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RELEASE DATE (NA): January 31, 2006 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

X Hunter Mega Maverick Man!

When the PSP came out a long time ago, we all knew it needed a Mega Man game. A video game system simply cannot declare itself as successful unless there's a Mega Man game attached to it. This explains the failure of the Turbo-Grafx 16, 3DO, Atari Jaguar, CDi, etc. Luckily, having seen the success of the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, I guess they assumed that Sony could also succeed in the handheld market with their PlayStation Portable, so they hopped on the bandwagon and began construction of a new Mega Man game... sort of. Instead of preparing a brand new iteration into the series, they opted to remake one of the classics. Please welcome Mega Man Maverick Hunter X!

...what, what kind of a name is that? It should be something more like "Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter". His full name is Mega Man X. It's not Mega Man Maverick Hunter X. His name is Mega Man X, and he's a Maverick Hunter. That would be like if I named a movie "Ace Pet Detective Ventura", or "Deuce Male Gigolo Bigalow". That would make no sense. Anyway, this game expands a bit more on the storyline of Mega Man X for the SNES, which was our first look at the futuristic model of Mega Man, known as X, as created by Dr. Light before his inevitable passing. The plot is more or less the same, but expands on the nature of each individual character. X sounds surprisingly angry this time around, while Zero is quite calm overall. Sigma is equally calm but far more crafty and self-confident; as for Vile, he's pretty much your resident dunderhead, hating any authority and basically anything that gets in his way. Heck, even the Mavericks themselves have their own unique personalities: Storm Eagle, for example, is a brave soldier, while Launch Octopus is a self-proclaimed "artiste". Weird... just weird.

Basically, MMMHX plays similarly to Mega Man X for the SNES. The standard run'n'shoot gameplay that made the series so popular is fully intact, as is his legendary ability to snag abilities from defeated Mavericks. X can also collect heart tanks in each Maverick stage to increase the length of his life meter, as well as Sub-Tanks to fill up with extra energy to act as backup in case he gets seriously injured. X's physical abilities, though initially weak, can be improved by seeking out the four (well, okay, perhaps five...) special capsules hidden by Dr. Light to give a boost to his body, arms, legs, and helmet. Upon reaching each capsule, Dr. Light appears holographically to speak to X and express his disdain for the state of the future which he predicted, after which X once notes that he faintly recognizes the man in the hologram. Unfortunately, Capcom decided to be a tad cruel and shuffle around all the capsules from their original SNES locations, forcing me to look around even more for those darn things. The dash, which was once introduced in the very first Maverick stage I normally visited, is now actually in the LAST one. It was hellish going through much of the game without it! I guess I take dash boots for granted.

Even polygons won't save Mega Man X from the difficult road ahead.

Many things have been changed for this remake. Capcom added a Hard Mode, in addition to the assumed "Normal Mode"; here, X takes more damage from every hit, making his travels more of caution than of action. They have also added a new Vile Mode, which allows you to play through the game as that dastardly Vile. You can finally see the world through his eyes and understand his motivations a little better. Playing as Vile is a bit different (and more difficult) than completing the game as X. You have a rapid shooter instead of a Plasma Buster, and instead of gaining a Maverick's powers after defeating him, you snag buster, arm, and leg abilities (often up to six or eight at a time!) that can be equipped in whatever combination you like. He also can't get access to any capsules, so abilities gained by X, such as dashing and breaking certain blocks with his helmet, are no longer possible. Vile will, however, gain permanent upgrades in a couple of areas to improve his armor and mobility. In Vile Mode, the stages are more or less the same layout-wise, but the enemy placement has changed significantly. There are far more of those pickaxe-chucking robots than ever before. Vile's robot carrier is also available in certain areas, but it has a 32-second timer, which decreases either with time naturally or as the carrier takes damage. Capcom added some puzzles in here, often requiring you to get somewhere quickly with the carrier intact in order to obtain some wonderful item. Vile's a pain in this respect; I'll NEVER get that fourth Sub-Tank. Never. Plus they re-arranged pretty much all of the special items, so forget where they were when X was on duty. But, on the other hand, it IS fun to play as Vile because you get to fight against X at the end of the introductory highway stage, just as X fought you during his own battle, even if X is potentially the most difficult boss you may fight...

There are also a few extra features, most notably a half-hour animated film entitled "The Day of Sigma", which illustrates the events leading up to X's need to fight against Sigma and the many robots turning Maverick. You're also able to save your game directly, instead of having to input a password -- and you can save at any time, including right before Sigma's final stage. The game even saves how many Sub-Tanks are full and how many lives you have. That's convenient! Oh, and for some reason, they changed the name of "Boomer Kuwanger" to "Boomerang Kuwanger." As if that's less of a tongue twister...

As naturally expected, Mega Man Maverick Hunter X received a few upgrades in the presentation department. X and his surroundings are now rendered in wonderful 3D polygon goodness! (I think there's one or two cases of sprites, but they're so minimal, you probably won't even notice) Every character is animated with great detail, adding a level of vivacity to the former two-dimensional scape. Plus, there are plenty of fancier explosions! And, of course, there are some nicely-animated interludes as well, including a rather jarring one at the end of Vile's quest showing X suffering a bit more brutally than I'm used to. The music has also been updated, although in my opinion, not for the better. Too many of the songs have been transformed from tunes with real individuality to generic rock and electronic covers. It's a shame that some of the great Mega Man X tunes have been so watered down with electric guitars that they are barely recognizable; the background music for Armored Armadillo's stage serves as a prime example of this -- I don't even think it's a song as much as just guitar noise that I don't even mentally wish to register. Thankfully, this reworking features full voice acting for all characters (making the aforementioned Launch Octopus sound like a fop, and Sting Chameleon much more sniveling than anticipated). It feels like there were only two or three different actors, though, because so many robots sound similar (even though there were well over a dozen, as per the credits). Either way, I'm happy there is voice acting, even if X does get a tad overdramatic at times. As well, I am thankful that Vile gets unique responses from each of the Mavericks, so Capcom appears to have gone the extra mile with this script.

As far as I'm concerned, the game has been reinterpreted as best as could be expected without going overboard and losing the spirit of the SNES original. But in addition to maintaining the feel of the original, the team at Capcom has managed to provide enough additional material to provide a challenge to even the most prestigious of Mega Man X veterans. PSP owners and Mega Man fans alike owe it to themselves to relive the Mega Magic with this game.

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