Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mega Man Maverick Hunter X Review

It's a little sad to see how Nintendo treated Star Fox 64 when remaking it for 3DS. The game is fourteen years old, but they saw fit to add precious little new content. All that's been done is that the game has received a graphical upgrade, the 3D feature, some new multiplayer maps and redone voice acting. Unfortunately, regarding that last point, the original Star Fox 64's horrendous voice acting was so bad it was good and added to the game's campy charm. The new voice acting is just bad. Perhaps what's even sadder is that the features they needed to add shouldn't have been that difficult to implement. Heck, just give me online multiplayer and I would definitely put down $40 for it. And yet Nintendo didn't even add such an obvious feature as that, making the multiplayer feature pretty much useless if you don't have a friend with a 3DS and the game. That is, unless you really like fighting bots. The saddest part about it all, though, is that Nintendo has stated that the future of the Star Fox series is riding on this remake. And when the original version has, graphics aside, aged exceptionally well, simply dusting off the old N64 or buying it for 15 bucks off the Wii Virtual Console might otherwise be a better option than putting down a full 40 dollars for it.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum from Star Fox 64 3D, you have Mega Man Maverick Hunter X. A remake of the original Mega Man X for the Super Nintendo, this game was released in early 2006 (late 2005 in Japan) for Sony's then-new PlayStation Portable console along with a remake of the original classic NES game to reboot the series in an attempt to renew interest in it. The attempt ultimately failed, as neither game met sales expectations. Does that say anything about the game itself? Let's see, shall we.


Taking place in a world dominated by robots called "Reploids" who can think and act for themselves, Mega Man Maverick Hunter X focuses on none other than Mega Man X (usually referred to simply as "X"), one of the Maverick Hunters who hunt down and kill Reploids who have been infected by a virus that causes them to "go Maverick", or turn against humans. Sigma originally led the Maverick Hunters, but he eventually went Maverick himself as well as many other Maverick Hunters. Making matters worse, an ex-Maverick Hunter who just happens to be an out-and-out butthole called Vile - okay, who even names a robot that? You're pretty much asking him to turn evil - is running amok, and he really hates X. Now it's up to X and his good buddy Zero to stop Sigma and the rest of the Mavericks.

For those unfamiliar with Mega Man and Mega Man X, it is a platformer-shooter series in which you are given eight bosses that you can battle in any order (Robot Masters in the classic series, Mavericks in X). Upon choosing a boss, you must go through that boss's level, making your way through numerous traps and enemies until you finally reach the boss you came to fight. If you defeat that boss, you get that boss's weapon, which, in turn is another boss's weakness. For instance, if you defeat Flame Mammoth, you get his weapon, the Flamethrower, which you can use on Chill Penguin. Defating Chill Penguin gets you Shotgun Ice, which is effective against Spark Mandrill. His weapon is effective against Armored Armadillo, and the cycle continues until all eight bosses are defeated, at which point you must battle your way through the final four stages and finally confront the final boss - which invariably has at least two forms. It should be noted that things can get really difficult in these games - which is always a good thing. However, if you have the weapon that a boss is weak to, it usually won't give you much trouble.

All of the crucial elements of classic Mega Man are present in the X series. However, X adds some much-appreciated Metroidvania elements into the mix. Each level features collectable upgrades. These include Heart Tanks that upgrade your health - which you will need - Sub-Tanks that store excess health-restoring pick-ups to use on your own time, and upgrades to X's armor that give him enhanced attributes or extra abilities. These include the Leg Parts, which allow you to dash by pressing the "O" button - very useful - the Body Parts, which increase your defense; the Arm Parts, which give X an enhanced charged shot as well as allow him to charge up bosses' weapons for extra effect; and finally, the Head Parts, which allow you to pretend to be Mario and bash blocks with your head, revealing paths to new items. Getting some items will require other upgrades or weapons that you may or may not have, as the order in which you go to each level is completely up to you. Thus, it should go without saying that some backtracking will be required. For me, part of the fun of the X series has always been seeing which level order results in the least backtracking, but I digress.

One of the first things those who are familiar with the original Mega Man X will notice is the enhanced graphics. Maverick Hunter X was a fairly early PSP game and doesn't impress as much as it did when it came out, especially when compared to games such as Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. That's not to say that Hunter is a bad-looking game at all. The graphics are bright and colorful, and the art style works well for the game. Moving on to the soundtrack, the Mega Man series has always been known for its fantastic music, and Maverick Hunter X is no exception. Everything's fast-paced, well-composed and downright awesome - there really isn't much more to say here.

Of course, the changes that Hunter makes to the original Mega Man X run a lot deeper than the aesthetics, which is more than I can say for Star Fox 64 3D. Beautifully animated cutscenes play at the beginning and end of the game, and the remake features full voice acting for all of the scenes that take place in the game. You also get to see a scene before each boss battle in which X and the boss interact. Somewhat surprisingly, Hunter X's voice acting is very well done. Mark Gatha, Lucas Gilbertson and Roger Rhodes all do an excellent job as X, Zero and Vile (respectively), especially Mark. The mavericks are also well-casted, with their voices striking the perfect balance between cheesy and natural. The scenes before each boss battle also add more than you would think. Each Maverick has his own personality, and it adds a bit of background as X already knew a lot of them before they went Maverick. Speaking of background, if you complete the game you actually unlock a thirty-minute prequel OVA called The Day of Sigma that explains how everything started. It's a really cool OVA and definitely worth watching.

And as if that wasn't already enough to make Star Fox 64 3D look like a straight port by comparison, completing the game also let's you play as Vile, X's rival. And don't even entertain the notion that he's just a different skin for X; Vile has his own storyline complete with his own animated cutscenes and conversations with bosses. Gameplay works differently when playing as Vile as well; while X can have each available weapon on him at once, Vile can only carry three into a single level due to the way his weapons work. Vile has a finger blaster, a shoulder-mounted gun, and a...knee cannon, and there are different weapons and weapon classes that go with each. There is also a lot of variety in Vile's weapons, and he has a lot more weapons available to him overall. Combined with the different level layouts and item placement, this makes for a very different experience than going through the game with X.

Vile's pretty awesome.

As for flaws, well, while it does still feature enough replay value to make it worth buying nonetheless (not to mention that it isn't very expensive), it's a pretty dang short game. New players will probably be able to beat it over the course of a weekend, and veterans such as myself won't even take that long. Also, while the voice acting is great, the dialogue at times makes the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep look like Mass Effect. Because of these flaws, I can't say that this game is a must-have. However, at the price it's being offered for ($20 at most), you really can't go wrong, especially considering that it's a remake of an older game.

The Good:

+ Gameplay is as great as ever
+ Features a graphical upgrade over the original
+ New animated cutscenes
+ Voice acting is great
+ Features a thirty-minute prequel OVA
+ You can go through the game as Vile
+ Interesting storyline
+ Great replay value

The Bad:

- Very short
- Writing can get really bad


Looking at Mega Man Maverick Hunter X, it's really unfortunate that it didn't sell very well. I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but I think that Nintendo should take pointers from Capcom here. It's clear that a lot of effort was put into making Hunter X worth buying even if you own or have played the original, which is a lot more than I can say for the likes of Star Fox 64 3D. It may be short, but even when it came out it was offered at a reduced price - like Star Fox 64 3D should have been. It's a great value overall and worth buying whether you're a fan of the series or not. If you like this game, you may also be interested in Mega Man X Collection for the GameCube and PS2, which features each of the first six games in the Mega Man X series mostly unaltered (X4 is my personal favorite), or maybe even Mega Man X8 for the PS2.

Just don't play X7.

Trust me.

Score: 8/10

My Scoring System:
10 - Amazing game. Flaws are minor at best. If you don't own it, you should be ashamed of yourself. (Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

9(.5) - Fantastic game. Perhaps a couple of notable annoyances, but still a must-have. (Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep)

8(.5) - Very good game. Has a few flaws, but you won't be disappointed with your purchase. (Klonoa)

7(.5) - Pretty good game that either has several problems or is just too short for its price. Enjoyable to play, but you may want to wait for the price to drop a bit before picking it up. (Rayman 3D)

6(.5) - Passable game. Has its strengths, but unless you're a fan of the series or genre, you're probably better off not bothering. (Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2)

5(.5) - Mediocre game. Not a bad experience, but it's too flawed to be much fun. A bargain bin purchase at best, and only if you're a fan of the series. (Sonic Heroes)

3 or 4(.5) - Bad game. A mostly negative experience, and whatever it does right fails to save it overall. Even if you're a fan, you're probably better off not playing it. (Sonic and the Secret Rings)

1 or 2(.5) - Utter garbage. An unholy abomination that we should do all in our power to avoid playing. In other words, STAY THE HECK AWAY! (Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22)

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