aka Mega Man X Maverick Hunter outside of Japan.
When Mega Man X was released for the Super NES in 1993 it revitalized the Rockman series. A new anime inspired Mega Man called X that had new powers like dashing and charging up special weapons. Come 12 years later and Capcom decides to dust off their classic, move it into 3D and release it as a PSP game. Is this a quick cash in by Capcom or is Irregular Hunter X (Mega Man X Maverick Hunter in the US) a worthy remake of an action classic?
In the anime intro Irregular Hunter X says it’s based after Rockman X, suggesting some differences from the original. One major change is that Capcom brought in anime movies to flesh out the story. Now we get to learn a little more about the origins of X, like why Dr. Light created him. We also get to learn a lot more about Vava / Vile, the purple robot who looks an awful lot like Boba Fett. While anime movies only appear during the opening and end of the game Capcom still adds in sound bytes of voice acting before each Maverick battle. Right before blasting away at Sting Chameleao he’ll taunt you or if you chat with Launcher Octopus he’ll explain why he decided to side with Sigma. These sequences have voices to go with them, similar to the how the X series evolved on the Playstation. These are a nice addition for Mega Man X fans, but on the other hand does anyone really need all the details about the story? It’s the day of Sigma, reploids that have gone out of line become mavericks and X is a hunter out to stop them.
Aside from new story details Capcom decides to completely redo the game’s graphics to make sure it’s not just another port. Instead of even using any of 2D sprites, which the X series used up until Rockman X7, Capcom brings Irregular Hunter X into the third dimension. The game is still a 2D side scroller, but enemies are made out of polygons instead of a single sprite. The effect looks sharpest when you’re staring at the backgrounds. Let’s look at the intro highway level. In the SNES version you have dark clouds and the resemblance of a city below with buildings plus some cars driving around. Now if we look at the presentation in Irregular Hunter X we can see full blown colored buildings and a bustling highway under attack with an ominous purple sky in the background. Boomer Kuwanger’s stage tried to have a pseudo 3D look to give the area the illusion of climbing a large tower. Now in Irregular Hunter X, you can clearly see each platform’s depth. The effect sure looks cool, but on the other hand the character models aren’t as great as they could have been. Just looking at how X is rendered, blocky instead of a smooth sprite might make some people wish for the original visuals instead of the “update”. The new 3D effects have another price too, more slowdown. It wouldn’t be a Mega Man game without floating through the air back to the ground when more than ten icons flash on the screen. We would expect some kind of slowdown with the Super NES’s level of hardware, but the PSP is a different more powerful beast. Instead of having no or less slowdown Mega Man X Maverick Hunter has even more. The worse example is during Armor Armadillo’s level. While you’re riding a moving mine cart at the end of the stage a bunch of birds torpedo themselves towards X. As soon as these birds pop up slow down lags the game so much you can’t even retaliate. When you fight Launcher Octopus he fills the screen with homing missiles. After two shots of missiles slowdown occurs again, but the effect isn’t as severe as the Super NES version.
Cosmetic changes aside Mega Man X Maverick Hunters is still Mega Man X at heart. You can fire your X buster or charge it up to two levels by pressing square, jump passed spiked pits of instant death by pressing X and rotate enemy master’s weapons with the shoulder buttons. The controls are a breeze to learn if you’ve played any Mega Man game or any other 2D action game. You’ll battle eight animal themed robot masters, acquiring a new weapon with each successive defeat. Collected weapons can be used against other boss robots and if you’re clever you can use the specific weapon the boss is weak against to deal some heavy damage. After the eight boss Mavericks you can do battle in Sigma’s four level fortress, just like in the original game. Since Irregular Hunter X is so easy to jump into, Capcom had to do something to surprise their fans. First they re-hid each of X’s upgrade parts. By finding scattered capsules that Dr. Light left behind you can upgrade X’s abilities and give him powers like taking only 50% damage with new body armor. If you want to track down X’s secret skills don’t even bother looking at the place you found the upgrade in the SNES version. The dash boots are no longer found on the way to Chill Penguido’s hideout. Instead they’re hidden in Flame Mammoth’s stage. Although sub tanks and life hearts are in the same place so you won’t have to relearn where everything is, just where the most coveted upgrades are hidden. New locations force gamers to change their minds on the order of battling the robot bosses. You can’t jump from Chill Penguido to Storm Eagleed since the dash boots are essential for that boss battle. Minus that change everything you remember about the game like the Maverick’s weaknesses and stage layouts are the same.
After you beat Sigma with X you’ll unlock a brand new mode where you can play as Vava (aka Vile in the US), a bounty hunter hired by Sigma to track X down. We start out seeing Sigma save Vava from being arrested, but Vava has some plans of his own like starting his own robot rebellion. Instead of making Vava a different version of X Vava plays completely different. He can’t charge weapons, dash or pick up armor upgrades. Instead Vava has three main attacks from the beginning of the game: a rapid firing finger shot, the arm cannon on his back which shoots at an angle and a knee cannon that launches a bomb thrown at an arc. Also different from X is the lack of a special weapon meter instead he has an overheat meter. Whenever you use any weapon some energy is drained from the overheat meter. If you continuously fire blindly Vava’s overheat meter will drain and he won’t be able to attack until it fills up. Luckily it fills up pretty fast and you can speed up the recovery by picking up weapon capsules dropped form enemies. Since Vava controls differently than X the enemy layout was redesigned with him in mind. Now you’ll see enemies perfectly in line with a 45 degree angle for Vava to shoot down with his arm cannon or a rocket launching turtle just below you asking for a knee bomb. Sub-tanks and life hearts are also hidden in new areas, many of which require mastery of Vava’s ride armor. Unlike X who can enter and jump off his mech suit at any time Vava can only jump off once. You’ll need to use the ride armor’s dash/jump combo to clear large gaps for Vava to gain these extra items. Although the armor self destructs after Vava leaves it so you’ll need to leave a level to try to snag a heart container again. Another major change when playing as Vava is how you select boss weapons. Instead of equipping them at anytime like X, you have to select which three weapons you want before you enter the level. You can equip one arm weapon, one shoulder cannon upgrade and one bomb attack. While you start off with only a few limited attacks Vava will gain a whole arsenal as you keep fighting the robot bosses. For instance Spark Mandrill’s skills give Vava a rocket punch attack and Flame Mammoth’s power changes Vava’s knee bomb to a fire blast. These powers often make the Maverick fights cake, while the levels are awfully challenging without the ability to dash. When you do get to the end fortress with Vava X fans will be pleasantly surprised with the final fight.
Beating the game with X and Vava will only take a couple of hours. There are hard modes for both characters to challenge, which might up the replay value another few hours. As a bonus on the disc is a Cutman’s level from the upcoming Rockman Rockman remake. Mega Man X Maverick Hunter is made with X fans in mind. If you loved Mega Man X, Irregular Hunter X is worth checking out.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
The main menu for saving and loading is in English. However the options menu and story text are in Japanese. Since the game controls just like Mega Man X or any other Mega Man game for that matter it shouldn’t be a challenge for gamers to pick this up and jump right into it. The most taxing Japanese require to play the game is recognizing the katakana for “save”.
Capcom USA has Irregular Hunter X scheduled for 1.10.06 under the name Mega Man X Maverick Hunter.
+ Pros: Lavish backgrounds and the ability to play as Vile for the first time.
– Cons: Blocky 3D graphics are no replacement for excellent sprite artwork, especially when 3D graphics lead to more slowdown than the original game.
Overall: Mega Man X Maverick Hunter is a pretty picture to look at and a port of an excellent Super Nintendo action title. On the other hand increased slowdown and its short length will restrict Irregular Hunter X strictly to Mega Man maniacs.
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