I didn’t know of this fact when I started my review of Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection, but creator Keiji Inafune wanted Mega Man X to resemble Zero. When creating the series, Inafune drew up Zero’s design and intended to use it as X, but that was too ambitious for the series at the time and we instead got the X design we know today, However, I’m glad the dream of seeing Zero as he is come to fruition in the X series and later Zero and ZX games as the protagonist. It only took a decade for that to happen.
In 2002, the Game Boy Advance was selling like hotcakes and developers were throwing their franchises at the handheld console. Capcom released the first Mega Man Zero, a no-bullshit platformer that somehow didn’t make the massive splash I’d expect for the series, but still a game that I devoured with anticipation. From there, the Zero series spawned three sequels and a spin-off series; the ZX games.
The year 2XXX
Set around 100 years after the conclusion of the X series of games, Zero is woken up by Ciel, a resident of New Arcadia and someone hoping for help to push back against a new enemy – X, Zero’s long-time friend and comrade. Ciel is part of the resistance group and she will work with Zero to stop X’s army from destroying the world.
Mega Man ZX and its sequel, ZX Advent, are further into the future where humans and Reploids are now living together until Mavericks return and wreak havoc on the world.
Being a series with a focus on Zero, the gameplay is different from the standard series and you’ll feel that almost immediately. Starting out, the Z-Saber is available from the start and offers an intimate way to hack at enemies. The first Zero game is a bit rough around the edges but thankfully developer Inti Creates improved on each game that followed with a ton of quality of life improvements.
Not Your Mega Man
That said, these games were originally no walk in the park and are still some of the toughest games in the series. I’ve spent an absurd amount of time with each game growing up, and to this day still haven’t finished Zero 4 or ZX Advent but will work on getting them completed. However, what I have played included the first three games and a third of Zero 4. Each game improves the level of design and gameplay and offers its own flourishes. The gameplay is also similar where you’ll make your way through waves of enemies before taking on the boss of that level and acquiring their power as your own. In addition, each level incorporates a ranking system that grades performance based on Mission Success, Clear Time, Enemies Killed, Damage Taken, and if you lost any lives.
What makes this system so good is that the better you play in each game, the more you’re rewarded for excelling at each level. You might earn weapons or armour by making your way through a level without dying.
Take the Assist
Or if you’re like me now, you’ll activate Save-Assist and use the new checkpoints to actively do better at each level and before a boss. Too many times in the original game was I faced with having to complete a tedious section because of the lack of checkpoints, however, no more. Instead, starting off closer makes jumping back into the action easier and engaging. The best part is if you don’t want to use Save Assist, you simply turn it off from the menu and play as the game as originally created. I also chose the easier difficulty that comes as part of the collection, which makes you stronger but the enemies weaker.
Graphically, there are noticeable touch-ups and while the transition from handhelds to console is good, these games still show their age. Capcom added pixel-smoothing filters, a CRT filter, and one that makes it look like you’re playing on a classic handheld console. I’m happy these games turned out decently in their transition but there are some issues that linger from years ago.
I’m heaping a ton of praise here and it’s all warranted but my one gripe during my review period was solely pointed at the antiquated second screen ZX and ZX Advent use. These two titles were originally on the Nintendo DS and used the second screen for its map. Now, the main window also houses the map as well, making for a messy but customizable UI. I wish Capcom found a way to do away with the second screen completely.
Another new feature is the Z Chaser mode, which acts as a speed run mode that is included for each game. You’ll tackle a ghost version of Zero in order to beat your times and clear levels as fast as possible. Each level offers scoreboards both locally and online. If that isn’t your cup of tea, the included Music Player and Gallery may offer something more to your tastes.
Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is the entire package. With six games that include the four Zero games and both ZX and ZX Advent, you get a ton for your money. Capcom has included new tools to make the games far more accessible to those who have always been interested but afraid to dive into due to difficulty. These Mega Man X spin-offs have garnered their own respect and appreciation for doing their own thing, and now a new generation can experience some of the best games to come out of the Mega Man series.