Mega Man has been around for a few years now—20, to be exact—and while not on the same level as cultural icons such as Mario, Capcom’s little blue mascot has soldiered on for his adoring fans worldwide. These are fans who know what they like and what they don’t like, and one thing that Mega Man‘s minions particularly dislike is change. One could argue that the series hasn’t really evolved that much at all since it first began, but when you’ve got a loyal fanbase who buys your games regardless of quality, is there really any need to rock the boat?
A common feature amongst many games nowadays is the ability to choose between two different characters at the start of your adventure. Mega Man ZX Advent, the latest in the long-running series, offers a choice between either Grey or Ashe. Whereas many titles fail to offer any notable differences between your avatars, here your selection will actually have a profound impact on the proceedings.
Grey, for example, fires rapidly, but his bullets pack less punch. He also has a traditional charged shot, in a similar vein to other Mega Man titles. Finally, his secondary attack fires multiple homing missiles at multiple targets (or just one target if you’re feeling nasty). Ashe, on the other hand, fires slowly but packs more heat, has a reflective charged shot that ricochets off of solid surfaces and a sub attack that fires a mighty charged blast that homes in on any unfortunate grunt that gets in her way. Another nice bit of attention to detail is that both have a separate backstory, slightly altering the abilities that they acquire along the way, though their progress through the meat of the game remains identical.
It‘s gratifying to see a game where your choices actually offer consequences for your actions, as opposed to just offering a female character to please the girls and a male one for insecure boys who weep at the thought of playing as a girl.
While the story is as inconsequential as ever, I’m sure the Mega-maniacs will lap it up. It’s traditionally told through infrequent anime cutscenes. The gameplay, for its part, strikes a balance between traditional Mega Man and Nintendo’s own Metroid series.
Ready to bust up some seriously huge machinery?
The exploration is fairly similar to Metroid‘s universe. There are also levels which are further split into stages with greatly varying environments such as a volcano or a railway line gun fight. The worlds are interconnected via terminals which allow you to traverse different parts of the planet without the need for any long, laborious backtracking, so long as you’ve activated the terminals, that is. This greatly speeds matters up and actually encourages you to explore more, as exploring the planet becomes just as entertaining as blasting enemies does. Though it’s not really what I would call open ended, the linearity adds some structure, and lets face it, nothing’s worse than losing hours at a time trekking across a planet because you’ve lost your way.
The use of the touchscreen is hardly groundbreaking, but it is intuitive, helpful and easy to use. The map at the bottom can be dragged and moved around, so planning ahead is far simpler; it also allows you to gather information on areas that you may be curious about, such as the locations of doors and relative heights of walls and barriers. Long distance travel is made easier by simply tapping on the part of the screen you wish to warp to (as long as there is an active terminal warp point) as well as toggling between your various powers, which is as simple as tapping the on screen icon.
If it sounds like they’ve squeezed a lot in there, well, that’s because they have. Even so, there is no point at which it feels cumbersome or awkward and becomes just as reliable, natural, and necessary as using the directional pad and face buttons.
A neat little customization option is the ability to clone your defeated foes. Beat a boss and you’ll be able to impersonate not just the boss’s appearance but also their abilities as well—15 in all. What makes this a nice little add-on is that it never forces you to play as any one character. It’s there if you want to use it, but if you don’t, your chosen character will do just fine.
...you know the drill by now, right?
The gameplay will be familiar to long time fans: bottomless pits, countless enemies that need a good thrashing, spikes out to impale you, and rock hard bosses that will call upon both your arcade and memorization skills. Battles quickly turn into frantic, often anxious, panic-inducing fights for survival where one mistake will cost you dearly. For instance, if you run out of lives during a boss battle, then you’re right back to the beginning as you can’t save until you’ve defeated them and activated the terminal they were blocking your access to.
A few checkpoints here and there would have been nice, and overall, the frustration may prove to be too big a hurdle for many to overcome as it also detracts greatly from its suitability as a portable title. For fans who have become accustomed to Mega Man’s traits, I imagine that that’s hardly an issue.
For everyone else, though, it probably is an issue. The lack of a diagonal shot will seem like a massive blunder to some, and rightfully so. Fans, however, will lap up the terrible English voice acting, by some Z-grade anime dubbers no doubt, the almost spit-in-your-face difficulty level, and the fact that they’re still pretty much playing the same game Capcom released 20 years ago.
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. Capcom is well aware of what their fans demand, and the fans are well aware of what they expect from Capcom, which is exactly what they get in Mega Man ZX Advent. It’s undoubtedly a very strange relationship, where you have to be part of it to truly understand why it’s lasted the test of time. But hey, both sides of that relationship are having fun, and they’re not harming anybody, so does it really matter what anyone else thinks?