Released on: October 14 2003
Available Platforms: Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS (Mega Man Zero Collection), Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC (Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection)
Price: $39.99 CDN ($29.99 US) (Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection)
During its initial release, Mega Man Zero sold well enough to warrant a sequel. Similarly, back when I first beat Mega Man Zero, I wanted more. I enjoyed the gameplay of Mega Man Zero so much that I sought after its sequel Mega Man Zero 2. Now that all the Mega Man Zero games are available in the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection, I figured it would be a oppurtune time to continue my Mega Man review streak with Mega Man Zero. Does Mega Man Zero 2 innovate enough to keep the series fresh?
One year after the events of Mega Man Zero, we see a lone Zero wandering the desert, beaten, broken, tired, and wondering what he is even fighting for. Amidst Zero’s pensive trek through the desert, he is ambushed by rogue Reploids. He throws his cloak away and challenges the onslaught of enemy Reploids in the coolest way possible. After his ordeal, he is found unconscious by a group of friendly soldiers and brought back to the new base. As for a continuation of the series, Mega Man Zero 2 has one of the coolest intros to a game ever (on par with Mega Man Zero). Mega Man Zero 1 and 2 both have fantastically written stories.
Mega Man Zero 2’s graphics are good, but they do little to improve from Mega Man Zero. Zero 2 uses the same art style and a lot of the same sprites. There are some new characters, and their design is appropriate, but when it comes down to it, Mega Man Zero 2 looks almost identical to Mega Man Zero. The music in Zero 2 is still fantastic. The intro stage theme has never left my mind ever since I heard it way back when. I will admit, though, the boss theme is not as impressive as Zero 1, but the stage music in Zero 2 is still tremendous.
The gameplay is another area that is seldom different than its predecessor. Zero 2 replaces the Triple Rod with the Chain Rod. Being able to attack in eight different directions, the Chain Rod acts like a grappling hook. It can remove shields, pull heavy objects toward the player, and allow Zero to swing from the ceiling. Swinging feels awkward, though. It never feels like I have enough momentum to jump adequately. Other than the Chain Rod, the Blaster, Z-Saber, and the Shield Boomerang return and function the same way they did in Mega Man Zero.
Two new additions to Zero 2 are the forms and the EX skills. The player unlocks forms by completing special criteria during missions. I like the idea of the Forms, as they can be beneficial in the right context (such as the Erase form being able to erase bullets with the Z-Saber or the Shield Boomerang). The EX skills unlock by beating a stage with an A rank. It is worth noting that the player must be A rank or higher at the start of the stage to unlock an EX skill. Getting an A rank at the end of a stage will count towards the next mission’s EX skill unlock. EX skills provide helpful attributes, like having the Chain Rod absorb a latched enemy’s health or having the Shield Boomerang turn enemy shots into Energy Crystals (that the player can use to feed Cyber Elves). While it is worth having EX skills, it is difficult to maintain the A rank needed to unlock them.
By now, it might be evident to the reader, but my main issue with Zero 2 is the fact that it feels a little too much like Zero 1. Sure, the EX skills and the Forms do add an extra incentive for the player to master the game, and Zero 2 does continue the excellent story of Zero 1. Other than the story, the Forms and the EX skills, though, there is little else that feels new in Zero 2.
Speaking of EX skills and Forms, Zero 2 only gives the player vague hints on how to obtain them. I had to look up how to unlock the Forms, and the only indication that Zero 2 gives to the player for EX skills is “beat a mission with a high rank.” It never specifies what the game considers a “high rank” or that the game checks the rank at the start of the stage, not at the end. I do understand that having this information spelled out the player in the age of the internet is a moot point, but the internet was nowhere near as widely available in 2003 as it is now, so in this instance, the player either had to guess or have a friend tell them how to unlock the EX skills and Forms. When I found out how to unlock the EX skills and Forms, I exclaimed: “how was I supposed to know that?”
In my Mega Man Zero review, I mentioned that it was a challenging game. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel that Mega Man Zero 2 is slightly harder than its previous iteration. The Chain Rod takes acclamation, and even then, I tend to avoid swinging from it as much as possible, since it usually results in my death. Once again, the Save-Assist feature in the Mega Man Zero/Zx Legacy Collection is a life (or rank in this case) saver. If players were expecting an easier time with Zero 2, then they will surely be disappointed.
Mega Man Zero 2 is a worthwhile addition to the Mega Man Zero series. I just feel like a lot of aspects of Mega Man Zero 2 repeat from Mega Man Zero. The Forms and EX skills are an excellent addition to the series; it’s just a shame that the game doesn’t clarify how to get them. I would recommend those who enjoyed Mega Man Zero give Zero 2 a try. However, I will also warn readers that Zero 2 feels incredibly similar to Zero.