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// article by Jeff

Rocman X had the potential to be a viable underground contender against the professedly far-reaching Mega Man series. Oh, how it tried to emulate Capcom's sapphire goliath! The basic gameplay has no doubt been heavily influenced by Mega Man's trademark jump-and-shoot mentality. Classic unlicensed developer Sachen even went so far as to add unique elements, no doubt an attempted "student surpassing the teacher" move. Although such developmental vigor is commendable, the game itself is not quite a lovable spectacle. Certain flaws hold Rocman X (also known as Thunder Blast Man in some territories) back from becoming a genuine classic in the eyes of the pirate community.

When you first boot up the game, it's clear where the inspiration came from: the title screen is a modification of that from the original Rockman game for the Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the first Mega Man game for the NES), just with obvious changes to the title, implanting the font from the Rockman X series (and an X itself) and adding a fresh hood ornament which resembles that of Quick Man (Mega Man 2, NES) and a cape, possibly to make Rocman X appear even more like a superhero. It's soon learned that having a boomerang on his forehead makes more sense than it initially appeared: Rocman X throws boomerangs, rather than simply firing off plasma bullets like Mega Man. This mechanic indeed separates Rocman X from the herd, but it also makes life even more difficult, given its distance limitations. You can't really hit something from across the screen anymore, so strategy plays a larger role. But with some bosses in this game, having a boomerang is a liability: they are just too difficult to hit with a puny weapon such as that. Being able to shoot it in four cardinal directions certainly helps (Mega Man couldn't pull that off if he tried), but again, the boomerang's limited range, coupled with its weakness as a weapon overall, makes for some rough battles.

All hope is not lost for Rocman X, though. Enemies (and breakable blocks, something encountered quite frequently) often drop coins, which can be spent between certain stages at a local store run by a violet-haired femme fatale shopkeeper. You can purchase a variety of different weapon upgrades that you can switch between in the immediacy of battle, including multi-directional boomerangs and more powerful projectiles. Health and extra lives can also be bought for a nominal fee. And, of course, if you poke her breasts with the shop's hand cursor, you immediately lose $100. Just like in real life.

Each "region" of the game consists of two regular stages, occasionally with a mini-boss at the end to supposedly liven things up, followed by a boss battle with a non-descript character that usually remains unnamed and unimportant. Defeating these bosses does NOT, however, give you any special powers, unlike the Mega Man series upon which the game is based. Instead, you only get the pleasure of progression. One ghastly aspect is the use of hypersonic parallax scrolling of the backgrounds in a few too many levels, resulting in unwarranted strain on the eyes.

Traversing these levels can be a definite challenge. Enemy placement is exceptionally cruel at times, sometimes leading to unavoidable damage, and I am certain that Home Depot must have had a discount sale on spikes that summer because they are quite abundant. Coupled with Sachen's dastardly decision to NOT refill health between stages, we're looking at a pretty rough excursion. You can only get more health via the store, which I wasn't able to visit as frequently as I'd prefer, but also by picking up pills that are occasionally dropped by downed adversaries. Mega Man had glowing energy pellets; Rocman X gets Flintstones chewables. Luckily (and this was unbeknownst to me when I started), Rocman X has one more trick up his sleeve: he can fly. By charging up, not unlike when Mega Man charges up his Mega Buster in later titles, he can leap into the air and fly left, right, up, or down for a brief period before he loses momentum. Pulling a Superman is great, but it is a tricky move to pull off, usually requiring you to charge up, jump forward, then release while holding down the desired direction. It often failed me. To add to the frustration, you may very well fly past one obstacle safely, only to land in the midst of another. Foresight is novel.

It's a lengthy game and can take at least a couple of hours to see it all, if the Game Over screens don't give you adequate motivation to walk away. At least Rocman X's incentive is clear: rescue Miss Lucy, the daughter of the mayor of Gadem City, from the vile Paulung-Tang Gang, who is holding her for ransom, asking for 20 billion dollars in exchange. Now that's a high price. Is the life of one maiden worth billions? Rocman X speaks to the contrary, and instead seeks to rescue Miss Lucy, rather than give in to thug mentality and request a government bailout.

I will say that at least there was a good effort exuded in the making of Rocman X. Most of the graphics are actually new, the music is also original (though grating to the ears, as anticipated), and Rocman X delivers new game mechanics that helps to qualify it as more than a mere Mega Man clone. Its execution, however, is a bit more shoddy: devilish level design, combined with Rocman X being a relative weakling against the many robots he faces, leads only to vexation. Still, it's better than many other pirated software, though that's not saying a lot.

Let's have these screenshots tell the rest of the Rocman story:


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