Release Date: October 2007
Mega Man ZX had a heap of potential when it hit the Nintendo DS last fall. By moving away from self-contained levels, the game took on the feel of classic franchises like Metroid and Castlevania without sacrificing the qualities that made Mega Man the monster franchise that it is today. But in shifting to a single world setting with interconnected stages, the developers left out one absolutely essential element: a coherent map system. The oversimplified in-game map was so bizarre and confusing that it seemed to have been intentionally mangled, if only to extend the experience.
The lack of a digit in the title of Mega Man ZX Advent seems largely indicative of the nature of the game. Though it features a new cast of characters and environments, the gameplay and general feel of ZX Advent are remarkably similar to that of its predecessor. In place of Vent and Aile are Grey and Ashe, a pair of characters with separate storylines that intertwine and likely cover much of the same material. Even the narrative seems largely familiar, with the dual protagonists trying to connect the dots as a war rages between robots and humans.
Mega Man ZX Advent sees the introduction of Biometal Model A, a mysterious armor suit that allows the wearer to channel the powers of any defeated boss. Through the Megamerge system, Grey or Ash can transform into any of the eight Pseudoroid bosses and use their special abilities to discover hidden routes in the stages. Each boss can be defeated in many different ways, and the game will reward players with a total of 24 special items granted to those with especially decisive victories.
A user-friendly tutorial is set to kick off the experience, so players who skipped the original should have no trouble jumping right into ZX Advent. While I was not able to check out the new map system, producer Takeshi Horinouchi promised (through an English translator) "clear-cut levels," so here's hoping they're as accessible as the aforementioned tutorial. Players looking to get a bit more out of the experience can explore to unlock bonus stages and additional quests.
Not a whole lot has been done in the last year on the visual side of things; the in-game sprites are still sharp and well-animated, though the unexpected anime cut scenes of the original are making a comeback in a big way. Not only will there be more cut scenes in ZX Advent, but they will be fully voiced with an extensive English dub. This marks a huge upgrade from ZX, in which the Japanese voice acting was merely removed instead of replaced or flanked by subtitles.
The addition of multiplayer content marks perhaps the biggest enhancement to ZX Advent, as it will support both single- and multi-card play. The prospect of both co-op and head-to-head play with two carts is rather intriguing, though just one card is needed to play a downloadable mini-game. However, unlike Mega Man Star Force, ZX Advent will not feature Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support - only local wireless play.
Mega Man ZX Advent does not appear to be a wholesale reinvention of its predecessor, but rather an incremental iteration that makes light improvements to the formula. Mega Man ZX did a lot of things right, so as long as that whole map debacle is cleared up, ZX Advent may be an entirely worthwhile entry for handheld action fans this fall.
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