(Note: Please refer also to my review of Legacy Collection 1 here – there are a lot of shared features between the two collections which are discussed there in much greater detail.)
Mega Man has had a real pop-star life cycle – and not just because he spends all his time in a skin-tight cyan bodysuit. From humble beginnings with some very questionable box art, Mega Man went on to become the secondary face of the NES and SNES second only to Nintendo’s don in dungarees himself, putting out hit after hit and seeming unstoppable (asides from a few ill-advised spin-offs – the less said about 1994’s Mega Man Soccer the better I think). Eventually, however, something had to give. Eventually our pint-sized pop-star would crack under the pressure, and disappear down a spiral of failed generational jumps, bad ideas and terrible, terrible voice acting. Mega Man X: Legacy Collection 2 is a chronicle of that decline.
Mega Man X5 came hot off the heels off the critically acclaimed (and very good – again, see first review) Mega Man X4, and had a lot to live up to. It was also, according to previous series director and unfortunately also Mighty No. 9 creator Keiji Inafune, supposed to be the last game in the series – the more discerning reader will notice that isn’t the case at all, which is never, ever a good sign. The plot of this one centres around Sigma being back (what a surprise), and both spreading a virus over Earth and attempting to crash a space colony into Earth to wipe out all life; so far, so end of Sonic Adventure 2. But instead of getting two golden glowy hedgehogs to kick the tar out of it, X and Zero instead have to gather the parts to repair a big laser, to shoot at the colony. This is tied into a branching path-narrative which, instead of being engaging and changing based on your choices, is literally entirely random. The laser has a chance to succeed with no parts collected and a chance to fail with all the parts, making it more pointless than a raincoat in Rwanda. Asides from that nonsense, Mega Man X5 is pretty standard stuff: platforming is still good but feels slightly looser and the levels are less interesting, less tightly designed; the animations from X4 are gone and there’s some translations issues, though not nearly as bad as X6, which we’ll get to (and mercifully there’s the single change made to these games; the bosses have been renamed from terrible Guns n Roses references to actual Maverick names). The music and visuals aren’t quite up to scratch compared to previous games either. A good enough game for sure, but a low point for the series so far. So far.
Mega Man X6 was the final Mega Man X game released for the PS1, and was decidedly one too many. Mega Man Grandaddy Inafune was off the project, and all hell broke loose in the plot; three weeks after the Colony crash (or three years, depending on which translator was working that day), a weird ghost Zero called “Zero Nightmare” is, about, and doing vaguely evil things somewhere offscreen, which X goes to investigate. Zero, supposedly dead, had been “hiding to repair himself,” and shows up to help later on. Again, like Mega Man X5, X6 lacks something of the kick of the previous entries, and the series feels fatigued like a fat dog on a hot day by this point; There’s no english voice-work at all, instead keeping the Japanese voices unaltered, and the translation is famously hilariously awful (for instance, X’s response to his recently deceased brother in arms being branded a villain is a hearty “How Dare!”). Levels are more bland and repetitive but still, in essence, are Mega Man X levels, and are enjoyable to people who enjoyed the previous entries. The music, again, is somewhat lacklustre (ironic that I’m the one starting to sound like a broken record) and the sprite work for a game released in 2001 was beginning to look really dated. An adequate platforming time, but a low point for the series so far. So far.
“Right,” said Capcom, having gathered its Mega Man X team hurriedly into a boardroom, “we need to reinvent the Mega Man X franchise.” A good idea in principle, but evidently there was a lead leak into the water that day, and the resulting design document lead to Mega Man X7. I won’t go into the story in depth, primarily because it completely loses the plot (pun intended), but it focuses around Wheatley prototype – aka the dumbest robot who ever lived – Axl, a “young reploid” (do robots age? Are robots that’re built young young forever? I have so many questions) who defects from a group of Mavericks and the conflict centres around that. Unlike X5 and X6, which were nothing special but still ultimately adequate-to-good games, X7 is bad. Axl’s control scheme is awful, focussing around some strange, barely-functional lock-on system rather than the classic straight-forward shooting – and because of this gameplay change the 2D level design is hamstrung by it. Note I say 2D: Mega Man X7 marks the series’ uncomfortable lurch into 3D, which coincidentally makes my stomach lurch as well – unpleasant controls mixed with bare-bones levels and a camera which zips about like a grasshopper on cocaine, and you have a recipe for a real disaster. The graphics are nicely shaded and clean but the voice acting is absolutely abhorrent, properly up there in “Tidus in Final Fantasy 10 laughing” tier, which is just the cherry on the pile of dirt. No “so far” here, this is the lowest Mega Man has ever sunk. X8 is entirely a step up, mostly being X7 but without the awful 3D and with even more plot nonsense. The levels are still annoyingly designed and control methods are still, questionable, but hey, no 3D is a massive improvement by itself.
With the games out of the way, the question remains; is this Collection worth buying? Unlike the base Legacy Collection, to which the answer to that question was “yes, right now, why are you still here,” with Legacy Collection 2 it’s a little more complicated. Whereas Collection 1 showcases the peak of Mega Man X’s gaming career, and has potential to turn a lot of people into Mega Man Fans, Collection 2 is more for those existing fans with a morbid fascination into the series’ decline. The museum is still very nicely fleshed out and presented, and it still presents very good value for money, but there’s less fun to be had here – not zero fun, but less.