|Publisher & Designer:||Capcom|
|Release Date:||January 1996|
Despite the amazing visuals and consistent, smooth gameplay, Mega Man X3 is by far my least favorite entry of the X triumvirate on the Super NES. I still like X3 and find its gameplay to be sound as always; it just can't measure up to the first two X games from an overall standpoint. I suppose the way I feel about X3 is similar to my opinion of Mega Man 6 for the NES. Although the core gameplay is still solid, the game itself feels strangely uninspired and even soulless at times.
Overview: When Mega Man X3 along with Mega Man 7 were officially announced for the Super NES, there was much rejoicing amongst Blue Bomber Nation. What many of us old-school gamers forget is that both of these games were nearly excluded from the North American crowd! For some reason, Capcom was beginning to waver a bit and felt like Mega Man was cooling off in terms of his popularity in the states. I don't know exactly why this was the case (I assume decreased sales in NA was the reason.) but this particular time frame is full of glaring omissions from the North American gaming library (e.g. Dragon Quest V and VI, several entries of the Mother/Earthbound series, Terranigma, Gradius Gaiden, et cetera).
Thankfully, Mega Man X3 did not receive the same fate. As you can imagine, I was very grateful that Capcom would release not only Mega Man X3 but Mega Man 7 as well. And although neither game turned out to be one of the all-time greats in Mega Man lore, both games are still very enjoyable gameplay experiences. You have to remember that a "below-average" Mega Man game is still better than most games out there!
Anyway, I digress. Released in early 1996 by Capcom, Mega Man X3, despite its popularity and appeal, had the misfortune of being released immediately after two of the all-time great video games in Chrono Trigger and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. Heck, even Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Killer Instinct, Earthbound (a cult-classic), and the aforementioned Mega Man 7 stole a lot of X3's thunder. By the time Mega Man X3 hit store shelves, no one probably had any money (or time) to buy another new game! And if they did, they were eyeballing the delicious Super Mario RPG game set to be released in March of 1996. And to add even more insult to injury, 1996 was the year that the Nintendo 64 was released which promptly caused the Super NES to fall out of favor with many gamers. In essence, Mega Man X3 was released at pretty much the worst time possible.
History aside, the third X game in literally two years (you have to remember that Mega Man X came out in January 1994) wasn't exactly a world-beater either. The core gameplay was still very good but there was really nothing all that new or original about Mega Man X3 that would cause a casual gamer to purchase a copy. Only hardcore Mega Man fans really went after this game. This was one of those moments that separated a casual Mega Man fan from a hardcore one for sure.
Other than pretty much your standard Mega Man X format (an intro stage, 8 Mavericks, etc...), it is probably worth mentioning that after defeating a few of the game's main bosses, several additional characters come into play. Playing the role of the X-Hunters from Mega Man X2, Bit and Byte traverse different areas and lie in wait of Mega Man X. Both of these bosses, particularly early in the game, are very difficult to defeat too. Where X3 deviates slightly from the standard formula is the return of a surprise villain from the original X game (Hint: His helmet resembles Boba Fett's from Star Wars fame!) These particular "surprise" stages are actually quite cool and adrenaline-pumping and certainly added some spice to a game that desperately needed some.
Any review of Mega Man X3 would be incomplete without discussing X's closest friend, Zero. X3 marked the first time where Zero was actually a playable character! You could call him pretty much any time (with mini-boss/Maverick battles being the exception) to relieve X which added a fun new element to X3's gameplay. Zero controls like X (he can jump and slash away with his Z-Saber) although he does feel slightly different. The only problem with this new feature? For some reason, Capcom decided to give Zero only one life in this game...in quite the literal sense I might add. If Zero's energy depletes to nothing or if he falls into one of the many pits/chasms scattered throughout the game, he is, by all accounts, "zeroed" out for the remainder of Mega Man X3. As a result, Zero's playability diminishes greatly since there is literally zero margin for error here (Okay, I'll stop with all the "zero" puns already!)
Other than the Vile battles and Zero's playability, there isn't really much to report about this game. X3 did seem to emphasize the various Ride Armors more than previous X games. While the Ride Armors weren't much more than an immensely enjoyable gimmick in X and X2, there are Ride Armor stations littered throughout the game that become accessible once you get the right upgrades. By using these Ride Armors wisely, you can gain access to some of the game's cool secrets! Besides, who doesn't enjoy destroying everything in sight while operating a Ride Armor? I know that I sure do!
Graphics: Capcom sure was automatic back in the NES/SNES days when it came to graphics weren't they? Whether it was Street Fighter II or Ducktales or anything Mega Man-related, you could always count on Capcom to deliver the goods in terms of colorful, detailed graphics. Well, Mega Man X3 didn't let me down because the graphics in this game are yet another solid, smooth performance by the visual specialists at Capcom. Granted, I didn't really care for the atmosphere/feel of this game compared to previous X games but I think the main reason for this was the music and not the graphics. In terms of color schemes, background graphics, and animation, I thought that X3 did pretty well. The opening scene in particular with the Maverick Hunter base being attacked at night with explosions all around was a nice visual setup. Some of the backgrounds like the sunset in Gravity Beetle's airplane hanger or Blizzard Buffalo's chilly scenary still sticks out in my mind as well. The ending/credits scenes really had a nice appearance about them also.
Music: If Mega Man X3 truly disappointed me, it would have to be in regards to the game's surprisingly forgettable soundtrack. Compared with the previous X games in particular, X3 simply fell short in this respect. The soundtrack as a whole just feels way too rocky at times and many of the game's tunes just don't really go anywhere. X3 doesn't contain enough pleasant, melodic pieces to balance things out in my opinion. And while this game's soundtrack isn't necessarily bad, it does feel somewhat soulless at times which is unheard of for a Mega Man soundtrack. Perhaps the music alone is why I come back to this game less than any other X game (save for perhaps X7).
There is a silver lining to all of this, however. Despite not enjoying Mega Man X3's auditory aspect as a whole, there are several tracks that I did thoroughly enjoy. The opening stage theme with its nice balance and adrenaline-pumping chorus of sorts might very well be the best in-game tune. This is truly unfortunate too because X3's opening level set the tone nicely and made you think that perhaps the rest of the game would feature great music as well! Other personal favorites include the Gravity Beetle and Blizzard Buffalo tunes. The latter one in particular created a great atmosphere for Blizzard Buffalo's desolate, icey domain. The Dr. Doppler Stage 1 track was also pretty good all things considered.
Lastly, the Ending and Credits tracks, if you can manage to beat this tough game, are worth the extra effort alone because both of them are exceptional! I really enjoyed both of these touching, thought-provoking melodic pieces immensely. It's too bad that the rest of X3 couldn't have featured music like this! This game's soundtrack could have easily been on par with the other X games had that been the case.
Play Control: Thankfully, the controls in Mega Man X3 are essentially a carbon copy of those found in X and X2. After all, when you have a control setup as fluid and smooth as the original X game, why change anything? The only difference in X3 is that Zero's controls feel slightly different than those of X. He doesn't seem quite as smooth as X for some reason. Thankfully, Capcom would really polish things up in Mega Man X4.
Challenge: Mega Man X3 is definitely no pansy in terms of its difficulty. Seriously, this game has be the most challenging X game in the Super NES trilogy and quite possibly the second hardest game in the entire series (I think that X6 is slightly more difficult.) Particularly on the front end of the game when X is vulnerable and weak, X3 can be absolutely brutal! Despite having beaten the game years ago, I found myself getting completely owned during a recent playthrough. Locating Heart Tanks and E-Tanks early and often is vital to your success in this game...even more so than in past X games. Once you are able to defeat a boss or two and collect at least a few items/enhancements, you should at least have a puncher's chance.
Where X3 really separates itself from previous X games is that it doesn't really have that drop-off in difficulty. This game is pretty challenging all the way through to be honest. It's not just a matter of fighting enemies and Maverick bosses, either. The two mini-bosses that you will be continually fighting (Bit and Byte) along with X's old nemesis Vile will put up a very good fight! Rest assured that you will be sweating bullets throughout your X3 experience!
And to cap things off, Mega Man X3 has an insanely challenging final boss. Seriously, it took me probably fifty or so tries before I finally succeeded in beating this game. You just don't have much margin for error at all and even the final obstacle can give you all kinds of grief with its cheap nature (rising lava, enemy using direct contact to knock you off the wall). Let's just say that you will need every Heart Tank, all four E-Tanks, and every powerup/upgrade imaginable to even have a chance in the end. Trust me on this one.
Storyline: Along with the game's sub-standard soundtrack, I thought that X3's story took a bit of a nosedive as well. Capcom tried but nothing about this game's background story really stuck with me. Basically, X and Zero have established a Maverick Hunter base of sorts and continue to attempt to eradicate all Mavericks in order to bring peace to Earth. What's unsettling is that even normal reploids appear to be going Maverick for some unknown reason. This raises the question of whether or not a virus is affecting reploids throughout the world. And when the normally peaceful Dr. Doppler finally goes Maverick, X and Zero are forced to act quickly.
To be fair, there is some intriguing dialouge in X3, particularly late in the game. But overall, I just felt like this story was somewhat rushed and haphazard at times. Maybe I was just spoiled by the first two X games or perhaps I was simply burned out by the time X3 came out. Whatever the case, the story wasn't really bad per se...it just wasn't great either. Although I must say that Vile's return was particularly epic!
Funfactor: Despite the fact that I enjoy playing the first two X games much more than X3, the third X installment is still a fun, enjoyable gameplay experience. The play control is still smooth and easy-to-learn, searching for hidden items and secrets remains as addictive as ever, and being able to control Zero for the very first time was a nice addition to the series. The main problem with Mega Man X3 is that it had so much to live up to as a direct result of X and X2's success. In the end, while X3 couldn't quite live up to the hype, it still ended up being a lot of fun anyway. So don't let my criticism keep you from giving X3 a try. If you enjoy the previous two X games or Mega Man games in general, X3 is a game you will not want to miss.
Negatives: The disappointing, unbalanced score and so-so story are the first things that come to mind. While the soundtrack does feature some excellent tunes, it doesn't really feel like a Mega Man game at times. The Neon Tiger and Tunnel Rhino tracks are excellent examples of this as they never really go anywhere or convey any feelings. X3's soundtrack, as a whole, just feels, for lack of a better word, soulless at times.
And while the story isn't necessarily bad, it didn't get me as excited or pumped-up as the first two X games. X3 was where things began to really get predictable and you almost wondered if Capcom was starting to milk the series a bit. I don't think that they were doing this because X3 is still a fun game. The fact that there is really nothing new about this game other than possibly the return of Vile (which was way cool) makes you wonder though. I know that most Mega Man games are like that, but when you are a 1996 Super NES game that is following some all-time greats, you'd better do something impressive! And X3 didn't really do that...at least for me.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.3 Music: 3.8 Play Control: 4.6 Challenge: 3.8 Storyline: 3.8 Funfactor: 4.0 Overall Score: 24.3 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo
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