Mega Man X (iPhone) review

The recent handling of the Mega Man franchise has been baffling to many a fan, with many wondering if Capcom is somehow upset with their unofficial mascot. In just two years the legendary publisher has not only cancelled two major titles starring the blue bomber (Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3), though also chose to drop this fan-favorite from the Marvel vs. Capcom roster, considered by many to be a cardinal sin. And though Mega Man did manage to sneak his way into the PS Vita version of Capcom's Street Fighter X Tekken, this overweight "original box-art" version of the character was more a mockery than a faithful rendition.

Regardless of their intentions, Capcom has managed to piss off plenty of longtime Mega Man fans, and with series creator Keiji Inafune now gone from the company, one has to wonder who will help to restore the beloved character's legacy? This is why Mega Man X for the iPhone is a bit of a relief, a lovingly re-made version of the SNES classic. Though it suffers from many of the same control stumbles we've come to expect of any iPhone game with more than a single button, it's definitely encouraging to see a real video game on our mobile device, and to know that Capcom hasn't given up on Mega Man completely.  

The core Mega Man series has always been a bit hit or miss, with the franchise having perfected itself on its second outing (Mega Man 2) before quickly becoming saddled with a series of awkward design choices as it continued onward. Thankfully, Mega Man X helped set the fledgling series back on track, both adding some grit to the series to appease the grunge-loving children of the 90s, as well as evolving the core mechanics by adding the dash and wall-jump abilities (and removing that ridiculous slide). Though X definitely hasn't aged as well as some SNES classics, it's still an enjoyable experience, and the iOS version does a fairly decent job of replicating the original.

The first thing that Mega Man fans will notice of this remake is that all of the original sprite graphics have been replaced with redrawn visuals which cater to the iPhone's high-resolution retina display. This means the game no longer maintains the original 4:3 dimensions, the game rescaled to make full use of  the iPhone's screen dimensions. The result is a noticeably zoomed-in version of the original, and with much of the top and bottom of the screen missing, Mega Man X can feel a bit claustrophobic at times. Still, it's a fine enough tradeoff for full screen gaming, and seeing (almost) all the game's original graphics redone is a fine novelty onto itself.

As mentioned, the game's largest flaw is not entirely its own fault. Apple has still yet to endorse any official gamepad accessory for their beloved mobile device, forcing developers of traditionally-controlled games to jam a ridiculous mess of virtual buttons onto the already crowded screen. To be fair, Mega Man X does an excellent job of keeping your fingers largely out of the play area, though there are moments where enemies will be conveniently hidden behind a thumb, resulting in some rather cheap hits.

Action is controlled by a virtual d-pad in the bottom left of the screen, and the fire and jump buttons to the bottom right. It works fairly well, up until the point where any tricky maneuvering is required, at which point some frustration begins to build. Dashing proves to be the most trick menuver to maser, requiring players to awkwardly press down on the d-pad, something tough to time with a directional press or a jump. Being that the game often requires use of dashing to make it over pits of lava or avoid a boss attack, these mistimed dashes can sometimes lead to a rather disappointing game over.

Thankfully, despite the sometimes frustrating controls, the game is largely accurate to the original. Stage and enemy layouts all stay true to the SNES game, meaning that players who remember where each e-tank and armor upgrade are hidden won't need to resort to purchasing them as DLC. Not everything remains faithful however, and longtime Mega Man fans will definitely notice a few things missing. Gone is the iconic airship that once dropped Vile onto the ruined highway stage, and the original game's environment changing mechanic has been abandoned (so destroying Chill Penguin no longer frosts over Flame Mammoths stage, and so on). Additionally, since forcing the player to hold down the shot button would only add to the "oh god I can't see the screen" problem, Mega Man's gun is now set to charge up automatically, a fine solution (though it's a bit annoying that there's no way to turn off the damned "gun charging" SFX that now plays throughout the entire game).  

Despite this, none of the changes are particularly gamebreaking, and the additions more than make up for it. Along with new graphics, the sound all seems to have been redone (possibly plucked from the PSP remake, though this is unconfirmed). This replication of the original soundtrack is definitely appreciated  and stands out as one of the most polished aspects of the package, though true VGM fans will want to consider the arranged soundtrack available in the DLC shop. Also new to the game is a ranking mode, letting players compete on the GameCenter leaderboards in a Score Attack and Time Trial mode, adding lots of replay value to this already enjoyable platformer.

Again, the only struggle players will experience will be with the controls, and Capcom can hardly be faulted for making do with the limited touch-screen space available to them. Still, though the game is fun it isn't mind-blowing in any respect, and though dedicated fans of the Blue Bomber will likely enjoy his first true iOS outing (not counting the lazy Mega Man 2 port), the best version of the game is still Mega Man Maverick Hunter X for the PSP.

In summary, more real video games on the iPhone is a good thing. Though an original game would've been preferable, this solid tribute to a classic entry is definitely a step in the right direction. Though if you were looking for a reason to forgive Capcom for canceling Mega Man Legends 3, this definitely isn't it.