Released on: January 1 1995
Available Platforms: Super Nintendo, Nintendo GameCube, Playstation 2, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PC, Playstation 4, XboxOne, Nintendo Switch
Price: $29.99 CDN ($19.99 US)
As a kid, I rented a lot of video games. Video game rental was how I got to play most games. One game I remember looking cool was Mega Man X2. The box art was amazing! X is on a future bike with his arm cannon out, shooting at something, and there is a boss in the background ready to ambush X. It was also a sequel to Mega Man X, which I loved. I remember loving the game as a kid, but I thought it was a lot more challenging than I remembered when I played it again almost a decade later. Since it’s been a while since my last Mega Man review, I thought it would be appropriate that we take a look at this classic. Does Mega Man X2 live up to the expectations of its predecessor and its box art?
Six months after the events of Mega Man X, our eponymous hero is now the leader of the Maverick Hunters, a group of peacekeeping Reploids out to neutralize Mavericks: Reploids bent on causing chaos and destruction. X learns about a factory building Mavericks, so he and a task force to put a stop to this sudden upsurge of Maverick activity. Right out of the gate, X2 has a fantastic intro. X and a fellow unnamed Maverick Hunter close in on the factory with their hoverbikes, but get shot at as they get closer. The unnamed Maverick Hunter gets fatally wounded. X crashes his bike into a Maverick, then the player gains control. Now that is one heck of an intro!
On the surface, Mega Man X2 looks similar to its predecessor. Looking closer, however, will reveal more subtle upgrades to Mega Man X’s visuals. In general, enemies have more complex character designs than the original. Even X has some new sprites to fit his new abilities. X’s charge shot also looks more distinct as it adds shades of red to the shot’s core. I like that X2’s graphics are familiar, but does try to stand out subtly from Mega Man X.
The music is, once again, phenomenal. Whenever I gush about the music in a Mega Man game, I always feel like I’m stating the obvious. I strongly urge anyone who hasn’t listened to the original soundtrack (abbreviated as OST) of Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3, Mega Man X, or Mega Man X2 to get an idea as to why Mega Man music is viewed so highly. If we talk about Mega Man X2 specifically, my favorite track in the game is the intro theme. It fits perfectly with the high octane intro and is an excellent track by itself too.
Mega Man X2’s subtle improvements mentioned earlier also encompasses its gameplay. X can now dash from the start, which is immensely appreciated, as the dash is critical to X’s maneuverability. Like the previous game, X can find upgrades hidden in the stages. The main difference with these upgrades is the abilities granted by the armor pieces. Take the leg upgrades, for example. These allow X to dash in the air, making tricky jump easier to reach and can even save the player’s life in a pinch. That said, the core gameplay is the same as Mega Man X: jump, shoot and get to the end. Mega Man X2 feels different enough from Mega Man X to set itself apart, but it still retains the excellent core gameplay of Mega Man X.
Another significant addition to Mega Man x2 is the X Hunters. They are a group of Mavericks tasked with destroying X. To lure X into fighting them, they hold pieces of Zero hostage. If the player beats these Mavericks, they will win a part of Zero. There are three pieces to collect, and collecting them all will affect the ending. The X Hunters are challenging, but getting the pieces of Zero is worthwhile.
The most significant improvement in Mega Man X2 is with the fully charged special weapon shots. The player can ignore Mega Man X’s special weapons for the most part, until the player reaches the boss, in which the player can exploit the boss’s weakness with the appropriate special weapon. Mega Man X2 expands on this idea by having the charged shot of special weapons affecting X’s mobility, or the obstacles in the stage. One health upgrade is next to impossible to get without the fully charged Speed Burner. A fully charged Speed Burner will engulf X in a ball of fire, and cause him to dash in the direction he’s facing, even when he’s in the air. That is the kind of stuff I like when it comes to special weapons. If I have to consciously worry about using too much of a special weapon outside of a boss fight, then that is smart design.
There are a few aspects that Mega Man X does better than X2, though.
I find the bosses in Mega Man X more memorable than X2, despite X2’s bosses having more complicated designs. It might be because I played Mega Man X more than X2 when I was younger, but I find myself struggling to name a few of the bosses in X2. I want to point out though that X2’s bosses are still fresh in their design and abilities, it’s just I’m more fond of Mega Man X’s bosses.
The story is another area that Mega Man X excels better than X2. Other than that fantastic intro, the story feels thematically weaker than X1, in that the theme of X1 was about X and the player eventually overcoming their weaknesses to save the world. X2 story is not bad, it’s still terrific, but comparing X2 and X1’s story is like comparing gold and platinum. Gold is worthwhile (X2), but platinum is overall better (X1).
When it comes to difficulty, I do find X2 more difficult than X1. X2 is not necessarily a super challenging game, but those who had trouble with X1 will struggle more with X2. This is good for those who thought X1 was too easy, but I wouldn’t recommend people start with X2 as their first Mega Man game.
Mega Man X2 is a fantastic game overall. It has the same great gameplay as its predecessor, it has incredible music and expands on its gameplay ideas in a familiar but different way from Mega Man X. That said, it is more difficult than the first game, and despite having a fantastic intro stage, it is weaker in the story department than X1. I would highly recommend Mega Man X2 to people who’ve played and loved Mega Man X looking for more Mega Man X action. For first time players, though, I would recommend Mega Man X over X2.