Mega Man ZX: Advent
Mega Man ZX: Advent is a bit of a misnomer. The omission of the number 2 and the subtitle of “Advent” suggest that this is no mere sequel. But it is. And if anything, it is a lesser sequel. Though, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
It all starts with our new duo, Grey and Ashe: extraordinary youngsters with the ability to fuse with metallic artefacts known as Biometals, thus transforming into a Mega Man (or Mega Woman?) capable of wanton destruction. The two of them offer subtle gameplay differences (different Biometal special moves and slightly remixed boss patterns) and unique storylines, but they ultimately go through the exact same areas. Whatever happened to the original protagonists, Vent and Aile? Don’t worry, they’re still here; no doubt fans will be pleased with their purposeful roles, too.
If you enjoyed the first Mega Man ZX outing, you’ll definitely like Advent. The graphics are nearly identical to the last (which were nearly identical to the GBA Mega Man Zero games, hmm…); bright, vibrant, sometimes dynamic, but often chaotic, especially when you’re shooting things left, right and centre. The first game’s soundtrack is still one of the DS’s best. It’s hard to top something that good, but Advent runs mighty close. Plus, there are a few classics tucked in there as well. Sound-wise, the English localisation is a marked improvement over its predecessor. Whereas previously we lost the Japanese voice acting in favour of… silence, Advent has full English speech throughout the many story sequences. Sure, it’s as dope as your typical
The mission structure has been tightened up a lot. It was all too easy to get lost in the first game with missions directing you to area C-1 or D-1 without any indication of where the door leading there was. Now, everything is more clear-cut. Not only are you shown where your next targets are on a more streamlined map, you can travel to the vicinity of these areas in a flash via transporters. Thus it may appear that you are free to explore each region at your own accord (as the ‘overworld’ map suggests), but it’s all really just a facade; essentially you select a ‘level’, run through three or four linked areas blasting everything in sight until you reach the end, at which point you pummel the boss with all you’ve got – not unlike the thirty-something Mega Man games we’ve seen over the past two decades.
The biggest difference seen in Advent is its heavier focus on Live Metals. Depending on which of these ‘armours’ you equip, you’ll have access to entirely different move sets that radically alter how you must play. Model L allows you to swim with ease underwater, but you can only perform some relatively weak slashes and long-range gunning is out of the question. Model P can fire off a rapid stream of kunai, but the projectiles are individually weak so you will need to ensure that they all make contact. Model A is your mainstay Live Metal and who comes equipped with a regular buster gun as well as a homing launcher (more on this later). Their properties aren’t limited to just special moves either; will you opt for air-dash happy manoeuvrability over hard-hitting brute strength? It’s a unique system that’s really just an in-depth evolution of the classic Mega Man weapon-copying, but it has been implemented incredibly well. Fans of the first game will also appreciate having all of the previous Biometals (sans Model OX unfortunately) back along with couple of new tweaks here and there.
But there were only seven forms before. Now, in Advent, you have double that – FOURTEEN! And it’s not just limited to the humanoid Biometals anymore; all of the animal-like bosses you destroy can be scanned into your databanks allowing you transform into a plump wasp queen, a sonic-speed hedgehog or even a dentally-compromised robotic crocodile who takes up nearly half of the screen space! This is definitely a first for a Mega Man game!
However, Capcom did go a tad over-the-top. Sure, they nailed diversity, but when more than half of these new forms are useless 90% of the time, I can’t help but think: quantity over quality. The lumbering crocodile who can fire off his molar teeth as ammunition and take screen-shaking chomps looks fantastic, but his sheer bulk means that he isn’t quite the mobile form that most of the levels are built for. The twins, Urgoyle and Argoyle, are quite the creative pair; one is a ghostly figure who appears in front of the other and can pass through solid walls to activate switches and such. The one at the back (who you control directly) can throw out shurikens and, if timed right, the one in front can kick them forward at lightning speed – it’s really cool. But both of these abilities are rarely indicated and in terms of practicality, the twins can’t compare to the more traditional Biometals. Great designs like these left me disappointed; why they weren’t given more attention? These animal boss forms are simply joke characters, there to provide temporary comedic relief before we transform back into more reliable Biometal models.
Evolution?Mega Man ZX was Capcom’s first attempt to fuse classic Mega Man action with exploration elements akin to the recent Castlevania or Metroid games. The execution was far from perfect with many areas feeling rather disjointed and unclear objectives leading to frequent backtracking. Now instead of refining this aspect, they have unceremoniously dumped it. For better or for worse? It really depends on your own personal preference.Regarding the Biometals, things are slightly different here. From the outset you are in control of Model A (as opposed to Model ZX) who isn’t armed with a saber; just the buster gun and a secondary homing launcher. Instead of slicing and dicing, he/she has the ability to lock-on to multiple targets within a wedge-shaped area and release an energy beam to hit them all. Imagine Mega Man X, but with a really cheap secondary weapon that virtually eliminates the need for precision. It’s like giving Mario a hammer so he doesn’t have to bother jumping anymore (wait…). Of course, you don’t have to take that route, especially with all the other models at your disposal. (Though, it is extremely annoying how your form always reverts back to the default Model A after EVERY cutscene, conversation and warp point you activate.) As I mentioned, Model A doesn’t have a saber. But don’t fret Zero fans: you do eventually obtain Model ZX about halfway through, but it sure would have been nice to have it available earlier; after all, Model ZX is still the star of the show.
The improvements over the original Mega Man ZX are numerous. There are more warp points (but hardly any warp transporters?!); increased use of the second screen for rough/detailed maps and instant form selection; more transformations and with plenty of new moves to boot – long story short, though, it’s really just more of the same. Levels are still fairly compact, though brimming with plenty of shoot ’em up action. Bosses ooze personality (some of the voice acting isn’t half bad over here) and are a little easier to defeat than the last lot, but they still a blast to fight. The game itself is reasonably challenging, but there are hidden sub-tanks, life-ups and Live Metal-ups to find that make things a bit easier. Once again, there are a ton of collectible battle chips strewn about the place. Special medals are awarded for conditioned boss kills (no more weakness penalties, though). There are the two character paths to play through and once you’re done with both, a boss rush mode and an ‘Expert’ difficulty level (even minor bosses can kick your ass here!) to tackle. As if the game wasn’t bursting with enough goodness as is, there are also a few mini-games to unlock; one of which is a neat, little 8-bit mock-rendition of Model A’s plight! There is no multiplayer to speak of apart from a gem busting mini-game, but for the solo player, you won’t be disappointed.
Mega Man ZX seemed to be driving the series somewhere different for a change by introducing explorative elements a la Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (which itself took a leaf out of Super Metroid‘s books). It didn’t work out as planned and so they decided to scrap it in favour of a more restrictive design. Advent is clearly a step backwards in this regard and this only serves to prolong the stagnating circumstances that the series is currently in. That said, the game is still as much of a blast as the first one was with more forms to assimilate, plenty of crazy boss fights (those who complete Expert Mode deserve much respect), better production values, and an overall smoother ride. Sure, it wasn’t quite the advent I was expecting, but it’s still one of the best hardcore action-platformers out there.