It was 1995 or 1996 (depending on where you lived) and for the third year running Capcom released a Mega Man X game on the SNES. Further games in the series would follow but whilst X's 1-6 would arrive on the GameCube in Mega Man X Collection, Mega Man X3 would be the last in the series for the SNES and now presumably the New Nintendo 3DS as well.

The first two games in the series were quite similar but highly enjoyable. This third entry has a different feel, but it's not a complete reinvention. As always there are eight stages to tackle in any order you wish, set in a variety of locations (caves, factory, wintry outdoors), with a variety of jumps to make, walls to climb and enemies to shoot before facing off against a "Maverick" boss character; you defeat them to acquire a new weapon.

There are some new gameplay features such as multiple types of battle armour, and X can now air-dash upwards. Fans of Zero will be pleased to know you can play as the Maverick Hunter for parts of the game, although he'll scarper before a boss encounter. He's a little sluggish, but he has a sword and is very useful, particularly in the early stages when X has little to no upgrades.

Those are good additions, but the new approach to level design is not so welcome. Often there is a less than clear path through each stage and many drops to areas of unknown danger. It's not like you'll be stuck wondering where to go for long, but the previous games had a clear path to follow with small glimpses of something else – here you'll likely stumble across secret areas by accident.

Another oddity in the game are the moments devoid of antagonists. Although relatively short sections of the larger stage, the casual uneventful strolling goes on long enough to be noticeable, and there can actually be jump-scares when an enemy finally pops up, causing frantic bashing of the fire button as you momentarily think you're trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Other times you'll have a lone easily-dispatched foe being thrown onto the screen. Despite these moments the game is no pushover and actually provides a decent challenge.

There's a good range of enemies in the game and some of their attacks are difficult to avoid and inflict a lot of damage. Respawning enemies can be problematic as your instinctual movement will often take you back just far enough to bring the mechanical menace back. This is particularly an issue when scaling walls as you'll destroy something whilst being careful not to get hit, only to slide down just far enough to trigger a respawn; the process repeats. This can be frustrating, but for the most part overcoming the challenging battles is a lot of fun and helps to alleviate the frustrations with level design.

With some regular enemies requiring a little more thought than previous games, it's a little strange that a number of the boss encounters are quite simple, defeated in a straightforward manner with the route to them being a lot tougher than the end of level battle. Despite this the game entertains and you'll be kept busy as you jump, climb, blast away and seek out the various upgrades to help on your quest. The uncertainty thrown up by the level design makes for a slower pace until you've figured out the correct way to go, but you could just throw caution to the wind and dash through the levels anyway. If it keeps ending with a drop down a pit or some other unfortunate end, there are always restore points.

Conclusion

Likely the last game in the series that'll appear on New 3DS, Mega Man X3 is another game full of action-platforming enjoyment that's a little different to its predecessors. The ability to play as Zero is a good addition, but the level design hurts the game. Despite this there's still a decent amount of fun to be had and the game can provide a challenge. Unlikely to be replayed as much as its two predecessors, Mega Man X3 is nevertheless not a bad way to pass time.