Megaman ZX Advent
The Blue Bomber has certainly come a long way since his original outing in 1987 hasn't he? It's hard to believe that twenty years have passed and we're still playing titles from the Mega Man universe. Frankly, I've lost count of how many games I have tackled but it's safe to say that innovation and tradition have bother kept the franchise alive. The latest incarnation of Mega goodness comes to us in the form of the ZX series for the Nintendo DS.
The first ZX game was released last year and propelled the Mega Man franchise forward by a couple of centuries. If you're a stickler for continuity then you'll find the storyline in ZX somewhere around 200 years after the Zero series which was released for the Game Boy Advance. Needless to say ZX wasn't traditional Mega Man but there were certainly enough similarities within the confines of the game's design to identify it as such. The sequel, ZX Advent, has turned out to be much the same.
Taking place almost five years after the events that unfolded during ZX, Advent puts a definite twist on things. Humans and Reploids have been co-existing and the line between both species has begun to blur somewhat. The rogue element known as Mavericks still exist and they continue to seek power while the Hunter's Guild is constantly at war with them.
In between it all two children find themselves with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Grey is a young Reploid boy while Ashe is a human girl though the game focuses on whoever you choose to play as. In both cases the protagonists are charged with protecting the Biometal, Model A, which gives them the ability to mimic abilities of other life forms. In other words Grey and/or Ashe possess the power of Mega Man and can absorb skills of the bosses they defeat. It's a standard of tradition that continues as the confounding plot unfolds before your eyes.
It's safe to say that the Mega Man plotline is something that will be lost on the casual fan. Only hardcore junkies can keep up with the mind-boggling amount of continuity and subtleties. Me personally? I tend to play Mega Man games for the quality of gameplay rather than the storyline though I do appreciate a good plot mixed in with my action. Fortunately ZX Advent had enough to offer in both regards and because of that this is one of the better additions to the franchise in quite a long time.
When the game starts you're able to select whether you want to play as Grey or Ashe. It doesn't really matter who you decide to begin with because both essentially play the same. The only difference between the two is the background for the story and if you want to full experience of the plot you'll have to beat the game with each. After you've selected your character the game gives you a run down of some basic controls such as jumping and shooting. This is a Mega Man game after all; it's not like you were going to be playing chess.
The gameplay here is very straight forward especially if you have ever played a Mega Man game. Essentially all you're going to be doing is running through stages, jumping across platforms, and shooting enemies. It's not rocket science people!
As you continue to collect powers your character's abilities will increase and the firepower will change drastically. With each power-up you're given some instruction on how to do certain maneuvers and the game really eases you into the new mechanics of biometal. Again, it's nothing different than we've been experiencing with Mega Man from his previous exploits but there are a few unique abilities here.
One thing I really appreciated about the capabilities of the DS was the way you can change powers on the fly. While gameplay is designated to the top screen, the bottom is saved for quick swapping biometal or checking out the map. Tap your thumb on the appropriate power-up icon and you'll instantly change your character from regular mode to biometal. You can really get creative with it and sometimes the game forces you to do so. There is also a map available for quick reference though I didn't find it particularly helpful in the grand scheme of things. I must admit that it was significantly better than what was offered in the first ZX package but it still doesn't feel as sharply implemented as it could have been.
ZX Advent does improve upon the original in many ways and because of that fans and newcomers alike will be pleased. For instance there is a certain amount of open-endedness to the world that makes it ripe for exploring. As you gain new abilities from defeating bosses there will be ways to access other areas that you didn't think of before. Sure it means a lot of backtracking but with the ability to transport through some sections it doesn't feel like quite the chore you'd think it would.
Also like the first ZX game, Advent offers up a decent challenge. I don't care what your skill level is; you will die repeatedly. From cheap hits while fighting a boss to difficult jumps the latest DS Mega Man game is no cakewalk. Granted it's a little more accessible than the first title and I'm sure people out there will want to challenge themselves with Expert Mode but I found the regular difficulty just perfect. It offered the right amount of challenge without becoming too frustrating. Just keep that in mind if your Mega Man skills are a little rusty.
Overall Mega Man ZX Advent was a solid sequel that improved upon the basics and really beefed up the accessibility. If you're looking for a new Mega Man game this is the one to get and don't worry if you didn't play the original; you don't need to. Advent is its own beast and the gameplay makes it stand head and shoulders above other DS action titles. It's safe to say that the twenty years have been good to Capcom's mascot and if Advent is any indication the future is certainly a bright place.
Let's cut to the chase; Mega Man ZX Advent isn't as good looking as it could have been. The textures and details are all somewhat limited and there is a certainly Game Boy Advanced appearance to everything. The DS is capable of so much more but there is still plenty here to fall in love with. For starters the fact that the game is definitely Mega Man by design helps. Colorful environments and plenty of action keep the screen alive despite the fact that finer details are lost. Advent also features some slick anime cut scenes that look great despite the abundance of pixilation due to the limitations of the hardware. Even so these are greatly appreciated and the effort that went into their production shows. It almost made me hope for a ZX anime!
The first ZX game lacked voice acting and many were upset about that. Well, Capcom has decided to listen to the fans since they have included spoken dialogue. Let's just say that you should be careful what you wish for. The voice acting here isn't handled very well, the dialogue is stiff and the through the DS's speakers it sounds pretty terrible. Thankfully the sound effects and music picks up the slack with some absolutely rocking presentation merits. It's safe to say the sound here is a mixed bag but in the end there are more things to appreciate than to dislike.
If you're a DS owner looking for a solid action release, ZX Advent is definitely one to put on your holiday wish list. The game features a ton of solid gameplay with enough improvements over the original to take note of. I loved the wide variety of biometal, the appropriate challenge, the touch screen interaction, and the exploration aspects. It's not a perfect game by any stretch but it's certainly a step in the right direction for the Mega Man franchise. If you have ever been a fan of Capcom's mascot it's time to come back to the series and see what's going on. Recommended