Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review: Mega Man X (iPhone)

Mega Man is probably in a less than desirable mood these days, having witnessed the cancellation of both Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe. That hasn’t stopped Capcom from re-releasing the one of the blue bomber’s greatest 2D outings – Mega Man X. Unfortunately, this iPhone port is second-rate and he’s probably gone back to crying in his beer.

Mega Man X is classic 2D side-scrolling action best described as a blend between platforming and shooting. You’ll run, shoot, hop, and climb your way through each level in whatever order you desire (until the end). Once you’ve completed a stage, you’ll square off against a special maverick. Defeat that boss and you’ll gain his power for personal use in the next level. With eight main stages, as well as end stages and the beginning “tutorial”, there’s a decent selection of levels to play, even if they do fly by rapidly.

To its credit, this port introduces a challenge mode. You have several tasks to complete in each stage, as well as a score attack mode and a few other minor additions. Overall, though, these additions feel mostly obligatory.

All things considered, the controls have made the jump over to a touch-based handheld admirably. The virtual D-Pad and buttons are responsive enough that you may very well forget you’re not using buttons.  With that said, those with large fingers may find their mileage varies. I never experienced it, but you may feel the on-screen action is blocked or your fingers slipping onto the wrong virtual button. If you’ve had bad experiences before, you might want to pass this one up.

The game also features some downloadable content, but calling it “content” is somewhat generous. Content implies that more would be added to the game, but 90% of the items here are simply there to lower the difficulty level by providing more health, better items, etc. Why not throw in a character like Zero to add some  replay value that fans would feel compelled to purchase? The only actual “addition” is a music pack. If you don’t mind paying $5 for the game itself and more for each additional add-on, just about anyone can complete the game. 

Not that the game was terribly challenging to begin with. The Super Nintendo original was rarely truly difficult, but the new “easy” mode here is ridiculously simple. It will do casual players just fine, so much so that the downloadable content seems utterly superfluous at best. Long-time fans can’t immediately crank it up to hard mode because it is, of course, locked.

Take a glance at the game and you’ll see the visuals have been redone. Some may claim they lack charm, but I personally feel they’re as good as ever. The audio won’t necessarily impress everyone and feels very 90s, but that’s part of the appeal. It’s the retro fans that will get a kick out of this soundtrack, especially some of the rocking later themes.

It pains me to say that in an effort to polish one the greatest platformers of the 90s, Capcom misfired and reduced it to mere adequacy. Yet if you only own a phone, it`s still worth experiencing this inferior version to witness the remnants of a masterpiece. Everyone else should save up their dollars for Mega Man Maverick Hunter X on PSN or the original on the Virtual Console.

-Clark A


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