PSP Review: Mega Man - Maverick Hunter X

While the spin-offs of the Mega Man franchise have gone overboard and the X series has taken a sharp downswing, Maverick Hunter X becomes all the more appealing. This PSP exclusive is stunning; losing nothing of what made the original SNES hit a classic while updating everything outside of the gameplay (and even this has been tweaked). The extras sell this package, and while they're not as rich as Mega Man Powered Up, they're still worth unlocking since they essentially turn into a second full game.

With the graphics revamped in full 3-D, the sheen on Maverick Hunter is the immediate standout. Unlike the experiments in Mega Man X7 and X8, this update keeps the gameplay in two dimensions all the way through. The polygons are used to sharply enhance the animation and cinematic qualities (which are then unfortunately brought down by voice actors that barely qualify as actors). It's a necessary and detailed facelift that shines on the PSP.

Mega Man still runs to the right, shooting various robots that impede his path. Stage structure has been tweaked slightly in spots, though the majority will be familiar territory. The bosses remain the same, as do their patterns and weaknesses.

If this all sounds like a cheap cash-in, you're wrong. Instead of leaving X's powers in plain view, they now require some skill to find. They're necessary to beat the game, and this adds some replay value to the stages. Capcom was nice enough to allow for stage escaping even if you haven't beaten the boss too. The difficulty has also been toned down a notch, and veterans will run through X's portion in about a day, while newcomers may take a weekend.

This turn-off will cause some hesitation from a purchase standpoint. Beating X's segment is only half of the experience. Once completed, you'll have a chance to play through the game as Vile, the sometimes good, sometimes bad character that's hung around the series for years. The experience of this new character opens the game up tremendously.

Minor changes like a new soundtrack (with a harder edge) and additional painful dialogue are surface matters. Gameplay is where Vile shines, offering a different style of Mega Man gameplay. He starts off with a base set of weapons, including a limited range machine gun for his main form of offense. Beating bosses doesn't necessarily allow the player to swipe their powers, but opens up different styles of attacks.

This customization performs double duty as both minor RPG-like strategy and a strong feeling of progression. You'll need all the encouragement too since Vile offers different level layouts and a difficulty that's close to doubled (and that's on the normal setting). This is a fantastic addition, and the must play portion of this for die-hard fans. It's almost a shame it's locked from the start.

The final extra is a 25-miniute anime video prequel. This should not be locked since it sets up the entire storyline for the game. While the voice acting falls victim to the same issues as the main game, the animation does not. This is also a stunning showcase for UMD video as Capcom apparently found some way around compression issues major movie studios have trouble with. This is the cleanest picture of any UMD.

There's an underlying sense to Maverick Hunter though, and it's difficult to shake. At the least, X's portion should have been included with the Mega Man X Collection on the home consoles. Given how shoddy some of the games were in that set, this would have made up for them. On the opposite side, the original SNES edition should be here too. It's seems stupid not to included the classic version for comparison purposes.

Aside from a little disappointment, Maverick Hunter X is an enormous success. There's enough new here for anyone who adores the original, and the nearly flawless gameplay quality carries this for new players. This is one that took some effort, and it all shows on screen.

(**** out of *****)

Comments (1)

Well Capcom's outputing Megaman games at a rate of 65 an hour so i suppose it's about time that got one right. Shame it's a bit of a re-hash though as I'd really like to see an original Megaman title be fun.

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