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RELEASE DATE (NA): January 1995 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

An X-tension cord.

If you know anything about the Mega Man series (or most Capcom franchises, frankly), then you know that it has a bad case of that epic disease known as "sequelitis". Countless times over, Mega Man games receive more sequels than a dog has puppies. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Unless the thing that is broken is grammar, in which case we should repair that old saying. But who could blame Capcom for milking it? After all, the Mega Man formula is one of the best in the business! Who wouldn't want more of the Blue Bomber's top-notch platforming action? The first game of the X series, the sort-of-cleverly titled Mega Man X, is one of the top selling Mega Man games of all time — you can see why a sequel was the obvious way to go.

Oh, hi there, Mega Man X2! I didn't see you sitting there...

Mega Man X2 picks up shortly after where the first game left off. X believed that he had destroyed Sigma, the self-declared leader of the Mavericks (robots that had used the free will instilled in them to declare themselves as superior and turn against the humans in a violent fashion). The fall of Sigma, however, did not also signify the end of the Maverick invasion. Mavericks continue to be manufactured at a rapid rate, and it appears that Sigma's influence was minor on the operation at best. X, as head of the newly formed group called the "Maverick Hunters", designed to seek out and destroy those that have gone Maverick and wish ill will on humanity, hunts down this factory in hopes that he can cut off the source of future problems. There is more than meets the eye, however, as a trio known as the "X-Hunters" arrives to cause further headaches for X. Somehow, they managed to collect the parts from your presumably destroyed ally, Zero.

Something tells me Sigma's around somewhere, too...

As far as gameplay goes, X2 continues the trend of X being given the option of visiting eight different stages, in any order he wishes, which are helmed by renegade Mavericks. Upon clearing the stages and defeating the Maverick, X will gain their power and be able to it as needed throughout the game. Every Maverick has a weakness to a specific weapon, and as such, the beauty lies in figuring out who's weak to what ability. Like the first game, Maverick designs are based on species within the animal kingdom, such as Crystal Snail, Wheel Gator, Magna Centipede, and the impeccably cocky Overdrive Ostrich. Here is an inspirational quote from designer Sho Tsuge: "With Mega Man, we wanted the players to feel a certain familiarity with the characters, but it was our intention that the X series would have a world with a more hardcore feel to it. We didn't want the bosses in this world to be cute products of kids' imaginations, we needed them to be solid characters refined by professionals." Yep... and thus, Wire Sponge was born. Yes, there's a boss called "Wire Sponge". I've never been more fearful in my life.

The three aforementioned X-Hunters also make appearances throughout the game, notably within special rooms found in each Maverick stage. They each hold a part of Zero's framework that you must win in order to secure a better result closer to the end of the game. The X-Hunters (Serges, Agile, and Violen) will appear randomly in unfinished stages, though you'll see on the map screen where each one went. They're a bit tough, but they have a pattern; getting used to it is the key to earning Zero's parts back. Completing too many stages before defeating the X-Hunters will force them to disappear, meaning there will be... er... additional turmoil ahead. I won't spoil it.

Dr. Light has again hidden capsules which will provide X with upgrades to his X-Buster, armor, or helmet (in this case, using a radar ability to locate hidden things, rather than using his helmet to perform a "headbutt"). It really makes you wonder, though, where exactly his enhancements from the last game went. Did he just leave them behind after he defeated Sigma and walked away, assuming he would never have to fight again? Mega Man X, you're so jaded. He can also locate Heart Tanks to lengthen his life meter and Sub-Tanks to give him some backup energy in tough times. As with the first game, X can also locate and use a special fan-service move. In this case, it's the Dragon Punch move from Street Fighter II, as used by Ryu and Ken. It's quite powerful, though not exactly easy to use (you need full health, you can't use it in mid-air, and it requires a button input sequence reminiscent of Street Fighter II). The best part is when you reach the well-hidden capsule, and Dr. Light screams, "Wow! You are so cool! I'm not worthy!! I'm not worthy!!" That's SO like him.

Things never quite cool down for Mega Man X.

The game's graphics aren't so much an advancement over its predecessor as much as a continuation, maintaining a fine blend of technological engulfment and naturalistic endurance. From the sun-parched desert base to the flying shimmering dinosaur tank, everything glimmers with a decent amount of detail. Mega Man X2 was the first and one of the few games to include Capcom's Cx4 graphics chip inside the cartridge. The Cx4 chip could, among other things, allow greater flexibility in resizing and rotating sprites, as well as render wireframe objects. The chip's inclusion seems to be of relatively little consequence to players, as only there are only three (as far as I can remember) instances of wireframes being used: in the Mega Man X2 logo, a sword mini-boss, and the final boss form. Two of the Mavericks rotate or change in size, so I'm sure the chip helped there, too. It's a shame the game did not benefit more from this additional technology.

While the music is still decent here, with its pseudo-reverb delivering a glistening metallic effect on the audio, there aren't as many memorable tunes in the soundtrack. What does play is quite fitting and keeps the tension alive, but the hooks just aren't there. Meanwhile, the sound effects are the same as before, but X's Dragon Punch move doesn't have him yelping like a banshee on fire, which is disappointing to say the least.

What I'm trying to say is that Mega Man X2 is more of the same, and if you appreciated the first one's excellent gameplay mechanics, graphics, and audio, you'll find much to enjoy here. There's nothing particularly new here; X2 hardly qualifies as an evolution. What this game is, however, is another solid experience in the franchise that lives up to its namesake and the heritage it holds. It's also a slightly more difficult adventure for those who found the original to be a tad on the easy side. Looking for fast-paced Mega Man action? This'll do it.

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