Mega Man X. Mega Man X. Mega Man X. It’s fucking great.
Mega Man X is one of the greatest games of all time. It takes a beloved franchise and gives it adult boots. Adult boots that dash around and kick up walls and… ugh. This game is so good.
I’m actually considering to skip the review and just let this old video from Game Grump’s Arin Hanson explain it for me.
Growing up, Mega Man was a game I appreciated but never actually owned. My parents rented Mega Man 2 on the NES for my 7th birthday. I recall enjoying the game, but remembered how difficult the game was. Eventually I talked my mom into getting me a terrible Mega Man DOS game that hardly ran on my Tandy. It was awful. I wouldn’t revisit a classic Mega Man game until college.
In high school, one of my best friends at the time would often bring his SNES games to my house. He would bring Super Mario Kart (before I got my own copy), King of the Monsters 2, WWF Raw, Contra III; Alien Wars, and Mega Man Soccer? Alright, we really enjoyed Mega Man Soccer for some reason.
The game that stood out among them all though, was Mega Man X.
It was an all new Mega Man. He didn’t look like a cyan grumpy boy in a speedo. He didn’t control like absolute ballsack like the DOS game did. This game was sharp and mature. Heck, Doctor Light was dead long before the game starts. Compared to what I was used to, this game was dark and for real.
Mega Man X is a rarity. It takes a simple mechanic – running, jumping, and shooting, and elevates it with a dash and wall jump ability. I’m going to sound like the Sequelitis video above here, but Arin nails it on the head. It takes everything that works from the original Mega Man games and gives our new hero, X, a chance to show that he’s much more than the O.G. blue bomber. This Mega Man is faster, stronger, and much more capable, and you have to earn each upgrade to get you there.
This game feels incredible to play. It’s extremely balanced. It’s only demerit is that there are several “gotcha” moments where enemies can come in (or respawn) with little warning and quickly cause you to lose a life. I’m looking at you, Trollcopter on Sigma Stage 1.
It’s almost hard to believe that the team at Capcom were able to build such a near flawless experience. According to the liner notes from the Rockman (Mega Man is Rockman in Japan) X Alph-Lyla CD, the development of this game was a chaotic nightmare, with high expectations and extremely limiting timelines.
You play as Mega Man X. At some point, a long time ago, you were built by Doctor Light, the scientist who famously built Mega Man. You were kept in stasis while your robotic mind was being reviewed and tested to make sure you were safe to unleash upon the world. Some other Doctor, an archaelogist named Dr. Cain, found you. Dr. Cain decided to create an entire population of sentient robots based off of X, and apparently things go wrong as some of these fine synthetic-folk turn Maverick. Your job, as X, is to hunt down the Maverick Reploids and stop their plan to start a war with the rest of the world.
We’re quickly introduced to Zero, another Reploid who is clearly watching out for X. He assures X that someday, X could be as powerful as him, and this sends you on your journey to glow up and become the greatest super fighting robot there ever was.
The game spends very little time exploring the world, and instead simply focuses on Mega Man X’s growth as a hero. From your first real taste of a boss fight, where Vile dishes out a big helping of your ass, to you teaming back up with Zero after defeating the eight Maverick bosses, only to find that he’s been captured by Vile. You’re given an elegant amount of information, and it conveys everything you need.
Still, the game covers a lot of themes that you wouldn’t expect. Mega Man X was built with the ability to make choices, but he’s forced to fight to protect the world. He was designed for peace, but he’s growing to be a powerful warrior. He strives to grow as strong as his friend Zero, who sacrifices himself to save X.
There is minimal text to cover these themes, and that makes them even stronger.
Mega Man X looks incredible. Each stage has a unique color pallet and design assets. The sprites are crisp and detailed, and the animation is very smooth. Many stages have multiple “setpieces,” such as a mechanical forest that narrows into a cave, or a snow-covered tundra that takes you into some sort of military depot. It gives each stage a unique level of character.
The images below are all from the same stage.
The only real gripe is that there are a couple points where the game overexerts the Super Nintendo hardware and causes slowdown. It doesn’t stop the game from being enjoyable – in fact it almost adds to the tension and forward drive of the game. Modern games will use a bullet-time effect to give the player ample time to sort out what they want to do in an otherwise tense moment, although I don’t think it was meant to play out that way in Mega Man X.
Still, each stage has beautiful, detailed assets. The coral-laden seafloor waves with the ocean current. The mine shaft is filled with interesting corridors and structures in the background. Enemies and bosses are colorful, detailed, and well animated.
The soundtrack rocks. It’s all synthesized – that’s all you could do on the SNES, but each track is energetic and drives you forward. Overdriven riffs, rolling drums, screaming guitar solos, and syncopated orchestral hits give this game a cinematic feel.
Just listen to this.
Each stage has its own track that fits the motif of the level very well.
Arin Hanson covered this too. See? All this work I’m doing is redundant. Mega Man X teaches you how to play the game without any instruction. It starts out nice and simple, and gradually lets you explore your capabilities. The game is challenging, but it’s forgiving. Each time you finish a stage, you are given a password, so you can always resume your progress, even if you lose all of your lives.
The game is fair, through and through. You can always go back and explore older levels and uncover upgrades and hone in your skills.
After the initial stage, players can choose any of the next eight stages. There are definitely optimal ways to play (hint: you should start with Chill Penguin’s stage), but if you have trouble with a stage, you can always try another and work your way through.
The initial eight stages are relatively easy, with a few challenges here and there. The boss fights are challenging, but pretty fair. Most bosses have patterns and tells, and give you ample time to figure out their weakness (each boss you defeat gives you a new weapon, and each boss is weak to one of these weapons).
Towards the end of the game, the stages become much more difficult. There’s the traditional boss parade that makes you battle through all of the bosses again – that’s pretty standard for any Mega Man game. The final battles make you use everything you’ve learned and require you to be proficient as the next gen Man of Mega.
All in all, the game isn’t very difficult, but by the end, you feel like you’ve made a real accomplishment.
The quality doesn’t falter as you play through the game. Most Mega Man games have to be that way, since you essentially choose the order of the main stages. Even the linear Sigma levels are well-designed, with some very interesting, unique boss fights and tricky corridors.
Inherently, Mega Man X doesn’t give you a lot of reasons to dive back into it. You can play through the entire game and not get all of X’s upgrades. However, many levels will change based on the other levels you’ve already completed. For example, if you finish Storm Eagle’s stage, it will remove some hazards from Spark Mandrill, but will cause blackouts during certain areas of the stage. I never realized that Flame Mammoth’s stage had lava in it, because I’ve always done Chill Penguin’s stage first.
Mega Man X is incredible, and has spawned an endless line of sequels, spinoffs, and homages. None of them are quite as incredible as Mega Man X. It’s a short jaunt, clocking in at a couple hours. It’s definitely worth your time.
Mega Man X was developed by Capcom.
Mega Man X is also available in the Mega Man X Collection, released on GameCube and Playstation 2, and the Mega Man X Legacy Collection, available for the PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.
Where to Get This Game:
Capcom might not be great at making new Mega Man games, but they excel at making sure their older games are always accessible to new players. Kudos, Capcom!
Mega Man X (SNES - 1993)
Game title: Super Mario World
Game description: Mega Man X was released in the United States in January, 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game has been found in multiple collections, including the Mega Man X Collection on the Gamecube and Playstation 2, and the Mega Man X Legacy Collection on Steam, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch. It is the 44th best-selling game on the SNES.
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Story - 9.5/10
Visuals - 9/10
Audio - 9/10
Accessibility - 9/10
Challenge - 8/10
Consistency - 10/10
Replayability - 9/10
Mega Man X is Lynk Approved
Mega Man X is fun as fuck. It’s THE best Mega Man game, and one of the best platform jump’n’shoots of all time.
With sharp, detailed visuals, a rock-your-dick-off soundtrack, and incredible theming, MMX is enjoyable every time you come back to it.
Mega Man X is one of those titles that I will play through every couple years, usually collecting every armor upgrade, every heart container, and the secret easteregg Hadouken move (so I can one shot Vile and Sigma’s dog).
If you haven’t played it, or you played some other Mega Man games and weren’t compelled to try Mega Man X, do yourself a favor. It’s literally available just about everywhere.
- Amazing controls
- Rockin’ soundtrack
- Stellar level design, and each level feels unique
- Really solid difficulty arc
- The sequels are (often) pretty good, but never quite as good.