If the original Super Mario Bros. was the formula to suckle me into gaming, then Mega Man 2 would certainly be my teething ring. Its challenge, style and incredibly appealing gameplay would cause enough anguish and determination in my youth, that the uncomfortable sensation of cutting my gums would become too addictive not to keep biting down.
When Mega Man X arrived, I had now developed teeth strong enough to tear through the blue steak of a new challenge. One that had a more mature flavour with stunning 16-bit visuals that would not only tickle the taste buds of my adolescent interest for cyberpunk Japanese animation of the ’90s, but it would also be served with a fresh, fuller narrative, and a belting new soundtrack to match.
As for the Mega Man Zero and ZX series of games? Well, unfortunately, they just seemed to fly right past me. At that point, the Mega Man series that I knew and loved was now tightly locked behind fond nostalgic memories of my childhood. During the last few years, however, the Mega Man Legacy Collections of the original and X series, (and not forgetting, of course, 2018’s Mega Man 11) has converted me back into a Blue Bomber fanboy all over again. Adding the Zero and ZX series to the already robust volume collection on the Nintendo Switch should, by rights, over-indulge my need for any more Mega Man. Instead, the idea of conquering all the games in this particular collection has only urged me to scratch in a new entry in my gaming bucket list.
The first part of this double saga package would no longer have you play as Mega Man. Instead, the player helms the role of Zero, the red Maverick ally created by the original Mega Man villian, Dr Wiley. This four-part Game Boy Advance series of games takes place one hundred years after the events of Mega Man X, to where a human girl called Ciel awakens the sword-wielding Reploid with a motive to persuade him into fighting for the resistance. The Mega Man Zero side of the collection makes up most of the meat of the package, while maintaining the soul of the Mega Man X series with an extra cutting edge style, and added scope to the overall Maverick Wars storyline.
The second set of games in the collection, The once Nintendo DS exclusive Mega Man ZX and its sequel Mega Man ZX: Advent, play a little more left field to the usual formula. Both games contain a much more exploratory affair in world design, combined with the choice of either a male or female protagonist able to fuse with a Guyver-like technology containing the spirits of the famous Maverick Hunters. While the layout of the overworld structure in the first game can be confusing as it doesn’t at all correlate with the map interface, both games in general still do maintain that run-and-gun tradition of the core Mega Man gameplay with its own unique twist.
Each and every game in this package could warrant a debate of a personal favourite top six list. However, what’s more important in this particular case is the quality and content of the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection, and how it’s pieced together to provide both the Zero veteran and the newcomer a warm welcome. The original Mega Man Legacy Collection is still king when it comes to interface, presentation, extra content and celebration of its history. It was also the only compilation across the Mega Man collections released to date to be handled by gaming history veteran developer, Digital Eclipse. Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection does come in at a close second place overall though. Especially when compared against the other Legacy Collections which were all pretty much handled in-house by Capcom.
Probably the smartest feature of the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is the new optional save-assist mode, which consists of a checkpointing system that aids the quality of life for each title without hampering the difficulty too much. The constant chores of running out of lives, then being forced to countlessly replay through large chunks of the stage to get back to the boss gate can now be a thing of the past for those seeking the convenience.
I finished the first Mega Man Zero with the save-assist feature turned on throughout, which certainly made the gameplay experience far more enjoyable thanks to this practical inclusion. With that said, one feature I would have much appreciated would be the ability to skip any repeated conversations prior to boss encounters. Spamming to hurry up text that I have already previously read through several times after getting owned by a boss, really tires out the thumb when banging it rapidly on the buttons like a starving woodpecker.
As with every other Mega Man Legacy Collection, an extra gameplay mode has been added to flesh out the content further. This time, a vs speedrunning mode called Z Chaser has been added to allow the player to either race against ghost times, online leaderboards or even a fellow couch rival. Every title has a dedicated stage to best and a rank to gain, providing even more challenge to suit a franchise well known for its formidable reputation.
For those who would rather not enjoy the mental stresses of being overwhelmed by a videogame, a more casual friendly option can be selected to help tone down the difficulty so the player can simply enjoy the content. Just remember to take into account that the disadvantages of taking the easy route will rob the player from unlocking certain ZZ cards from the gallery.
For those who don’t know what ZZ cards are, they were originally collected and scanned through the ill-fated Game Boy Advance peripheral known to a few as the Nintendo E-reader. Each card would be used to modify and unlock certain content on Mega Man Z 3 for those lucky enough to own one. The cards were brought back in digital form for the Mega Man Zero Collection on Nintendo DS. Now they make a similar return in Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection as unlockable achievements when hitting certain challenge requirements.
However, the ZZ cards aren’t the only feature to provide a full Mega Man Zero/ZX experience. Linking either of the original Game Boy Advance carts of the third or fourth games in the Zero series into a Nintendo DS would allow the player to face extra boss battles during Mega Man ZX. This feature has been kept intact for the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection as a simple choice, giving the player the option to take advantage of any bonus content they may have missed out on back in the day.
It goes without saying that the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is a fine and robust celebration of Inti Creates’ portable take on the Mega Man universe. From a wonderfully dense art gallery featuring many of Toru Nakayama’s superb character designs to remastered voice tracks and animation cut-scenes, Japanese editions for each game, and a variety of attractive screen borders, there are tons of other adjustable options available. The only real customisable drawbacks are not being able to skip text or having the options to assign actions to the ZL and ZR Buttons. But besides that, it’s really hard to fault this latest slice of what is currently now a five-volume gaming encyclopedia based on one of Capcom’s most cherished franchises.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom