Console: PS2 Company: Capcom Release Date: December 2004 Genre: Action Number of Players: 1 Save Feature? Yes
Talk about a surprise out of nowhere! For the first time in years, Capcom captured lightning in a bottle and released a truly great Mega Man game. Mega Man X8 is easily the best X game since Mega Man X4 with its sensational 2D gameplay and surprising challenge. Of course, having the power of the Playstation 2 at your fingertips doesn't hurt either.
Overview: What a fantasic game! Mega Man X8 is loaded with weapons, items, and countless secrets yet the gameplay has a simplicity not found since the days of Mega Man X4. Gone are the reploids that you had to rescue within a second's notice...gone are the 3D levels that didn't feel very Mega Man-ish...gone is the complexity that kept Mega Man X6 and X7 from reaching new heights in the series. Capcom finally decided to get back to the basics and boy was that ever a smart decision!
First of all, with the exception of two well done 3D levels (both involving a Ride Chaser of some sort), the entire game is in 2D!! Yes, you heard me correctly. Mega Man X8 looks and feels like a classic Mega Man game from the early 90s! While this may not appeal to everyone, those who have stuck with the series since the beginning will be in Mega-heaven! Solid gameplay really is the most important thing isn't it? :)
Speaking of gameplay, there are a few new additions to the series worth mentioning. First of all, you will notice right away that force metal is all over the place in this game! I imagine that it was a carryover from the amazing Mega Man X: Command Mission game. Instead of earning upgrade chips from reploids like in previous X games, X and company need to snag a lot of force metal in order to create new parts now. Depending on how much force metal you rake in, you can either buy something small like energy to fill your Sub Tank or the helpful Prickle Barrier (allows you to touch spikes once) or something expensive and sweet like Zero's D-Glaive (yep, the same weapon from X7) or the underrated Chain Combo ability. You have nothing to worry about though because force metal is everywhere in this game! Gold metals, red ones, the hard-to-find purple ones, and the "rare metals"...it's all good man! The rare metals are especially important because they allow you to create new parts! Some of these goodies are invaluable too! Like usual, finding the sub tanks and weapon tank should be a top priority.
So how can you really rake in these force metals you ask? Well, aside from simply finding and touching them, you can snag a ton of force metal in the Intermission Scenes (i.e. bonus games) or better yet, form a string of combos! By blasting and destroying a ton of enemies in a short time frame without getting hit yourself, you will be able to garner more valuable force metals! In addition to force metal, the game keeps track of your highest combos which in turn affects that character's rank! It's a neat system and a fun way to get force metal. Whatever you do, make the most of Axl's Ray Gun ability once you get it! 999 combos aren't uncommon with this bad boy!
Another aspect of X8 that I should mention is the ultra-powerful double attack. Like in Mega Man X7, you can take two characters (out of X, Zero, and Axl) to every level. While you can switch between them as much as you want, the double attack makes things much more interesting. By stringing together large combos, you will eventually fill up the double attack gauge (it's right by your life meter). By pressing the L2 button, the double attack will be unleashed! Note that the attack zone is a small area surrounding your character so the key to success is to be in very close proximity to your enemy or the enemy's weak point when you use this (it took me a few tries to figure this out). Not only is it an extremely powerful attack but it gives you a nice breather from the action. Trust me; you'll need all the help you can get because this game is action-packed!
Another thing worth mentioning is that the navigation system has been updated! While Alia is still available for assistance, Layer and Pallette join the team and can also help you navigate through the various levels. What's cool about this is that each navigator specializes in a different area. For general help, Alia is a good choice. However, Laser is great at analyzing bosses and Pallette is the one you want for finding the many secrets scattered throughout the game. Not only that but if you're really good and you get enough force metal, you can eventually play the game with these navigators instead of X and company! I'm telling you; this game is loaded with goodies!
Graphics: Once again, Capcom delivers plenty of visual goodness! Everything is clear, polished, and just nice to look at! While the graphics are certainly similar to Mega Man X7's in terms of quality, I just like the whole feel of this game better for some reason. I don't know; Mega Man X8 just feels more like Mega Man than, say, X6 and X7. The intro stage with its jungle and water areas feels like a combination of Search Man and Web Spider (from Mega Man 8 and X4 fame respectively) while Gravity Antonion's stage will bring back memories of Gravity Man's domain from Mega Man 5. And the Dark Mantis stage...Wow! I kept getting flashbacks to the days of playing Metal Gear for the NES for some reason. Dark, mysterious, and suspenseful...this kind of an atmosphere just isn't to be found in most of the recent Mega Man releases. Then there's the whirling effects of Jakob's Tower to the spike-lined walls in Sigma's Palace (opps...I just gave it away......or did I?) to the impressive boss graphics...everything is just well-balanced from start to finish.
The character graphics and animation are also very nice although I have to admit that I miss the hand-drawn characters of X7 a little bit. The new models are pretty good but just don't seem as flashy as the ones in the previous X game. The animation is very good though.
Music: Without a doubt, Mega Man X8 features the best soundtrack since Mega Man X5 and possibly even X4. There's just a little bit of everything in this game and some of the music is downright scary good. Gravity Antonion's theme is great! It just has a neat semi-upbeat feel and sounds like classic Mega Man. The dark, suspenseful feel of Dark Mantis' theme is pretty cool too as are the two tunes that play in Bamboo Pandamonium's domain (one in the Ride Armor and one out of the Ride Armor). However, the real forte of X8's soundtrack is the final three or so stages. Simply put, all of these tunes are phenomenal! Jakob's Tower has an incredibly catchy, upbeat, rocky song with a neat melody thrown in while The Gateway has the perfect feel for the next-to-last area of the game. It is soft, reflective, and haunting; incredible stuff for the X series really. And then there's the Sigma Palace. My oh my...Lord of the Rings was actually coming to mind as I playing this incredible stage. I can't really describe it but it was just so much more grand than usual. Ominous yet filled with a strange sense of hope...voices in the background...how could you ask for anything more? All I can say is where in the world was this in X6 and X7?
The final battle themes were also incredible. The last two battle tracks are my favorites as they are filled with grandeur and just enough rock/metal to get the adrenaline pumping. And to top it all off, the ending tunes that play during the game's final movie, while short, are so full of feeling for an X game. An inspired effort on Capcom's part for sure. The soft tune that plays during the second half of the game's credits is also very nice. Simply put, the last third of Mega Man X8 turns a slightly above average soundtrack into a great one.
As if that wasn't enough to get you interested in X8, the voices are even surprisingly good in this game! X finally sounds like he should and Zero's voice is much improved over the one in X7. He even comes across as somewhat funny in this game! Axl, Alia, and Signas all sound much better too (especially Signas who sounded terribly robotic in X7..........which actually makes sense come to think of it...). The villains were all nicely done as well. Vile and Sigma sound typical with the mysterious Lumine sounding perfect for his role (still don't know if he's a guy or a girl).
Unfortunately, there are still a couple of voices that will grate on your nerves after a while. The new navigator, Pallette, is incredibly annoying (you just have to hear her voice to understand what I mean) and the Gigavolt Man O' War boss tries her best Flaming Hyenard impression in one of my least favorite levels in the game. Still, the boss voices are a ton better than the ones in X7.
Play Control: After a little slippage in Mega Man X7, everything is back to normal in X8. In all honesty, I can think of nothing negative to say about the play control in this game. If you've played any other game in the series, you know exactly what to expect. I do want to note that I like the fact that Axl now flies by jumping and then pressing the X button a second time instead of holding down the X button like in X7. It makes switching between Zero and Axl much less painful than in X7 (Zero's double jump in executed in similar fashion). Not only that but in X8, Axl really is his own character. He has his own unique weapons this time and some of them are incredibly fun to use! The Ray Gun is nothing short of a gamebreaker! Also, I should mention that Zero is back to being a real mid-air threat again after being dismal in X7 (I really do like X7...I swear!)
Challenge: Good golly...this game is tough! I still can't figure it out but despite its simplicity and solid play control, X8 still finds a way to be one of the more difficult games in an already difficult series. Seriously, I'm hesitating to recommend this game to a Mega Man newbie for this very reason. You might want to try X1 or X5 first because this one can be a real bear at times!
I think that the main reason why X8 is so tough (mainly that first time through) is the variety of challenges that are present. Two levels involve a Ride Chaser of some sort, one is simply surviving a berserk robot that destroys everything in its path (including enemies!!), and three or four are simply jam-packed with spikes and inky voids (i.e. endless pits). I could go on but I don't want to discourage you from at least giving the game a try so I'll stop now.
Two additional factors to the game's high challenge level is some surprisingly difficult bosses (try beating Bamboo Pandamonium with no powerups) and the fact that when you lose all of your lives, there's no continuing at the boss or even the halfway point. You're sent back to square one...old school style. Of course, this isn't really a complaint since all of the original games were like this. Just a little food for thought.
Even with all that being said, I still find Mega Man X8 to be one of the most enjoyable games in the series (see the Funfactor section below). Granted, the game walks that fine line between a good challenge and an insane one but overall, it's nothing that a veteran gamer can't overcome. Newbies beware, however!
Storyline: You can summarize the story in Mega Man X8 in a few words: "Average story, great development." It's a lot like Mega Man X7 really. While the story itself isn't anything spectacular, some of the development that takes place throughout the game was nicely done. I like how there's dialouge between different characters after defeating each boss and how there are references to past X games (X5, X6, and X7 among others). This gives X8 a real sense of continuity along with that classic Mega Man feel. You've got to love some of the humor in the dialouge as well. The part where Layer gets all embarrassed about liking Zero is priceless!
Another major plus is the surprising return of one of the best villains in the series. After making appearances way back in X1 and X3, Vile finally returns in X8! This was a really cool surprise because this "retro factor" was exactly what the X series needed. I guess that Vile was being true to his word as well (he said that he would "haunt X until the day he died" in Mega Man X3). Not surprisingly, Vile works together with Sigma to create a New World Order that involves reploids ruling the Earth. The mysterious director of the Jakob Project, (an orbital elevator bridging earth and space) Lumine, also makes his debut in X8. Although the story itself is pretty average, it's still a lot of fun to have Vile back in action and Sigma up to no good as usual. What's even better is that, for the first time in the series, Sigma is NOT the final boss!! Yes, you heard me right! It's someone else for once! Not only that but something very surprising happens at the end of the game that all but guarantees a Mega Man X9 release (YAY!!). Capcom seems to be doing a better job these days of surprising us Mega Man vets (the same thing happened in Mega Man X: Command Mission regarding a certain "friend").
Funfactor: Unlike the previous two X games, Mega Man X8 was a blast right from the start! The game certainly grows on you with time like any true classic and yet I didn't find my first playthrough to be nearly as cumbersome as X7 or especially X6. Mega Man X8 provides a rock-solid challenge yet the gameplay is nearly perfect! There really is nothing like playing a Mega Man game for the very first time. It is for this reason that I hope and pray that Capcom releases a Mega Man X9 that is very similar to X8 in terms of gameplay. Capcom finally hit the nail on the head with Mega Man X8. Will they make the wise decision this time and not mess with perfection? I sure as heck hope so because X8 is so much fun!
Negatives: Despite 12 action-packed stages and four possible Intermissions, I still found Mega Man X8 to be a little too short. I'm probably just spoiled but it would be cool for one of the X games to have two castles like in one of the classic Mega Man games (see Mega Man 3). Just add lots of hidden secrets in the castles and go all out man! I just can't get enough of the Blue Bomber!
Although I like the variety in terms of gameplay, more of the standard side-scrolling stages would have been nice. I wasn't a huge fan of the Gigabolt Man-O-War or Earthrock Trilobite levels. Both were too short and just weren't as enjoyable as the rest of the game.
And while the game's ending was actually pretty good, I still think that it was too brief. C'mon Capcom! Add a Sound Test or Artwork or something to lengthen the ending! (this was actually done in Mega Man X: Command Mission mind you) I know; I'm just a spoiled Mega Man fan. But still, we can hope for the world right? ;)
Ratings: Graphics: 4.4 Music: 4.5 Play Control: 4.8 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 4.1 Funfactor: 4.7 Overall Score: 27.0 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!
Back to Playstation PowerLast Updated: October 23, 2009