Mega Man X: Becoming Stronger

MegaMan X is truly one of my all time favorite games.

Sequel to the popular “MegaMan” game series for NES, MegaMan X was intended to be a new revamped version of an already popular game, and was designed for the Super Nintendo– which was a revamped version of the NES. So the shoe really did fit.

If I allowed myself to, I could rant about MegaMan X for days. I could write a book on it, I am sure of that. But to keep this relatively brief, I am going to discuss three major aspects of gaming that MegaMan X accomplishes magnificently; intuition, fluidity, and overarching theme.

When I say intuition, I am referring to a game’s ability to teach the player how to play, without having to resort to obvious tutorial levels, or warning signs before obstacles. When I play a video game, I don’t want to have to wait, I don’t want to have to read, and I don’t want to have to be talked down to in order to proceed. In MegaMan X, Capcom (the developers) respect the player by placing them in situations that force them to naturally learn how the game works. For example, let me explain to you how the tutorial level works. You press “Game Start” from the menu, and are immediately placed into your standard platform game. First thing you notice? There is a wall to your left, and blank space to your right. So the first lesson is immediately given to you; you move from left to right in order to proceed.

So, you proceed to the right, like they knew you would. As you walk to the right, you will be approached by a spinning wheel with spikes on it. He is your first enemy. Now, you can clear this enemy one of two ways, you can shoot it to death, or the easier way– which would be to jump over it. It is at a pretty small height, so it is pretty clear that the intention is for you to jump over it. But as you keep walking past this enemy, you run into a taller baddie. This guy you can only beat by shooting. However! His attacks travel across the ground. Again, encouraging the idea of jumping. Really, each levels design is made to encourage jumping and shooting. That’s mostly what this game is.

Finally, you proceed past this baddie, and run into your first mini boss. A big flying moth looking robot who you can only hit by jumping and shooting a whole bunch of times. He is really easy to beat, you just jump and shoot. But after you beat him, the floor collapses and you fall to the bottom of a pit. This is one of the most fascinating parts..!! This pit is designed such that as you fall, you see a gap in the floor on the right side, and are inclined to fall towards the right.  Naturally, the average gamer will brush against the right side of this pit and discover MegaMan X’s famous mechanic, the wall kick!  You can press the directional button against a wall, and keep pressing jump to kick all the way up a wall.  You cannot pass this part of the game without learning how to wall kick.  There is no sign or label to teach you these things.  No fairy in a bottle to follow you around and tell you that you need to wall kick.  This game uses INTUITION to teach you how to play!  And that is just SO much more fun.  

Next up, fluidity!  When I talk about fluidity in a game, I’m talking about how well the game holds together with its own rules.  How prominent glitches are, and if they are gamebreaking.  How well you can control the character using the rules of the game and provided buttons.  MegaMan X’s demonstrated fluidity perfectly.  This game featured two very original movement techniques; the wall kick, which I’ve already mentioned, and the dash.  Dashing is just when you press right or left twice, and you dash that direction.  You can also use a button instead of pressing directional twice.  But this dash can also be combined with jumping for a higher, farther, and faster jump.  You can shoot while doing this.  You can dash jump off of a wall kick… this also incorporates the intuitive nature of MegaMan X, because the game leaves these advantages for you to discover.  It’s like figuring out your own cheat code.  I remember being about 10 years old when I figured out how to dash jump, I couldn’t believe it!  I would ALWAYS die trying to jump over gaps, and just miscalculating the distance and falling to my death.  Naturally figuring out the dash jump is just such a cool little secret left behind for the player.  It’s an experience that absolutely cannot be communicated through another form of media.  

This is getting a little long, so let me close things up with the overarching theme in MegaMan X.  Simply put, this game is all about getting stronger.  At the end of the introduction level, MegaMan has to fight a boss that he cannot jump over, and seemingly cannot harm either.  This is a fight that you are actually FORCED to lose.  Right when you are about to die, this crazy looking red version of yourself shows up out of nowhere, and scares the boss away.  So now you, the player, are looking at this red MegaMan (his name is Zero) and all you can think is WOW he is way more powerful than I am, I wish I could do that!  Zero proceeds to tell you that you aren’t at your full power yet, and that you will have to beat the 8 robot masters to reach your full power.  So, that is the game. There are 8 levels, each with a boss at the end.  When you beat that boss, you get that bosses power.  In each of the levels, there are also other powerups hidden that will make you stronger.  More health, armor upgrades, weapon upgrades, etc.  By the end of the game, MegaMan literally LOOKS different.  He is all decked out in new armor, he has a fancy helmet and blaster, new shoes and more.  You reach the final stages knowing that you don’t just look more powerful– you ARE more powerful; you have reached your full power, and you’re ready for round 2 with that first boss.  

Again, I could go on about this game for a long time.  It really is a work of art.  I feel that many games today have lost touch when it comes to clever design.  Rather than teach you through intuition, they give you an aggravating and tedious tutorial level.  And in their attempts to make things look pretty, the game becomes sloppy and prone to glitches.  If you want to try playing MegaMan X, it is available for free on various websites, I will leave a link here.  You should play it and pay attention to these things that I have pointed out.   I really believe seeing these elements first hand can change and mature a person’s perspective on gaming.  I know it did for me! Click here and play it!


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