Oct 12, 2007
For the 20th anniversary of the very first Mega Man game on NES (ah, those were good times - yes, we're old enough to remember that going after Cut Man first was a wise choice), Capcom has broken out the zillionth iteration in twenty years, this time on DS. Don't worry - if you've been turned off by the ridiculously difficult Mega Man X games, Mega Man ZX Advent offers a beginner mode, as long as your ego can take it. Of course, if you're a hard-core Mega Man fan, even the "normal" difficulty should prove satisfying.
In this adventure, you can choose to play as Grey, a young man who (yawn) can't remember who he is, or as Ashe, a girl who knows who she is, but faces the same mysterious forces. The story is appropriately convoluted for its anime roots, which is sometimes carried out in boring, too-long in-game dialogue, and sometimes in very cool anime-style cinematics. The important thing to know is that you'll come across stuff called Biometal which fuses with your body and turns you into a Mega Man, thus allowing you to steal powers (and forms) of the bosses you defeat.
Anyone who's played a Mega Man game is familiar with the boss-powers-stealing schematic, but the way ZX Advent incorporates this model is refreshing. First off, even before you absorb your first boss power, you gain the ability to switch between your "human" form and your Mega Man form. The human form doesn't offer too many advantages, and will seem worthless at first, but it's cool when later on you find obstacles that only a human can overcome, because it's the only way you can crouch and swim.
When you do start gaining boss forms, the game opens up a lot and really requires you to think. You'll need your Mega Man wall-jump to scale a cliff, but then transform into a submarine that is armored on the top and shoots icicles in order to traverse a narrow underwater passage full of falling spikes. Each form is required to surmount certain obstacles, yet they each also have glaring weaknesses you have to consider. The forms are so different that often you feel like you're playing a completely different game at the tap of a button. Each form is accessed by hitting an icon on the touch screen, so you can switch forms fairly rapidly.
Of course, each form also has primary and secondary weaponry, multiple levels of charge-up attacks, and different levels of mobility. Like previous installments, you'll have to experiment to find out which form is the most powerful against a particular boss, although it may help to switch forms mid-battle.
The world is large and non-linear. You'll find yourself using warp points to move around, and thankfully there are plenty so backtracking is mostly reduced to a minor chore. One quibble is that the map is a bit confusing - areas are delineated by numbers, but it doesn't accurately represent the world in a visual manner. There are tons of secret areas to be discovered, many of which can only be uncovered once you acquire new boss forms. The game's size isn't expanded too much by the selectable characters - there are differences, but you'll only want to play both if one playthrough wasn't enough for you.
The complete package looks and feels polished - the simple 2D graphics are colorful and manage to cram tiny details into the DS screen, while the controls are as tight as you would expect from a Mega Man game. After all these years, its amazing the formula hasn't strayed too far from the original. This feels undeniably like Mega Man, yet the depth continues to improve. Whether you own every Mega Man title released or if you want to reminisce about the good ol' days of 2D platforming, ZX Advent will fulfill your boss-power absorption needs.