GameSpite Journal 10 | Mega Man X2

Mega Man X2 | Dev.: Capcom | Pub: Capcom | Genre: Platformer | Release: Jan. 1995

The designers of Mega Man X2 for the SNES were in much the same position as those who designed Mega Man 3 for the NES several years prior: they were stuck trying to make a sequel to what had become a defining game for the console. Anyone who knows anything about gamers knows they reserve a particularly nasty brand of vitriol for games that fail to live up to the lofty expectations set by excellent predecessors. The creators of Mega Man 3 succeeded by simply adding more of everything that had been great about Mega Man 2: More stages, more bosses, more items, more moves, etc. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be enough for Mega Man X2. Unlike Mega Man 2, which had simply taken the intriguing concept of the original Mega Man and shown just how much potential it really had, Mega Man X had been a brilliant re-envisioning of the Mega Man series, a rebellion against the way it had eventually stagnated on the NES. Sure, the formula of eight bosses whose weapons could be taken and used against each other was still the same, but the tone was darker and Mega Man (now referred to as “X”) had a more diverse move set that drastically altered the pace of the game. Mega Man X was defined by change, so to truly succeed any sequel would need to demonstrate an equal propensity for shaking things up.

And it completely didn’t. Mega Man X2 is by all accounts a typical Mega Man sequel, changing the names of the bosses and items, adding one or two secrets, and leaving everything else largely the same. Once again X is tasked with defeating eight animal-themed foes, gathering various health increases and armor upgrades, and eventually facing off against the Maverick leader, Sigma. Like the later NES Mega Man games, X2 feels extremely conservative in its design, so much so that it’s hard to really remember anything about it that stands out from the rest of the series. Really, its most distinctive element is that it heralded the increasingly ridiculous cycle of death and resurrection Sigma and supporting hero, Zero, would get caught up in as the franchise progressed. It’s not hard to understand how the X series lost so much steam so quickly when the first sequel gave every indication that it would follow much the same track as the original series.

All that being said, X2 is still a really good game. As expressed earlier, gamers have a tendency to get “not perfect” confused with “god awful” when it comes to sequels of great games. After all folks often forget in the wake of all the bile spit at them that Mega Man 4, 5, and 6, despite being kind of weak Mega Man sequels, are still leagues better than about 90% percent of the rest of the NES’s library. They may not stand alongside NES greats like Super Mario Bros. 3 as its forbearers do, but anyone who says they’d rather play mediocre dreck like 8 Eyes or Ghoul School than Mega Man 4 is a liar. Similarly, X2 is certainly no Super Metroid, but it’s still a fundamentally solid, if somewhat uninspired, action platformer. Anyone who enjoyed Mega Man X will doubtless enjoy X2, although they might not find it the revelatory experience of its predecessor.

By Mike Zeller? | Feb. 18, 2012 | Previous: Umihara Kawase | Next: Brandish