mega Man 7 were tied for last with 8.89% each. While I enjoy all of the games, there’s something about the original that just can’t be beat. And in most circles, that seems to be the consensus. Like Mary, there’s just something about Mega Man X that hits the mark.
There’s no denying that Mega Man X is a bonafide SNES classic. Not only did it bring the Blue Bomber back in style but many still consider this one to be the finest hour in the entire Mega Man series. What made this game so epic? We can start off with the spiffy 16-bit visuals — up until that point Mega Man never looked better. While the tunes aren’t Mega Man 2 legendary, they’re still a treat with excellent tunes littered throughout. It plays enough like the old 8-bit Mega Man titles but has enough new features to give it its own unique feel. The control was flawless. Silky smooth and responsive. In a nutshell, take the 8-bit Mega Man which you love so much, add in 16-bit trimmings, and what you get is an absolute classic action title and one of the most beloved Super Nintendo games of all time.
For anyone who grew up holding an 8-bit Nintendo controller in their hands, Mega Man games have given us countless memories. Mega Man X exploded onto the 16-bit generation with style. From the start, the game puts you in total control of X. He dashes, scales walls and blasts with the best of them. Mega Man and the SNES controller was a match made in Heaven. While the game may lack in challenge, it’s forgivable given how much fun it all is. Like fine wine, Mega Man X has aged gracefully thanks to its timeless gameplay and protagonist. As long as bad robots roam the earth, and Super Nintendos function like the Hondas that they are, Mega Man will always be around to protect and serve. And serve us he has. For nearly 30 years now, he’s been providing us with countless memorable moments. Tunes and images forever etched into our gaming hearts. We can still hum certain Mega Man tracks. We still remember certain boss patterns. And we still love the Blue Bomber after all these years. Thanks for the memories, ye ol’ blue chap. Rock on.