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Mega Man Zero

Review By:  Tikerman

Developer:  Capcom
Publisher:  Capcom
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Platformer
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  1-16-03

Who doesn't like a good Mega Man game? Not me! And for good reason. The series, in its classic NES days, has always brought a fun gaming experience, with action packed, quick paced gameplay and a musical score that is consistently brilliant. Well, Capcom has done an excellent job in bringing back that old-school side scrolling fun with Mega Man Zero. Don't judge excellent work by Capcom's other most recent games in the Mega Man saga, most notably Mega Man X5 and X6. Zero is refreshingly fast paced and innovative.

The first thing to note is that in many ways, it isn't your grandpa's…or, rather, older brother's Mega Man. Gone is the boss-selection screen in which you choose which of the eight great bosses you would like to take on. Instead, you are offered three missions, with a brief description of your objective, and without one of the main boss. Also, the standard protocol of defeating a boss, stealing his power, and using it against another boss is not present. Rather, some bosses will leave behind an Element Chip, such as Lightning, Flame, or Ice. The biggest choice to make in terms of weapons is instead which weapon to use, not which ammunition. Zero is equipped initially with the standard blaster, and later acquires various others, such as the trusty sword, a spear-like device, and a boomerang shield. An important facet of this game is the need to switch between weapons in the heat of the moment, depending on what the situation might be.

But you'll get over that. In fact, you'll most likely find both key changes to be refreshing. What you might not get over, however, is the game's difficulty. This is certainly the most challenging Mega Man I've played. You are entrusted with often only one life, and a measly energy bar. By contrast, the bosses' energy bars are as tall as they get. On top of that, Capcom has introduced a fun new feature where the bosses get different layers on their energy bars. For example, in one level, your mission is to destroy the engine on a train. This engine is manned by a bad guy, of course, who spews fire at you, and commands the floor to try to shove you into the spikey roof. So, you go on your merry way, blasting this guy with all you've got. You're happy to notice that the green bar on his side is getting quite low. And you've still got about half of your life left. Bang! One more shot, he's out! Or is he? Oh no! The green on his energy bar may have run out, but that only uncovered a second bar of another color below it! And, if that isn't enough, there's another below it!. For you math majors out there, that adds up to three large energy bars. About five times more energy than you've got my friend. Tough!

But you'll get better. It doesn't take too long to get accustomed to the gameplay, and even the casual gamer will get through this one (albeit with a low rating). But the until you do master each level, you'll find yourself resetting your GBA again and again because after you fail a mission, you cannot try it again! Frustrating, eh? Yeah, I tossed my GBA across the room a few times. Fortunately for me, there happens to be a couch on the other side of the room. You'll learn to just shut it off, walk away, and cool down.

Let's get back to the positives (not that challenge is necessarily a bad thing). This game has got a great pace to it. Fast. At first, you may try going fairly slowly, as you'll be battered severely by just trying to race through the level. This will most likely result in your demise when facing the boss (if you even make it that far). However, once you master the sword and the blaster, and gain a few new skills for each, you'll be able to dash through, slicing up bots left and right, and all together having a great time. As I mentioned earlier, you'll have to switch quickly between gun, sword, or whatever other weapon you might like, as the situation dictates. You get to have two weapons equipped at a time (these weapons can be changed in the pause menu), and can change between these on the fly. You can switch the configuration for these, between B for one weapon and R for the other, B for your weapon and R to switch, or B for one weapon and R+B for the other. Personally, I prefer the second.

As important as anything is the Cyber-Elf system. This is a big innovation, the likes of which I've never seen in a Mega Man game. Cyber-Elves are little programs you can collect while on missions. Some of these are in designated spots waiting for you, but most pop up after killing an enemy, and most bosses offer one after having been defeated. They come in three classifications, Animal, Nurse, and Hacker. Each individual has a special boost to offer. Animals help with ability, Nurses help with health (as one might suspect), and Hackers serve as weapons, or a helper against your enemies otherwise. There are also two kinds of Cyber-Elves, big and small. Smalls are one-time use. A small nurse might put some energy back in your bar. A small animal could rescue you from a hole. A small hacker could put some damage on an enemy. Bigs are permanent. First you have to feed a big CE some energy crystals (varies per elf), and then they grow up. Once they grow up, they can help you out big time. An animal might make you faster. A nurse could be sacrificed for a sub tank. A hacker could improve your offensive prowess.

Oh yeah, and there's a story line. Capcom has never been known for solid story lines, Wily always seemed to find a way back, and I think Zero died at the end of every Mega Man X game. This one seems solid, however, and has a twist. In one of the MMX games (I lose track) Zero is encapsulated, to prevent his further damaging of the world. This picks up when he wakes up. Zero is awoken by a Reploid Doctor named Ciel. She is being chased by evil robots bent on the destruction of her and her reploid friends. Humans finally striking back at the reploids? No, it's one of their own. Even more surprising, it's Mega Man X himself!

That's right, X has a screw loose somewhere, and has begun to "retire" all reploids suspected of being Mavericks. Zero has been brought back to fight this futuristic Joseph McCarthy, and his minions. Sounds intense! Speaking of sound, the game offers a soundtrack perhaps subpar on the scale of other Mega Man games, though certainly decent by the universal standards of video gaming.

Highs:

  • Fast paced fun in the vein of the classic Mega Men
  • A variety of weapons that improve on the original formula
  • A definite challenge to all hard-core Mega Man gamers

Lows:

  • A definite challenge to casual gamers
  • The boss select-screen and the weapon-collect have been taken out
  • Soundtrack doesn't quite live up to that of the previous Mega Man games

Final Verdict:

This game is great. It's fast, exciting, challenging, and even has a splash of the gotta catch 'em all craze. It's a great combination of the old-school Mega Man and an innovative weapon systems. You are offered a great variety of offensive tools, ranging from the trusty blaster to the quirky yet useful Cyber-Elves. You get new weapons at stages along the way, and gain new skills for them as you play, keeping you on your toes when it comes to attacking your foes. Hey, I rhymed! This game is a solid title for the GBA, a must have for Mega Man fans, as well as the casual action gamer.

Overall Score: 9.0

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