I could not have predicted things would turn out this way. I count Mega Man X as one of my favourite games, and to see the series take a gradual slide into atrociousness has been hard to experience. The SNES trilogy was fine, and the Playstation trilogy started out decently enough, but by the time I hit X6, my spirits were crushed and it became difficult to keep my pace. X7 was a minor improvement, but it was still a poor showing for the blue bomber.
So now, here we are, at X8. The current terminal destination in the series. After this, I can finally rest.
A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE
Mega Man X7 was notable as the first title in the series to dabble with an additional axis, finally bringing the series into the third dimension. That went poorly. The sections of levels that actually utilized 3D movement ranged from mediocre to terrible, and the levels that stuck to 2D ranged from disappointing to aggravating.
For X8, Capcom has wisely decided to revert back to 2D… most of the time. This has allowed them to actually focus on creating levels that have some semblance of the spark that made earlier titles fun to play. There’s better verticality, secret items are better placed, and the feeling of exploration has returned.
The framework is the familiar one: intro level, choice of eight levels that can be approached in any order, then a final gauntlet to the end boss. Like in X7 you start a level with a team of two maverick hunters from a selection of X, Zero, and Axyl. You also pick a navigator who drops hints at various points in a stage depending on their specialty.
MEGA MAN X AND THE GLASS ELEVATOR
So, like the entire Mega Man X narrative in general, X8’s story is kind of a mess. It involves a new, apparently incorruptible form of reploid of which Axyl is a prototype of. The new generation of reploids predictably goes maverick and the hunters have to figure out why. Also, there’s a space elevator at the center of this, because the humans got tired of getting killed by robots and decided to build a home on the moon, with the aid of robots, no less.
Remember when Mega Man X6 had ghost robots? This is actually pretty tame in comparison.
The voice acting is at least a bit improved. It’s still not great, but at least X doesn’t sound like a nagging school marm with no indoor voice. The story is told through cutscenes that are a bit improved over the last game’s, for what that’s worth.
The levels take place across a variety of locations that are construed to be related to the space elevator. One of X8’s strengths is the variety in levels. A pair of them are vehicle missions, and the others typically place you in some sort of situation that is specific to that stage. One has you playing it stealthy, another requires you to descend into a pit of fire, and yet another revolves around a giant mining robot. It’s easily the most situational X game yet, and there’s a lot of creativity on display this time around.
Although a simple return to form would be welcome after the failed experiment of X7, X8 actually brings quite a few things to the formula to shake things up.
It drops the heart capsules and e-tanks that have lingered with the series since its inception, and instead replaces it with a shop for upgrades. You gather ore throughout the stages and spend them to upgrade your hunters. Some of the upgrades are only unlocked when you find a unique kind of ore hidden in the level, which encourages exploration.
Of course, X still has the ability to gain new pieces of armor, and its inclusion is a mixed bag. There’s eight of them, one in each level, and they all assemble into two separate sets of armor. Unlike certain previous titles like X6, you can wear the new parts as soon as their found, attaching them to neutral armor, which looks ugly. In fact, once you collect all the parts, it still looks ugly, and the only visual difference between the two sets is the colour.
As for their abilities, I honestly don’t remember. I could tell you the difference between the armors in the earlier X games, but here, they’re so insubstantial that they just blur together. Oh, well.
SO, DO YOU THINK SIGMA IS INVOLVED?
I should be happier to say that Mega Man X8 is actually a decent game, but after playing through the entire X series and getting dragged through the tar with the past few games, I’m too exhausted to build any enthusiasm. I don’t know why I do this to myself.
Anyways, X8 isn’t bad. It’s actually got some strong points to it, and the fact that it does attempt to shake things up in a few small ways is admirable. The level design isn’t great, but there’s a strong diversity and some blatant creativity on display. A lot of the sins of the last couple games have been swept away, and the result is a game that’s actually enjoyable to play. It’s still leagues away from the SNES X trilogy, but at least it feels like it belongs in a venerable series.
This review was conducted on a Nintendo Switch using the Mega Man X Legacy Collection. It was paid for by the author.