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Iíve never been a really big fan of Capcomís Megaman series; as a whole, the series is far too unforgiving, requiring exact timing and handling of the controls. But after months of playing Strategy RPGs like Tactics Advance and Tactics Ogre, I decided to give it a shot.
Well, By the end of the first day, I was about ready to scream and return the game; Iíd died more times than I could count and had only managed to defeat one boss and barely reach another, only to be humiliatingly defeated. By the same time the next day, I was on my tenth boss and completely addicted.
Graphics: Iíve heard that quite a few of the sprites were recycled from Zero 2, but, this being my first game in the series, I canít really comment on that. Rather fortunately, even if they were recycled, the graphics are holding up really well, with large, well-animated sprites, which is especially handy when youíre trying to determine a bossí attack patterns.
Sound: Fairly good overall - it wonít distract you from what you really need to concentrate on (i.e., not dying) and has a good variety within the stages. There are even short clips of vocalized audio from the bosses that are surprisingly crisp.
Controls: VERY precise and responsive. Itíd have to be, considering how much the game pushes you. Itíll probably take some time to get used to and quite a bit longer after that to properly master. Fortunately, itís also pretty customizable, so you shouldnít have any problems finding a control scheme that suits you for the whole game.
Gameplay: At first glance, itís still the basic Megaman formula: side-scrolling action through challenging stages youíll learn to memorize, followed by encounters with mid-bosses, and a stage boss at the end. But a few things set it apart.
For one, aside from the basic Bustershot and Z-Saber (ranged and melee) weapons, Zero also has the Shield Boomerang, a defensive weapon he can use to reflect enemy fire and can be thrown when charged. And he also receives a new weapon called the Recoil Rod, which can be used like a pogo stick for extra jump height, and is almost always the best weapon when fighting a boss.
Weapons aside, the gameís main system is the Cyber Elves: you can find these Elves in a stage, and, after identifying them afterwards, they can be used to provide support for Zero. The two basic varieties are Fusion and Satellite Elves; Fusion Elves provide one-time uses such as healing, removing enemies, and reducing a bossí health bar, while Satellite Elves are always active as long as theyíre equipped and do everything from providing additional firepower to extending your life bar and making most traps non-lethal, removing a lot of instant-death factor that a lot of people (like me) find frustrating.
The first bosses you fight will drop chips that allow Zero to use elemental attacks when his weapons are charged; following the rock-paper-scissor tradition of the Megaman games, using the right chip will make boss fights go by much easier. Later on, you will also receive chips for Zeroís head and legs, allowing for double jumps, automatic weapon charging and the like.
Unlike traditional Megaman games, however, you do not receive the bossesí attack upon defeating them; at least, not automatically. After finishing each stage, youíre graded on how well you did, depending on damage taken, enemies killed, speed, and the like. Using Fusion Elves will also lower your points, albeit by a miniscule amount. If you did especially well, you will receive an EX attack from that boss, which can be used by equipping the correct weapon and further enhance with the right elemental chip.
However, the grading system can be rather inconsistent at times; a score of 80 or so in one stage will net you an EX attack, and yet, a score of 90+ for another stage will get you nothing.
Overall: Probably about as beginner-friendly as youíll get for a Megaman game, at least once you get past the first few hours of trial and error.
Be warned though: the game itself is fairly short. My first run through the game only took about five hours, even with a lot of messing around and revisiting old stages. But the replay value of trying to get better and better grades, as well as the EX attacks and getting Secret Disks (containing data about the back story and enemies) should keep you coming back for a while (Iím on my third run).
Platform: Game Boy Advance