TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Mega Man X’ was the 16-bit upgrade the franchise needed
Here at Turn to Channel 3, the opinions presented here are just that – opinions – and should never be taken too seriously or as “the law” as far as retro video games go. More often than not, as with anything we are passionate about, we find ourselves involved in debates within the varying opinions of a beloved video game franchise.
What I feel sets me apart from other bloggers and lovers of all things retro games is that I am often the oddball out with some of my opinions, as well as my preferences as far as what entries within a series of games I like the most. Chances are, if you’re not one of the many people who look at me strangely when they find out that I enjoyed “The Legend of Zelda’s” second entry on the NES, “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” much more than the beloved original, you are probably a part of this next group I shall now mention. This is the group of people who don’t understand how I could possibly not have played, all the way through, any original Mega Man game on the NES after “Mega Man 3.” Why? Well, I personally feel that the magic in the series was beginning to die out after the third entry, and it would be quite a long time for me until I would once again enjoy another Blue Bomber adventure.
This brings us to our current topic as I continue looking at games that I am personally thankful for. Today, we take a look at “Mega Man X,” a series that would take on a life of its own, yet truly breathe new life into the tired Mega Man franchise because, chances are, if you didn’t feel Mega Man was on the decline by the disaster that was “Mega Man 7,” the fumbled attempt at bringing our 8-bit hero into the then brand new 16-bit era, well, you’re all alone with me, a guy who also inadvertently kicked the sacred cow of retro gaming by never playing either of “The Legend of Zelda’s” N64 outings for more than 30 minutes. If you don’t hate me by now, please continue reading as we take a look at “Mega Man X” on the Super Nintendo!
“Mega Man X” (SNES)
One of the many things I felt was deluded in the later entries in the original series of Mega Man titles was the music. The first three games featured some truly memorable and downright iconic music, some of Capcom’s best work on the Blue Bomber in this area. Fortunately, they came out swinging with “Mega Man X,” sporting a soundtrack that can go toe to toe with any other Mega Man title in the vast canon of entries in the franchise’s illustrious history. Whether you’re looking for a fast and frantic tune like the Armored Armadillo stage, the techno beats of the Boomer Kuwanger stage, or the killer electric guitar lick style of the Storm Eagle stage, there’s something in the soundtrack for every different kind of Mega Man music lover.
The sound effects are great too, particularly the charging of the arm cannon before letting out a huge burst of fire power. Capcom really outdid themselves in this one to showcase this was a new day and a new kind of Mega Man game.
Sleek and futuristic for the time, “Mega Man X” conveys a much more mature feel to it in comparison to the NES Mega Man titles, and that was one of the many things the franchise needed to bring it back into focus, into the prominence it so richly deserved. The levels, enemies, and bosses all look great and do more than just paint a picture of what these bosses are like in appearance, but also in personality, if that makes sense.
Speaking of the bosses, it is certainly worth noting that these are not the generic names for Mega Man bosses that we’re used to. Gone are names like Elec Man, Crash Man, and Magnet Man, and replacing them are names like Storm Eagle, Flame Mammoth, and Boomer Kuwanger. (Is there any name in the vast history of gaming as cool as Boomer Kuwanger?) The Mega Man games prior to the “X” series were very Saturday-morning-cartoon in look, which was fine, but fans were growing up and deserved a more sophisticated Mega Man while retaining that same style of fun, and the artwork created here does that in spades.
“Mega Man X” retains a lot of the same difficulties previous Mega Man games have with perilous jumps, irksome enemies, and bosses that dish out a beating as you make your way through, but I didn’t find myself getting frustrated until the Sigma stages, which really test your might as far as a gamer and Megan Man fan goes.
All of this said, “Mega Man X” provides a perfect balance of fair and yet challenging gameplay, with the addition of hidden secrets where you can update X’s weaponry, which is a nice touch from simply equipping this incarnation of the Blue Bomber with the weapons of defeated enemies. “Mega Man X” has a decent amount of replay value due to these little secrets, but most of all, it brings back the fun that was missing from previous Mega Man titles.
I, for one, have never understood the fascination with or inflated prices behind the later NES Mega Man titles because, at least to this writer, Capcom shouldn’t have made as many, but could you blame them? Mega Man was red hot at the time, and like many video game franchises at the top of their game, developers thought the success would last forever. “Mega Man X” not only brought in a new group of gamers to the fold, but instilled in longtime fans of everyone’s favorite Mega Buster-touting hero that the future was indeed bright.
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this review. To end our month of games to be thankful for, I will be looking at the most beloved game in the canon of NES and SNES games sporting our favorite heroes in a half shell – “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time” on the SNES!
Until then, while we encourage making time for family and friends this holiday season here at Turn to Channel 3, there’s also no better time to game on!
Note: All ratings for Turn to Channel 3 are based on a scale of 1-10.
by Nick DeMarco
Nick DeMarco is a blogger, retro video game small business owner, and lover of all things retro. Don't get stuck on an elevator with him, unless you know who Ace Harding is and why Crystal Pepsi deserves just as big a comeback as Surge.