Re(?)Considered: Mega Man Zero

Because Mega Man Zero never, ever, ever gets old.

I will never stop talking about Mega Man Zero. It's the one absolute truth of Gipp. Well, that and droning on about Aero the Acro-Bat, and being quite fat and bald. But never mind that. There's no ego in what I'm about to tell you. The Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection is out, and - as befits a collection of largely great games - it is not bad. It is six games, none of which aren't good. This isn't rocket science. It's far more difficult than that.

Which brings me to my point. This collection includes, as well as that superb sextet of superior side-scrollers, a clutch of extra features. As expected from a contemporary compilation, a couple of said bonuses are there to make the games easier. You've got "Save Assist", which adds restart points to the levels that effectively allow you infinite lives. There's also a more traditional "Casual Scenario Mode" that beefs up Zero with potent bonuses - four or five times more health and higher damage - as well as paving over deadly traps and rescuing him from bottomless pits.

And I implore you not to use either of them.

This isn't some Mike Matei style "gatekeeping" of the "true" experience. If you wanna use Save Assist, go ahead. If it's Casual Scenario or you don't play at all, by all means go nuts. It's your game, it's your free time and it's your life. But it's difficult to conceive of an action game more fundamentally damaged by removing the challenge than the Mega Man Zero series. Taking the first game as my main example, I can certainly see the appeal of the bonus modes. The archaic, later-dropped "level-up" system that enhances Zero's weapons as you use them is nothing more than an annoyance, in practice, and whenever I play the game I always end up revisiting the first level and grinding. Not ideal, but I digress.

The first major stage, the Disposal Center (it hurt me to use that American spelling) is such a roadblock that it sets the tone for the whole game, to an extent. The boss, Aztec Falcon, is a shockingly fast-moving glass cannon of a beastie, and he'll take you apart if you're not ready. And you won't be. Battling him as your first non-intro boss is a wake-up call of titanic proportions. Zero starts with very little health and even the comparatively weak Falcon can take far more damage than you. There's also the added pressure of the time limit imposed over the battle - it's alarmingly short and tight, which will make you panic and screw up. To abuse Dark Souls once again, Aztec Falcon is the Capra Demon of the Mega Man Zero series. He's the moment you'll sit up and realise what you're in for.

There's no denying that Mega Man Zero is an intimidating game. The constantly visible rank system can be discouraging, and the Cyber Elf enhancement system isn't incentivised thanks to usage being tied to said rank. I say ignore it! You don't need to get an A rank first time. Use all the Elves you want! Double your health! Double your firepower! Use every advantage the game offers you then, once you've learned it, you can come back and get those higher grades! Before long you'll be good at it, getting perfect 100/100 points on every mission, and you won't have needed Save Assist or the Casual Scenario.

Or, y'know, use 'em. No skin off my back.