Thanks to 16-bit visual loveliness and some new moves, the first Mega Man X stood out from the many 8-bit Mega Man games that had popped up on the NES and Game Boy. Released the following year, this sequel may lack the freshness of that first title, but Mega Man X2 still provides the expected action-platforming fun, backed by some great music.
As before there are eight stages for you to tackle in whichever order you feel like, and defeating the end of level boss character grants you a new weapon which may be useful on another foe you've been struggling with. Vanquish all eight and proceed to the final challenge or you can replay the stages to uncover some secrets.
The stages are well designed, with your route through seeing you travel in all directions as you head towards the boss. There's a variety of locations here with mechanical looking levels alongside mountainous terrain, a cave and a underwater stage. The battle armour from the previous game is back, allowing you to stomp through certain sections punching anything that gets in your way, and the Desert Base stage gives you a hover bike to whiz along on. As you work through each stage you'll see glimpses of areas, seemingly impossible to reach, but after gaining an upgrade or a new weapon you can go back and see what treat you were missing out on.
Visually the game features the same cartoony style as the first game, with easy to follow action and good detail on the sprites as well as the foregrounds and backgrounds. There's also a little bit of wireframe 3D thrown in too courtesy of the Cx4 enhancement chip in the original cartridge; it's nothing particularly fancy, but smooth-moving none the less. Elsewhere there are effects used to add to the atmosphere such as rain and a sandstorm, but a vibration effect used on the Dinosaur Tank stage is mostly just distracting. Overall, though, the game looks good and as always with these SNES re-releases on New 3DS you can turn on the Original resolution mode for a crisper display.
There's a lot of fun action in the game as you run, jump, slide and shoot through the various stages, and it can be tricky in places until you pick up a few upgrades. The Air-dashing ability in particular prevents many a catastrophe and by the time you're looking for the last few secrets the various spikes, pits and enemies throughout the levels are unlikely to cause you any trouble.
Until you've worked out a good route through the levels and learnt the best way to defeat the bosses the game will keep you busy. Searching out secrets adds to the longevity of the experience and these secrets include battles with a trio of "X-Hunters" tucked away in hidden rooms that affect the outcome of the game. The fast-paced action suits portable gaming and passwords can be used to return to your game – or you could be sensible and use the standard Virtual Console suspend and restore point functions instead.
There's a lot of enjoyment to be had with Mega Man X2, whether blasting away at enemies, trying to outclimb lava in a volcano or finally gaining access to an out-of-reach portion of a stage. Decent level design, good visuals and a bunch of secrets make this a fun game to play through. It often feels like additional levels to the first game, but that's not really a problem; like its predecessor Mega Man X2 is a good 'un.