My recent post on Super Mario 64 finally inspired me to turn our Wii from a modern paperweight back into an actual gaming system. Over the past weekend, we got the thing hooked up to to the network and scoured through our dusty shoebox of Wii accessories for the remotes and such. During this process, I was reminded of how little time I’ve spent with the Wii of late. In fact, short of Epic Mickey, I haven’t played much on it at all over the past couple years. But I was going to change all that. Once I remembered how the remote worked, I headed to the Shop to gleefully discover that I still had 1000 unspent Wii points! Woo-OMG-hoo!! Like a kid in a candy store, however, I didn’t just pick up the one candy bar I thought I really wanted — I got lost in the choices. I perused through the shop for almost an hour until the memories started seeping out my ears, and I finally narrowed my selection to three games: Super Mario 64, Paper Mario, and Mega Man X. Which one…which one…holycrapwhichone??!
Eventually the pressure got to me. My brain…it started pulsing…and…beeping. Beep…beep…beep…Gaaaaaaah! SHUT THE HELL UP!
Um…. Actually, it was just the coffee maker. Good timing too as I decided to caffinate and clear my head of some nostalgia.
During my freshman winter break, I spent a lot of time with Mega Man X (1993).
It was the first Mega Man title I had ever played and it remains a favorite. (Even after catching up with the series through the Mega Man Anniversary Collection  on the Gamecube, I still missed Mega Man X. I played through it oh so many times. And it includes Chill Penguin. And I looooove Chill Penguin because he was awesome and I really just like saying Chill Penguin.)
Since his introduction to the world in the late 1980s, Mega Man has been invented and re-invented in dozens of titles from the NES to the iPad. But despite becoming famous through games and television, Mega Man’s mission has remained generally unchanged: defeat the evil robots created by various evil doctors, such as Dr. Wily or Dr. Cain, depending on what game you are playing.
In Mega Man X, the evil robots were branded as “Mavericks,” and Mega Man, flying mostly solo to this point, joins forces with “Maverick Hunter” Zero (is this the first game in which Zero is introduced?). Zero was not a playable character, but rather appeared at key points in the game.
***Minor gameplay spoilers ahead***
As a 2D platformer, the player as Mega Man (he’s simply called “X” in the game) shoots his way through various levels, collecting energy pellets, finding secrets, dodging obstacles of all sorts, and beating an incredible array of enemies in the process. The game had eight primary bosses which appeared at the end of each level and a password system that allowed players to return to specific points of the game at any time. Additionally, upgrades to X’s armor were scattered throughout the game and new weapons were won with the completion of each boss battle. Though you could play the levels in any order you wanted, one of the keys to easily getting through the game was to beat the bosses in an order so that the special weapon obtained in the previous level could be used to easily defeat the current boss. We didn’t have the “internet” back then, so players, with the help of guides and magazines and sheer will, had to formulate their own lists. I believe there is one “standard” way in which the game can be beaten, but even now you’ll find plenty of variations. I remember that Mega Man became my younger brother’s favorite game for awhile, and he spent hours upon hours coming up with boss lists, cheats, etc. There were a couple of bosses that I usually started out with, but I can’t now recall how I beat it boss by boss. What I can tell you is that game was whole lots of fun and worth every penny and every bit of frustration.
Why frustration? Well, Mega Man’s controls were good but not perfect. Maybe the perceived “slippery” controls were just my problem combined with a general lack of timing, but I often had trouble with jumping over gaps and getting his wall jump/slide just right in order to get to special locations. And my terrible memory led me to easily forget which weapon was required at certain times.
But despite my own limitations, Mega Man X remains one of my top SNES games. The level designs were inspired and awesome, the game didn’t take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to beat, and the graphics looked way better more spritely than 16-bit. Run, shoot, jump, gather, defeat – simple yes, but it made for a very satisfying and memorable game. I emphasize satisfying because it truly was. As wonderful as it was to shoot all the demons, rescue the princess, collect all the stars, or defeat M. Bison, there was something so very pleasing about beating Mega Man X. For me, the feeling was similar to that of Super Metroid — one playthrough just wasn’t enough. And the fun, it just kept on and on.
Note: Sometime the internet, it is good. I just discovered Mega Man Project X — Mega Man re-imagined as a Flash game! It’s brilliant!
With my coffee done and head clear of distractions, I went back to the Wii Shop with my decision. One game now and two games later upon the purchase of a Wii points card. Sometimes, I’m glad to be a grown-up in a candy store, with a few extra nickels to spare.