Also available on Gamecube, PlayStation 2, Wii via Virtual Console, Wii U via Virtual Console, 3DS via Virtual Console, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Android, iOS, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/18/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Mega Man X was the series’s debut on the Super Nintendo as well as the start of the “X” sub-series of games. It’s also, however, probably the best game in the entire Mega Man franchise, at least of the ones that I’ve played. I know a lot of folks look at spin-off games as inherently inferior to the main series games – I know I’m guilty of that with Pokemon and Resident Evil – but in this case, those people would be wrong; Mega Man X is definitely a cut above even the best of the first seven main series entries.
The game takes place sometime in the 22nd Century about a hundred years after the events of the main series. Dr. Light created a successor android to Mega Man known as X that was supposed to be able to think, feel, and make his own decisions just like a human being. Obviously, this presents the risk of making the Terminator movies real, and Light realized that. Because he estimated that it would take 30 years to test X fully to ensure that he wouldn’t violate the cardinal robot rule of “Never hurt humans,” and he knew he didn’t have 30 years of life left in him, he put X in a capsule that would do some kind of auto-test and instructed that the capsule not be opened until the tests were complete. Fast forward a bit, and Dr. Light’s fears have come true; Dr. Cain, who discovered X in the ruins of Light’s lab, creates a group of sapient robots called Reploids, and one of those Reploids, Sigma, has gone berserk and raised a Reploid army to try to wipe out humanity. X, along with his robot mentor, Zero, set out to stop Sigma and his Reploid army which is led by a group of robots called Mavericks. Basically, Sigma is the new Dr. Wily, and the Mavericks are the new Robot Masters.
Just like the core Mega Man series, you’re able to pick any Maverick to fight first, each drops a weapon, and each is weak against another Maverick’s specific weapon. For the most part, the gameplay is exactly what you’ve come to expect from Mega Man but polished to perfection and with a few key additions. You can grab hold of walls and perform wall jumps at will – something that makes parts of the platforming much more fun – and you can also perform a dash and a charged-up shot from your X-buster. Those additions, however, kind of get overshadowed by how absolutely perfect the controls are. Everything feels tight, responsive, and finely tuned. If you die here, it’s almost always your fault; no blaming the controls on your own shortcomings here.
The 16-bit sprites are absolutely gorgeous, and the soundtrack manages to keep the classic sound and style while adding in some of the more advanced audio effects made possible by the SNES hardware. In every way, Mega Man X is the perfect 16-bit upgrade of the NES Mega Man games even more so than Mega Man 7 despite the fact that X came out a few years earlier. The levels are among some of the best designed in the series, and the same goes for the bosses. My only real complaint with the bosses is that there’s a huge difficulty gap between some of them. A couple of the Mavericks, I was able to beat without taking a hit, no problem whereas others took me several attempts before I could really get into the groove with them. That’s literally my only complaint with the entire game, though.
Mega Man X is a virtually perfect action platformer. Honestly, excluding Metroidvanias since I think they’re kind of a separate sub-genre (like how you wouldn’t compare Xenosaga with Mass Effect even though they’re both RPGs), I’m pretty comfortable saying that it’s the greatest action platformer ever made. It’s definitely the best one that I’ve played. I certainly underestimated this game expecting it to be really good but not jaw-dropping like Mega Man 7 was, but Mega Man X just blew me away. I’m now quite looking forward to jumping into some of the other Mega Man X games.