What goes up must come down, and Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 is the “down” to Collection 1’s “up.” None of the games in Collection 2 are abysmal, and one of them is in fact very good. But its series entries—Mega Man X5 through Mega Man X8—do not add up to anywhere near the level of quality presented in Collection 1. Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 is strictly for completionists and devoted series fans.
(You can view our Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 review here.)
Let’s take it one game at a time:
Mega Man X5
Mega Man X5 takes Mega Man X4 and says, “Let’s do it all again, but worse!” The level design is less engaging, the bosses are less memorable, and the power-ups are multifaceted but poorly explained. X can begin the game with his X4 armor, and he can also collect pieces of two more sets of armor for the first time. One of the armors lets X fly and is very mobile, and the other lets X walk on spikes. Both are novel but also nonessential, signaling that Capcom was running out of ideas. Meanwhile, Zero plays the same as before, but he can defeat many bosses with alarming ease. Additionally, X and Zero can both duck for the first time in the series, and its use is admittedly implemented well.
X5 tries to mix things up by adding a time limit of sorts; you have to collect items from specific bosses in order to build something that can save the world from impending doom. But it’s a dull change that just discourages player exploration. Thus, none of Mega Man X5’s changes—except ducking—are for the better.
Mega Man X6
Mega Man X6 is an exercise in frustration. Sometimes, it’s a genuinely fun and exciting platformer where X5 failed, with a few terrifically challenging bosses. Other times, it has the worst level design in the entire series. There is a level that consists mostly of the same boring, lengthy boss fight five times in a row. There are also levels where you have to just force a game over because it turns out you brought the wrong character/armor and it’s impossible to continue. Basically, X6 is a very sloppy game, and you have to overlook serious flaws in order to love the good parts of it that are leftover.
X6 also expands on a “rescue” mechanic introduced in X5, where you can rescue people in order to receive health and new power-ups. This can be fun, but if a person is killed by an enemy attack, that person is gone for good. That means you need to reset the game and restart if you’re worried you lost something important, which is a chore.
Mega Man X7
Mega Man X7 for PlayStation 2 is the first 3D X entry, and it consists of both sidescrolling environments and fully explorable 3D environments. You bring two characters into each level now, instantly swappable at any time. New character Axl, who shoots rapid-fire bullets and can copy the form of enemies, joins Zero as a playable main character. And oddly, X himself doesn’t become playable until halfway into the game, when you’ve probably already invested limited power-ups into Axl and Zero.
Typically, X7 is the most hated game in the series. It tries to translate the X style of gameplay into a new dimension, but the results are so clunky. The controls are sluggish, the camera is awful, Zero’s saber slashes are impotent, and a new lock-on mechanic basically removes aiming from the equation.
That being said, I’ve never thought X7 was as bad as people make it out to be. There is some enjoyment to be had here if you’re stubborn. For instance, the cel-shaded cinematics are surprisingly attractive, and the Sigma battle can be maddeningly challenging. However, if it was hard for me to justify why people should play Mega Man X7 back in 2003, it’s infinitely harder to justify in the gaming landscape of 2018. There is no way the average child would want to play this game for more than a few minutes.
Mega Man X8
Against all odds, Mega Man X8 is a great game! It’s 3D, but plays strictly as a 2D sidescroller in the vein of pre-X5 entries, even foregoing the ducking mechanic. However, it keeps the two-player-team mechanic of X7 to surprisingly great effect. Strategic use of character swapping can allow a damaged character to regenerate some health, for instance. X, Zero, and Axl all feel like powerful, capable characters again, and you can buy more power-ups for them from a new in-game shop. X can also discover two useful new armors, and for the first time, you can mix and match which parts you want to equip—an excellent touch.
The level design too is at its best since X4, with some branching paths and many well-hidden secrets that are satisfying to uncover. Really, the only downside is a couple of gimmicky, out-of-place vehicle levels, but shoehorned vehicle levels have become an unfortunate staple of the series since X4.
Should you buy Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2?
Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 features “volume 2” of the X Challenge mode presented in Collection 1, but it’s a big disappointment. Only some of the boss pairs are new; many of them are the same as in Collection 1. Otherwise, the extras in Collection 2 are identical to those in Collection 1, including The Day of Sigma (above) and the gallery of series merchandise.
Ultimately, Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 is only worth buying if you really love the X series formula and are willing to experience it in bizarre and inferior forms. Mega Man X8 is the singular high-quality X title to be had here, so you have to ask yourself if X8 plus three not-so-terrific titles is worth your $19.99. I love Mega Man in all his forms, so it’s worth it for me. But for you? Maybe not.