Developer: Inti Creates
Release Date: October 23, 2007
There are few franchises with as much variation in genre and story as the Mega Man games. You've had classic platformers, card games, RPGs, even a soccer title, and it shouldn't come as any surprise to gamers that the Blue Bomber is far from finished yet. Yet, of all the Mega Man titles, only one arm of the franchise doesn't feature the Blue Bomber or one of his variations as the main character: the Mega Man Zero spin-offs. While Mega Man X has cameos in the Mega Man Zero games, he was never playable in them, passing up the starring lead to rival hero Zero, until Zero's untimely fate at the end of Mega Man Zero 4. Yet, if there is one thing gamers know about Zero, it is that you can't keep him dead, and even after his demise, the Mega Man story continues in Mega Man ZX. However, no matter which character (Vent or Aile) you chose, the title ended on a fairly substantial cliffhanger, make a sequel inevitable. Now that Mega Man ZX Advent is finally here, we can at last see the next story in the world of Mega Man.
Mega Man ZX Advent takes place not long after the events in Mega Man ZX. Players choose from either Grey, a mysterious boy who wakes up in a laboratory, or Ashe, a young female treasure hunter with a knack for reckless behavior. No matter whom you choose, that particular character quickly becomes embroiled in a conflict against the mysterious forces called Mega Man. A Mega Man is a living being who has "megamerged" with a Biometal, a sentient mechanical object that grants its user great power. Most of the Mega Men are involved in a mysterious contest called the "Game of Destiny," the winner of which will be crowned the king of the entire world. While hired to transport an unassigned Biometal, either Ashe or Grey is attacked by the Mega Men's forces and are forced to megamerge with the Biometal, called Model A, to survive. Now accidentally embroiled in the "Game of Destiny," they have to discover the secret of the Mega Men before the conflict engulfs the entire world.
Much like the previous titles in the Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX franchises, Mega Man ZX Advent combines the free-roaming exploration found in games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Super Metroid with the select-a-boss method found in the older Mega Man titles. The Mega Man ZX world is made up of a large series of interconnecting maps that players traverse to reach their next target, rather than simply picking that enemy from a screen. Each target has a waypoint market, and players can go after the waypoints in any order they want. It's not a bad method at all, and it is a solid combination of the two styles of gameplay, although it isn't without its limitations. The biggest problem comes with trying to combine the selectable stages with the new A-Trans system, a combination that just doesn't work well at all.
The big change from Mega Man ZX is the addition of the A-Trans system. Much like previous entries in the Mega Man franchises, the Model A gains the powers of defeated bosses after the battle. However, unlike the other heroes, the Model A is far more like Axl from Mega Man X than any of the previous heroes. Rather than simply borrowing an enemy's power, A-Trans allows the heroes to turn into that defeated enemy and gain all of their powers instead. This isn't just a color change: Model A transforms completely into the enemy robot, taking on their size, shape and abilities, with few limitations.
A-Trans is a really neat system in theory, but almost completely fails in execution. For one, you gain an obscene number of forms, far more than any previous Mega Man title. By the end, you'll have 15 distinct A-Trans forms! While it's certainly not a bad idea to have a number of different forms, the problem is that the developers went for quantity over quality to an extreme degree. As a result, you end up having a stockpile of abilities you'll never need to use, and scrolling through a bunch of worthless forms just to get to the good ones is rather frustrating. To be fair, it is possible to use the touch-screen to change forms at the touch of a button, but that requires turning off the built-in map, and it isn't really any faster or more comfortable than switching forms manually.
There are two kinds of bosses that Model A can transform into: Pseudoroids and Mega Man Pseudoroids are the Mega Man ZX version of Robot Masters. They're not humanoid; instead, each is based on a certain animal, ranging from gazelles to hedgehogs. The problem with the Pseudoroid A-Trans is that they are, for the most part, complete worthless. Most have insane restrictions, such as being unable to move on land, being unable to jump without weapon energy and simply being so big and slow that they're nothing more than a defenseless target. Most of these forms are absolutely worthless in combat, and in fact, often suffer from severe limitations that make it functionally impossible to use most of them to battle foes.
Instead, you're supposed to use the Pseudoroids forms to explore areas that are normally inaccessible. For example, Rospark is achingly slow and weak, but it is the only form capable of climbing vines, and Chronoforce is unable to move outside of water but can stop spikes with his hard shell. This would be a fine idea, except each form only comes into use a handful of times throughout the game, if that. Like other Mega Man titles, Mega Man ZX Advent lets you pick the order you face your bosses, meaning that they couldn't implement puzzles unless they knew the character had that form in advance. Thus, most stages are utterly devoid of puzzles that take advantage of changing forms; in fact, the few that exist are utterly simplistic and feel very forced.
Mega Man forms, on the other hand, so incredibly outrank their counterparts that it isn't even funny. Each Mega Man form is made up of a Biometal-like the Model A, although unlike Mega Man ZX, the hero is just copying them, not using the actual Biometal to transform. These forms are identical to the ones you received in Mega Man ZX, right down to having the same touch-screen functionality. Unlike the Pseudoroids, these forms are agile, incredibly powerful and render the Pseudoroids absolutely worthless except for puzzles. Why bother slowly flying across a pit as Queenbee and hoping your weapon EN doesn't run out when you can simply glide over as Model H, cutting enemies into ribbons with a beam sword at the same time? The power and agility difference between the two makes it difficult, if not impossible, to justify every changing into a Pseudoroid form without a puzzle in front of you.
Of course, before you even can get an A-Trans copy form, you have to defeat the original in combat. This, however, is something that is utterly disappointing: The Mega Man ZX Advent foes are among some of the weakest bosses ever to appear in a Mega Man title. None of them provide even the smallest of threats, even to new gamers. They're slow, weak, do very little damage, have incredibly easy-to-avoid attacks and there is no limitation on kicking their rear ends. Even the mini-bosses between levels provide more of a threat, although even those foes are exceptionally easy to cut down. There is no satisfaction in defeating these foes. To be fair, the game does offer a medal system, where defeating the Pseudoroid bosses in unique ways earns you medals. This means doing things like defeating the boss with a specific attack, or defeating a boss without using a certain ability. While these can provide a bit of challenge, they're certainly not necessary to beat the game, and the prize offered for getting all 24 medals is fairly worthless except as bragging rights.
The graphics haven't really improved much from the previous Mega Man ZX title, but that isn't really something to complain about. The sprites are fairly detailed and expressive, the areas are nice to look at and the cut scenes are well animated. Particularly impressive is game's improved map screen. One of the major complaints about the original Mega Man ZX was that the poor map system was obtuse and confusing, which made finding your next location difficult and frustrating. Mega Man ZX Advent implements a much simpler and easier — to-read map, which can be zoomed out to see the entire world or zoomed in to see details of the particular area you're in, all without having to do anything but look at the bottom screen on the DS.
One area where Mega Man ZX Advent hasn't improved over its predecessor is in the audio department. While the background music is okay, if not particularly memorable, the voice-acting is horrendous. The actors seem to have no idea what they're doing or saying, oftentimes approach quality that makes one wonder if Capcom hired the original Resident Evil voice-actors back. Ashe, in particular, is so bad that I ended up restarting the game midway through simply because I couldn't put up with her terrible, screechy, awkward voice any longer. While the Mega Man titles have never been particularly well voiced, Mega Man ZX Advent sets a new and frustrating low for the franchise and considering that this is the same series that brought us Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4, that is really saying something.
Mega Man ZX Advent tries to outdo the last game in the series, and in doing so actually ends up as a less satisfying experience. The glut of different forms makes the gameplay feel awkward and bloated, turning what was a very streamlined experienced into something far less comfortable. When combined with the easy, and frankly rather boring, battles against the boss foes, it makes the entire experience feel less polished. While Mega Man ZX Advent isn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, it's certainly a step back in game design from Mega Man ZX. While this certainly won't be enough to stop fans of ZX from enjoying this new edition, it also means that those who didn't enjoy the previous adventure are going to want to avoid this one as well.
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