It’s seventh hell in the third dimension for Mega Man X

Mega Man X7 (2004)

I’ve been bang into falls from graces lately – looking at bright stars, and how it all came crashing down around them in spectaular fashion, all too devastating and all too soon. How about Mike Tyson, who shook up the world almost as much as Ali did at age 18, even earning the ultimate accolade of being the subject of a Nintendo game. Few people have managed that. Popeye, to name just one rare example. Give it a few years and old Tyson was a convicted rapist, wasn’t he, with a penchant for ear biting and on his way to the first of several bankruptcies. He still puts his hands on a few quid though, so it’s not all bad.

Or how poor old Michael Cimino, the departed director. No sorry, that was Martin Scorcese. Old Cimino came out with The Deer Hunter, which somehow had enough gravitas to bag an Oscar for Christopher Walken, which is the cinematic equivalent of Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face being played at the Last Night of the Proms. 

Some falls come all of a sudden, like when someone at PC World took a closer look at Gary Glitter’s hard-drive, and he wasn’t Doing Alright with the Boys after that. But then other times the decline is slow, gradual and depressing – especially when you’re paying for it.

It was the latter malaise that affected the Mega Man X series, and truth be told, the decline was setting in from X5 onwards. I don’t expect eight games, each released about three months apart, could all be winners. But God, you have to learn lessons eventually, don’t you?

The ever greedy Capcom had resisted the switch to 3D for the Mega Man X series ames that graced (and eventually disgraced) the PlayStation 1. But once PS2 had rolled around, and could play you a crafty DVD, things needed to switch to the third dimension. It’s not tremendously easy to switch a classic 2D series to 3D as you know – Mario may have achieved it, but look how Sonic, Castlevania and indeed Bubsy went off the boil.

At least there’s some redeeming features for the 3D games in those series though, with Bubsy being the obvious exception. In Mega Man X7, I think the only conclusion I can come to is that they got absolutely everything wrong with this one. Not a single thing went right. Even the music is not spectacular, and I can usually forgive a bad game somewhat if it’s got a few bangers onboard.

I didnt think it could get very much worse than Mega Man X6, but at least that game had some nice 2D graphics, and a few decent tunes (the ones that weren’t reused, anyway). You could even argue that it had some better voice acting as well, if you’re of the classic weeb school of switching the Voice Language to Japanese as a matter of course.

You may be wondering how 3D Mega Man X would work – and the easy answer is that it simply doesn’t. Even that is a misnomer, because it mixes 2D and 3D sections all the time, leading to the levels being completely disjointed. Even the 2D stuff is more 2.5D, sometimes isometric or with the action taking place from an angle, which makes things even more confusing. aLSO, YOU DON’T even get to play as Mega Man.

Yes, tat’s right. You get Zero, who I’m always happy to see, but he’s joined by a proper wet wipe called Axl, who can duplicate enemy reploids or something. You tackle the “levels” in teams, but I don’t see what your backup man does because once you fall into a bottomless pit, that’s it for you. Anyway, apart from all that, the action is so slow and ponderous that you’ll get terminally bored before you play long enough to actually unlock Mega.

I’m almost tempted to bullet point everything this game gets wrong, but I’ll just give you what we clipboard merchants call a non-exhaustive list. There’s bland music, horrible voice acting, incessant and unskippable cutscenes, a nonsense story, endless forced tutorials with slow text, near constant pestering from your helper gal (they’ve replaced the ear-splitting chime with an even more annoying “Can you hear me, Zero?”), no knockback when you get hit, until it’s a big hit and you actually get knocked to the floor, slowing you right down; more hapless goons to rescue, who come a cropper before you even know where you are; 

It all comes to a head in the Flame Hyenard stage, which has become infamous. Once you manage to struggle past one of the top 5 worst Mega Man levels ever, including a quasi-3D section where enemies beam in out of nowhere, and you’ll actually end up getting lost. How do you get lost in a Mega Man X level?

But through perseverance you eventually reach the boss and by God – he makes coopies of himself, and each copy screams “Burn” or, alternatively “Burn to the ground” without even pausing for breath. It actually drowns out the music, if there even was any to begin with. I don’t know about you, but I usually stop bothering with a game once I realise that nobody tested it, or showed it anything other than disdain. I just hope the developers wiped when they shipped this. 

How did it even get to this? When I eventually did find Mega Man, I half-expected him to be a 25-stone mess, more belly than bot, laying there in  a filthy hotel room completely off his head. Actually, I would have preferred that – it would have been more interesting than finding him to be an insufferable, pacifistic moaner, the type of bore that goes on and on about how we’re destroying our planet. But then I suppose I can’t blame Mega Man for that: when you go off the deep end, you either die a miserable death, or see the light and emerge as a hippy. After playing Mega Man X7, I think I know which fate I’d prefer.

6 August 2021

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