Playing through the entire Mega Man X Legacy Collection was difficult. Not in the sense that I had difficulty surmounting the games, though there were some challenging moments, but because some of those games are just terrible. The latter half of the series was taking its toll on me and affecting my mood. It was disheartening, but I slogged through.
After finally putting a cap on the series, I needed to get away and rejuvenate. I had thoughts of jumping into the Mega Man Zero or classic games, but was afraid that tackling something challenging would frustrate me more than usual and would have the potential of fostering sour feelings for the franchise as a whole. I didn’t want my beloved Mega Man to drag me down further, but I still had a taste for the blue bomber.
My solution: Mega Man Legends. I’ve only ever played Mega Man 64, the N64 port of Legends, but I have a fondness for it. Moreover, I never had any difficulty with it in the past, and the setting and atmosphere have a calming feel to it. This makes Kattlelox Island the perfect place for a holiday after torturing myself with the X series.
IN A WORLD COVERED BY ENDLESS WATER…
Mega Man has been notoriously shy of 3D. When the Playstation hit, both the classic and X series avoided harnessing its polygons to change up gameplay. Instead, a new series was created, this one separate from the ones that came before.
This series drops essentially every convention established by the previous games. Rather than battle a selection of eight bosses, gaining a special weapon for each one, then running a final gauntlet before arriving at the end boss, Mega Man Legends is more akin to The Legend of Zelda. It predates Ocarina of Time by nearly a year, so put that comparison out of your head, but the similarities to the series is there. You explore a semi-open world, talk with NPC’s, take side-quests, and, most strikingly, delve dungeons in search of better gear.
The framework is essentially where the Zelda comparison ends, but it gets no closer to really being a Mega Man game either. You play as a blue robot-ish guy who goes by the name MegaMan (which would be an awkward name to call someone). He’s got some sort of plasma gun on one arm and fights against robots. That’s the Mega Man connection for you.
Mega Man Legends exists in a world that is covered by oceans. There are hints that a great cataclysm happened sometimes in the past, with the current citizens of the world living off of their old technology. This version of MegaMan is a “digger,” a classification for someone who descends into ruins to pull out old technology, especially the power generating refractor cores.
After one such dig, the ship that MegaMan’s adoptive family (Roll and Gramps) use to get around the world throws a fit and crashes them on Kattlelox Island. As fate would have it, they crash at about the same time as a group of pirates are making trouble, trying to get access to a legendary treasure that is supposedly somewhere on the island. MegaMan, having all the righteous ‘tude of his predecessors, jumps into action to stop the pirates.
The goal for much of the game is to get to the treasure before the pirates. The primary objective is to gain access to each of the three “sub gates,” with the idea that this will have some sort of effect on the islands mysterious “main gate.” This leads to you tangling with the pirates, the Bonne family, at every turn, and really, they’re a joy to observe. A goofy family of robot mechanics, taking it on the nose whenever they tangle with MegaMan. They have a lot more personality than the antagonists that Mega Man is used to butting up against.
The action takes place in and around a small city on Kattlelox. The world is, especially by today’s standards, quite small, but to use the cliche, that also means it’s quite cozy. The city itself is divided into smaller sections, each filled with a number of miscellaneous buildings with their own distinct feel. The areas external to the city are a little more vanilla, comprised of flat green fields and bushy trees that are all the exact same height. Even the outdoor areas, however, have a calming quality to them.
Most of the actual gameplay takes place below ground. Dotting Kattlelox are a number of ruins, which consist of some minor areas, as well as the sub gates, which represent the main objectives. All are maze-like labyrinths filled with enemies to fight and items to collect. The items can be anything from money, to artifacts, to pieces of new weapons.
The ruins aren’t anything too impressive, either. They are also consist of simple geometry and they’re not very visually diverse. This was 1997 on Playstation, so it’s not all that surprising, but here in the year 20XX, it lacks the variety of 3D Zelda games. Likewise, there isn’t much depth to the enemies, or combat in general. The bosses aren’t very imposing, not that they can be, since the controls are so restricting.
OOOH, IT LOOKS LIKE A BIG ONE!
Mega Man X helped evolve the Mega Man formula by increasing mobility through quick dashes and wall jumping. Mega Man Legends goes in the opposite direction.
There were a lot of victims of the early 3D-era. No one was quite sure how to approach the new dimension until Super Mario 64 came along and presented the idea that the player should be in control of the camera. Ocarina of Time later refined this with the addition of Z-Targeting, which keeps the camera locked onto your target, and let’s you maneuver without ever breaking contact.
Mega Man Legends doesn’t really have either of these things, not that it’s reasonable to expect that it learned a lesson from a game that wasn’t even released yet. The camera is locked directly behind MegaMan, and the dude turns like a tank. Dualshock was just beginning to establish itself, and is thus, dual analogue aiming is not an option. Therefore, it falls back on a manual lock-on, which locks you in place and then focuses on whatever target it wants. It’s a pretty clunky system. There’s no clear way to switch targets, nor is there really a way of knowing what even can be targeted, but it’s more or less the only way you can hit something above you.
You’re better off relying on the game’s autoaim, which does function a lot better. Combat largely becomes circle strafing to dodge enemy fire while simultaneously attacking the enemy. It’s largely a one-note combat system, but it carries the game adequately.
You also have secondary weapons, like cannons and even an energy sword, but I didn’t really get any use out of them. They lock you in place while you fire, and I found most enemies and bosses could be felled by buster alone. They’re also expensive to upgrade, so I usually spent my money elsewhere.
ZENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
Mega Man Legends was exactly what I needed, and replaying it didn’t disappoint. It’s hardly a Mega Man game, but it also continues the franchise’s trend of launching successful new sub-series with the first game.
In a divergence from Mega Man X’s almost cyberpunk leanings, Mega Man Legends is a wonderfully cheerful game. Chirpy music, fun characters, and colourful graphics all make for a poppy experience that is likely to stick with you. It’s a pretty easygoing game, though it does come with the occasional challenge, but throughout the 8-ish hour runtime, I didn’t suffer a single game over.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its deficiencies. Its controls have aged rather poorly, and the sound design is all over the place. I wish they had a subtitle option because I sometimes couldn’t hear what the hell the characters were saying behind the other sound effects. It’s nothing too bad, but it’s important to point out that it has all the jank that 1997 3D games had to offer.
Otherwise, if you need a vacation, you should definitely consider visiting Kattlelox Island. Mega Man Legends is a cheery and charming game, and sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.
Note that Mega Man Legends was also released as Mega Man 64 on the N64. I didn’t notice any major changes, aside from the obvious technical differences, so I’d say that this review can apply to both.
This review was conducted on a digital version of the game downloaded from the PSN store on Playstation 3. It was paid for by the author.