Let’s just get something clear right from the start; Mega Man X for SNES is to 2D platformers what Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger are to JRPGs, Tetris is to puzzle games, or if you like, Doom, Goldeneye and the original Halo are to FPSs. It even ranks up there with other greats in the genre like Super Mario World, Sonic 3 and Knuckles, and the original NES Mega Man games.
The story takes place 100 years after the original Mega Man series, and Dr. Light’s finest creation, Mega Man X, had to undergo a 30 year period of testing while encapsulated to make sure he was safely able to be unleashed into the world. Of course, Dr. Light is long since deceased by the time Dr. Cain unearths X’s capsule. From X’s design, Dr. Cain creates reploids, and the finest among these is Sigma. After many of these reploids turn on humans and go bad, or go “Maverick”, Sigma, the leader of the Maverick Hunters, puts these insurrections down. Not long after, as Dr. Cain feared might someday happen, Sigma himself goes Maverick, and takes with him some loyal followers. There’s also X’s partner and friend, Zero, who is technically not a reploid since he is Dr. Wily’s last and finest creation. There’s more back story to Zero and Sigma in X4, so more on that later. Ironically enough, Zero joins forces with X throughout the entire series and proves to be an invaluable ally.
From the moment you press start at the title screen, X kicks it up a notch from the original series. You are treated to an awesome intro stage with plenty of enemies to blast, and are able to experiment with the basics of wall clinging, climbing, and learning how to use the charge feature on the X-Buster, which is X’s main weapon. Upon reaching the end of the intro stage, Vile, who has his own agenda, descends in his ride armor and pounds you into submission, but as you are being held in the iron grip of that ride armor, Zero’s charge shot flashes across the screen, blasts off the arm holding X, and he steps in to save the day. The dialogue is all in text boxes, and fits very well with the game. All in all, it’s a great start to an awesome game.
Then, as that stage select screen comes up, you see the 8 Mavericks, can look up information about each one, and see their location on a map in the center of the screen. Like the original series, each Maverick is also weak to one of the others’ weapons, and you can tackle the stages in any order. Added to the series are the armor capsule upgrades, and there are four of them throughout this game: dash boots, body armor, x-buster upgrade, and the helmet. Since X’s life bar starts out quite small, there are eight heart tanks to collect which increase maximum life capacity, one in each Maverick’s stage. There are also four sub-tanks to get, and these act like E-tanks, but must be filled up by collecting life power-ups when X’s life bar is already full. You can restart from where you left off thanks to a classic password system if you choose to come back later after turning off the game. Like the original series, the password will only put you as far as the first stage of Sigma’s fortress, so you’ll have to slog through that without stopping.
As for the soundtrack, it’s one of the best ever. There is not a single track in this game that I don’t enjoy, although my personal favorites are Spark Mandrill, Intro Highway Stage, Sigma Battle 1, and Storm Eagle. Each theme fits the area/stage perfectly, from the opening title screen all the way to that foreboding sense of danger as X climbs up the shaft to face Sigma and beyond to the ending.
From start to finish, Mega Man X gets everything right and truly is the gold standard for the genre and the X series. Even though you can beat the game in one sitting without too much difficulty, you’ll find yourself coming back to play through it again, perhaps defeating Mavericks in a different order, or only using the X-Buster, or doing a minimalist run and only getting forced upgrades with no heart or sub-tanks. You can even get the famous secret hadouken upgrade and one-shot kill bosses, if you so desire. It’s all up to you. Next time, I’ll still be in awesome territory as I take a look at Mega Man X2.