Game review: Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter for PSP/PS Vita

Wait, what? A review for a PSP game? What year is this?! Well Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter is part of Sony’s October sale, and even if it wasn’t 3 euros, I would have picked it up. I’ve been craving a Mega Man game that I can play on my Vita, and this is an updated remake of a game I played but never managed to beat. See, way back in the SNES days, I didn’t buy a whole lot of games. I had to rent them, and this is one that I rented a few times without ever making any progress against any of the robot masters. Eventually I moved on to other stuff, and this slid off my radar. But now I stand (well, sit really) before you a proud veteran of BOTH game modes, waving the mighty banner of victory. Yes, I’m still a lousy gamer, but now I’m a lousy gamer who finally beat Mega Man X. Huzzah!

And you know what? I really love this game. There’s only a few minor things to complain about, and for the most part this is 2D platforming fun at its finest. The graphics are a bit dated, sure, but they’re still colorful and pop bright and pretty on the Vita screen. The music is great, and the controls are absolutely perfect. I’m normally a huge klutz who dies over and over because “wrong button stupid” but this is a game that just feels right soon after I started playing it. I think part of that is being able to play with the analog stick or the D-pad, but another part is that I really only need the four face buttons. No complex combos to remember, just pure button mashing platforming joy.

In this game there’s no Dr. Light or Dr. Wily because X was sealed away in a chamber by Dr. Light for future generations to discover. The scientist who does so, Dr. Cain, develops a whole range of robots around X’s design, but none of them have quite the range of emotions that he does. As Dr. Cain believes his emotions are the key to robotic evolution, his underling Sigma takes it upon himself to push X into evolving by going maverick. It’s admittedly a pretty convoluted story premise, but you don’t really need any of it to play the game.

It’s all the same basic formula from there. After playing through an intro stage, you’re allowed to choose which robots to tackle and in what order. This isn’t as free form as it seems because all robots have a weakness to another master’s weapon, and this means beating them with the standard “buster” weapon is a huge pain in the ass. This is not to say it can’t be done, but it takes a lot longer and will require luck as much as an understanding of each boss and their tells. The thing is, once you get a few weapons gathered, the game gets easier and easier because you have so many options for dealing with enemies who would have been a pain with the standard weapon.

The final levels see you fighting two of each boss again as well as a third boss. There’s time in between these fights to restock energy, so it’s not a boss rush or unbearably hard. I rather like that, that the game has a good mixture of difficulty to fun.

Once you beat Sigma in the final stage, this unlocks a second game mode allowing you to play as a rouge robot named Vile. Vile has a completely different play style, and while you play the same levels, enemy and item placement are all different. In effect, you get two games for the price of one. There’s even a thirty minute OVA called Day of Sigma that explains the backstory a bit farther. It’s not great, but the animation is good and the voice acting is actually better than it is in the game. So that’s two games and a mini-movie, all for one low, low price. Is there anything not to love here?

YES. To properly upgrade both X and Vile, you have to hunt down heart containers and subtanks. The heart tanks give you more hit points, which is desperately important during the regular fights against robot masters. The subtanks are even more vital when fighting Sigma, who first sics his dog on you, then fights you with a light saber, and then transfers his head to a giant robot. Even if you play well, you NEED a refill by the time you reach that last fight.

Well the problem is that several of these upgrades are damned hard to reach. With X, the problem is only on one particular heart tank in Sting Chameleon’s base. This requires boost jumping from a very small platform, so I ended up dying about a hundred times before I finally picked it up.

But with Vile, it’s a whole other world of frustrations because so many of his upgrades require using a mech unit. Unlike in the X mode, Vile’s mech has a timer that counts down from 30 seconds, and any enemy hits will drain that timer fast. Some of these upgrades will require boosting across heavily fortified terrain, trying to dodge or kill enemies and still end up with enough time to do whatever platforming trick is required to get the upgrade. But this is nothing compared to the frustration of needing to jump in the mech, eject at the apex of the jump through a tiny sliver of a gap, and then jump again off the wall to reach an upgrade. And if this seemed like the ultimate torture, that’s still nothing compared to needing to arrive over a series of platform at just the right time so the mech explodes and clears a set of crates. This…is bullshit. I never spent any time cussing while playing the platforming sections or fighting the bosses. But I was cussing so loud while fetching the upgrades during Vile’s mode that my husband was asking me to tone it down.

This, however, is a relatively small part of the game, and even if I spent a large amount of my time on these frustrating activities, overall I enjoyed my time with this game. So I’ll give Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter 4 stars, and would recommend it to any Vita owners looking for something fun to help pass the time until Mighty No. 9 comes out.