Mega Man X7 (PS2) Review

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Review by tankMage (April 2019)

Score: C-

So Much for Seven being a Lucky Number

  All I can really say for this game is that it could have been worse. Mega Man X7 has a bad reputation and certainly has more problems than one would expect from a Capcom product in an age where the developer was still pumping out high quality stuff. With that in mind, the seventh installment in the Mega Man X series is more or less a mediocre game that has the misfortune of featuring one of the worst introductory stages in the series. Usually an intro stage is supposed to show off what a game has to offer, but in this case it showcases everything Capcom did wrong without really demonstrating the game’s strengths…which are admittedly few and far between.

   I had to put this game down for a few days after experiencing the subpar controls, bad voice acting, and awful targeting system when I first tried it. Sadly, these issues persist throughout the game, though there are a few rays of light that shine through this mess. MMX7 features some creative boss fights and weapon upgrades. The game also gets better as the player adjusts to the horrible controls and upgrades the heroes. Players can choose between Axl (a new character), Zero, and later on X, which helped keep the gameplay fresh. Additionally, the ability to choose two of these heroes to take into battle and switch between them at will allowed for some interesting strategic situations. The music is also very good, with the final boss theme being one of my favorite musical pieces on the PS2.

Tornado Tonion sums this game up in a few lines.

Story

   Having played most of the Mega Man and Mega Man X games, I do not expect anything that even remotely resembles a good plot from either series. It’s sad, but true. In some ways, the plot of this game is particularly awful. In other ways it’s kind of good, thanks to some of the character development and ideas that got bounced around. Also, a new hero, Axl, is introduced in this game. Axl is a member of a vigilante group of Maverick Hunters called Red Alert. Things start getting weird at Red Alert, so Axl teams up with Zero in hopes that the Maverick Hunters will help him. Soon after, Red Alert’s leader (who is aptly named Red) challenges Zero, X, and Axl to defeat his followers in exchange for Axl’s safety or some nonsense. X is semi-retired in this game, so it is up to Axl and Zero to fight Red Alert at first.

   The story is pretty flawed from the start, but it at least brings a few new ideas to the fore, including a new character. I also have to admit that I respect the fact that X is reluctant to fight in this game, because this behavior suits his character. Axl’s youthful enthusiasm is a fitting contrast to Zero’s rather gruff personality and X’s world weary attitude. Even the Mavericks have their own personalities and engage in unique dialogue with each hero, which was a nice touch. There are three different endings based on who you beat the game with; an idea that was new to the series as far as I know.

   MMX7 may have managed to bring something new to the table as far as narrative is concerned, but it goes down the same old road as all of the other games in the end. If you’ve played more than one Mega Man X title, you know what I’m talking about. The cutscenes, which are supposed to be the story’s main vehicle, are also of questionable quality. Many of them are just still scenes with a dialogue box and voice over, while a few are actually animated. I did not like the intro animation very much at all, because much of it felt disconnected from the actual plot and the characters in it were just silly. Capcom must have had mixed feelings about it too, because they chose to include a rather long winded monologue to explain the plot after the intro, which only made matters worse. Still, I have to give them credit for effort and the final cutscenes were good in an old school anime sort of way.

Graphics

   I know the PlayStation 2 is not exactly cutting edge technology anymore, but I do expect a certain level of quality from its graphics, especially if a game has the name Capcom plastered all over it. Mega Man X7 falls short of my expectations, looking like some strange missing link between a PS1 and PS2 game. The main problem is the art style, which tried to bridge the gap between anime and the more realistic styles that had become popular as technology began to allow for more convincing visuals. The result is a game that often looks ugly. On the other hand, there are a few cool character models and weapon designs as well as the occasional gigantic boss, which is something I always enjoy seeing.

   So we’ll start with X, Axl, and Zero. You’d think Capcom would have an easy time creating the character models for their main heroes seeing as how they are robots with blocky limbs, but they didn’t turn out quite right. X and Zero seem just a little to brightly colored and everyone’s proportions are strange. Zero also has these weird orbs on his chest that make him look like he belongs in an old Madonna video. This is likely a result of Capcom trying to create accurate 3D depictions of the original 2D sprites, but the colors and proportions that worked for the older games do not translate well into three dimensions. The fact that Axl turned out slightly better seems to reinforce this idea. The animations for the heroes are actually kind of good, but the walk cycle doesn’t match their actual movement speed, which is perhaps the most annoying problem with this game’s graphics.

   Many of the enemies faired a bit better and the Mavericks even look like they belong in the game, though some of them, like Snipe Anteater, were designed rather lazily. A few of the regular mobs are Transformers rip offs, but many of them are decent 3D versions of familiar enemies from the series. Players will even recognize the giant claw robots from the first Mega Man X and the perennial robotic bats. The Mavericks are a mixed bag, with most of them having pretty decent designs, but the animations for some of them are very lazy. This is especially true for Tornado Tonion who spends and awful lot of time spinning around the stage and Snipe Anteater who doesn’t even have a walking animation. Then there’s Ride Boarsky, who I can barely comment on, because the camera in the battle with him is so zoomed out and his color scheme practically blends into the arena making him difficult to see clearly. However, there are some cool ideas that came into play with the bosses. Flame Hyenard’s boss fight features a giant missile launching caribou that patrols the arena… if that isn’t original, I don’t know what is. Then there’s Vanishing Gungaroo who uses a giant kangaroo mech in battle. Even the final boss has some surprises and is one of the most massive enemies I’ve seen in a video game.

   Quality is also an issue with level design as some areas are nicely detailed and look pretty good, while others look like they were thrown together to meet a deadline. Levels like Air Forces, which has the player surfing on a series of planes at high altitude, must have been visually impressive back in 2003, even today the stage is cool and quickly became one of my favorites. I also liked the Deep Forest stage, which took place in technologically advanced ruins that were slowly being devoured by rain forest. Then there are the less visually appealing areas, like Vanishing Gungaroo’s stage: a very plain series of corridors made up of recycled assets. Splash Warfly’s battleship looks like something that belongs on the PS1. It also didn’t help that one of the mini-bosses in Warfly’s stage was a fighter jet mounted on a spinning platform…talk about lazy.

   A lot of the effects were really bad, even in an era where things like smoke and fire still didn’t look quite right. The explosions made me think of something you’d see in a bad mobile game from 2010 and the special weapons were really underwhelming, which was disappointing considering that weapons obtained from bosses are a highlight of the series. In this game players get things like a spinning wheel, a “water laser” that emits a glob of water that travels five feet, and some missiles that look suspiciously like those used by enemies. Luckily, it’s not all bad. Zero’s Z-Saber and the other weapons he gets (like the D-Glaive) look good. Many of Zero’s special attacks were well done, especially Hieijin which used a nice ripple effect. Axl also got some different weapons in addition to his normal gun, and while they weren’t as impressive as Zero’s arsenal, running around with the G-Launcher (which looks a bit like a bazooka) was cool. X’s charged X-Buster shots were awesome as well.

Music and Sound

   Mega Man X7’s sound track deserves some recognition, because it’s pretty damn good. Every stage has a unique theme and they are all the sort of Japanese rock tunes one would expect in a Mega Man title. Some of the songs were excellent, particularly those used in the final battles, which were well composed and set the right dramatic tone for the situation. Too bad this can’t be said for the voice acting, which was not so great. That said, I was pleased to hear Robert Belgrade’s (who did the voice of Alucard in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) campy voice overs for a character named Signas. I also thought the VOs for Zero and the final boss suited the characters, even if they were not very good.

   Bad acting is one thing, but having to hear characters constantly spam phrases is far worse and MMX7 is infamous for this sin. The Mavericks just won’t shut up during battles and it gets annoying. Flame Hyenard’s famous line, “Burn to the ground!” is a classic example of the tendency of the Maverick’s to repeat phrases ad nauseam. But there’s also Alia who harasses your heroes with “Do you hear me?” or other banal remarks. At least hearing Ride Boarsky yell “You punk!” over and over again was good for a laugh.

User Interface

   A lot of us can overlook the subpar graphics and bad voice acting, but the controls are another matter. Players who use the left analogue stick to move around (which is probably most of us) will find it difficult to control their character. It isn’t so much a matter of the stick being unresponsive, it’s more that it is imprecise. In a strange twist of fate, the D-Pad is actually much better for controlling your heroes in both 2D and 3D modes. Then there’s the default button layout. The jump, shoot, and dash buttons are all mapped in the same places they were in every other installment of Mega Man X, but they chose to map special weapon fire to the Triangle button for some reason. Camera controls are mapped to R1 and the right analogue stick cycles through special weapons, which feels backwards, especially since R1 and L1 were used to switch weapons in this series since the days of the SNES. This renders the already crappy camera even more difficult to use. To top it all off, player controlled characters are sluggish. At any rate, the strange controls suck a lot of fun out of this game.

Have fun with this stage.

   If that’s not enough, the menus in this game also suck. The actual status screen that displays special weapons, lives, and things like Sub-Tanks is fine, it’s all of the forced tutorials and prompts that come up between stages that are annoying. Players will soon become familiar with Alia after completing the intro stage. She’ll explain how to change characters, use upgrades, and save…. whether you like it or not. Luckily most of these mini-tutorials are a one time deal, but her text scrolls very slowly and there’s no way to skip it. She also talks between stages and bugs players with hints during stages, though the latter can be ignored. Finally, I found the fact that the stage select screen provides the name of the stage and not the Maverick annoying, though this probably isn’t a big deal.

The Targeting System

   I felt that the targeting system this game uses deserves its own special section. Call me old fashioned, but the last thing a Mega Man game should have is a targeting system, unless it is for a special weapon of some sort. Targeting systems were the bane of the PS2 and most of the good games we remember from that era didn’t rely on them. Of course, eschewing such a system would have meant making MMX7 a first or third person shooter, which would have taken time and effort that Capcom probably wasn’t willing to expend on a title they knew a core of dedicated fans would buy no matter what. At any rate the targeting system sucks. It’s clunky and it robs the player of the satisfaction of using their own skills.

Gameplay

   One of Mega Man X7’s few redeeming qualities is that its gameplay is alright. It’s true that the hybrid 2D/3D mechanics did not work very well, but they were not as odious as some critics claim. In fact, the conversion of the series into 3D would have turned out better if not for the controls. Aside from using different perspectives, MMX7 plays like any other game in the series. Players can choose to fight the initial eight bosses in any order and will receive the boss’s weapon if victorious. Every stage requires players to undergo the usual platforming gauntlet before battling the boss at the end. Players may recognize the Reploid Rescue feature, which rewards the player for finding trapped Reploids scattered throughout each level. There are also the traditional Heart Tanks and armor upgrades for X hidden in the Maverick levels. In addition to the more familiar aspects of the series, this game introduces the ability to swap characters at will in every stage and a new character named Axel joins the team.

   There are two things associated with the gameplay that infuriate a lot of players, which require some explanation. The first is the Reploid Rescue: a feature that can drive completionists nuts, because the robots that the player must save are sometimes at risk of being killed… permanently. Reploids often grant the player Chip items, life bonuses, and weapon energy upgrades, so having one die may seem like a big deal. What many players do not realize is that the Reploids who grant the player important upgrades are safe and easy to find. Your heroes will also lose any of the life and weapon energy bonuses they get after starting New Game + (luckily they keep their Chip Items and X’s armor upgrades), so it really isn’t a big deal if you miss a few Reploids. It is also impossible to fully upgrade all three heroes on your first playthrough, so keep this in mind should you choose to play this title.

   A lot of players do not like the fact that X is not available from the start, which is understandable. I respect the rather bold decision Capcom made by restricting access to X for plot related reasons, but it is annoying that the main character of the series is not playable right away. Collecting enough Reploids or defeating the eight Mavericks will unlock X, but this means he will likely miss out on Chip Items in the first play through. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Capcom made the decision as a means of giving the game more replay value by placing the hero many players would want behind a barrier. While unlockable characters are fine, maybe X wasn’t the best choice, just sayin’.

   Just like with the graphics, some stages are better than others, but everything felt slow and mired down. Ride Boarsky’s level has the player collecting bombs in a speeder bike. I remember bike stages being fast paced in earlier titles, but the one in MMX7 is clumsy and slow. Players will constantly have to slow down to collect bombs, avoid damage, and rescue Reploids, which ruined an otherwise promising stage. Most of the stages are more traditional 2D and 3D platforming levels. While these stages were ok, many of them lacked originality. Still, searching for secrets and messing with Axl’s copy ability made things more interesting. There was also some moderately challenging platforming in Flame Hyenard and Wind Crowrang’s stages, which some players may appreciate. Last and (in this case) least are the final stages which were, brief, relatively easy, and uninteresting. Usually the last few stages of a Mega Man title are the most difficult and challenge the player to use the skills they developed throughout the game, but that’s not the case here, all we get is a short, badly designed highway stage, then another brief stage before the boss rematches.

   The boss fights in this one are not the best the series has to offer, but there was at least some effort put into most of them. My favorite was Flame Hyenard, whose battle features a giant mechanical caribou. Despite the constant repetition of “Burn to the ground.” the battle was inventive and had puzzle elements to it that made it feel more like a Legend of Zelda boss. Players can bring ride armor (those big mechs that you can use) into Vanishing Gungaroo’s fight, which was really cool and not yet done in a Mega Man X game as far as I know. Many of the bosses also changed their movesets once they lost about 50% their life, which was a good way to add some extra oomph to combat. Of course there were a few that were lazily slapped together, like Tornado Tonion and Snipe Anteater whose movesets could have used some work, particularly Snipe Anteater and his unavoidable attack that turned the fight into a damage race.

   Mavericks aren’t the only bosses in MMX7, players will have to deal with a tutorial boss and a few special bosses in the final stages. Personally, I felt the tutorial boss was a bit too tough, but maybe this is a side effect of being a fan who remembers the earlier games quite clearly. Ironically, the final bosses were too easy for the most part, aside from one of them who was surrounded by lethal pits. I’ve seen people criticize this boss as a cheap way to increase the fight’s difficulty, but I enjoyed it and found that the battle had some nuance to it.

   It’s also worth mentioning that there are three playable characters in this title, which was perhaps my favorite aspect of it. The ability to swap between two of these characters in battle was cool and added some flair to the gameplay. I’ve seen complaints about Zero or X being broken, but in my experience all of the characters are overpowered in one way or another if you take time to build them up, so the game is balanced in its own strange way. Axl also has an interesting ability that allows him morph into certain enemies, but it’s not very fun to use, because you have to defeat them with a weak attack. That said, Axl’s copy ability was implemented in some clever ways and allows players to reach certain hidden items. Zero gains access to a number of cool weapons and skills that made him my favorite character to play. X was perhaps the least interesting of the heroes, but his ridiculously powerful X-Buster was fun to use.

Final Thoughts

   Ever see a game on a shelf at the store, look at it, and put it back a moment later? That’s what I did with Mega Man X7 when I saw it at Gamestop back in 2004 or so. Something on the back of the box put me off, though I can’t recall what. Looking back, I’m kind of glad I didn’t pay full price for it, because I probably would have been one of those disgruntled fans who hated it. That said, MMX7 isn’t all that bad and had a lot of potential. If I had to guess, I’d say this game had a rather troubled development phase that seriously damaged the end product. With that in mind, it could have been far worse and this title has a few strengths at least.

Recommendations

Mega Man X7 is not a game I’d recommend unless you’ve played the rest of the series and want more.

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