The first five Mega Man X games, while slightly uneven, made for a mostly consistent experience, as they were all envisioned and planned by Keiji Inafune, one of the most influential figures to work with the series. Inafune only intended for there to be five games in the Mega Man X series, but the financial success of the games led to Capcom greenlighting not one, not two, but three additional titles to keep the franchise going. Unfortunately, this led to a dip in quality, which makes Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 feel like the inferior of the two packs, even if it’s still pretty good in its own right.
Mega Man X5, what should have been the last entry in the series, continued the 32-bit aesthetic of X4 and added in some interesting twists, most notably the addition of several possible endings. The story goes that a space colony is on a crash course for Earth, and our heroes X and Zero have sixteen hours to do something about it. Each visit to a Maverick stage costs one hour, and depending on which items are found in each stage, one of two countermeasures can be used to avert the catastrophe. This made for a more dynamic experience, one which would take a few playthroughs to see everything, and neatly segued into the Mega Man Zero series that was due to begin on the GBA around the same time. This would’ve been a high note for the series to go out on, but Capcom wasn’t finished with X’s story yet.
Mega Man X6 was about as good as an unnecessary sequel could be, following the adventures of X as he battles the new Nightmare threat, alongside a hastily ‘resurrected’ Zero. Though it followed many of the beats that by now had been well-worn by its many predecessors, Mega Man X6 still managed to feel like a worthy entry in the series, building notably on the ranking system introduced in X5 to make for a more robust and deep gameplay experience. X6 overall did a great job of continuing the feel of the previous games, despite the change in management, and it really would’ve been fine if the series were to end here, as the next two games were rather unfortunate.
Mega Man X7 stands as easily the worst entry in the series, mostly for its much-maligned attempt at ‘going 3D’. Though side-scrolling portions are still present, much of the game is dominated by a corridor running 3D gameplay style that feels nothing like Mega Man X, nor is terribly fun to play in its own right. In addition to this, X himself isn’t playable until much later in the game, replaced by the new (if somewhat forgettable) character, Axl. X7 deserves credit for trying something new in a series that needed new ideas, but the implementation here was mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst.
Mega Man X8, the final game in the series, learned from the mistakes made by its predecessor, though it failed to recapture the glory of the earlier games. Returning to the side-scrolling gameplay, this one eschewed most of the 3D elements of its predecessor, aside from an utterly deplorable hovercraft chase sequence with one Maverick and a snowy racing sequence with another. The addition of an R&D shop and the decent 2D stage design of X8 helped save it from being the mess that its predecessor was, but it certainly made the series go out on a whimper instead of a bang. Considering the highs that were hit by the earliest entries in this series, it was an ignoble end for the Blue Bomber’s Maverick hunting adventures to be punctuated by such a lacklustre sequel.
Indeed, the generally lower quality of this latter half of the Mega Man X series makes this second collection a harder recommendation than the first. Although the first two games are pretty good, the second two are quite mediocre and drag down the otherwise solid reputation achieved by the previous games. That’s not to say this half of the collection is a total misfire; there’s still a decent amount of fun to be found even in the worst games here, but the unfortunate reality is that the series only got worse as it went on.
Just like the first collection, Capcom was keen to ensure that there would be more content to round out the package, and while it doesn’t make up for the lower quality of the games included, it certainly helps to take the edge off. Rookie Hunter mode has made an appearance again, granting players buffs like higher defence and offence and generally making these games much easier to play. Though the later games do feel easier than the first four, broadly speaking, it’s still a welcome inclusion that can help to smooth over frustrating sections; the ability to turn it off and on at will can make for a play experience well suited to any skill levels.
X Challenge — the double boss gauntlet mode from the first — makes a return as well, pitting X against Mavericks from across the series’ history in imbalanced, but awesome fights. Though this mode can get somewhat frustrating due to its nature, it also stands as an easily replayable section well-suited to portable play, featuring a scoring system and leaderboards to encourage multiple attempts. Those of you that have played through the games and want the action of boss fights without having to run through any stages will find plenty to love here, as the challenge and intensity are in healthy supply.
On top of this, longtime fans of the series will be pleased with the depth of the game’s museum mode, which includes an extensive history of all media relating to the X series. Be it commercials, toys, t-shirts, concept art, or soundtracks, the museum has a truly extensive selection of scans and write-ups; there’s plenty of fascinating material to parse here when you aren’t busy blasting away at Mavericks.
Fortunately, Capcom made sure to do its homework on the emulation side of things, we noticed that performance was faithful whether playing in docked or portable mode. Neat extra features like a CRT filter can be enabled if playing X5 or X6 and bordering the play screen with game art makes for a smooth way of accounting for the lack of widescreen.
It’s difficult not to be a little disappointed in Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2, although Capcom deserves credit for doing the best it could to polish up the weaker games in the series. At the end of the day, putting lipstick on a pig can only do so much, and these games unfortunately don’t hold up quite as well as the first four entries in the series. Even so, X5 and X6 are pretty good, and though X7 is a hot mess of confused design, X8 has plenty of fun moments. If you liked the first four games in the series, you’ll probably enjoy these four enough to justify the price, but bear in mind that this is easily the most skippable of the two collections.