I suppose Capcom had to try something new after X6 ended the PS1 generation on a less than stellar note. With 2003 being the 15th anniversary of Mega Man, they probably wanted to do something that would stand out. Unfortunately, Mega Man X7 is guilty of what many 2D platformers turned 3D platformers suffer from, most notably the camera issue. While games like Super Mario 64 and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time did 3D beautifully, many more games didn’t do so well, and X7 is one of them.
The story is at least easier to understand than X6, as it progresses in a linear fashion after beating each Maverick, and you can listen in mediocre sounding English or superb Japanese. A new organization, Red Alert, has filled the vacuum as Maverick hunters after X retires. Wait, what?! X retires in a Mega Man X game!? You can still play as him, thankfully, but more on that in a little bit. Axl, a young member of Red Alert, decides to leave the organization after they start getting more and more suspicious and their actions and methods become questionable. Their leader, Red, is not at all pleased with this and issues a demand to Zero, Alia, and Signas that Axl be returned.
Axl meets up with Zero in the intro stage, and you are introduced to the lock-on system in 3D mode, and then fight the intro boss. Now you can bring two characters along and switch between them at any point, so that’s helpful. Zero in this game is extremely hard to use in the 3D sections, as his Z-saber has such short range and you feel overwhelmed/helpless when you can’t see the enemies or bosses you are fighting just off camera. At least his Z-saber can reflect bullets back at enemies, and some special weapons are very useful for him. Axl is basically a weaker version of X, but can hover and use A-Trance to take on the form of certain enemies, but it’s only marginally useful, even though the plot revolves around this ability. Once you finally get X back after saving 64 reploids, things get easier. Sadly, the reploids here don’t just die from getting infected by the nightmare, since that’s gone now, but die from any attack. Much like in X6, when the reploid dies, he or she is gone for good.
All three hunters can get power-up chips from rescued reploids, and these even carry over into a new game +, which is a great feature. X has the Glide Armor this time around, and although it does reduce damage and has a Giga Crash, the main feature of it allows X to glide in the air, much like a flying squirrel. He looks ridiculous while doing this, but the armor is still useful enough. As for the power-up chips, you’ll need those for your characters, too, as some of the Mavericks in this game are quite tough, namely Flame Hyenard and Snipe Anteator. The former runs around screaming at you constantly and attacking with clones, while the latter puts laser pods around that will fire at you mercilessly while you frantically try to navigate in a rather small area. Additionally, fighting Red in one of the fortress stages is about as annoying as fighting High Max or Gate in X6, and this is due to being able to fall off the platforms so easily.
As usual, you will confront Sigma after fighting all eight Mavericks again. Sigma’s first form is impressive, mostly because it’s fought in 2D, so it just feels right. His second form, on the other hand, is a real pain. It’s not because of Sigma’s fierce attacks, but because it’s so easy to miscalculate a jump and die. When you fear jumping between platforms more than facing off against a final boss, it’s a serious problem.
There are still a fair number of 2D sections throughout the game, however, and these are done quite well. The graphics are impressive with a cel-shaded look, and the soundtrack, as always, is amazing. Once you do get used to the controls in the 3D sections, X7 can be a decent game. I’ve enjoyed it more with each playthrough, about as much as X6. Unlike X6, however, it feels complete, even if it was something totally different. Nevertheless, I can only recommend it to hardcore fans of the series. There are some things done very well, but that awkward camera in 3D mode, inability to use X right away, and difficulty in using Zero severely hurt the gameplay. X7 is not the worst game ever by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the worst in the X series.