There are a handful of game legacies in the world that have been enjoying the most supreme form of milking over the last decade or two, and at this point it’s kind of a tired joke to bring the Blue Bomber into discussion. Sure, he’s had way more than his fair share of sequel treatments, but he’s here for the same reason Bruce Willis is still in movies: he’s awesome. Say what you will about the later entries in the series, but once you star in a game like Mega Man 2 or a movie like Die Hard, you’ve pretty much got license to do whatever you want.
At this point, though, a newcomer fan would need to spend the better part of the day on Wikipedia to sift through the different spin-offs and titles that are now available as part of the legend’s lore. Do you want something like the portable Mega Man Battle Network RPGs, or a more traditional game along the lines of Mega Man X? If the latter has you salivating, then Mega Man ZX Advent, the next in the sprawling line of side-scrolling platformers, is most definitely your best bet.
If you haven’t played the preceding game in the ZX series on Nintendo DS, then the first thing that should spook and bewilder is the amount of story here. The game is absolutely loaded with skippable animated cutscenes, fully voiced chats between friend and foe, and as many twists and turns as a tiny 2×2 inch cart can muster. Though a lot of players will want to gun it right to the gameplay, what’s there isn’t half bad in a melodramatic anime sense.
This time you play as either Grey or Ashe, both of which follow concurrent stories that plunk them down in the midst of an all-out war of the Mega Men. That’s right, Mega Men. Once you get the power to merge with Biometal Model A, you can switch from a regular ol’ kid into the titular titan at any time. Of course, it’s anyone’s guess as to why you’d ever want to be normal again, but it’s there either way.
Advent tinkers with the Mega Man formula a bit, giving a few time-tested aspects a fresh coat of paint. The most notable change comes in the form of boss fights and the subsequent powers that our hero absorbs. Though you still get the abilities of a boss after defeating them, this series has you actually transforming into the boss from head to toe. The change isn’t as drastic when you’re using the powers of other Mega Men, which usually involves a palette swap and a new gun, but defeating animal and plant based “Pseudoroids” nets you the option to become a bigger beast with attacks both destructive and environmentally handy (though often useless outside certain areas).
The difficulty can be kind of sporadic to say the least. At times it seems like you’re breezing through levels and completely annihilating the bosses within, while you’ll just hit a wall in another stage. Maybe my Mega Man skills have slowly been dwindling over the years (though I’ll never fully admit to this), but the checkpoint system in the game never seems fully fleshed out. Throughout each stage are warp points that you can unlock with credits, and then you can use a teleporter to zap yourself to these different locations in the level so you don’t have to traverse the whole thing upon a second visit. Of course, these don’t work the other way around, so you better make sure you finish that level or it’s back to the save station for you!
But this is a rewarding game, and there’s a lot of it here for fans of the series that have yet to tire of its formula. Even if you haven’t played a Mega Man game in ages, ZX is still a viable point of return, though the aforementioned abundance of story and some of the other changes might leave you a bit shell-shocked. Presentation aside, the controls are perfectly solid, and that’s all that really matters in a precision platformer like this. There may be much better Mega Man games out there, but this is definitely one of the best of the new generation.
System: Nintendo DS
Rating: E 10+