There’s been an awful lot of Mega Man games over the years, hasn’t there?
If you’ve been keeping up with the deluge of Legacy Collections from Capcom, there’s been four now: Mega Man Legacy Collection, Mega Man Legacy Collection 2, Mega Man X Legacy Collection, and sure enough, Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2. Now there’s another one to add to your collection of collections: Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection.
Like before, fans are likely to lap it up, while those new to the series are probably just going to wonder what those fans see in it.
There are six games included in Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection: Mega Man Zero and its three sequels that were released on Game Boy Advance between 2002 and 2005, and Mega Man ZX and its sequel that were released on Nintendo DS in 2006 and 2007. Yeah, yearly releases aren’t anything new. Of course, being Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS games, none of them look particularly great when blown up on a 4K screen. But thanks to multiple screen size options and a trio of filters, you can tweak them so that they’re a little more pleasant on the eyes.
Players take control of Zero in the Mega Man Zero series, unsurprisingly. In the first game he’s awakened amidst a war between humans and Reploids; they’re human-like robots who are self-conscious. It sets up a story that’s developed upon across the three sequels, but there’s only one thing you really need to know about Mega Man Zero: it’s not very good.
Mixing up the series’ formula, missions in Mega Man Zero are chosen from a list rather than a stage select screen, and the environments all branch off from a central resistance base. It means you can wander around each area between missions of your own free will if you wish, but there’s not much point. Plus, the areas themselves are small compared to usual Mega Man stages. You can’t steal abilities from the bosses you beat, either. What really makes Mega Man Zero disappointing, however, is its unfair difficulty level. All Mega Man games are hard – that’s a given – but when the difficulty arises out of blind leaps of faith and other irritants, it isn’t really forgivable.
Thankfully, things improve from Mega Man Zero 2 onwards. While each game still has a base of sorts that acts as a hub, the mission select screen is back in. Unlike in Mega Man Zero, you acquire new abilities from defeating bosses, too, as well as elements chips. Mega Man Zero 2, 3 and 4 feel like Mega Man games of old, only with the odd tweak here and there to keep up with the times. As such, fans are sure to love them, and they’re reasonably accessible to new players too, especially when you factor in the new Casual Scenario Mode which I’ll get to later.
The only major difference you’ll find between the Mega Man Zero games are the way they implement Cyber-Elves. You’ll find these little helpers as you play through each game, and in Mega Man Zero and Zero 2 they’re a one-time use affair. In Mega Man Zero 3, however, they’re equipped for constant benefit, and in Zero 4 there’s simply one elf that you develop over time which grants a single power from three categories: Nurse, Animal and Hacker. It’s a welcome system that adds a little bit of depth to each game, and you’ll also be helpful for the Cyber-Elves’ help.
In Mega Man ZX and its sequel, ZX Advent, the Cyber-Elf system is scrapped. What you have instead is the ability to transform and make use of enemies’ abilities. By assuming your human form, you can even – wait for it – crouch. Holy Moses. These games really stand out from the rest of the Mega Man games, and not only because you’re not taking control of Mega Man, X or Zero. They lean heavily on the Metroidvania genre, you see, and it’s both a strength and a weakness. It’s nice that they try something new, and having an interconnected world to explore does have its benefits. When you’ve got no idea where to go because of a useless map system, however, you’ll wish for the return of the simple Mega Man format.
If you’re wondering how these Nintendo DS games work on console, given that you only have one screen, the answer is pretty well, actually. Your TV becomes the main screen, and the second screen becomes a little window that can be placed pretty much anywhere. You can make it transparent if you like, and can even make it disappear and reappear with the push of a button. To interact with it, you simply move a pointer with the right analogue stick, and use the right trigger to click. Sorted.
While many of the games found in Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection originally had difficulty options, they’ve been removed in favour of adding a Casual Scenario Mode for each and every game. Play Mega Man Zero in Causal Scenario Mode, for example, and you’ll find that you have all of the Cyber-Elves in your possession from the outset, boosting your health and providing a myriad of other benefits. You won’t die from touching spikes, either; only bottomless abysses will instantly end you.
Each game is much, much easier in Causal Scenario Mode, though because of that you’ll find that many achievements/trophies are disabled when using it. It’s understandable, but also harsh when some of these games cannot be overcome by mere mortals or normal difficulty, let alone higher. What can be used without penalty, however, is Save-Assist, which places ample checkpoints throughout missions at which your data is automatically saved. It’s perhaps a poor stand-in for save states, but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.
Everyone should be happy that Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection doesn’t have any input lag (on Xbox One at least), unlike previous Legacy Collections. It makes playing each game that bit crisper and more enjoyable, yet also means you can’t blame the game when you mistime a jump or make another rookie error. Fans will also be pleased to hear that Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection comes with a bucketload of extras.
Z Chaser Mode lets you race across stages from each game against the clock, with your times uploaded to global leaderboards. You can race against ghosts, another player in split-screen, or just by yourself. It’s sure to provide competitive Mega Man fans hours of fun. There is, of course, also a gallery to browse, full of wonderful Mega Man artwork, and the soundtracks for each game are available via a music player. Add in the ability to change the region of each game, and select between the original game voice acting and the studio recordings for Mega Man ZX Advent, and you have a comprehensive selection of goodies. You can even still unlock additional goodies in Mega Man ZX by linking it with Mega Man Zero 3 or 4.
Needless to say, if you’re a fan of Mega Man and hold even just two or three of the games included close to your heart, Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is an absolute must-have. Priced at just £24.99/$29.99, a lot of care has gone into this package, and it represents excellent value for money. Like the previous Mega Man Legacy Collections, however, it’s not all that likely to attract new fans. The series’ staunch reluctance to move with the times means it’s sometimes hard to get on with.
Not being able to duck, for example, feels archaic now, and forcing you to switch forms to do so in Mega Man ZX and ZX Advent is unintuitive. The inability to shoot your gun in any direction other than forward is silly, too. By placating its hardcore fanbase, the Mega Man series has struggled to grow and develop. It’s stunted.
By all means, add Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection to your library with haste if you want yet more hardcore platforming action. Even faster if the mere mention of Mega Man has your nostalgia senses tingling. Unless you’re a fan though, be cautious and know what you’re getting yourself into. There’s fun to be had here, sure, but it’s found in pockets among huge swathes of frustration.