Rockman X7 (Mega Man X7)

Finally an evolution in the Mega Man style of game play


The Lowdown

Pros: Fast paced action gameplay, new 2D/3D hybrid, lush cel-shaded graphics, old school gameplay brought to a new level

Cons: Once you beat it its on the shelf, slightly easy difficulty

Purchase at Play-Asia
Rockman (or Megaman as he is better known in the US) has had a long 15 years of being in video games and he is almost as well known as Mario. However, the standard that was set when the first Mega man game came out so long ago hasn't been tweaked too much. Sure he learned how to slide, charge his buster, climb walls and eventually duck (it took about 15 games for that.. first time you could duck was in Mega Man X5), but it was still a megaman game. Even on the Playstation Megaman didn't make the jump to 3D. It may have been worth the wait though, since Mega Man X7 takes the formula and improves upon it vastly.

The first major jump is that you can move in 3D space, but its not all of the time. Capcom had the ingenious idea of a 2D/3D hybrid design. When you're in the 2D side scrolling perspective its standard megaman fare. Blast your buster, slash with your sword in 2D space. In the middle of a level the camera can and will switch to a 3D perspective then you can dash around enemies in 3D space. Intelligently, Capcom included a lock on system, in which you can switch targets with a tap of the L2 button. The lock on allows the game to move at a fast pace, which is important for any action game. The only minor gripe is its hard to perceive depth with some of the camera angles in 3D space. This can become a problem when you're jumping to the next platform to avoid plummeting to your death.

Zero and X are back and they have a few new tricks up their sleeve. Zero doesn't have the Z buster and can't "shoot" until you beat some of the bosses to get special ranged abilities. However, he has gained the ability to hit shots back at the enemies like a Jedi Knight. Shots hit back at an enemy lock on to them, which makes this a really useful ability. Zero retains his signature double jump and a four slash combo that can be upgraded as well. X has his good old X buster that can charge shots and weapons. He also retains crouching, sliding and air dashing. Also, X does have the ability to don armor once all of the pieces are found.  There is also a new addition to the cast, Axl. Axl replaces X for the start of the game. Unlike X, Axl carries a gun and has a rapid fire shot. As an entirely new ability Axl can turn into other reploids (humanoid robots). If you hold down triangle you'll release a special shot and if this shot kills an enemy a crystal will be dropped. Once the crystal is picked up by Axl he'll actually change into the enemy for a few seconds and become invulnerable to attacks from the same type of enemy. If you want to collect the secrets in the game you'll have to master changing into other robots.

On top of having a new character you can switch in between two of the characters mid stage. While this does take some time to get used to it greatly increases gameplay options. Imagine blasting a group of enemy with a spray of bullets from Axl, dashing forward and switching to Zero, so you can use the Z saber to finish off the rest. Sounds cool doesn't it? You can switch characters at anytime, which makes for some interesting combos. Each character has a separate life bar too, so when you're in danger of dying you have a whole other life bar.

The robots that need help are back from Mega Man X6. These robots provide power ups, some which are permanent level ups for your characters. The robots are just as weak in X6. If you don't save them before they are attacked by on screen enemies they vanish with their power up, forever. One of the challenges in the game is to be able to race through enemies so you can save the robots and grab some upgrades.

All of the other standard X pieces of gameplay are back too. There is a stage where you're riding a motor bike, which was present in many other X games. In this stage you run around a small 3D track collecting pieces of energy to move to the next area. Ride armor is also present. There is two types of ride armor in the game. One is a melee based ride armor where you punch to attack. This armor also has a spinning punch attack. The other type of ride armor shoots missiles. For old school X fans there is a 3D rendition of the intro stage from Megaman X1, where you play as Zero instead of X. This is one of the cooler additions for any Megaman fan.

The game shines graphically. Capcom uses a clever mix of 3D textures and cel shading. The backgrounds are full of vivid colors, the explosions are clear and there are even some neat shadowing effects. The graphics are very anime-like, which is the direction that the X series has always been going for. Add anime cut scenes to that and you got some great eye candy.

The audio is awesome too. The theme song at the beginning feels like a theme to an anime. However, Capcom may change the song for the US version since it feels like a J-pop song. The background music for the levels is a high energy mix of electronic music. For the most part its pretty good. Nothing in particular stands out as amazing, but it works. The sound effects are top notch. The familiar dashing sound is clearer than ever before, the Z-saber hits with power and the X-buster charges with a new force. The voice acting isn't bad either. Axl sounds like a little kid (very similar to Netto from the anime Rockman EXE), Zero sounds very reserved, like a samurai and X has a loud commanding voice. Once again, Capcom is likely to change the voices, which can be for better or worse.

The only problem with the game is that there isn't much to do after it's over. Sure the game is a fun ride, but it can be beaten pretty quickly. The shelf life of the game is about the same as any other X game before it.

Import Friendly?

If you've played any other Megaman game you'll be able to jump right into it. The first level gives tips about how to play the game in Japanese, but you can probably figure out what to do without them. The only minor problem is you'll miss out on the story while you're playing through the game.

US Bound?

The game is listed for a release date of October 14, 2003 at this time. Even if the game is delayed Capcom is highly likely to release this in the US.

Overall

This game breathes life into the stale Megaman gameplay that reached its nadir in Megaman X6. The 2D-3D hybrid is a cool idea as well as switching in between characters mid stage. The game is awesome, but you mind as well wait for a US release unless you understand Japanese, since this game will be released in the US eventually.