After releasing the previous two Mega Man Zero titles and having them almost universally liked, it would've been crazy to end the series there; so, naturally, Capcom produced Mega Man Zero 3 for the Game Boy Advance.
Just as before, the game follows the events of the previous instalments pretty directly. Picking up two months after Mega Man Zero 2, Ciel and Zero are investigating a recently downed spaceship because they think it might contain the Dark Elf, and it doesn't take long for things to get hairy. This time, the main antagonist is Dr. Weil, previously mentioned in Zero 2, and as you might expect he wants the Dark Elf too; Zero's goal is to stop him. Naturally, there are some twists and turns along the way, but you'll have to find those out for yourself.
While Zero 2 fixed a lot of the problems with the first title, Zero 3 doesn't really feature any significant changes to its mechanics. Perhaps the most important gameplay change is that Zero's Rod weapon is different yet again - this time it's the "Recoil Rod", which allows you to push enemies back, and can also be charged to push them back even further or, if aimed downwards, push yourself away from the ground, resulting in a large jump. While Zero 2 already reduced the amount of time it took to level up weapons, it's reduced even more here. In fact, it's reduced so much that you don't even have to grind at all - all of your weapons are fully powered right away.
After the short intro stage you'll be back in the Resistance base from the previous game, and we mean that quite literally - it is exactly the same base as last time. Some might say that this is lazy game design, but since the Zero games all follow each other it's nice to see them - logically - keeping the same base. From here it's pretty much exactly the same deal as in Zero 2 - select one of the available missions, clear it, come back to the base and repeat. As before, there are 8 "main" bosses, but there are also a few others, including some familiar faces.
While the game is still quite challenging overall, Zero 3 seems to be somewhat easier than its predecessors. Perhaps it just comes from having played the previous entries and having fully grasped the controls, but the game even goes so far as to introduce "cyberspace", which you can choose to enter or ignore. This essentially puts you into an alternate version of a section of a stage which features a lot less enemies and automatically activates all of your Cyber Elves - however, this comes with a significant score reduction that might make getting a good rank a good deal more difficult.
Just like before, the main replay value will come from trying to collect everything, because there's a lot of stuff. While the forms from the last game have been dropped, Zero can now collect a multitude of chips that can be equipped to his head, body and feet, which all grant different abilities. EX skills are also still available for beating bosses with a good rank, and since there are 12 of them this time instead of 8, it'll be even trickier to get all of them.
New are the secret disks, of which there are over a hundred to find. These can contain all sorts of things, from background information on enemies or the story, to the aforementioned chips or even the Cyber Elves seen in the previous games. In fact, it's the only way to get Cyber Elves this time! If even that wasn't enough, you can unlock a multitude of minigames by clearing the game under various crazy conditions, such as beating all missions with an S rank while only using one type of weapon.
In terms of looks and sound not much has changed. The graphics are still quite crisp and look fine, and Capcom's audio team once again delivers with a great soundtrack.
Mega Man Zero 2 made some drastic changes to the first game's formula to make it more enjoyable. Zero 3 finetunes that a little more, but doesn't really feature any major changes, a classic example of not messing with something that works. In short, if you enjoyed the previous titles, you will absolutely enjoy this one as well, and all the collectibles should keep you entertained for a while - again!