Spinoffs in popular franchises have delivered historically mixed results over the years, but when Capcom spun the X series off of Mega Man, not only did they create a new line every bit as intense and engaging as the originals, but arguably even more polished and fun to a certain degree. And now, after a rather lengthy wait, Capcom have thankfully brought the first release in the Mega Man X series to the Virtual Console.
Anyone that's ever played a Mega Man title should feel right at home with Mega Man X. Not only is the basic gameplay very similar in style and execution, the progression and overall goals are pretty much the same as well. You're able to select any of the eight Maverick stages right from the get-go, and as you defeat each Maverick you'll gain access to that particular robot's special weapon, which just so happens to be Kryptonite to one of the other bosses. So, once again, the order in which you attack these stages will have a significant effect on your battles with the many bosses.
The main character, X, looks and controls much like the original Mega Man. You'll still run, jump, and shoot your way through a variety of situations, but here the developers added a few modern touches to liven things up a bit. Now you can not only hang on to and jump up along walls, you can hold a powered-up X-buster shot and also locate upgrade pods that will give access to new moves like the Dash and an even stronger X-buster. While these might seem like rather trivial enhancements, they add a wealth of new variety to the Mega Man experience.
To say that the developers nailed the controls in Mega Man X would be a gross understatement. The controls are spot-on and provide the perfect level of responsiveness. Even the boss fights feature some amazing movement and attack patterns that will test your wit and problem-solving skills, not to mention your reflexes. And when you toss in a ton of other surprises, like the way defeating a boss in one level will affect things in another level, you get a game that's extremely deep and soaked in replay value.
As you'd expect from the 16-bit step up, the visuals in Mega Man X are nicely detailed and feature all of the vibrant scenery that players have come to expect from the series. The majority of the characters, enemies, and bosses are also quite a bit larger in size this time around, giving them an even more intimidating aura. The developers have even been kind enough to toss in a few special effects to give it that signature SNES appeal.
If there's one aspect of the Mega Man series that's always impressed over the years, it's the game's musical score and sound effects package. And while the game could have easily forsaken the chip tune style given the improved might of the SNES's sound chip, it instead takes the classic chip tune sound and somehow layers it with a host of more modern synthesized audio touches without losing the classic feel. You'll even find a few familiar-sounding tracks to get your nostalgia flowing.
Mega Man X is one of the strongest action/side-scrollers in video game history and a title that more than lives up to the Mega name. Not only does it capture everything that was great about the original NES series, it also manages to add a wealth of new ideas to the mix without taking anything away from the overall experience. There are those who might claim that a spinoff can never be as great as the original, but those people obviously have never taken this phenomenal side-scroller for a spin.