Re-releasing older video games in modern-era collections is something of a trend these days, but a lot of developers have been ignoring older releases in favor of touching up newer games with increased resolutions and higher-quality textures. It's kind of a shame, because some of gaming's best moments aren't found in last-generation titles, but instead in the retro releases that paved the way for modern gaming experiences. Capcom knows this, and that's one of the reasons why they've blessed retro gaming fans with releases such as the Mega Man X Legacy Collections 1 and 2. Like the Mega Man Legacy Collections that came before them, these new collections are hands-down the best way to experience the X series' greatest moments, plus they're rounded out with a challenging new boss gauntlet gameplay mode and a considerable assortment of added bonuses.
A Full Decade of Mega Man X Releases
Seeing as how the Mega Man series just celebrated its 30th anniversary, the crew at Capcom have been busy creating polished, modern collections featuring all of the series' biggest hits. I previously reviewed both Mega Man Legacy collections, and both wound up being excellent ways to relive the Blue Bomber's early history, starting with the first 1987 Mega Man release and running all the way through the 2010 release of Mega Man 10. The new Mega Man X Legacy collections follow the same pattern, except they represent the more modern X series of games that kicked off in 1993 and ran through 2004: Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 contains Mega Man X, X2, X3, and X4, while the Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 contains Mega Man X5, X6, X7, and X8.
As such, deciding between the two collections will likely come down to which Mega Man X era players are most familiar with: the first X collection offers up to the first two SNES and PlayStation era releases, while the second X collection covers up to the final two PlayStation 2 era releases. Mega Man X7 and X8 in particular weren't very well-received at the time, mostly due to X7's wonky 3D implementation and X8's lackluster use of 2.5D effects, but the rest of the games offer largely-similar 2D experiences with gradually increasing fidelity and gameplay enhancements.
Timeless Sidescrolling Action
By now it should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Mega Man games, and in my mind Mega Man X games specifically, offer up some of the finest platforming action to be seen in their respective eras. Mega Man had been kicking around for six years before the X series ever made its debut, and in that time Capcom managed to find a perfect balance between shooting, platforming, weapons, upgrades, and overall difficulty, culminating in a gameplay formula that would eventually become widely emulated through decades of new releases. There's just something addictive about making careful progress through stages, seeking out power-ups, and organizing the downfall of evil robotic empires through specific use of imaginative weaponry — and the X games present that timeless style in a package that's better looking and far less challenging than previous 8-bit series releases.
As might be expected, the standard Mega Man gameplay loop can be found in all of the newer X titles: players will start in an introductory stage only to be confronted by a powerful force, and will afterward be tasked with taking down eight different bosses set across eight different stages before taking on the marathon-style final stage and ultimate boss battle. Though that pattern largely holds true with X7 and X8, players will note that the 3D-enabled segments of X7 do tend to break up the usual sidescrolling formula, and serve as one of the only weak points of Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 — fortunately, the first Mega Man X Legacy Collection is nothing but two-dimensional, sprite-based goodness. Players will also note that both collections include the new Rookie Hunter mode, which essentially drops the level of challenge by cutting all incoming damage in half, plus it prevents instant deaths from bottomless pits and spike traps in Mega Man X4 through X8.
Rounding out the new Mega Man X Legacy Collection packages is a huge variety of extra goodies: both games feature a Hunter Medals menu listing that offers up a number of special achievements for completing various tasks, like using all powered-up attacks for each weapons or for diving far enough into the game's Museum feature. Both games also feature the X Challenge, either Vol. 1 or Vol. 2 depending on which collection was picked up, allowing players to go after all of the X-series bosses back-to-back in challenging two-on-one battles, complete with leaderboard rankings for bragging rights. Beyond that, the collections also feature smooth anti-aliasing and CRT screen filters, interchangeable border wallpapers, options to adjust screen size, and even a special in-game manual explaining various controls, though players unfortunately won't find any digital recreations of the original print game manuals.
All of this is topped off with the aforementioned and remarkably robust Museum menu, which features an art gallery stuffed with concept art and character data; a music player with tracks from each of the games; a product gallery showcasing old promotional materials, comic covers, and collectible items; original Japanese- and English-language trailers for each of the games; and finally, the 25-minute animated feature known as The Day of Sigma, originally created as a bonus prologue to Mega Man Maverick Hunter X for the PlayStation Portable. Completionists can even toggle between the original English and Japanese versions of each game on the main menu with the push of a button, allowing them to note the difficulty changes and altered enemy placements between the two different releases.
X Rocks, Man
Ultimately, both Mega Man X Legacy Collections 1 and 2 nail exactly what modern-era collections of retro video game titles should be: a compendium of everything the series has to offer, including the base games, fresh new tweaks, added bonuses, trivia, trailers, and more. There's really no stone left unturned with either Mega Man X Legacy Collection, making them perfect for longtime series fans or for gamers new to the Mega Man X formula.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 download code provided by the publisher. Mega Man X Legacy Collections 1 and 2 will be available in retail and digital stores on July 24 for $39.99 each. The games have been rated T for Teen by the ESRB.
Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2
- Peerless platforming and sidescrolling action
- Clean, logical menus and presentation
- Tremendous amount of bonus features
- New X Challenges provide added replay value
- Mega Man X7 still feels wonky
- Slowdown in densely-populated screens remains intact