The Continuation Of The End
When I started this Mega Mega Man Marathon, I was under the impression that I had not played any Mega Man game. Up until I played Mega Man X7, this statement was true, and I genuinely believed it was true. However, booting up this PS2 “classic” I suddenly got inundated with memories that I had long repressed. Yes, I have played this game, and no, the nostalgia did not help this game. As the title of this retrospective would imply, this may be a “Next” Generation game, however the Mega Man X curse was in full swing, and nothing could save it at this point. Strap on your paper mache X Buster, we are charging straight into the depths of Reploid Hell.
Mega Man X7 kicks off after the events of Mega Man X6…kinda. If you recall, our partner in crime, Zero, sealed himself away to fight the good fight another day (spoiler, this was to set up his own series of games on the GBA). Amazingly, this tidbit of a plot point is forgotten about Zero is strutting his stuff like nothing ever. Inconsistency aside, the war against the Maverick menace continues to rage on, albeit without the guiding hand of Sigma – again. X, being the stoic hero he is, bravely decides to retire and take on the role of pacifist leader and leave the murdering to the aforementioned Zero. Along the way a group of newcomers drop into the fray going by the name, Red Alert led by the enigmatic Red. A member of this new group, Axel, defects from Red’s band and joins up with the Maverick Hunters. It goes without saying, like any “new” group in Mega Man X, Red Alert are more flagrantly wicked than a dandy highwayman.
The plot of Mega Man X7 is, simply put, too much. It became increasingly obvious as both Classic and X advanced through their generations that Capcom wanted to push the story more heavily. Unfortunately with X5 and X6 being woefully written, the overarching story of the X series quickly devolved to an ameba level of interest. Mega Man X7 continues this trend of “grand” plot, with little actual substance, evolution or anything remotely interesting going on. This is compounded by the return of awful acting, which takes a story that takes itself too seriously, and converts it into some elaborate joke. Additionally, the removal of X from the mainline X title not only hurts the story as his reasoning is Batman levels of insanity, but also has a huge impact on gameplay, as we will soon be discussing.
May My Senses Fail Me…
In terms of presentation, X7 really struggles to achieve anything beyond ugly. Unlike the gorgeous sprite work found in previous titles, X7 went all polygonal with a dash of cell shading. There are a number of issues with this approach, the most pressing being the game has aged incredibly poorly. This was not a good looking game in its heyday, and time has not been kind. The environment looks hideous, effects are basic and downright ugly, the character models don’t quite look right and animation quality is something to behold. Characters appear to be ice skating around each stage, jumping never looks right, and attack animations look and feel limp. Throw in an equally poor sound design, with cringe inducing, or downright annoying voice acting and flacid sound effects and X7 manages to assault an impressive number of senses. That being said, the animated introductory cutscene looks fantastic, even by today’s standards.
The Death Spiral Begins…
Now we have gotten all of the fluff out of the way, how does X7 play? In short, terribly. From the moment you are able to take control of a character, it becomes immediately apparent that something is not quite right. Firstly, the skill based “jump n’ shoot” gameplay that has been a staple of 14+ Mega Man games, is gone. Instead we have a lock on mechanic that allows Axel to just mash his fire button until everything is dead. Zero doesn’t fare much better either. Gone are the intricate, fast paced combos of the past, instead we are met with slow, ponderous movement and a pitiful 3 hit combo that gets boring incredibly quickly. The high octane action of yore, has been reduced to a sleep inducing bore.
Beyond the obvious “Axel shoots and Zero slashes”, there are some more noticeable differences between the two hunters. Zero gets a very handy double jump, allowing him to reach higher places, and the weaponry he acquires adds to his arsenal of usable weapons. Axel on the other hand can use his hoverboots to fly over a surprisingly large distance and has a unique attack called the Copy Shot. This ability allows Axel to transform into practically any comparably sized enemy in the game, granting him new abilities. These are usually used to nab hidden collectables or solve fairly basic puzzles. You will use this ability less than a handful of times throughout your journey however, and I genuinely forgot it existed until I came to write this retrospective. It is also incredibly tedious to use, as it will only work if the Copy Shot itself lands the killing blow.
The 2000’s Shift
Mega Man X7 is not your typical 2D platformer, as the coming of the divine 3D inspired Capcom to innovate with the well established formula. Stages often mix in, or consist entirely of, 3D sections. These are beyond painful to experience. Firstly, the camera is awful, angled in such a way that you lose the vast majority of your depth perception. Of course these sections are loaded with platforming, resulting in many, many deaths. Secondly, camera controls are dated, and can’t be controlled with your second analogue stick, instead requiring button presses. This makes the whole thing awkward in a way only the early 2000’s could achieve. Finally, combat in these sections is not fun in the slightest as enemies can, and will, attack you off screen, and with your perception of distance heavily impared, Zero in particular, can struggle to actually do anything of worth. Oh, and the less we talk about the forced vehicle stage, the better. X7 struggles to even walk, let alone ride a jetbike for crying out loud.
With basic combat being tediously irritating, level design dancing between yawn inducing 2D and frustrating 3D, the only thing left are the bosses fights. Like practically everything else, these are terrible. Instead of being tense fights against a foe with intricate attack patterns, you are met with immovable bullet sponges who take negligible damage, even from their weakness in some instances. With Axel you things boil down to running in circles and breaking your fire button, hoping the lockon does its job. As Zero, you spend most of your time running in circles and getting in a few swings of your Z-Sabre whenever the opportunity arises. At no point do these Mavericks feel menacing, threatening or interesting. It’s an exercise in tedium and nothing else. On the plus side, like Mega Man X3, you can swap out characters on the fly, giving you some variety whilst you trudge through the games various challenges.
Badly Implemented Systems
The last nail in a well secured coffin is the collectable system. As with X6, various upgrades can be found scattered around each stage. These are locked behind endangered reploids and various capsules. Naturally, these are massively important to your stat progression. Nabbing these will grant you noticeable and significant damage increases (being the most obvious) as well as a nice boost in your available health pool. What the game doesn’t tell you, is there are not enough of these upgrades to fully upgrade both Axel and Zero. Additionally, many of these reploids can die, permanently removing that upgrade from the game. What’s even worse is, certain reploids can die off screen, or before you can reasonably react to their brief existence. If you don’t know exactly where each one is, it is an inevitability that you will lose at least one of your buddies.
This is bad enough on its own, however you also have X, who despite what the game tells you, is actually a playable character who has two methods of unlocking. Firstly, beating all 8 Mavericks or saving an arbitrary number of Reploids. This comes with a number of glaring downsides. X can be upgraded with the same chips and capsules Axel and Zero can acquire. As you are unaware of X’s playability, you will likely have collected and spent these upgrades leaving X incredibly vulnerable and essentially not worth playing. Had you been aware of his playability and went for an early unlock, you would not only have to collect x number of Reploids, but ensure you only collected certain ones as to not waste upgrade points, requiring either a guide or prior knowledge of the game. This can and will take hours of grinding to do, and if you want to actually play Mega Man X7 as X, is a requirement.
X himself is Axel on steroids. His damage output, especially when powered up, is immense, able to clear entire waves of enemies in one shot. With his unlockable armour upgrades he becomes practically unkillable and effectively removes Axel from the game as he becomes an objectively worse character. X’s removal and eventual inclusion is arguably the game’s biggest flaw. You play these games to play X, and locking him behind mind-bogglingly backwards requirements either destroys the flow of the game, or makes him useless. He is unlocked permanently for a second playthrough, however this is Mega Man X7 – why would you bother.
Mega Man X7 is quite possibly the worst Mega Man game to ever be inflicted upon mankind. It is an ugly, grating, irritating, painful, boring, borderline broken mess of a game that continues the downward spiral that eventually kills the series. The only redeeming quality is the opening cutscene, which can be digested with the power of Youtube. Like X6 and arguably X5, skip this game and play X1-4 again.
Toast Seal Of Disapproval
If you’re interested in Mega Man, then I have a substantial back catalogue of Retrospectives cover Mega Man 1–10 and Megaman X1–X6. I promise most of them are more positive than this one! I even have a review of a Mega Man roguelike known as 20XX, check that out for a bit of added spice.
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