Review: Mega Man X Legacy Collection Vol. 1 & 2 (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): July 24, 2018
- Release Date (EU): July 24, 2018
- Release Date (JP): July 24, 2018
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Genres: Side-scrolling Platformer
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
- Also For: Computer, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Mega Man... X!
I want to be perfectly clear and get the general out of the way so that we can focus on the specifics - Mega Man X is an excellent game series, that goes without saying - it's permanently embedded into the fabric of gaming history. I was more than pleased to finally spend some time with it after all these years and I didn't regret it one bit. MMX games, for the most part, nail all of the platforming hallmarks and they deserve praise for it. With that said, the devil is in the details. It's not the individual games that you're here to read about, is it? What you want to know, and what I'm here to tell you about, is Mega Man X Legacy Collection (MMXLC) and whether picking it up today is worth your time and money.
It's always hard to review a product like this because, for all intents and purposes, it's a collection of previously released games embedded in one package rather than a brand-new game, or even a remake. I thought a lot about how to write this piece and I've decided that I shouldn't focus so much on the games themselves and rather train my eyes on what matters in this release - the way they're delivered. I think it's only fair to score precisely what MMXLC brings to the table as opposed to judging each and every individual game, all of which have been covered through and through over the course of many years. Keep this in mind as you read the review because that simple fact is paramount in understanding why my opinion may not necessarily align with the opinion of others.
MMXLC, much like the original Mega Man Legacy Collection, comes in three distinct flavours - MMXLC Vol.1 ($19.99), MMXLC Vol.2 ($19.99) and a bundle of both ($39.99). I won't lie, that's the first of many problems I have with this release. There's really no reason for why this should be the case besides spreading the games as thin as possible to maximise profit from the re-release, and that leaves a bad taste in your mouth before you even start playing. The collections installed as two separate "games" on my system - I squinted, grimaced and made a mental note. At a steep $39.99, a price approximating a full, brand-new AAA game this better be good.
MMXLC Vol. 1 contains the first four of the classic MMX games while Vol.2 features the remaining four. As you might expect, all of those games were originally intended for a 4:3 screens and Capcom had to make sure that Legacy Collection adapted them for modern 16:9 screens, which it does in three ways. Players can choose to display the game in the original aspect ratio, in the original aspect ratio stretched to fit the dimensions of the screen or stretched to fit the screen - I chose the second option as it seemed to be the most enjoyable without sacrificing graphical fidelity. Upscaling quality isn't great, but it does the job - I didn't expect miracles. Unused space can either be left blank or covered with a wallpaper, giving it a slightly arcade-y look. Finally, you can choose to play the game as-is or apply one of two filters - a "retro" filter which adds fake CRT lines to the display or a "smooth" filter which, as the name implies, smooths the image - I tried out all of them, but ultimately preferred the games in their unaltered form. I've attached some examples to give you an idea of what to expect. Your mileage may vary, but at least in this regard MMXLC gives you options to play the game the way you want. The games also allow you to change your key binds, so you can play exactly as you remember them or you can adjust them to your liking, allowing for smoother run-and-gun gameplay regardless of preference.
I began playing and everything I've seen or heard about the series rang true - the games were indeed great and worthy of the accolades they receive. The embedded emulator behaved admirably and I didn't notice any glitches in gameplay, even in particularly difficult-to-emulate scenarios like adjustable lighting or various MODE transformations the SNES is famous for - the emulation was very accurate. Too accurate. As the levels went on, I noticed something unnerving which prompted me to do some digging. As I've mentioned before, I never had the chance to play Mega Man X on the original platforms, so this was as much a review as it was a research project to me. As it turns out, the games released for the SNES were so advanced that the system only barely pulled them off, leading to some undesirable slowdown in certain areas, particularly when the screen was really busy or when multiple effects were being used simultaneously. Much to the emulator's credit and to the player's annoyance, this slowdown is still present and it renders certain sections of MMX 1-3, particularly 1, effectively unplayable for a modern gamer. I fully understand that these are emulated games and few things can be done to improve their performance, but some form of on-the-fly adjustments to the emulation speed would've made revisiting those games a much, much more enjoyable experience overall. Try as I may, the slowdown was distracting and it showed how little was done in terms of improving the quality of life for those older titles. The performance of the SNES emulator, despite its accuracy, was atrocious at times, and try as I may, it cost me many lives and caused much frustration. After having a go at MMX 1-3 I moved on to MMX 4 with a heavy heart, hoping that thanks to the extra juice provided by Sony's first system the fourth installment would be "diamond in the rough" of Vol.1. I was correct. The embedded PS1 emulator worked excellent and provided a great experience overall, it's a shame that the same can't be said about the SNES one. It's not all doom and gloom though - there's one important improvement added to Vol.1, namely a save slot for the older games which did not support saving and used passwords instead. Including this feature really saves players a lot of hassle as dealing with passwords in this day would be pretty silly - kudos, Capcom!
Once I was done with Vol.1, I continued my adventure in Vol.2, and I must say, it was smooth sailing from that point onwards. As I've already mentioned, the PS1 emulator worked great, but it's the PS2 one that deserves top marks in my opinion. While 2D content like the HUD's seemed understandably pixelated, the 3D elements of the PS2 games looked noticeably sharper and defined than they would've on original hardware which makes me wonder if there were internal resolution tweaks involved. Now, that's precisely what I expected of Vol.1 - giving the games a new lease for life on newer, stronger hardware without altering the core MMX gameplay. Between the two I enjoyed Vol.2 more, even though I'm a retro junkie and can't help but love the 2D aesthetic of the older games.
Obviously bundling the games isn't the reason why collectors would buy a product like this - the reason is all the extras normally bundled with collections, and there's no shortage of them in MMXLC. For starters each game can be played normally or in its original Japanese iteration, Rockman X, which adds a nice bit of flavour for the die-hard fans collecting imports. But wait, there's more! The game also comes with a Museum section featuring photos of various Mega Man products released over the years, game trailers, artwork, manuals, music and even Day of Sigma, a promotional animated short produced and released alongside Maveric Hunter X. The game also features a journal which enables you to track your performance and a brand-new challenge mode in which you can fight dual boss rush battles, with some side story to boot.
Trashman X or Buyman X?
After the long journey of maverick hunting it's time to reach a conclusion, and it's not an easy one. I would like to give it high marks because I've enjoyed the games, but it's not the games that I'm reviewing here, it's the collection, and I had a number of problems with it. For starters, MMXLC doesn't feature any form of save states. A minor gripe, I know, but since the alternative is playing the very same games on emulators, it's a pertinent one. None of the games (besides perhaps the PS2 ones) received any quality of life improvements - they're still plagued by the same issues they had when they were initially released, including slowdown in the SNES games, occasionally choppy FMV's in the PS1/2 games, enemies shooting you from beyond the boundaries of the screen where they can't be killed or frustratingly respawning as the screen scrolls, all of those 90's problems are still there. You might think that I'm a Debbie Downer, but the way I see it, I would love to play those games the way people remember them, not necessarily the way they really were. I'm playing on modern hardware, there's absolutely no reason why I should feel like I'm gliding through molasses all of a sudden because the game needed to resize a couple of sprites. Capcom addressed the "issue" of modern gamers by implementing an "easy mode" for newcomers, but that's not what I was looking for - I don't want the games to be made artificially easy, I want them to play as originally intended since now, after all these years, they're not limited by hardware anymore. The extras are nice, but they're for die-hard collectors, not necessarily someone like me who just wanted to see what all the rage was about. The collection is complete, the games are great, but the experience leaves a lot to be desired. This leaves us with one last question - would I recommend that you go out and buy MMXLC? It depends. For me it would be a "no" despite enjoying the games quite a bit. It's simply not worth the $39.99 asking price, not with the wealth of alternatives available out there. If you do want to own all of the Mega Man X games in one convenient package, go ahead - the world is your oyster, the games are definitely some of the best in the genre. If you haven't tried Mega Man X yet like myself, you should - the games are definitely worth your time. Unfortunately, I can't help but feel that perhaps waiting for a sale would be more prudent.
+ One-stop shop for (almost) all of your Mega Man X games
+ The inclusion of the Japanese "Rockman X" releases alongside the English ones
+ A wealth of extra content for Maverick Hunter conniseurs
+ Added save slot for SNES games which saves you the hassle of managing passwords
- Poor performance of the SNES emulator spoils the broth
- $39.99 price point is excessively steep
- No save state functionality
- Low-quality upscaling
I have to give MMXLC credit, the games are presented in a great way - the menus are colourful and responsive, inviting you to play them or watch all of the included extra content. There are some issues, however - the included filters aren't the best and the fonts used for the added in-game menus don't match the actual game fonts which can be quite off-putting.
It's Mega Man X, people - of course it's great. The games themselves are excellent and, for the most part, perform admirably. My only gripes are with how the the embedded SNES emulator performs and how few Quality of Life improvements were made to the games. Enemies can still get you from beyond the screen, they still respawn as soon as they're outside of the screen boundary, all of those annoyances are still there. An "easy mode" is not going to cut it, certain areas of the games needed more attention than that.
The collection features 8 games, a boss rush mode, a wealth of additional content and even the Japanese releases, so it will take some time to consume it all, believe you me.
out of 10
(not an average)
MMXLC Vol.1 & 2 were most certainly fun to play and I'm glad that I got to review them as they introduced me to the series, but the collection has some inherent problems, not to mention that the asking price is simply way too high for what you get. It's hard to put it in words, but I loved the games and simultaneously did not approve of the way they were delivered. I don't like the fact that the collection is split into volumes, I don't like the pricing, I don't like that it's effectively emulators pre-packaged with ROMs and I don't like the fact that Quality of Life improvements are few and far between... but... I like Mega Man X, and I liked Mega Man X Legacy Collection - perhaps you will too.