Mega Man ZX
The end of levels and the rise of nonlinearity comes to the Mega Man universe...
We know... Capcom and company just won't quit with the Mega Man games, but really, why quit when you've got your groove back? Yep, the franchise that the Blue Bomber built has apparently taken a few cues from a certain Toni Morrison novel, as the storied series makes its first original appearance on the Nintendo's record-breaking handheld console.
And yes, "original" is the key word here, as I'm sure that naysayers will be quick to point out last year's Mega Man Battle Network 5: Double Team DS was essentially a port of GBA game - a very shoddy GBA game that I'd more or less like to forget ever existed. Fortunately for true Mega Man fans and fans of good games in general, this isn't another spin-off title with an undeniable identity crisis. Make no mistake about it; Mega Man ZX is all about side scrolling, two-dimensional butt-kicking action - and that's exactly how a Mega Man title should be!
While cleverness in the naming department may not be one of Capcom's strong suites, they are without a doubt one of the best developers when they focus hard on a project. Mega Man ZX, a sort of play-on-words-tribute to past installments of the franchise is looking like it could be what Mega Man fans everywhere have been waiting some time for. Taking style and gameplay cues from both the SNES's adored X series, and the GBA's uber-difficult Zero series, ZX is aiming to capture the perfect balance of both - the best of both worlds, if you will.
This time around things take place where the Zero series left off, albeit a few hundred years later. As a result, familiar characters like Zero are nowhere to be found. Instead, players take on the roles of two young teenage protagonists, who venture out in a world where the line separating reploids and humans is narrower than it's ever been in past iterations of the series. The two characters, Vent and Allie, yes, that's male and female, look and play extremely similar to one another; with the main difference being the in-game dialogue.
Throughout their adventure the pair seek out the assistance of Live Metals, which transforms your characters into different forms allowing you to gain special powers. What's really cool about the game is that both characters can strip down to their normal humanoid forms, which allows them to go about normal tasks without sticking out like a sore thumb. Being armor-less also allows you to float in water, and access otherwise unreachable areas due to the bulk of your suit.
Although I mentioned that Mega Man ZX borrows ideas from both Mega Man Zero, and Mega Man X, it's obviously much more influenced by the latter edition of the series - Mega Man Zero. The first and most outstanding indication of this is the layout of the levels. Unlike Mega Man X, which was mainly a linear affair, Mega Man ZX lets you indulge in the adventure however you see fit, the only thing limiting access is the Metals you've unlocked. Could this be Capcom's answer to Konami's successful "Metroidvania" titles? Conversely, while some of the GBA Mega Man titles were arguably some of the most difficult in the series, the development team behind ZX is hoping to balance out the gameplay of ZX by reducing the hair-removing frustration.
One of my favorite aspects about the latest addition of Mega Man is the level of polish that has been noticeably applied to the game's presentation. Not only is the game a beautiy to look at, with levels and characters designs done up in typical Toru Nakayama styling, but it's also nice to listen too as well. Over all, the amount of polish is readily apparent, with improved sound from the GBA excursions, making the awesome anime-inspired cut scenes a real treat to watch.
Capcom has definitely started a new chapter in the series that will keep fans on the edge of their seats, and most importantly will have them coming back for Mega Man ZX 2, 3, 4, and so on. I'm sure you guys know the drill by now. Mega Man ZX is due out later this fall. Keep it for additional coverage around the game's release.