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  1. Tempest Stormwin

    OP Tempest Stormwin Kweisatz Haderach
    Former Staff

    Oct 29, 2002

    MEGA MAN: a series that is one of Capcom's flagships. When we think of this we think of fast paced side-scrolling action starring our little 1.32 metre tall hero (4'4", for our pals in Britain and the States). And then the X series came out... and introduced a new robot, Zero, who (like Protoman) is red, has something yellow that flies in the wind, and is phenominally cooler than your protagonist. No trouble: in the third X game you could control him, although it wasn't worth it since X, the successor to Mega Man, was better in every respect from the halfway mark onward. In the fourth, fifth, and sixth, Zero had a full storyline and almost perfected control. And then... he had to seal himself away, for storyline purposes. Now, with Megaman Zero, the sword weilding fighter makes a comeback 100 years in his future!

    The general backstory not made clear by the game: X was created by Dr. Light (Megaman's creator as well, though X is a different robot), and was the first robot who could think and feel as a human could. X was sealed away for automated testing, and Dr. Light passed away. Later, X was found by Dr. Cain, who copied his design to populate the world with thinking robots called Reploids. Although he didn't create Zero (I won't tell you who did; it's fun to find out), Zero showed up at about this time, as one of the first of the new robots to attack humans. After a while, he stopped being this violent, and countless other reploids went Maverick, or beserk, killing humans. Zero joined X in taking these Mavericks down, through a few nifty plot twists, until the afforementioned sealing. Now, it's 100 years later. The world is in martial peace maintained by the Reploid leader, X, who is hunting down reploids suspected of being Maverick (despite that they're quite sane), and retiring them (NOTE: If it's not clear in the game, one "kills" an organic being, and "retires" a Reploid.). On the side of the accused is the human scientist Ciel, who in a last-ditch effort finds the sleeping Zero and brings him back to life to fight for their cause. Cue the player!

    The first thing you'll notice is that the art style is VERY different. Rather than looking like the armored bishounen that he was originally, Zero now looks lithe, almost elven in design. Most of the reploids you'll see on your side look just like humans, too, with maybe one or two metal plates on their arms, head or eyes. Play control is nice -- Zero actually gets different weapons in this, rather than just the Z-Saber -- but a bit annoying at times (falling... you fall faster than the screen scrolls). Movement is precise unless you're climbing walls in the standard X fashion -- press against a wall, and you'll slide down it, press jump to kick against it and climb. When sliding, you'll slip a lot (unless you find the right Cyber-Elf -- more on those later). There's still a button for dashing, to get the sudden burst of speed you may need, as well. There are two weapon buttons, one for a main, and one for a secondary, both of which can be charged independantly, which I thought was nice. Mysteriously lacking is the duck from X5... but I'm not complaining, since I didn't need it (see below). Missing in Action as well is the Master Weapon trick -- sometimes called Weapon Copy; it's where you get a new weapon or skill after beating a boss -- they're gained different ways now. Another key difference is the setting -- you're in a resistance base with a few areas around it, and there are no "levels" so to speak as missions. Select a mission and you'll usually head off to a new area. In this mission, you'll have an objective to accomplish, and you'll be timed to finish it. You only get one shot at each mission: should you abort or decide to not continue, you'll fail it and thus lose the reward permanantly.

    Your performance on these missions depends mostly on your speed and your effectiveness (read: Don't get hit, but kill anything in your way rather than running). However, it doesn't really matter to the game itself; only for unlocking certain secrets, of which there are startlingly few for how much rating they put on your rank.

    Added to the series are a few nice touches: the progressive weapon skill, the Cyber-Elves, and the elemental system. Progressive skill is just that -- you start out amateurish with your weapons (Zero has amnesia -- his body remembers his great skill with the sword, but he doesn't, so he'd better practice), and with use, they grow in the number of moves you can do with them. The regular blaster just gains the usual "Charge" powerups, the Triple Rod (read: Spear) gains extensions and an absurdly powerful and cool looking spin attack, and the Sheild Boomerang can be thrown increasingly far. However, by far the best of these is the classic Z-Saber. Not as strong as the Triple Rod, not as ranged as the gun, but it's by far your fastest weapon and your best. You start off being able to slash once (even when dashing, which is a first for Zero), and at the end can perform the classic triple-slash, a spinning slash in the air, a charge-up super slash, and (get this) a rolling dash that is next to invincible and keeps you moving at dash rates until you stop tapping B. Yeah, Zero's godlike with that thing; this makes up for the lack of his classic skills from the PSX, as well as most of the Parts. The Cyber Elves are peices of computer code that act very much like spells in some games, or more accurately like scrolls. Zero finds them by defeating enemies or reaching hard-to-reach areas; sometimes bosses will leave them behind or you'll use a mission to get one. I think your rank ties into this too, since I've found a few more with higher ranks than with lower ones, but it's usually not worth it. Elves come in three types and three sizes: Red(Nurse) ones mostly heal you or have to do with energy, Green(Animal) ones include special enhancements and attacks, and Blue(Hacker) ones play with the enemies and environment. The larger an elf, the more powerful or permanant it is: the small ones are weak, one-shots, but the largest ones are always permanant (except for the medium-size Hackers). Okay, so here's what you do. There's TransServers around the world (sometimes called Trance Servers; I like the name more but it's only implied as such... everyone calls them TransServers) that can allow you to move from place to place like a transporter. They have two Elf-related options: download and feed. Download prepares up to three of them for use from the subscreen -- just having them prepared puts a penalty on your rank. After use, the elf is deleted and cannot be used again. You can't reload elves during a mission, so select well. Feed is for the rare, larger elves you'll find, which can't be used initially. Enemies drop crystals often enough, which counts essentially like money. The elves require this, usually to go through three sizes of growth; only at full size can you use them. They're worth it, though: a fully Elf-ed up Zero has a life bar more than quadruple the original size, slides down walls slowly, climbs ladders faster, doesn't get knocked back if hit, has 4 sub tanks (energy stashes), and (get this!) there are no spikes or instant-death areas left in the game. Yes, one of the blue elves actually removes all of these for you. Enjoy.

    Finally, there's the element system. Get chips for fire, ice and lightning from bosses. Change 'em on the subscreen. The relationship is more paper-rock-scissors than it seems, but anyone familiar with RPGs knows how it works -- use a weakness, do more damage. A nice touch is that it actually changes the color of the weapon.

    Technically, the graphics are amazing. Zero's dash shadows (which indicate that you can't dash when they're there) actually look like him, instead of a silouette. The enemies have full animations (if jerky), and every reploid bleeds if cut with the sword (disturbing... try it on the elephant boss to get a good look at the insides of one). Even animations only used once in the game (like injured Reploids standing up) are done beautifully. Music isn't that hot except for a few catchy tunes -- the remix of Zero's X1 theme at the intro level was a nice touch. Sound effects are nice -- Zero doesn't have the annoying "Hoo, ha, HO!" he did in the PSX games, but he does scream with fully charged melee weapon attacks. Also, bosses and Ciel have unique voices that you hear only a few of during the game. Also, EVERYTHING has sound effects. Zero climbing ladders, Zero wall-kicking, enemies breaking into bits and then hitting the ground... most of these are drowned out, but it's a nice touch.


    Downsides? Well, there's several. Control occasionally is a bit loose. Enemies tend to drop crystal when you need life, and vice versa. There are NO extra lives (instead you get rare continues). Spikes are plentiful, although that elf I mentioned helps. Using permanant elves negatively affects your score: with all those elf enhancements, you get a whopping -100 on your level ranking. That can drop an S to a D in one mission. The lack of retrys really hurts, as does the lack of reusing elves. Finally, it's HARD. You will not be able to sit down and beat this one on your first shot, and it's not just the last boss doing that either (he's actually a bit of a joke if you're fully equipped). If you die, reload a save game so you can hang on to those rare continues. Even if you continue, though, the story sequences repeat themselves. The story is a bit strained, and we don't know how it fully fits in with the X series, although the miscontinuity isn't the fault of THIS game, and the writing is usually good. I especially liked the dialogue between Zero and Ciel... And the ending's a bit of a disappointment, but I won't ruin anything else.

    Reviewer's Summary

    All in all? 7/10. It's a fun game, and it's very impressive for the release date. The difficulty hurt the casual gamer from playing, but if you like Mega Man and want a new innovation (like when they introduced Battle Network or the X series), by all means, hop right on. At the very least download and flash it, since the graphics and music are very, very good.

    -Tempest out.-

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