The Mega Man X series has enough peaks and valleys to fill a geography textbook. Its best entries rank among the greatest video games of all time, and its worst entries could be used as a form of ironic punishment by parents for their children. Maybe no other famous game series vacillates in quality as much as this one—which makes Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1+2 fascinating to play.
This review covers Legacy Collection 1, comprising Mega Man X through Mega Man X4 and extra assorted features. The most notable new inclusion is “X Challenge,” a mode where titular character X battles two bosses from across the series simultaneously. This mode, too, has its highs and lows.
Let’s take it one game at a time:
Mega Man X
Mega Man X features some of the tightest controls and most engaging gameplay of any action platformer ever created. It took the formula of the classic series and innovated on it by adding wall jumps and (via collectable power-up) dashing, and the result was much faster gameplay. An experienced series player can rush through stages in just a few minutes each, destroying or avoiding everything in sight. It’s possible to master X’s movements with surgical precision thanks to the overwhelming strength of Mega Man X’s game mechanics.
Equally as important, the level design is marvelous. Like in the classic series, there are eight initial stages to play through in any order. However, this time, beating one level can cause changes to the layout of another level. This increases the replay value. There is also armor that X can collect to become more powerful. Collecting armor and boss powers gives X the ability to access new places and collect even more power-ups. These items are all distributed very logically in levels too; if you know where to go, you can collect all the items in the game with little backtracking. And lastly, the soundtrack is rocking and memorable, which will hold true for most of the series.
Ultimately, Mega Man X is a masterpiece of its genre.
Mega Man X2
Mega Man X2 takes Mega Man X and says, “Let’s do it again and not change a thing!” X controls exactly as tightly before, and this time he can dash by default. Environmental changes between levels are basically gone, and the placement of power-ups is a bit weirder this time. Otherwise, the quality of the first game is intact here. The one twist on the first X game in X2 is that there are three optional bosses hiding in the eight main levels. Defeating all three saves you the hassle of a very challenging boss battle at the end of the game, and it also just adds a cool new scene to the story involving Zero. Zero is X’s counterpart and the breakout star of the X series. He becomes more important in future games.
Mega Man X3
Something went wrong in the creation of Mega Man X3. It has the same look and tight controls of its predecessors, but logic went out the window with its game design. X3 is bloated with superfluous power-ups, and they’re all located in places that demand a lot of backtracking to collect. The level design is also just dull at times; there is one enemy whose whole purpose is to be a wall, and sometimes a corridor will only be filled with a bunch of this boring, non-attacking enemy. Weirdest of all, Zero is now a playable character with strong stats—but if he dies even once, you can never use him again. It’s safer just not to use him at all.
Aside from these glaring issues, the defining quality of X3 is its difficulty. Standard enemy attacks do much more damage in this game, and health drops are rarer. Enemy placement is downright fiendish at times, and the Sigma battle (the final boss of almost every X game) easily ranks among the hardest in the series. So if you’re a sucker for punishment, you might enjoy Mega Man X3. But in terms of overall quality, it’s not in the same league as the other games in Collection 1.
Mega Man X4
Mega Man X4, the first entry for PlayStation, makes Zero a fully playable character with his own separate storyline. This changes everything. Zero is a saber-wielder who does all attacks at close range—the complete opposite of X’s style. Playing as Zero is even faster and more thrilling than playing as X, but both styles are extremely enjoyable. The controls aren’t quite as tight as in the SNES entries, but it’s an acceptable sacrifice. Likewise, the level design is entertaining and logical on the whole; none of X3’s mistakes are found here. X4 also has the most memorable story in the series.
When it comes to quality and innovation, Mega Man X4 stands roughly equal with Mega Man X.
X Challenge mode has X fight two bosses from X through X6 simultaneously. You can take three weapons into battle to help you too. However, these battles always occur in back-to-back groups of three, health isn’t restored between battles, and you only have three lives. This feels needlessly restrictive to me. I would have had more fun with the mode if there were no lives and I could just select any individual battle to play.
Still, it is fun and challenging to take on two bosses at the same time. Bosses really do behave the way they did in their respective games, and 16-bit bosses look surprisingly fine beside their 32-bit counterparts. X Challenge is thrilling; it just could have been more accessible without its arbitrary rules.
The collection comes with art galleries, soundtrack selection, photos of every piece of X series merchandise, and an OVA, The Day of Sigma. The OVA was previously only part of Mega Man Maverick Hunter X for PSP, and it’s of high quality. Filters to smooth out pixel graphics in the games or add faux-CRT lines to the screen are selectable from the main menu too. Additionally, the Japanese version of each game is playable too, if you’re into that. Even the difficulty can be altered; every game has a new easy mode.
Lastly, there are “Hunter Medals” in the menu that can be acquired for fulfilling criteria in the various games. These are optional and don’t unlock much for their completion, but they don’t hurt anything. You can take or leave them.
Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 is fully charged
With Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1, you’re paying $19.99 for some of the greatest action platformers ever. That in itself justifies the purchase, even if X Challenge is a bit underwhelming. Anyone who has never played Mega Man X should absolutely buy this collection and change that. And for those who have played these games before, it’s probably worth their time and money to play them again.
Continue on to our review of Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2!