Mega Man X8 is still Mega Man X-great
XVIII reaches XV
I had hoped that the release of Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 would lead to a renaissance of sorts for Mega Man X8, a game I had always loved but experienced a good deal of harsh criticism back when it was new. I had hoped people would realise that they were wrong and I was right, and individually contact me with emotional apologies and gifts of chocolate and cake. But no, obviously that hasn't happened. I don't know if it's because nobody bought a collection consisting of four... let's say divisive videogames, or because people don't seem to hold up my 2004 platform game opinions as a terrific priority. Either way - and these are the only two possibilities - I feel disappointed.
After the atrocious failure that was Mega Man X7 (cue someone in the comments telling me it's their favourite), Capcom rather hurriedly backed off from the "3D" gameplay into the comforting bosom of the side-scroller, with X8 putting X, Zero and new best friend Axl back where they belong - in a series of challenging two-dimensional stages, with a ton of secret items to find and eight "Maverick" bosses to destroy.
There's a bigger focus on said secret items than ever before, with the customary armour pieces (mix and match them to give X new abilities) and new "Rare Metal" items that unlock special upgrades in the shop. Yes, there's a shop now, which adds an element of grinding to the proceedings. In order to get 100% and unlock extras you'll need to revisit the levels multiple times over anyway, so you shouldn't have trouble getting the currency together. New intermission bonus stages also provide opportunities to fill your wallet. Previous games in the X series had plenty of hidden content, but in X8 it's a major focus, which could be to its detriment for some, but it's just an X-trapolation of the familiar series gameplay.
Many of the stages have one-time gimmicks, but they're by and large perfectly enjoyable with the exception of Gigabolt Man-O-War's ridiculous 3D shooter segment, with its bizarre shifting perspective making hitting the boss a bit of a gruelling chore at first. Thankfully, once you figure it out, you'll nail it every time. There's another vehicle stage in which you race through a snowbound environment on a Ride Chaser, but I found this one entirely enjoyable. The other gimmick features lend themselves to interesting challenges and mild puzzling (the pitch-black Dark Mantis stage, for example) and give each mission an individual identity.
The boss battles are great, having imported the Mega Man Zero series' penchant for challenging encounters with complex attack patterns. In fact, fighting these guys feels like something ripped right out of Inti Creates' superb handheld subseries, such is its joy. I'd easily rank these as the absolute tip-top of the entire Mega Man X series, especially the brilliant final bosses.
Fifteen years on, Mega Man X8 remains a game that simply doesn't get the love I feel it deserves. Looks like I'm going to Get Equipped With: Sadness. Oh, wait, that was Mega Man 2. Never mind. Pretend this was a good ending to the blog. Thank you.