The Mega Man series has always held a special place in my heart, though I’ve never had the skills to complete many of the games. I’ve loved the original series – having played them in the Mega Man Anniversary Collection on the PS2 – and I grew up playing the X series on the PS1. I’m also not ashamed to say that I loved the different spin-offs of the blue bomber such as the Mega Man Battle Network series on handhelds. To celebrate the last 30 years, Capcom released the Mega Man Legacy Collection in 2015 which featured the original Mega Man games compiled together in a fantastic collection. To follow up, Capcom brought the same TLC to the Mega Man X Legacy Collection in a wonderful package that is slightly hindered by a couple of low-quality games.
Before I get into the bulk of the review, the Mega Man X Legacy Collection is split into two different SKUs to purchase. The first one contains Mega Man X1 thru X4 while the second contains X5 thru X8, as well as a bundle of other features, for $19.99 each. I’m going to review the package as a whole which is available for $39.99 at the time of this writing.
For those not in the know, the Mega Man X series takes the same action platforming gameplay from the original and refines it for an incredible evolution. Eight robot bosses, this time called Mavericks, stand in your way, and after defeating each one of them, you gain a new skill that can be used against the next boss. Each boss has a strength and a weakness, à la rock paper scissors, where figuring out what path to take is where the fun starts. Mega Man has always been known for being tough as nails, and the X series brutally continues that tradition, but was known for having pixel-perfect platforming sections that don’t hold your hand. The X series, however, doesn’t ask players to be exact but invites them to be smooth and explore the world around you since you could upgrade your armor and health for the first time in the series.
Another deviation from the original series is the focus on a story. Mega Man has lore, you just have to go looking for it in game manuals or elsewhere, but the X series puts it front and center, stopping the action to tell you a story and have the characters talk. The writing has never been award-winning, but the story was always a welcomed addition to the series, and is part of the reason I’ve always preferred this series of games to the originals. Couple that with the coolest of the cool design in Zero, and I still fantasize about the X series.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Mega Man as a character, or if you prefer the original series to X series, one thing needs to be clear: Capcom has done a fantastic job with this collection. As a matter of fact, all other developers and publishers need to be paying attention. As I stated above, with your purchase, you will get the eight Mega Man X games that span the SNES, PS1, and PS2. That’s usually where most developers would have stopped, which is easy to understand since that would be the cheapest way to earn a quick buck. Capcom decided not only to bundle the series together, but also clean up the graphics, and give you the ability to switch filters on the fly, change wallpapers that surround the screen, and even an easy mode. They also made a digital museum of sorts by having a ton of artwork to look over for each game, a musical jukebox, a collection of merchandise, trailers for the original releases, and the prequel story, Day of the Sigma, that was initially released with the PSP remake of the original X game. Capcom also took an extra step further by letting you play the series in Japanese. All of this, and I have yet to mention the X Challenge as an entirely new mode made for this collection.
The X Challenge mode is a wild treat for the hardcore Mega Man X players. The mode is a boss rush style that tasks you with selecting three weapons from the games’ history and battling Mavericks, but this time, taking two on at the same time. This mode is not only difficult, but a blast to play. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Capcom release this mode separate from the collection as its own title. It’s a whole new way to think about Mega Man boss fights, and while I haven’t gotten far into the mode, I’ve been thinking about new weapons to try for my next attempt.
Of course, this collection would mean nothing if the games it contains weren’t worth your time. Luckily, the Mega Man X series of games are some of the strongest and influential action games of any generation. The first collection, X1 thru X4, is the shining jewel since those games are the series’ best. The stages are memorable, the bosses are tense, the action and gameplay are fun, and the introduction to the heroes and villains is epic. X1 thru X3 are highlights of the SNES and rival most of the side-scrollers from that time. X4 is the first entry on the PlayStation, which means Capcom was able to introduce voice-acting and anime-inspired cutscenes, and yes they’re as ham-fisted and cheesy as you would expect. These games are hard, especially towards the end, so I’m appreciative Capcom added an easy mode, that lowers the damage received from enemies, so those struggling can still experience how great each game is. I would recommend first-time players try it that way, and circle back once they’ve learned the stages and the best route to tackle each boss.
Where the collection falls apart is with the back half. X5 and X6 are better than most people give them credit for, just be aware that both games are just more of what you’ve played. X7, however, is not only the worst of the X games but also one of the worst Mega Man games. Capcom decided to add in 3D mechanics – this was the first entry on the PlayStation 2 after all – that unfortunately clashed with what made Mega Man great. X7 lost its identity, and this port will remind players why. X8 was a good follow-up but still couldn’t rise to the glory the series once had. Again, I have to give Capcom props for cleaning up the graphics of these games and treating all eight games with love and respect as opposed to forgetting these titles even existed. And I’m being picky here, but why didn’t Mega Man X: Command Mission and Mega Man Battle and Chase receive any love here?
Mega Man X Legacy Collection has set a new standard for anniversary collections. Not only are most of the games in the series incredible, but the care that went into this bundle shows throughout. I’ve spent as much time looking at artwork and listening to classic Mega Man tunes as I have playing the games themselves. Having the original Japanese versions is a great way to preserve history as well. I’ve loved every minute reliving some of my favorite games. The addition of an easy mode helps during the toughest moments and is a welcome addition I’d love to see other collections take advantage of. Adding in the X Challenge mode is the icing on the cake and gives returning fans a new way to play. This collection is not only for fans, but shows new players why Mega Man is as awesome as he is. Maybe now it’s time for X9?