Fancy hanging out with Zero? Just remortgage your house first


Mega Man X3 (1996)

When people ask me how I believe the world is going to end, my cold, dead heart says that it’ll be as a result of some Terminator 2-esque nuclear nightmare. However, my head knows the real suss – and not only that, my head is hugely surprised that it hasn’t happened yet.

Simply put, a rapidly spreading virus, some horrendous man-made biological weapon, is going to get released from a lab whether by mistake or not. It’ll spread like wildfire, but it’ll be one of those invisible fires like you get when alcohol burns. So you’ll be sat down, about to tuck into your Yorkshire pudd, when suddenly you get an instant waft of the sequel to Sarin gas that’ll do you in ten times as fast as any piddly carbon monoxide poisoning. Sounds like a decent way to go out, right?

Perhaps that ebola scare a while back was an example of this ominous virus release in motion? A little disease-ridden taster of what’s yet to come? Whatever it was, I’m sometimes amazed that we got through the 1990s. Never mind the Cold War or the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the world standing on the brink and all that. In the late 80s and early 90s, Capcom was absolutely infesting the NES, SNES and Game Boy with Mega Man games.

I’m telling you, they were playing with fire by doing that. One Mega Man X game for the Super Nintendo was fair enough. Two was pushing it. We were now at major risk of global contamination, complete annihilation. And now, for a premium price, we have Mega Man X3.

If you know anything about the Mega Man flow, then you’ll know that there’s never any change. That’s good in some ways, but the basic takeaway is that this is just X1 reskinned – an intro level, 8 evil Mavericks, a few fortress levels, and then at the end, no matter what subterfuge the game lamely puts up, baldy Sigma is the final boss. Except this time, the game’s got some slightly different bells and whistles, and it’s a lot, lot harder to get hold of.

Let me tell you the first thing that always comes to mind for me about this game when I think of it in the shower: the music is repetitive in the extreme. I happen to rather like it in spite of this, but please be warned that my recommendations on music mean absolutely nothing. After all, I used to think Fatboy Slim was praising people like a shoe. And the first album I ever got was a Rammstein one.

The second unique selling point is that Zero, X’s partner with the luxurious blonde locks, finally becomes a playable character. But now, how’s this for a caveat: he’s afraid of doors. Honestly, bring him near a door and he bottles out and makes X step back in. So you can’t use him against any boss, and the developers made it so that each level is roughly split into three sections, all divvied up by these verboten metal gates. This means that, at most, you can play Zero for a third of the level. But here’s one that’s even worse: die as Zero once, and that’s it, he’s gone forever.

You’re joking, aren’t you? I won’t even use any of my twelve C4s or my twenty Megalixirs or any kind of limited rare items in other games. Most people are like me in this respect, we’d prefer to “save them” – for what, God knows. So if Capcom are gonna give us a mere one-third of a killer robot, there’s no way we’re gonna hit the button. I’m simply too risk averse.

You’d be forgiven for not even realising you can bring Zero in, given that he even hides away on the pause screen. It’s disappointing that we’ve come three Mega Man X games in and now the mystique of Zero gets shattered, revealing him to be gutless, but oh well. I suppose I’m a bottler too for not having the stones to ever try Zero, but I think I’m justified since there are far too many surprise bottomless pits in this game. You take a blind leap of faith, and you’re always rewarded with the abyss.

The checkpoints are pretty sparse as well, and they could really have been more sensibly chosen – more than once you’ll have to slog it all the way through to problem areas with your meagre lifebar, only to die and get sent back. Plus it’s the same old enemies, again and again. You won’t have expected Capcom to have created several new enemy designs in this game’s two week development time, but still. How about a nice palette swap or two?

You’ll probably want to know if I have this game, and if so, what my story behind owning it is. Predictably, the answer is not just ‘No’, but ‘No, I haven’t even clapped eyes on the sodding thing in real life and if I did I’d spontaneously combust’. But you can hardly blame me for being tight-fisted on this one – this game is rare enough in the US, and so damn near mythical here in Europe that I wasn’t even sure if it ever released anywhere on the continent.

Let’s suss out the prices of the X series for SNES here in PAL-land: X1 can run €70-€80, or a couple of hundred sovs complete. Boxed X2 brings you up just north of €1,000. And now, the daddy. And I want you to brace yourself for this. I have seen a complete PAL copy of Mega Man X3, admittedly in very nice condition and not a reproduction or counterfeit, go for €4,994.99.

I was ready to tear my laptop in half when I saw it. Five grand?! Is there a Fabergé egg included in the box?! I wouldn’t even dare open it, and yet I wouldn’t be able to tear myself away from it. I’d have to keep it under constant surveillance, bring it with me on the commute, and then it’d be at an even huger risk of being damaged.

I haven’t spent five grand on a car, nor would I ever. Five large to leave something outside and have chavs and other plankton walk past it and bump into it? Birds leaving their mess on it, disgruntled neighbours keying it? Leaves falling from trees on it and hateful weather nipping at it. I couldn’t sleep at night with all that going on – and that’s a car with a carbon steel chassis and an alarm.

Mega Man X3 would just be a box that condensation could dampen, sunlight could fade, cats could destroy. The cartridge might even turn yellow. And what if, God forbid, a fire were to start in my room and begin consuming my games? It’s ridiculous, but I’m so tight that I’d actually suffer fourth-degree burns to dive in there and get X3 back. Not for a love of the game, you understand, but the importance of the investment. For that price I’d sooner see the dog go up in flames than lose Mega Man. Not that I actually have a dog, but Fido, if you’re waiting to be adopted – be warned.

26 July 2019

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