Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection Review
The world of Mega Man extends far beyond the classics you know and love. After the smashing success of the original series, as well as the enduring appeal of the X games, Capcom explored the story of Zero. The Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is all Zero all the time, giving players all the laser sword action they can possibly handle. The sheer volume of Zero content is a lot to absorb. In fact, one could argue it’s too much?
Look, repetition is an integral part of Mega Man games. Kill the robot masters, steal their weapons, use them to bring down a tyrannical genius. If you’ve played a Mega Man game, you know the plot outline to all of them. Yet somehow, the Zero games feel homogeneous where the main series titles do not. It’s not something I can easily pin down, although the abundance of narrative might be a big part of it.
Robots Fighting Robots For The Fate Of The World
I love the art in these games. I love the action, the challenge, the sound design, the music, all of it. I didn’t realize how little I valued the story until I was forced to endure this much of it. I don’t care about any of these people, or their valiant struggles against an oppressive regime. Just point me towards the nearest evil robot and let me go nuts. Every single one of these games is loaded down with exploration, side quests, and story. For some people this will be a lungful of air in a twinkling vacuum. For me, it’s an obstacle to slice through. Both the story and the non-linear game structure feel like failures of pacing. Perhaps this is just an ingrained bias built up by years of traditional Mega Man games, but it still colored my experience. I was unduly grateful for the skip button, on the occasions when it was given to me. On the other hand, the action is excellent.
Zero’s games make you feel godlike when fighting regular enemies, and utterly powerless in front of bosses. Your relative weakness is eventually countered with upgrades and items, but this is a slow process. Unless you enable Casual Scenario mode! Then all those upgrades are immediately yours, and these become very different games indeed. Less of a challenge, more of a walking tour through a series of boss battles. It’s so easy it feels like cheating, which is both a relief and a letdown. If you’re only looking for a slight boost, you can turn on save assist. This just keeps you from losing any progress while you’re slowly getting better at the games.
I tried the Easy Mode (Casual Scenario) and it was a real monkey’s paw situation. At first I was ecstatic, but that quickly wore off. You’re just sleepwalking through every challenge, patiently waiting for bosses to disintegrate before you. Better to struggle in earnest than excel with deceit. And make no mistake, struggle will be involved. Every boss requires a sacrifice or two to really get their pattern down. Without Save Assist, this can be a costly situation. But like all Mega Man games, this patience and perseverance is rewarded with blessed victory.
Easy, But At What Cost?
One caveat to keep in mind is that these were originally Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS games. Although they’ve been tweaked to translate to the big screen, there’s still a distinct pixel shortage going on. Your 50 inch TV will be unkind to Zero and friends. Thankfully, there’s a plethora of display options to ease you into things. I flirted with different display sizes and filters before giving up and going full screen original. Yes it’s proper ugly, but it’s part of history, damn it! Just try and play this collection on a slightly smaller monitor if you can help it. 4K will do you no favors here.
For years, Zero represented a massive blank spot in my collected Mega Man history. Like the Battle Network RPGs, I was only dimly aware that these games existed. Now that blind spot is no more, and I’m a bit torn about it. The changes made to the established formula bring discomfort and pain. But the core gameplay, the excellent music, the amazing artwork, and the escalating challenge are all perfectly intact. Capcom waited to revive these games, and I understand why. Mega Man fans may be disoriented at first, thrown off by the added narrative and exploratory bulk. Yet buried beneath these weird outer layers is a string of tough, glittering Mega Man games, all starring the elusive red swordsman of my youth. If you’re a fan of Mega Man, or even action platformers in general, the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is worth checking out.
***A PS4 code was provided by the publisher***
- Casual Scenario Mode changes everything
- Lots of display options
- Tons of content to soak up
- Little variety between games
- Not hard in that fun way
- Casual Scenario Mode is a curse