Opinion: FINALLY Clicking with Mega Man X

If you’ve read my writing on Mega Man before, you may know that I am not a fan of the charge shot introduced in Mega Man 4. I feel it ruined the balance of the gameplay and made the secondary weapons unnecessary outside of boss fights, which sucked out so much of the joy I had with the second and third entries. MM5 and MM6 aren’t bad games (and I’d go as far to say that MM6 is the third best Classic title), but they don’t feel as experimental or creative as the two NES titans. And I’m not even going to get into MM7 or MM8

Thus my experience with Mega Man X prior to this year was colored heavily by my disdain for the charging mechanic. However, I realized while watching Arin Hanson play through the game on Game Grumps that I had always gauged the entirety of my decision to stop playing on my reaction to the intro level. Why I never delved into an actual Maverick lair is beyond the capabilities of memory, but I decided to give MMX one more shot and actually play it the way it should be played — past the intro to the very end!

After blazing through the all-too-familiar street level, I stared at the eight Mavericks and chose Chill Penguin. And finally — after who knows how many attempts — I understood that Mega Man X was the game that got the charge shot mechanic right. Because it didn’t supersede the secondary weapons; it allowed them to be charged too (once you upgraded the Mega Buster). This really did revise the overall implementation of the concept for me, making it far more a valid addition to X’s skills rather than supplanting Rock’s skills a la MM4 – 6. Also, the charge shot doesn’t overpower everything like in the Classic line. Oftentimes it can be swapped out for a Maverick weapon that deals with the situation a little better…like MM2 and MM3. The addition of the dash further changed the gameplay dynamics for the better, making the game flow differently than before. Mega Man could slide, but it was not an offensive ability — it rendered attack impossible and left Mega Man exposed to attack. The dash, however, works as both an offensive and defensive option. It can be used to get away from enemies or projectiles, but X can also blitz towards foes and fire shots as he sprints. It enhances rather than detracts.

Ultimately, I conquered all 8 Mavericks, found all of the Armor parts and various tanks (skipped the Hadoken only because it was more effort than I wished to put in), and crashed into Sigma’s lair and smashed his face. And I walked away happy — happy to understand after all these years why people like this game so much. For me, the Charge Shot needed additional care to be executed right, and Capcom couldn’t pull it off in the Classic line. It perhaps needed the reboot of MMX to reconfigure how the environment should be constructed for X’s Charge, not by grafting the old-school level and enemy design onto a new mechanic without properly testing out the kinks, but by rethinking how the game should spin around X and all he can do instead. Brilliant work!