Mega Man X8

Mega Man X8
Mega Man X8 Cover
Platforms PlayStation 2
Genre It's CALLED "Mega Man," but...
MtAMinutes to Action 4
Keep Playing? Doubtful
Buy from Amazon

The second video game I ever played was Mega Man 2. Since then, I've finished twenty-eight games with "Mega Man" in the title, most of them multiple times. I was the sixth person in the United States to submit a game completion time to the leaderboards in Mega Man 9, the afternoon it was released. I was fifth in Mega Man 10. I beat Mega Man 9 without taking any damage, earning the "Mr. Perfect" in-game challenge title. I'd even go so far as to say Mega Man 9 was my favorite release in 2008, a year packed with great titles that don't look like they were made twenty years ago and forgotten in a time capsule somewhere.

I enjoy Mega Man, you guys. Like, kind of a lot.

Because I didn't have a PlayStation 2 until a few months ago, I missed out on two titles released exclusively on that system, Mega Man X7 and Mega Man X8. I recently came across the latter in the bargain bin of a local game shop, so I figured I'd give it a shot. The Mega Man X series had started to lose its way by the sixth game (my least favorite game in the series, oh no!) but I had heard good things about X8.

I was understandably excited to start a relatively new Mega Man game for the first time. So how did the first hour go?

Minute by Minute

00 - New game. Difficulty: Normal. An enormous tower climbs right through the clouds. Apparently humans are migrating to the moon via this monstrosity, thanks to all the reploid rebellions going on at the surface. Guess everybody's tired of every robot but Mega Man and pals going crazy.

01 - Little train cars are shooting up the tower. One comes off the rails and explodes into the air! X is in the area and investigates detached cable car.

02 - Sigma's inside! Multiple Sigmas! They all step out of the car and stand before X, who is dumbfounded. A small reploid there explains that these "new generation reploids" (that can apparently transform) are immune to viruses and copied Sigma for...some reason? Anyway, his/her name is Lumine, and s/he oversees the human migration project. S/he looks and acts evil.

03 - Maverick readings are being picked up nearby, and X and pals are sent there. X is instructed to pick up samples of these strange new mavericks.

04 - Axl and X begin the stage, in some kind of half-mechanical forest. It moves on a 2D plane like classic Mega Man X games and controls just like I'd expect it to.

Mega man x8 Jungle

05 - A giant crab robot appears! My operator says it specializes in grabbing, and if I'm grabbed, I can switch from X to Axl and back to help out. I'm just shooting at the crab's face to damage it.

06 - Axl floats in the air when shooting, and has rapid-fire guns that can fire in any direction. The crab jumps away after plenty of shots to the face. X takes a sample of it back to base, and Axl continues the stage alone. Axl has a hover function in mid-air that the other playable characters don't.

07 - Still just moving through the stage and shooting up little robot bats.  A missile-launching enemy shows up. Oops! I'm dead. I wasn't really watching my health bar, it only takes a few hits to die.

08 - I'm hit by one missile too many and dead again. I should probably start paying attention.

09 - Finally beat that little missile monster. Now I'm in a cave, with plenty of bats to shoot up. The bats just keep right on coming, I can't leave the room until I kill a few dozen of them.

10 -  Zero shows up and takes over. He's got his saber from previous games, as well as a double jump.

11 - Taking out enemy crabs in front of a waterfall, and the larger crab enemy is back as well. Our operator says the attack gauge is full, so I try triggering a Team Attack. Doesn't work...I guess you have to be close to the enemy.

12 - I pull it off, and Zero and Axl let loose on the foe, making it drop from the waterfall. Axl gets a sample from it and leaves the rest to Zero. I've noticed I can break enemies' guard by using Zero's triple saber combo.

13 - Hit detection isn't quite as exact as the sprite-based games Mega Man games. That could get a bit annoying...

14 - X is back, and the classic red and blue duo heads off. X's charge shot knocks defending enemies off-guard, just like Zero's triple combo.

15 - I found a red door off the beaten path, but can't go in it. Guess that's the incentive to replay this stage.

16 - The enemy's signal is in the next room. X and Zero are warned that the Double Attack is the way to defeat this enemy. It's the giant crab again! I have to build my attack gauge to get that double sure how.

Mega man x8 Crab

17 - I try getting away from the enemy by climbing up the side walls, but there's no safe place to be. I can't jump over the enemy either, or I take damage from its back end. It defends all of my attacks, as well. The gauge is full and I try the attack, but it doesn't work...

18 - And I'm dead. I'm out of Retry Chips, so I have to return to the title screen. Time to start over...

19 through 23 - Replaying stage...

24 - I'm back to that end-boss. Let's try again. Gotta fill up this attack gauge somehow, and then use the Double Attack.

25 - Gauge is full, attack did not work. Hmm....

26 - Turns out I have to break his guard first. The attack works this time, and it took about half of the boss' health away. My gauge is empty, though, so I'm just pounding away at him with Zero. And it's dead. Now I feel a little stupid for not knowing to break its guard. Still, the animation doesn't make it obvious when its guard is up.

27 - Anime scene: It's Vile, from Mega Man X and X3! Or it could be one of those new-generation reploids, transformed into Vile...he's green now, so he looks even more like Boba Fett than before. He has kidnapped Lumine, and now "they" control the elevator.

28 - Clear time: 5 minutes. 104 foes defeated. Rank B. There were apparently three hidden items in the stage, none of which I found. And I got 366 "metals."

29 - Maverick readings show up back at base. It's the eight bosses! Which one should I go for first? Let's try the Central White stage. I'll pick X and Zero to go on this mission. And apparently I get to choose a navigator from three choices, each specializing in a certain kind of assistance. I guess I'll pick Pallette, the one who specializes at analyzing stage layouts.

30 - Avalanche Yeti is introduced with a particularly hardcore rock intro with electricity everywhere. The stage begins...this looks wrong...

Mega man x8 Avalanche

31 - Oh come on. This isn't Mega Man! X is on a hoverbike, moving into the screen like a racing game. We drive over a barren arctic wasteland, with enemy robots in tow. I can shoot oncoming attackers.

32 - I sped right into a crevasse. I didn't know I had to go off the jump ramp. I thought I could jump. Guess not. Anyway, enemies come down the track and are annoying, but death comes again in the form of a pit I didn't see coming. Two deaths in one minute...

33 - I switch to Zero. There's no real difference between him and X here.

34 - Still going along this icy path...

35 - Going along a straightaway now, a big airship overhead drops enemy speeders in front of me. It drops down and I fire on it. I have to speed up to catch up to it and keep damaging it.

36 - Many shots later, it's smoking, but it's still launching things at me. Zero's health goes down to zero, and X drops in. Nice that you don't lose a life if only one character goes down.

37 - The airship flies away, leaving me back on the path. I try jumping off a ramp into an opening on the cliffside wall, but I end up smacking right into the rock and am now dead. I've run out of Retry Chips again, so that's Game Over. I have to go back to the lab.

38 - Mission failed. Rank D. "Good job out there!" Thanks, commander! At least he's supportive even when I screwed up.

39 - I can use the Metals I've found to create items and upgrades. I don't have enough for anything worthwhile right now. Nothing looks especially useful anyway.

41 - Let's try a new stage, using X and Axl. Gigabolt Manowar! He looks like a UFO and a jellyfish made sweet love. And his stage is...oh no.

Mega man x8 Gigabolt

42 - Seriously? This isn't Mega Man, either! I'm in a small airspeeder, chasing Gigavolt Manowar through a busy city. Everything moves so fast, I can't tell what the hell is going on or where I can and can't do.

43 - Billboards and traffic get in my way. I crash and die. There's lots of slowdown going on. This is a lot like Star Fox, if Star Fox was terrible. I'm dead again, in the same spot as before.

44 - It's very difficult to tell what is in the background and foreground thanks to the muddy textures and strange movement rails. I'm having a hard time maneuvering through the stage, let alone keeping up with and shooting at the retreating boss.

46 - For some reason, the screen is flashing weird colors. Am I running out of time? Either way, there's a lot of slowdown going on, which is absurd for what little is happening on screen.

47 - I recognize some of these landmarks...I've looped around the entire stage. All the signs I hit the first time around are gone, making it easier to not die.

48 - But I die anyway. I'm kind of relieved that I got a Game Over, because that level sucked. My commander says I did well and earned a break. He is supportive to a fault.

49 - Do I have enough Metals for any cool upgrades? Nope. Let's try another stage and see if it's a Mega Man stage. I'll take X and Zero this time. The opponent? Gravity Antonion. It's an...ant. They must have run out of animals a while ago.

Mega man x8 Gravity

50 - Yes, it's a Mega Man level! There's a gimmick, though...stepping on switches changes gravity, switching the stage upside down. That's not too terrible, I guess. Lots of spikes everywhere, I guess I have to be careful about what switches I step on.

51 - There are blocks that fall as gravity changes. I can use them to crush enemies, which is neat. I can also be crushed by them, which is not so neat. It's more like a puzzle game than a Mega Man game, but at least it's not as bad as the other stages.

52 - There are different colored switches in this room. One of them rotates gravity clockwise, while the other switches gravity up and down. I didn't realize that and ended up trapping myself into a corner. Guess I gotta kill myself and try again...

53 - I try again and escape the room via teleporter. I've finished another few rooms now with more gravity-based death traps.

54 - One room plays itself for me, by having me land on the next switch required each time. That was kind of cool I guess, but not especially fun.

55 - I'm in a room full of blocks that move up and down with spikes on them. I can't get out the door on the other side. Do I just stay in here until they stop? Guess I won't find out this time, as I get squashed. Sigh...

57 - Back to that part again. The blocks keep moving up and down at different rates, and there are spikes on them all. Damn it...I'm dead. Game Over.

58 - "Good job out there!" Shut up, sir. Well, I've got enough Metals to buy a combo upgrade for Zero, so I might as well grab that. WARNING! Small Mechaniloids have gone berserk at a new location! It's a side mission, I guess. I'll try going with Axl and...wait, I can only choose one!? No, not Axl alone!

59 - Small robot crabs appear from every direction. They're hard to hit once they get on the ground with Axl's gun. I don't last very long. Dead. Mission Failed. At least I get infinite Retry Chips for this inter-mission.

60 - A giant crab claw appears and flies around. I can't seem to break its I supposed to kill it? Anyway, I end up dead again. Whatever, I'm done.

Mega man x8 Bosses

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 4, but I assume the cutscenes are skippable.

What I liked: I guess it's kind of neat that you can switch between characters when one is low on health, and don't die until both health gauges are empty. I also liked that first stage, which played like a Mega Man game should, even if it was a bit underwhelming.

What I didn't like: Everything else.

Video: It looks alright, the 3D visuals aren't too bad for the PS2. The style is a little bit too busy and neon for my tastes. Some hits would feel less cheap if the collision detection was easier to decipher, and some of that blame should be placed on the "2.5D" style.

Audio: The characters' voices border on annoying, while the music fails to be catchy. Sound effects are good enough.

Story: Mega Man has never been about story. X8 doesn't seem to be telling a tale worth hearing so far.

Gameplay: I feel like I played as much Star Fox and F-Zero as I did Mega Man. And none of them were any good.

Challenge: Mega Man has almost always stood on the border between reasonable and exasperating, but this game dives headlong into the latter. It's frustrating for all the wrong reasons.

Pacing: If you ever wanted to play something other than Mega Man in a Mega Man game, X8 has you covered with some disappointing trips to other genres.

Fun Factor: I had a decent time in the first stage, where I was jumping, dashing, and shooting. The others, not so much.

Would I keep playing? I seriously doubt it. It takes a lot for me to put down a Mega Man game, but it looks like X8 is going to sit on the shelf unfinished until a very rainy day. Sonic the Hedgehog's demise began with the decision to cram some very different gameplay scenarios into the same package. You'd think Mega Man would have learned from his example, but I guess the message didn't sink in until the series went back to its pixel-perfect roots in Mega Man 9.