This time around Dr. Doppler is trying to build some utopian city called Dopple Town. Something goes wrong with the control chips and many of the reploids go Maverick. X and Zero rush to the Maverick Hunter headquarters, and during the intro stage, players get to take control of Zero for the first time and save X from a short lived enemy named Mac. Afterwards, X defeats the large intro stage boss as usual and moves along to the stage select screen. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Sigma/Sigma virus are ultimately responsible for all the trouble.
There are a lot of new features in this game, but it still retains the core gameplay as seen in X and X2. Vile is back once again to harass X in an upgraded ride armor, and then there are two of Doppler’s minions, Bit and Byte, both of which are encountered as boss fights midway through the Maverick stages. To change some of the end boss fights in Doppler’s fortress, you have the option of destroying Bit, Byte, and/or Vile completely before defeating all of the eight Mavericks; certain weapons used for the finishing blow will accomplish this, as opposed to just using the X-Buster, which makes them flee and fight near the end of the game. Also, Vile is hidden away in certain stages and must be found separately, as opposed to Bit and Byte, who are forced encounters. Defeating these three completely will result in different boss battles in the first and second stages of Doppler’s fortress, and slightly alter the level design, too.
Zero is playable for the first time, but he can only be used outside of boss fights, has only one life and no upgrades, but can defeat a miniboss in Doppler’s fortress to allow X the use of his Z-Saber. Getting this ultimate weapon will allow X to become totally overpowered, but Zero will be sacrificed in the process. Still, it’s nice that Zero is usable for the first time, and saving him or letting him get destroyed will slightly alter the ending.
In addition to the usual heart tanks, sub-tanks, and armor power-ups, there are four more hidden Dr. Light capsules which allow X to further upgrade one of the four pieces of armor. For instance, an extra body armor power-up reduces damage by 75% instead of just 50%. If you want the golden armor, though, you can wait until the first stage of Doppler’s fortress, find a hidden capsule, and upgrade all your armor pieces. Then you can heal while standing still(helmet), take even less damage(armor), fire tons of charged shots consecutively(X-Buster), and dash twice in a row in mid-air(boots). This truly is the first time in an X game that an ultimate armor becomes available, and makes the rest of the game easy, especially if you also get the Z-Saber.
Then, there are four different ride armors X can obtain. After getting the Chimera, or N armor in Blast Hornet’s stage, X can get three more ride armors which can be used at these docking pads. There is the Frog (F) armor, and it works best underwater, the Kangaroo (K) armor, which uses spikes that can be revved up for a charge attack, and the Hawk (H) armor, which is a powerful ride that can fire missiles and hover for a few seconds. These are useful in certain situations, but not required to beat the game.
While the 16-bit graphics look pretty much the same as X and X2, and the controls are still solid, the same cannot be said for some of the music tracks. The boss battle theme is a little bland in my opinion, but it does not diminish the greatness of the game in any way. Most of the Maverick stage themes are awesome, with some of my favorites being Gravity Beetle, Toxic Seahorse, and Crush Crawfish.
After defeating the eight Mavericks once again in the capsule room and beating Doppler, X once again faces off against Sigma. This time his first form is quite difficult, due to his shield both being used to block most shots and the constant stream of fire he blasts at you, and he will occasionally toss his shield as a projectile. His second form, ironically, is actually slow and relatively simple, merely moving back and forth while occasionally shooting projectiles and an easily evadable laser. Then, just as you think it’s over, the Sigma virus chases X into a dead end, where either Zero or Doppler will save X and usher in the ending and credits.
Thus concludes the SNES X trilogy. After my Christmas post next article, I’ll tackle the PS1 generation, starting with Mega Man X4.