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RELEASE DATE (NA): January 11, 2001 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Xcitement in moderate doses.

Mega Man X is a genuine classic on the SNES. It effectively combined the epic platforming formula made famous by the NES Mega Man series with an even more futuristic environment and a much deeper and more involving storyline than simply going after Dr. Wily... again... for the sixth time. Mega Man X was rough, it was tough, and it left a strong enough dent in the gaming atmosphere to warrant seven sequels and many additional remakes and spin-offs. So, when it was announced that the X series would have a portable version, it sounded delightful to have Mega Man X on the go. So... how did they manage to screw that up?

Mega Man Xtreme, the title of which is about the most extreme part of this game, actually doesn't rehash the old storylines. Yes, our main characters (X, Zero, and Sigma) are all here in full form with their usual roles, with Sigma being the main antagonist and the leader of the Maverick movement. But uninteresting and easily forgettable characters are also introduced here! After an extremely sluggishly-paced introduction before the title screen outlining Mega Man X's history (to the tune of about 4-5 words per screen), we become privy that some Shadow Hunters have been hacking into the world's Mother Computer. We get to see a few new faces in Techno, Zain, and Geemel, all interested in disabling the effects of the Mother Computer and preventing any opposition to Maverick rule. (Geemel. GEEMEL. Every child in America should be named Geemel from now on.) Luckily, Zero recruits Middy to help X sneak into the computer core and defeat the evils within. His name is pronounced like MIDI, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, but spelled differently, likely to avoid copyright infringement. Oh, and Vile shows up once in the introductory stage and is subsequently never heard from again. Oh, wait, no, he's now called "VAVA". That's right; apparently, the localization team failed to research that he had already been called Vile in two separate games prior. Hmmm... Vava... Baba... Boba... Fett... well, he sure DOES look like Boba Fett. Secret revealed!

Your first goal, after making your way through a shortened version of the infamous highway scene (with a couple of moments featuring X wondering why this place is so familiar), X must venture into the computer core for a showdown with good ol' you-know-who. It's not that easy, though; blocking his way is battle data from Mavericks he defeated in the past (courtesy of both Mega Man X and Mega Man X2 for SNES). Four stages and their respective Mavericks lay ahead, and you must go through and pick 'em off one by one, snagging each boss' special weapon upon defeat and using it to gain the upper hand against someone else. Then it's on to the core, which looks quite a bit like Sigma's fortress. In the Normal (standard) difficulty mode, we get to revisit the likes of Chill Penguin (MMX1), Storm Eagle (MMX1), Spark Mandrill (MMX1), and Flame Stag (MMX2). You won't even get to meet the others until you complete the game once and move ahead to Hard Mode, where the first four Mavericks are replaced with four others: Armored Armadillo (MMX1), Morph Moth (MMX2), Magna Centipede (MMX2), and Wheel Gator (MMX2). Luckily, you get to keep your previously acquired special weapons, armor, and Sub-Tanks. And, should this not be enough to keep you on your toes, the Extreme Mode afterward will try to challenge you further by having you tackle all eight. So there IS replay value if you want to see everything.

X generally controls as expected from a handheld (not quite as precise as a full-fledged console title, but you can get from Point A to Point B without causing a stink), but there are still flaws that simply cannot be overlooked. X has a serious problem with the dash-jump: he really can't do it. I was never able to effectively perform a dash-jump (using Mega Man X's gained ability to dash in conjunction with a jump to leap over larger crevices and such) unless it was off a wall. It seemed so easy in console games; why is it such a challenge here? Granted, dash-jumping isn't necessary to complete the game, but boy, could it have saved me some trouble. Another issue I had was that, when he takes damage, X has a horrible tendency to turn the other way. If you're looking to perform a counterattack immediately, forget it: you'll be facing the wrong way! What utter nonsense! What's just as bad is when you press your firing button... and nothing happens! Who... wha... whe... zuh... fpn? This is especially noticeable when using special weapons, and it tends to occur mostly during boss battles, juuuuust when you don't want a bad case of weapon lockup. Of course, considering that special weapons don't do nearly as much damage as they did in the SNES games. Oh, and Sigma's second stage will kick you in the behind. It just will. Ask no more questions.

Nothing's more Xtreme than the holographic corpse of Dr. Light.

Mega Man Xtreme can be "xtreme" at first (what Mega Man game isn't?). As in Mega Man X, from which this game is based, you could find "hidden" capsules (one of them is right in your path -- hardly a qualification of being hidden) that provides armor or weapon enhancements. I'll tell you now: until you find the full armor upgrade, which decreases the amount of damage taken significantly, you're going to have a difficult time. Enemies, Mavericks in particular, took a severe chunk of X's lifebar early on, and I began to wonder whether I'd ever finish this game. Once I found the armor upgrade, the game became so much easier. Not a cakewalk by any means, but it was a far more manageable quest. You'll also get to find Heart Tanks to increase your puny health bar and Sub-Tanks to fill up for backup energy. The developers also added one new feature, exclusive to the Hard and Extreme modes of play: Zero Scramble programs. These are basically free tickets to call Zero in to perform some special moves (and then disappear). You can get these from Dr. Light capsules, but they are each coupled with a physical upgrade you must first possess before you can obtain the Zero program. You can select these from a nicely tucked away menu; they could be imperative to your survival and can be used once per stage, as long as there is enough juice left in a "Zero" energy meter. Weird.

The saving system may also be your "saving grace", so to speak, and it may make the game a bit easier. In addition to being able to save your game between stages (including the Sigma stages), there are also several "Auto Save" points in every level, which not only act as checkpoints, but if you need to turn off your system and return later, you can load from the last Auto Save (only once, after which time, that factoid disappears from memory). It's also solid insurance against battery failure. And believe me: those Auto Save points are abundant. You can't go a minute without encountering one of those things! They's everywhar!

It's unfortunate that the level designs were generally recycled from the first two Mega Man X games, though with a bit of deviation due to the small screen. Technical limitations also required them to be scaled down a bit, so playing through a game of Mega Man Xtreme will not take you as long as another X game, unless you die as often as I did. For the Game Boy Color, the game looks decent. X and friends look a little bit too "chibi", and his sprite doesn't change until he gets all of the armor/weapon upgrades, but the areas look about as good as they could on such limited hardware. It's nice that the game can be played both on the Game Boy and the Game Boy Color; I suggest the latter for the best experience. The soundtrack has also been essentially carbon-copied from its console counterparts. Unfortunately, I am now more aware than ever of how limited the Game Boy's sound hardware is, even on the Game Boy Color. Thank goodness Nintendo learned their lesson the following year with the Game Boy Advance. At least that had some quality; the Game Boy Color had NO sound improvements whatsoever, and it shows in how aged the sound quality is in Mega Man Xtreme for its time.

Okay, okay, maybe they didn't entirely screw it up. But playing a Mega Man X game on the chewy little Game Boy Color just feels unnatural, like wearing a hemp sweater. But it does have the distinction of being the first game to even attempt to bring Mega Man X gameplay to a handheld, and I guess we can't blame them for trying. Mega Man Xtreme, however, isn't the real Mega Man Xperience, so check out the console series first, and then consider this as a slightly off-kilter anomaly.

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