Mega Man is one of the industry’s top-tier icons, the kind of character that’s still adored decades after their debut and whose popularity can endure insufferably long periods of no new releases. Thanks to numerous re-releases of the earliest games, even the youngest generation of gamers have likely had a brush with the Blue Bomber’s adventures. That brings us to this “collection,” split into two for undisclosed reasons, which does a little more to make the prospect of repurchasing these games a bit more palatable for returning players. It isn’t the best collection ever released but it’s not the worst, either, and it’s still an excellent series of games.
Well, you know… Mostly.
Before I get into the quality of the collection itself, allow me to wax nostalgic about the first title in the series. Mega Man X is by far and away one of my all-time favourite games, having come into my life at a time when gaming itself was still something new and exciting for me. If ever there were a candidate for a “perfect game,” this might be it, never trying to be anything other than an action-platformer, and nailing that concept in every regard. To go into the details of exactly why it’s so good would require an entire article in itself. To do so would be redundant at this point, as well, since the industry at large holds it aloft as a shining example of gameplay, sound, and visual design. It’s just such an enjoyable experience even now, and you should give it a play if you haven’t before.
I never got to play the rest of the X series before this collection outside of a few tries here and there at friends’ houses in the past. Despite their age, I still enjoyed my time with them immensely. Most of them, anyway, and certainly in the cases of X2, X3 and X4. Their designs still hold up compared to modern platformers, and the visual tweaks in this collection might be enough to convince someone less informed about the series into thinking these were recent releases. That might say more about the current state of the industry than these games, but take it as you will. That’s the first half of the series, however; the second half of the series is… Not as good.
“HUURRRR, I’M A MEGA MAN!” – X7 in a nutshell.
I mean, X5 was just a lot more of the same, but it was still okay, I suppose, and X6 was less okay. Then X7 happened and that can’t be taken back. The less said about X8 the better, really. Looking at the tail end of this series, it’s easy to see why Mega Man became a dormant IP for such a long time. I guarantee that those calling for the franchise’s return these past few years weren’t remembering the last few X games. Maybe this is the justification for the split of the collection, having them in two lots of four games rather than all eight in a single package. The first half of the series is much better, and perhaps some only want to remember it that way. I honestly can’t say for sure, since there doesn’t seem to be an official explanation for their separation.
That isn’t to say that they should be split because they really shouldn’t, and it’s one of the more significant downsides of the collection as a whole. Depending on what platform and format you’re playing, physical editions of the game seem to have both collections included, and some digital marketplaces offer a bundle of the two, except for the Switch which doesn’t provide the digital bundle and has no physical edition. This also doesn’t negate the fact that, while bundled, the two collections still exist as separate entities, and still bear the problems detailed below. It can be argued that they did the same with the Mega Man Legacy Collection, so they’re consistent, but I’d counter that by saying the Mega Man Legacy Collection shouldn’t have been split either. Consider also that, in 2006, they were able to release the collection as one whole package on the PS2 and Gamecube.
You did it 12 years ago, Capcom, what’s stopping you now?
The split also presents a problem in the X-Challenge content, an excellent contribution to the collection as a whole but also one of its stumbling points, at least in my opinion. The X-Challenge is a quasi-story focused mode that has X facing off against Maverick bots from across the series in a succession of double-team matches, pitting two Mavericks against X at once. It’s the only thing in the two collections that qualifies as “new” content, and aside from being extraordinarily challenging, it’s also just a whole lot of fun. The problem is that the X-Challenge content that’s present in the first legacy collection is the same as what’s in the second, which feels like the effort just wasn’t put in here. It’s certainly a departure from the preceding Mega Man Legacy Collections that had extra content which was unique to both.
There are some great things besides the games themselves, however. This includes “The Day of Σ (Sigma),” an animated short that was only available on the PSP remake of Mega Man X. If you’ve not seen it before and care about the narrative behind the X games, it’s absolutely worth a watch. Even if you’re not that interested in the backstory, it was made in 2005 and has aged perfectly for connoisseurs of unintentional hilarity, so give it a watch anyway. There’s also the usual galleries of music, art, and other media to peruse over, and you can change the art backgrounds behind the play screen. You can also muck about with the visuals, going with the classic pixel appearance or a “high-res” filter that you can apply over the games. The filter has some minor artefact glitches and flashing pixels for some reason, and I personally don’t think it looks as good as the “vanilla” graphics. You can also go nuts on the Collection credits, a la the Smash Bros Melee credits, which was a nice little touch.
Unless it stings whenever you miss some letters, in which case it’s more like a death by a thousand cuts. But fun!
Mega Man has always been a somewhat punishingly difficult franchise, and the X series is no different. Acknowledging this, Capcom has implemented a “Rookie Hunter” mode that significantly reduces damage, and prevents instadeath from spike traps and pits. This difficulty modifier can also be turned on and off whenever you feel like via a separate pause menu for the collection, as opposed to the currently running game. In fact, the menus and flexibility of the collection settings, in conjunction with the already present settings of each game, makes the experience that much more enjoyable. The only thing that could have been improved is that there’s only a single save state per game, built into the password system of each title. It feels like a choice that was made to appeal to the nostalgic vibe, since multiple save states, especially in what is effectively an emulation, is nothing new.
Though these aren’t necessarily bad or good points, I feel like it’s worth mentioning the following differences between the collection versions of the X games, and their original release counterparts. For starters, there’s no more
NaziReploid salute in the FMV sequence for X4, which is probably for the best given the current political climate. The X4 cutscenes have also been dimmed when flashing occurs because these games were made at a time when Japan just loved inducing seizures, apparently. Finally, the Mavericks from X5 have had their names changed to match the usual format of Maverick names, a tragedy for Duff McWhalen, now Tidal Whale, and a boon for Mattrex, now Burn Dinorex. There are other changes around things like soundtrack usage and some updated artwork, but these will be the most noticeable changes for returning players.
Yeeaaaahhhh… Like I said. Probably for the best.
There’s more that goes into a collection than just cobbling together some working form of your games and dropping them onto the market, which sadly happens more often than not. Man X Legacy Collection (1 + 2) bucks that trend by offering “improved” visuals, settings, difficulty changes, and digital extras to make the deal a little sweeter. There are downsides, such as the collection being split into two for..some reasons, and some players may not like the updates and changes made to character names, artwork, or… “Salutes.” The potential opinions of purists aside, however, the Mega Man X series still (mostly) holds up, and is still immensely enjoyable, terrible voice acting and all. If you’ve never played the games before, or only one or two, this is probably the best way to experience them so far.