PlayStation Vita/PSP Retrospective – Sony’s Fighter Entering the Handheld Ring

The PlayStation brand has been famous for being home to a series of great and successful consoles. Many cite the PS2 and recently the PS4 to be strong examples of Sony success in the console market and they are right to do so; both are great systems. But they also put their hat into the handheld ring and it all started with the Sony Walkman from the 90’s.

This device allowed you to listen to music using cassettes and later audio CD’s to play music. These were the precursor to the iPod and Sony being the first one to take that step should be noted.

They also tried having memory cards with LED screens, which would allow you to play mini games and offer interaction based on the different games. However, this was exclusive to Japan PlayStation Ones and the Sega Dreamcast took this concept to its logical  conclusion.


Now fast forward to 2004 and Sony is on stage, announcing something called ‘PlayStation Portable’. This blew everyone’s mind, as it was a pocket PlayStation. It would house console experiences and be a multimedia monster. The device had a lot of features that would make it more then just a games system; web browser support, music and video player, support for UMD Disks that house movies and TV shows, support with PS1 Classics on the PlayStation Store, and the ability to play digital versions of PSP games on the PlayStation Store.

This continued with the other revisions of the PSP, with the PSP 2000 having a faster CPU to offer games a graphical boost. Titles like Mega Man Maverick Hunter X and the GTA titles benefited from this addition with less slowdown and more stable frame rates.

We also got something called the PSP Go and this was ahead of its time. The device had no ability to play UMD Disks, the retail format for PSP games. So, you had to buy every PSP game digital going forward. But the device had 32GB built into the system’s memory so you would not have to run out and get a Memory Stick DUO just to play some games. This version of the PSP looked more like a phone, with the ability to slide is controller out and fit nicely into your pocket. Many loved this in hindsight but it did not do well during its launch. It stands as a case of technology being far advanced but the mass market not grabbing on to it.


Lets talk about the games on the PSP now, as they come from all places. The system got a lot of western third party support, and this is major. Many cases, the handheld systems get support from Japan and not the west. What does this man? It means we saw games like Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed, Star Wars Battlefront and in the future Assassins Creed land on the system.

This continued with smaller western studios putting out games like Dead Head Fred and even major western Sony studios putting out games like Daxter and God of War: Ghost of Sparta on the platform. I loved this about the PSP and one element it will be remembered for; its strong western support.

The system got a lot of Japanse support too, with that being some of the best of any handheld ever made. Role Playing Games flooded the system, new and old, from developer/publisher large and small. We also got some of the best games from Square Enix like Crisis Core and KH Birth By Sleep on the system because of that strong support.


Lets move on to the PlayStation Vita next, as this will likely be Sony’s final fighter in the handheld ring. The system was announced under a code name but it blew people away with its announcement in 2011. Games like Metal Gear Solid 4 were shown running on dev kits of the hardware and titles from western studios like 2K were promised, showing that it would have great support at launch.

Fast forward to Fall 2011 in Japan and Early 2012 in US/EU, the system launched with a massive line up of games. High rated titles like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Rayman Origins joined the likes of Uncharted Golden Abyss and Wipeout for the systems big opening day. People loved the system and this launch showed promise of games like the PSP game across JP and Western releases.

But, things did not go that way for the system. After the launch, some ugly truths were shown about the Vita. It would need Memory Cards to hold digital games, not carrying over the built in space that the PSP Go had. In addition to this, the launch blew Sony’s load, with the system having game droughts across 2012. This was fixed toward the end of the year with first and third party support, but the message was sent; ‘Vita had no games’. That statement never left the Vita despite 2013 onward forever shattering that statement and people started not buying the system.

Sony did try in 2012 and 2013 to sell the system, with some strong first party support all around and getting some big names like Assassins Creed and Call of Duty on the Vita. But that wasn’t enough. The system still has under 12 million units solid as of 2016.

But the system is still going strong, and that is due to the games. The Vita has many, many games.


Lets start from the beginning, as we have a lot to cover here. Sony offered strong first party support from 2012 too 2014 for the platform and these games are some of the best in Sony’s history.

At launch we got a solid Uncharted adventure that looked great and the story was enjoyable. In addition, we got as of this article’s release, final Wipeout game and its amazing. It has tons of content across new content built for the Vita and support for every stage and craft that the PS3 Wipeout HD and DLC pack Furry has. Meaning, you walk away with a content rich racer that will offer hours of fun.

A little after launch we got a game called ‘Gravity Rush’ developed by Studio Japan’s Siren team. This was originally a PS3 game but they put it on Vita to take advantage of the system’s gyro controls. The end result is one of the best new IP’s to come out of Sony in some time and it is getting a PS4 sequel in 2016.

In 2013, Sony released a game called Tearaway, developed by Media Molecule. They made the LittleBigPlanet series and Tearaway is a masterpiece in many respects. I wrote about this title in the past, so will just past a quote I wrote about the title here:

“Tearaway in many aspects, feels like a great Nintendo game to me. The world, the character designs, the music, and the creative elements; it screams Nintendo. And that must be a factor to why I love the game so much, as I grew up playing Mario and Kirby. Going into the gameplay, it is a mixture of LBP creative elements but also more in line with a game like Banjo Kazooie or Mario 64. Its core gameplay mirrors those 3D platformers; you run around, jump around and collect everything in sight. The difference is that unlike those great platformers, platforming isn’t the major focus. Like how LBP has the skeleton of a 2D platformer but it was more of a creative tool set, Tearaway has the skin of a 3D platformer but its core mirrors adventure games. You complete simple tasks, take pictures, draw objects and more to solve the NPC’s problems and that is what pushes the game forward. The game does have platforming and by the final world things kick into high gear with more challenging level designs but that isn’t the focus with Tearaway. Its about interacting with the paper world around you and to be honest, I’m glad the game focuses on its strongest aspect.”

We also got a game called ‘Soul Sacrifice’ released on the Vita in 2013 as well, with it being a co-developed title with Studio Japan and Inafune’s Concept studio. It was a Monster Hunter-like game where you explore different locations killing X amount of things but the core gameplay is different and the story is very strong. Very strong game that got stronger with its Delta release in Early 2014.


Next up is the Japan developed titles from third party studios, as they took the torch from Sony in some respects in 2014. In 2013, we got the release of Persona 4 Golden by Atlus and P-Studio. They originally wanted to release this on the PSP but the constrants they faced with bringing Persona 3 to PSP pushed them to work with stronger hardware. It was an expanded remake of the PS2 Classic and to this day, many consider it one of the strongest releases on the PS Vita.

This strong JP support continued in 2014 with many interesting titles. We got the Danganronpa series coming out, with the first game releasing early in the year and its sequel coming out Fall of 2014. It was a puzzle/visual novel title that had a warped sense of humor, some strong characters and some great music. The series found its home in the west on Vita and two more games, one released and the third mainline game coming out in Japan 2016, on the way to Vita in the future.

Then we got a game called Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment released on the Vita. This game is based on the anime and light novel of the same name, but it does a lot more then expected. It is a honest attempt at making a role playing game with MMO elements, not unlike Final Fantasy XII or Xenoblade Chronicles. For a licensed title based on an anime, that should be noted.

The game started life on the PSP under the title ‘Infinity Moment’ in Japan and when they wanted to make a PS Vita title in the series, they decided to take the PSP game and build a whole new game around that. The end result? We get two games in one with Hollow Fragment in many respects; the main story of Infinity Moment with the Alicard portions of the game and the Hollow Area section being built for the ground up with Vita hardware in mind.

I really enjoyed this game and while the story is infamous for its poor translation, I liked how they continued the story from the anime at arguably its strongest point. Was a real surprise for me and one of my first JRPG’s on the system for me.

This strong JP support continued into 2015 and 2016 with many developers throwing their hat into the Vita ring. Atlus continued supporting with Persona 4 Dancing All Night, Bandai Namco supported the Vita after the strong success of Hollow Fragment with many titles, other JP studios like Gust and NISA put games out on the system and more. The Vita lacked major support from Square Enix, but that wasn’t needed; other studios took the role they had on the Vita.


Lastly is the indie support the Vita has gotten since 2013 and it has helped form an identity for the system as the best way to play many indie titles.

Early indie games on the system include titles like Guacamelee and Mutant Blobs Attack by studio DrinkBox but more indie developers released their games on the Vita due to the audience buying many indie games in droves.

Sony not releasing many first party titles and the long software droughts left empty places where indie developers and JP studios could put out their games for Vita owners to buy and that is exactly what happened.

From ports of older titles like Limbo, Splunky, and Fez too original recent titles like Steamworld Dig and Severed; the indie scene continues on the Vita and with movements like Cross-Buy making indie titles even more attractive, we have a large collection of games many can love and enjoy.


Sony’s run through handhelds has been interesting to say the least. From the humble origins of the Walkman too the PlayStation Vita, the Sony brand of handhelds have been all over the place.

While we may not see another handheld by Sony in the future, the ones we did get are fantastic pieces of hardware that many love and enjoy.

Mega Man X6 – X Series

Mmx6box

 

This game in the Mega Man Retrospective continues the Mega Man X series despite X5 originally being the final game in the series. Unlike X4 and X5 which got enough time to be made, X6 only got under a year to be produced.

Does the story make sense considering X5’s ending? Is the game enjoyable despite its rushed nature? Is it REALLY as bad as some of the weakest games on the market?

All will be answered here hopefully and while I might not be the most positive with this one, I hope you still enjoy reading my Retrospective on the title!

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Development on Mega Man X6 started not long after work on X5 wrapped up and most of the same team worked on that game but with a much tighter work load.

Director – Koji Ohkohara
Designer – Toyozumi Sakai
Artist – Haruki Suetsugu
Composer – Naoto Tanaka

This game was infamous for how it was produced behind the back of Inafune, who was at the time Mega Man series producer and his comment on the game follows: “And so I’d always planned to make Zero come back to life in the Mega Man Zero series, but then X6 comes out sooner from another division and Zero comes back to life in that, and I’m like, ‘What’s this!? Now my story for Zero doesn’t make sense! Zero’s been brought back to life two times!'”

He was flabbergasted with X6 being made and wanted to make up for fans for the title with pushing Inti-Crates to ensure MM Zero is strong title. Artist Hauki Suetsugu, someone who worked on past MMX PS1 titles, also cites rough working conditions when making the game. This lead him to design the Mavericks of the game to be more ‘simple’ compared to past MMX games.


*Image made by deityofshadows on DeviantArt

The last bit of info is that the game was completely voice acted in JP for all regions and it even kept the J-Pop intro song many PS1 Mega Man games had in the JP version but got gutted in the localized version.

X6 released in November in Japan, with December & February releases in NA and EU following after. It got meet mixed reception with a few positive reviews thrown into the mix. IGN gave the game an 8/10 while EGM gave it a 3.5/10 for example.

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The story of MMX6 is odd, as it is a mix of the two endings of MMX5. You have the good ending being used to show that X and the other hunters continue fighting on despite Zero’s death but you have the bad endings impact on the Earth be present.

So the game opens two weeks (instead of two years) after the events of MMX5 with Zero still being dead and Earth being heavily damaged from the impact of the Eurasia Colony. X is sent to take out a Maverick in the crash site while seeing Zero land the final blow.

A robot called High Max, looking for the ‘Zero Nightmare’ and after a fight with X, both it and X warp elsewhere. We later see a Reploid called Isoc (who is NOT Dr. Wily in robot form) telling everyone that they are in charge of repairing the Earth and are looking for researchers to help find out what is going on.

X and the Maverick Hunters don’t by this and start going to where eight of the researchers are located to check up on them and see what this ‘Zero Nightmare’ really is. The overall plot is……meh to be honest though, the translation is the highlight here.

After my enjoyment of SAO: Hollow Fragment on my Vita, I get a kick out of Engerish and badly translated games sometimes, so seeing this game being riddled with them was funny! Here is exactly, line-from-line, not joking here, an exchange between Zero and Dr. Light’s Armor AI:
Light: “Zero, I’m glad to see again”
Zero: “I will never die…..”

Or here is one between X and Zero after X finds Zero alive:
X: “How did you come back?!
Zero: “I hid myself to repair myself”

Shakespearean works of art, I must say. To be serious, I should be mad with this as no other X game had this level of badly translated writing but like the bad voice acting in X4 and MM8, I just can’t help but chuckle at this.

Story does touch on interesting things, like Isoc being heavily implied to be a robot version of Dr. Wily and getting a bit of Aila’s life outside of being a navigator for the Maverick Hunters via Gate but otherwise, its not that interesting overall.

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Gameplay here…..well I will be cutting this into three parts; core gameplay, level design & the Nightmare system.

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Gameplay is more Mega Man X, with X having his Falcon Armor from the start while Zero being unlocked via special gate in any of the levels (after you take down the Zero Nightmare boss). X is fun to play as and Zero is very overpowered, making him a joy to play as. The only major inclusion here is that X can use the Z-Saber and that Zero has his Z-Buster from the start when you unlock him.

Levels are built in mind for Zero instead of X this time though, which I will be touching on soon enough. But for now, lets just say Zero deals with the least amount of annoying things here.

We also have hostages returning from X5 and they are a large mechanic here; you NEED the parts they offer you like Speedster, Armor Defense (which increases your invincibility frames when hit) and Higher Jump (X NEEDS this) to get everything in the game and when Nightmare creatures touch a hostage, they are gone for good.

Even if you go back to the level, they are still ‘gone’. So reset your game when this happens. Otherwise, the only thing to comment on is weapon abilities/armors and Zero has a few good tools here. You have a strong screen nuke attack and a powerful super fast spin attack are great additions to Zero’s line up. X has some good tools as well, with two new armors that allow him to become a ninja (shooting shurikins) and one that lets him use the Z-Saber more…..but its best you stick with the Falcon Armor.

Overall, the gameplay here is fine enough and if you enjoyed past X games, you will have fun here……as long as you put in the cheat codes for Ultimate Armor X and Black Armor Zero. Will explain why in the level design portion.

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Level design….where to begin? Okay, lets start with the good. Some of the levels present fun gimmicks that I enjoyed. You have the ice level with walls you cannot cling/jump off of and that was a nice deviation from how things are in most X titles.

I also liked the acid rain gimmick in one of the stages, as you are pushed to get things done super fast and the game is somewhat fair with health re-store stations if you have low health.

Also like the idea behind the dual-level system where each level has a smaller level to explore that has an extra boss at the end of the state, making things quite replayable.

Now, lets move on to the bad, as there is sadly a lot of that.

X has a very hard time here, as the game was NOT built for him. You have sections where you need the added height of Zero’s double jump or faster movement abilities to get through places but you do not have that. This is something you can adjust to at varying levels depending on the Mavericks you take on with X. Levels like Blaze Heatnix where you have to fight the same mini-boss 5-6 times is a problem with X but some of the earlier Mavericks aren’t that bad to deal with.

Zero is the best way to play the game, as he has less annoying bits do deal with thanks to his expanded moveset. But his base armor is very weak and with how dangerous things can get for Zero are, it makes him die very frequently. Using the Black Armor Zero code removes this issue and as a result, the game can be quite fun with him. It also turns what should be a game that is very annoying to play, into quite an easy game.

I beat the game as Zero in a single sitting and that is without hunting down for everything. X took longer to beat with though and if you want a hard challenge, play the game as him.

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The Nightmare system is something that NEEDS to be discussed, as this is one of the worst parts of this entire game. Level design is a bit annoying and the core gameplay is fine but this causes a lot of the frustrations many have with this title.

Design wise, this was supposed to mirror the levels changing after fighting specific Mavericks like in MMX1 or MMX3 and that affecting the other levels. If you never played X1 before, picture this; fighting a Storm Eagle and after taking him out, Spark Mandrills stage is completely blacked out due to Eagle’s ship crashing into his power-plaint.

That is a great idea, but if done poorly, it can just anger gamers with annoying level gimmicks that are NOT needed. X6 suffers from this poorly implemented on the game with Nightmare Effects that only detract from levels. Having acid rain come down on you with darkness being all over the place, fireballs making navigation across icy platforms far more frustrating then before and having extra blocks making the crusher stage even more stressful.

I don’t mind this idea, but it really detracts from the game and that is a problem. You can avoid this by not selecting the Red covered stages……but you still get Nightmare Effects when you select non-Red covered stages. It makes the effect feel random and it shouldn’t feel this way.

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The last portion before presentation is the tower stages and we have two with gate and one with Sigma (SHOCKER! He’s back). The first Gate Stage has spikes everywhere and a very large gap that if you do not have the jumper or Shadow Armor, you will NOT be able progress. That is a major design issue that shouldn’t be present. Otherwise, it is a challenging first stage, more so then other first tower levels honestly.

Rising Lava, spikes all over the place and foes flying at you from all sides. The boss (Nightmare Mother) is a fun fight with Zero as well.

The second stage for Gate is okay for and I had fun getting through here. Fighting with Gate was a tennis match the balls hurting you the more you hit them….but you have….to…hit….them. Again, poor design rearing its ugly head but fine level otherwise.

The Sigma stage is okay and fights with him (two of them) are quite easy compared to past battles. The second phase has an amazing theme though and one of my favorite versions of Sigma’s theme in the entire series.

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The presentation continues the devastated look that X5 established and I like this style. Harsher looking locations makes me feel more at-edge when exploring the various levels.

Musically, its a damn good soundtrack, with many tracks hitting home. Intro Stage, Blizzard Wolffang, Blaze Heatnix, Sigma Phase 2…..many of the tracks are fantastic and next to X1, X2 and X5, this is my favorite score in the series.

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This game is very odd to me, as I should hate it more. It has bad design issues and the story isn’t that interesting. But, I had fun with this and for people willing to deal with some really annoying gameplay systems/design issues, it is worth playing this game at least once.

I take back my comments about this comparing to Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06, but I still do not consider this a good game. Its just ‘okay’ to me honestly.

Mega Man X5 – X Series

This continues my Mega Man Retrospective and this is a major game in the X series; this was supposed to be the conclusion to the X Series originally. So, this game tries to wrap up a lot of loose ends that hanged since day one.

How does the game compare to other Mega Man X titles and is it a solid conclusion to the series? Lets find out!

But first, this WILL contain complete story spiolers, so please read ahead with caution if you never played this before.

Development:
Inafune had little part of X5’s development, telling the team ‘Finish the series off with this title’ making the team push for the game to cover everything; the series connections to Mega Man Classic, how the future series of Mega Man is set up (MM Zero), and in general, trying to make a fun final game for fans of the X Series.

The team behind the game includes the following:
Director – Koji Okohara
Designer – Toyozumi Sakai
Artists – Haruki Suetsugu, Ryuji Higurashi
Composers – Naoto Tanaka, Naoya Kamisaka, Takuya Miyawaki

But Capcom commissioned for a sequel game, MMX6, to release a year later after MMX5. Will be covering that with great detail when the time comes, but for now, lets just say they had little time to work on it compared to X4 and X5.

Localization of the game is something to note here, as the Mavericks you fight have original names for the NA/EU releases instead of translations of their Japanese names. This is thanks to Capcom voice actress Alyson Court, who was involved in the game’s localization, came up with names for the Marvicks as a tribute to her then-husband’s love of the rock-band Guns & Roses. This lead to some really fun names for the different Mavericks: Grizzly Slash, Duff McWhalen (amazing name by the way), Squid Adler, Izzy Glow, Dark Dizzy, The Skiver, Matterx, Axle the Red

The game released in November 2000 in Japan and in February & August in 2001 to lukewarm reception. But the series continued and we got three more mainline X titles despite this originally being a conclusion title for the series.

Story:
The game takes place a few months after the events of Mega Man X4, with the Repliforce ending and Earth being in piece. The rest of the story summary is from the detailed and well organized Mega Mega Man X5 Wiki:

“The repair of the space colonies damaged during the war was almost complete, the only space colony remaining being the giant colony Eurasia located in a Lagrangian point. As it was quite old, it was planned to receive extensive renovation. However, one day someone had occupied Eurasia and took control of it, scattering a virus in the colony and using its artificial gravity systems to set it on a collision course towards Earth. Within 16 hours, Eurasia will crash and cause great destruction, in the worst case extinguishing all life from the planet. The Maverick Hunters plan on using the large particle cannon Enigma to destroy Eurasia before it happens. The Enigma cannon is somewhat old and needs to be upgraded. Signas, the Hunters’ new commander, orders Mega Man X and his comrade Zero, as they race against time to collect the four parts necessary to upgrade the Enigma and stop Eurasia before it’s too late. To make things worse, Sigma scattered the Sigma Virus all over the world and the parts needed are being protected by Mavericks.”

So X and Zero head out to get the parts needed for the cannon and ship, with the goal of taking out the Eurasia Ship to prevent further damage to the Earth. Where things get interesting, is based on if you play as X or Zero. X has interactions with the Mavericks and it is very interesting; some Mavericks like Squid Adler KNOW X from past events or others honorably push X to fight them for the part like Grizzly Slash and Duff McWhalen. I enjoyed encountering the bosses just to see what the Maverick will say. Its also interesting to note that The Skiver was part of the Repliforce, showing that continuity is important to the series. The story also explores Zero’s past with Wily, as the Simga Virus WAS originally the Zero Virus, just transferred. This causes Zero to be immune to its effects and gets stronger the more he takes in. Depending on if you use the shuttle or not and it succeeds, this leads to Zero being activated how Wily intended and him becoming ‘evil’.

The end of the game depends on if destroy the station or not but how it plays out is interesting. If Zero isn’t evil, X just lives on and fights another day. But if Zero is evil, not only does X recover from his fight but we get Zero being dead, X forgetting everything about his friend & even seeing some hints toward the Zero series.

It sounds like a lot, and it is, but it isn’t super interesting over all. I enjoyed the boss encounters and the end-game story stuff but the text boxes and long stills were a step down for me compared to the FMV’s that X4 had.

Gameplay:
Well, its more Mega Man X in many respects. X has his Mega Buster and Fourth Armor from MMX4 (if you play as him from the start) and Zero has his Z-Saber and Z-Buster (if you start the game as Zero). Both can dash on ground & mid-air, wall jump/cling, and have basic attacks (X = Cannon Attacks, Zero = Melee Attacks).

What is different is the smaller things. One thing is a time system, where once you select a level, you lose one out of 16 hours. If you lose all your hours, you HAVE to fire the cannon/fly the shuttle. But with 8 Mavericks and two fights with a new character, you still have 6 extra hours for backtracking and stuff, so this isn’t that big of a deal.

Hostages are a new system though, as if you save enough in the stages, you can increase your health or weapon energy. This is a much larger mechanic with X6 though…..an annoying one I must say.

The armor system is different too, with X having three armors to collect, but unlike past games, you need ALL FOUR PARTS for them to work. Meaning, you have to get every part to even use the thing. This is very, very annoying and makes them useless until you reach the halfway mark. Will touch on why this is annoying when I talk about the stages. But anyway, you have three armors; Falcon (ability to fly for 10 seconds in the air), Gaea (greater defense and ability to move on spikes but no air-dash) and Ultimate Armor (ability to use the powerful air dash Giga Attack). Zero even has an armor and like the Ultimate Armor, you can find it in Simga Stage 3.

Stages:
The stages in X5 are varied, ranging from a stroll through a sunken ship, racing on a jet ski to a hidden base, and exploring a location filled with literal guns & roses (ha); the level variety is on point and makes each one fun.

Squid Alder’s level is fun if you are just going through it for example, as it’s a high speed bike section during the introduction that leads to a platform heavy puzzle area where you are hit/shoot pillars into switches to continue. If you want to get the head armor piece to the Falcon Armor…….you will be here for a very long time due having to collect little spheres. This stage was the reason I never bothered collecting the armors outside of the Ultimate Armor. Otherwise, fun stage.

Also enjoy the fire level in the game where you fight Matterx; it has you hide behind rock pillars to avoid insta-death fire blasts and it is fun to avoid all the attacks plus it makes great use of the wall cling ability.

The fights themselves are sadly not that rewarding if you are going in weakness order. They get locked in place after you hit them with weakness attacks and it makes the fights very easy. I tried fighting a few of the Mavericks with only the Mega Buster and they presented fun patterns. Duff McWallen is a great one for example, as he shoots pillars of ice that make a platform you run across. And during the mid-fight, you have to avoid them being shot at you rapidly toward the wall with spikes. So if you want a challenge for X, do not use the weakness for the bosses.

Boss Weapons:
Items you get from the bosses are good; you get the Slasher which can be charged into a shield that attacks foes for a bit, Izzy Glows weapon is a movable missile, and you have the Goo Shaver which shoots a sliding across the floor. But two weapons I want to highlight; the Electric Ball and the Time Stopper. Yes, the Mega Man 1 and Mega Man 2 weapons are in this game and function almost 1-to-1 the same. Even two bosses heavily mirror Mega Man 7 and Mega Man X1 bosses.

Virus/Sigma Stages:
Then we have the Tower Levels, which are complete re-creations of past Mega Man locations. Virus Stage 1 is a remake of the Bubble Man’s Stage from Mega Man 2….

…..With the boss of the level being the YELLOW DEVIL! Yes, the X Series has its own Devil fight and is just as long and difficult like past Mega Man Classic games. But the final form of this thing is Wily Machine Six.

The next Virus Stage is a re-creation of Sigma Stage 1 from Mega Man X with it concluding with this guy from Mega Man X (link to image). It’s the same exact fight as well.

We have two more Virus Stages, with one concluding with a fight with Zero and the next one having the vanishing blocks from past Mega Man Classic titles. It concludes with a fight with Sigma.

Overall, the level design is strong here and despite some really annoying bits here and there, I had fun running through the game as X. Yes, I said X as I didn’t play as Zero for this run of the game. I completed most of the game as Zero with my X Collection copy a few years back and decided to try the game out with X and I made a good move, as you can lose Zero. This is a problem that I need to bring up; if the shuttle fails, you lose the ability to play as Zero. And this is randomized after you collect all the parts of the shuttle. One way to avoid issues is either collect three pieces of the cannon and keep firing it until you get it to work or just play the entire game as X, with you collecting heart tanks with him.

Presentation:
The anime cut-scenes are gone but that does not prevent the game from being a great looking title. The levels have a lot of detail and the sprite work is very well done. The Pre-Rendered bits here and there look nice to me honestly too. The music is filled with great remixes from past MM Classic and MMX tittles with the new tracks being really great inclusions. Some of the new tracks like the Boss Theme are personal favorites to me.

Opening Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYlf…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Into Stage X: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwnR…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Intro Stage Zero: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-8s…-Eu244&index=5
Grizzly Slash (Crescent Grizzly): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyIF…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Squid Adled (Volt kraken): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBmq…Eu244&index=10
Duff McWhalen (Tidal Makkoeen): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLfR…Eu244&index=12
Shadow Devil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axwD…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Boss Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHkk…Eu244&index=19
Zero Virus Stage 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9578…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Zero Virus Stage 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duPo…Eu244&index=24
Dr. Light: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKzw…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Zero’s Death: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XNc…Zoub84l0-Eu244
Sigma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3fi…Zoub84l0-Eu244

We even have a few unused tracks too.
Deep Sea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMSW…Eu244&index=32
Dr. Light Beta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUTL…Eu244&index=33
Zero’s Death Beta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g02o…Zoub84l0-Eu244

Overall:
This is a fun action platformer that while having some issues, is still a great time for people that are fans of the X or Classic Series. The game really celebrates the entire Mega Man series (from 2000) and it is a game I recommend playing.

Mega Man 5 – Classic Series

The Mega Man Retrospective continues! After the release of Mega Man 4, we got Mega Man 5 a year later and this game is a more ‘simple’ sequel compared to Mega Man 2 and 3. It has less new features, but it sticks with what works and it ends up being a great time because of that.

Development:
Right after Mega Man 4 release, development soon followed on a sequel game. Inafune continues working with the series but for this title, citing that he feels Mega Man 5 was one of the more easier games in the series. In his own words, he did not want to “make an unreasonable game, an affront to the players”.

The Team Behind Mega Man 5 includes the following:
Director – Ichirou Mihara
Producer – Tokuro Fujiwara
Designer – Ichirou Mihara
Programmer – Tadashi Kuwana
Artists – Keiji Inafune, Hayato Kaji, Naoya Tomita, Kazunori Tazaki, Kazushi Ito
Composer – Mari Yamaguchi

Considering they felt they stretched the core foundation as far as they could at this point, they just made everything ‘better’. Mega Man’s slide remained the same but they gave his charged shot more power thanks to Mega Man 4 sudo-villain, Dr. Cossack, upgrading his Mega Buster. He also made a little bird robot named ‘Beat’ which can help Mega Man attack foes when he is close to them.

Some interesting information about Mega Man 5 is that the robot masters featured in the game, are all based on creations over 130,000 gamers sent to Capcom thanks to a collaboration with Nintendo Power. This continued for a number of titles (just like Mega Man 3 and 4).

The game released in December 4th, 1992 to solid scores and solid well for Capcom. One would thing this would be the final NES Mega Man title around this time period but we got Mega Man 6 a year later, which I will touch on when I make the Retrospective on that title.

Story:
After the events of Mega Man 4, Rock and Dr. Light are relaxing in his lab but when they go outside, what appears to be Protoman captures Dr. Light and Mega Man follows suit. Protoman is causing havoc across the world and goes after a series of robot masters Protoman took in; Star Man, Gravity Man, Gyro Man, Stone Man, Crystal Man, Charge Man, Napalm Man, and Wave Man.

After defeating them, we head to Protoman’s base of operations and it functions like the Dr. Cossack levels in Mega Man 4. After fighting Protoman, the original Protoman appears and we learn that the one causing all the problems is a creation from Dr. Light called ‘Dark Man IV’.

We then head through Dr. Wily’s Fortress and take him out, saving the day. Dr. Light escapes and Mega Man saves Dr. Light. All is well with the world, with Protoman watching over Dr. Wily’s base being destroyed as Mega Man & Light escape.

Simple story and one that continues the ‘Wily is not the main villian…..nah, we are just playing around. Take out that guy yet again.’ It makes up play through more levels, so cool with that set up.

Gameplay:
Well….its more Mega Man Classic. Jump and shoot action with abilities from past games feeling good here. The charged buster shot is very powerful and makes fighting through the robot master levels & fighting them much easier compared to past games. We also get a little bird named Beat, which can attack foes that come close to Mega Man. He is very useful for fighting bosses and its a good idea to find him! You do so by exploring the different levels for M-E-G-A-M-A-N-V letters.

Level gimmicks this time out continue to be interesting like past games, with Gravity Man having, well, gravity gimmicks that are tricky but fun to get through. My personal favorite robot master stage was Wave Man’s level, were you get to ride a water craft until you get to the boss encounter.

The fights themselves are fun and enjoyable, with different patterns like other Mega Man titles. What makes this fun is how the level gimmicks translate into the boss stages. Gravity Man pushes upside down and right side up as you fight him, so Mega Buster or Weakness, you have to watch your surroundings and movement.

Some of the robot master powers are fun to play with, like the Star Shield though that isn’t very effective. This mirrors the other powers, with them far less useful due to the stronger Mega Buster outside of Robot Master fights. This gets fixed in later games but it is a small issue here.

We see that happen in other Mega Man games with Underwater fights, but its nice seeing the robot master bosses having new ways to fight them. The only downside is that they are very easy to fight, as thanks to Mega Man’s powerful Charged shot, you can kill them quite fast compared to normal Mega Buster shots.

Tower Stages:
The Tower stages follow Mega Man 4 with them being easy but still very rewarding to get through. The first fortress has a nice haunted feel with the location being set in a drab castle.

The second level is more high-tech with a lot of gimmicks to interact with. Spikes and Conveyor Belts common in this section.

The final two Protoman castle levels is on the a rooftop and one where you fight the fake Protoman himself.

The Wily Fortress is composed of four sections. The first one is a tricky section, with spikes being common and having you jump on spinning wheels.

The second area is set in a pipe system flooded with water. This is a fun section, as this wasn’t explored in past castle stages. The final two levels is a BOSS RUSH, with two fights with Wily. This part of the game is enjoyable due to the Wily fights being rewarding battles, with the final one being against this big tank with a skull design. The weakness for this? Spoiler: Super Arrow

Overall, this was a fun set of tower levels to go through.

Presentation:
Did you enjoy the presentation of Mega Man 4? Well, its more of that! The game has bright colors and more space-like locations compared to past games, and I love space levels.

The robot master designs are great as well and show a lot of personality.

Musically, we got a few nice tracks though I prefer the other NES soundtracks over this game.
Crystal Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNMI…DA338C7EA8D0FA
Gravity Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPiK…A8D0FA&index=4
Charge Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C75Q…DA338C7EA8D0FA
Wily Fortress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5YI…8D0FA&index=21
Evil Protoman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZS5…DA338C7EA8D0FA
Protoman Fortress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cuD…DA338C7EA8D0FA

Overall:
I had a great time playing this for the first time! The gameplay is more Mega Man and after having some issues with Mega Man 4, having a more calmer and relaxed pace with this ones easy difficulty was nice. I enjoyed revisiting Mega Man 4 and honestly prefer that to this, but I enjoyed my time with Mega Man 5 a great deal. Highly recommend this if you want a fun adventure with the Blue Bomber.

Ratchet & Clank A Crack in Time – Future Series

This conclusion to the Future Series continues this Ratchet Retrospective! Releasing in 2009, this concludes the story Tools of Destruction and A Quest for Booty tried to tell. Will Ratchet find the Lombaxs? Where IS Clank? And why is an old foe returning?

Lets read this retrospective and find out.

History:
This game was announced early 2009 with a really impressive teaser showing a small orb moving through a clock with a lot of gears, closing with a picture of two Lombax’s and an older Lombax warrior turns to the camera, saying “Are you ready?” before flying off and the logo hits the screen; Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.

The title was planed to be a strong conclusion to the Ratchet series as a whole, with the plot lines introduced in the earlier Future titles being wrapped up and Insomniac wanting the origins for both Ratchet and Clank to be resolved by the end of this adventure.

New mechanics were introduced such as the hoverboots to push for faster navagation across larger maps, time-based puzzles for Clank and open space exploration to really hit that exploration feeling home. It was also the first time in the series were we got a new composer making music; Boris Salchow takes the help of A Crack in Times score.

People were impressed with the title when it was demoed and showed off, with it having a successful launch in 2009. It got some of the highest scores in the series history (next to the PS2 titles) and people to this day regard it as one of the series best adventures alongside Going Commando/Ratchet 2 and Up Your Arsenal/Ratchet 3.

Story:
The plot continues where Quest for Booty left off, with Ratchet and Talwyn finding out where Clank is and learns that Dr. Nefarious from Ratchet 3 is with him. So, Ratchet rushes to the Polaris Galaxy with Captian Quark joining the ride while Clank wakes up inside this place called the Great Clock, where Dr. Nefarious is causing havok looking for the robot. He stuns Clank and leaves, letting him wake up later and him meeting Sigmund (voice by Nathan Drake himself; Nolan North!).

Ratchet & Quark crash land on a jungle planet where time is all out of wack and after various events happen, Ratchet sets off to explore space to find another Lombax, named General Azmith.

The story is less humorous compared to past titles but that is fine, as this serious story where Clank and Ratchet learn about themselves and their history was enjoyable. Ratchet learning where the other Lombax’s are and Clank discovering he wasn’t just an mistake in a robot factory are just some of the plot lines explored in this game.

I also love Nefarious coming back with Laurence, Quark stealing the show whenever he is on screen and Azmeth being a strong character; he has motivations for his actions and its nice seeing Ratchet have a father-figure for a significant portion of the game. It also helps that he is one of the best boss fights in the series and his introduction was very impressive.

I liked this story but it is not my favorite in the series; that honor still goes to Up Your Arsenal.

Gameplay:
Will say this right now, the jump from Tools of Destruction/Quest for Booty to A Crack in Time is HUGE. Everything and I mean everything got improved. But lets take it one step at a time.

Lets go over one big thing first; the game is called Ratchet & Clank, but they don’t meet up until very late in the game. But both still get a lot of screen time with Clank having lengthy puzzle sections and Ratchet taking up a good 60% of gameplay time.

Okay, now we can go over Ratchet’s gameplay. His control feels very tight and responsive compared to Tools, with things feeling far more ‘instant’. Not to mention some smart choices (wrench throw being more instant, gadgets mapped to the D-Pad) makes ‘small’ things feel better then before.

Ratchet’s combat is better then ever, with a great line up of weapons to play with and every tool being great to use. The ‘Devices’ are gone and the popular ones like Mr. Zurkon and the Groveatron become full-on weapons now. We also get special Constructo Guns (Blaster, Bomb, Shotgun) that can be upgrade with mods you find across the level; you are pushed into platforming to get more tools to mess around with and that is a smart design choice.

Other fun weapons include the Sonic Eruptor which is like a Shotgun but it being a living creature using a mating call for a powerful attack and a fun black-hole gun that summons a Cathulu tentacles to pull your foes into a void-less sky. We also get the Spiral of Death, the first fan-made weapon to ever grace the series; its cool that this appears in the Ratchet Movie as well.

So, the weapons are fun and core gameplay is better then ever. What else is there to cover for Ratchet? Well, the level designs are far more closed in, with exploration pushed but not enough. Tools had large levels to explore with Crack in Time having smaller locations for main levels. This is fixed with the moons you can explore though.

We also get to tap our inner Sonic the Hedgehog with Ratchet’s hoverboots. They allow him to hover in the air (replacing Clank) and being able to go very fast across large landscapes. Very useful to get from point A too point B very fast. We also get a few parts where these shine, like its introduction level where Ratchet spins, bounces and flies across large gaps of level; very fun and made me think of the Sonic series at points.

Ratchet can explore space now with his ship and once you are in space, no load times for bouncing between the moons. This means that you could visit each moon and get everything without jumping into a loading screen! But the moons offer little challenges like races with your hoverboots, small platforming levels and combat waves to get through.

You are rewarded with Gold Bolts (buy costumes), Mods (used for Constructo Weapons) and Zoni (little creatures that can upgrade your ship). These are great rewards and with the iconic arena returning from past titles, you have a lot to do with Ratchet. His ship also has a few combat sections but they are very minor; very simple gameplay wise and not really that engaging.

Clank is interesting though, as his gameplay is completely different from ANY gameplay style in the series then and now. You have Clank being able to push his time abilities from Tools even further by making copies of himself and you can ‘record’ actions they do. So, you can have copy A step on switch, copy B defending copy A from foes, copy C running toward the exit. That is just one of the many puzzles you will solve.

Clank also has a staff that can be used for fighting, time bombs that freeze everything for a short while and a great triple jump. He is far more useful then any other incarnation of Clank and his levels are a great way to break up the action.

Presentation:
This game looks great to me, with bright colors, detailed locations and some impressive animation. That is the one thing I took away, as Ratchet has far better animations compared to his ones in Tools of Destruction. Cut-scenes are also very impressive too and feel like literal movie clips.

The game also has a really nice touch; weapons movies that have an animated Ratchet react to different weapons being used when he gets them. They are funny, well animated and are very funny!

Musically, its just okay. With the main series composer being gone and replaced with a new guy, the series got a more movie-based score. I did like a number of the tracks though and they do fit nicely when you are playing the game.

Main Menu Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvXa…PKZGOX19AOCWn1
The Caretaker’s Awakening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO_k…AOCWn1&index=4
Lumos – Krell Canyon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_wg…CWn1&index=114
Nefarious Space Station – The Battle for Time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT75…PKZGOX19AOCWn1
The Great Clock – Heroes Collide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY32…CWn1&index=192

Overall:
This is a great action platform that could of been a nice conclusion to the Ratchet series. A lot of lose ends got wrapped up, the ending is heartwarming and I loved the character growth everyone got here. Not to mention we got strongest gameplay for the series since the PS2 Era Ratchet titles.

Fantastic game and while not my favorite game in the series, very close to Ratchet 3 and 2 to me.

Ratchet & Clank Quest for Booty – Future Series

The Ratchet Retrospective continues with this smaller downloadable adventure starting the iconic Lombax and some of the new characters introduced in Tools of Destruction.

This game was one of the first ‘big’ downloadable titles during the PS3 Generation and was an interesting case of Insomniac making two titles in a single year; this and Resistance 2. Very impressive game and hope you all enjoy this Retrospective.

History:
This game started production right after work on Tools of Destruction wrapped up and Insomniac ran into a bit of trouble. They were working on Resistance 2 while Tools of Destruction was being made and needed more hands on deck to get the game released. So, this meant the full sequel to Tools of Destructionwould release in 2009.

However, Insomniac wanted to try something new; a small-scaled Ratchet game using the engine Tools of Destruction used as a base. Add in some small mechanics that would be used more in a later game and you have a good excuse to release a small Ratchet title.

This is a landmark case for the studio, as it was the first time Insomniac released two games made by them in a single year; Resistance 2 and this. When the game came out, it got great reviews with the only major issue being the games length. Overall, it was a nice ‘taste’ for what we later experience with A Crack in Time.

Story:
This game takes place after the cliffhanger ending from Tools of Destruction, with Clank being taken by the Zoni, forcing Ratchet & Talwyn to hunt down Clank. They end up butting heads with the colorful pirate characters from Tools of Destruction and it ends up escalating into Ratchet taking out the pirate foes yet again.

What makes this story enjoyable despite its short length is how it allows everyone to ‘breath’ a bit more. The tone is much lighter compared to Tools and we get to experience more of the world of Ratchet here. He has the option to engage in dialog trees with people, make some moral choices (but not many) and bond more with Talwyn, as she will not appear in A Crack in Time.

The pirate characters shine a lot here as does the general setting of the game. They are funny and Stinky Pete (one of the pirates) narrates the game, not unlike Quark’s narration in the recent Ratchet 2016 reboot.

Overall, I really enjoyed this plot, even if its simple and not much happens in the grand scheme of things. We do learn where Clank is and find out that we will be seeing a familiar face that we all enjoyed in Ratchet 3/Up Your Arsenal.

Gameplay:
This is interesting, as I could just copy-and-paste what I wrote about Ratchet in the Tools Retrospective. But I won’t as despite the gameplay being very similar to Tools, a decent amount has been added.

One thing is the lack of focus on combat, as Ratchet loses most of his weapons after the intro level. This leads to the game having a greater focus on core platforming and this is a great move. Tools had the series return to platforming and this game pushing that fact was a smart choice.

The level designs supports this, with more difficult platforming challenges to face, simple puzzles to solve and doing some new things with Ratchets Wrench. It has been his stable tool since day-zero and it finally getting some upgrades was great to see. It has a tether that can pull down objects/move platforms and can pick up small objects/throw them.

One example is that you are exploring a dark cave and you pick up a lighting bug with your wrench, allowing you to see what is ahead of you. This small change mixes up the gameplay in fun ways. The game does have weapon-based combat but its far more limited. You don’t level things up anymore and you do not have new-game plus like every other title.

But that isn’t needed here, as the game is very short. I beat this in 2 hours and while you have the ability to play on Hard a second go around, its kinda pointless.

Presentation:
This game looks just as great as Tools of Destruction looked but I noticed a lot of smaller upgrades over that game. Ratchet’s movement feels ‘smoother’ and his animations are more refined. Not to mention the frame rate feels more stable, hitting a 60FPS more often then Tools of Destruction or A Crack in Time. The style of the game is fantastic too, with the pirate motif being a great excuse to have different-styled locations for the series. More dark caves, haunted locations and rougher islands to explore for example. I love that and a later game ‘Into the Nexus’ does something similar that I appreciated there too.

David Bergeaud returns to compose the games score and it is solid. Enjoyed a lot of the games tracks and they added to the atmosphere of the different levels.

Main Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOPi…swf7DF&index=2
The Azorean Sea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jASC…swf7DF&index=3
Hoolefar Turbines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCX4…mTzZlvB8swf7DF
Mysteries of Hoolefar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQLK…swf7DF&index=6
Slag’s Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx4a…mTzZlvB8swf7DF
Climbing Darkwater’s Fleet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9bV…wf7DF&index=16
Sprocket’s Rage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTmq…wf7DF&index=28
Credits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcPB…mTzZlvB8swf7DF

Conclusion:
This game is a good case for giving a mouse a cookie. You take it and really enjoy it, but you want more. Here, you DON’T get more, but what you DO get is very enjoyable and a great way to kill a few hours.

I enjoyed this smaller Ratchet adventure a lot and if you never got it on its own, it comes bundled with the retail version of Into the Nexus via Download voucher. Fitting that the two really outlandish Ratchet adventures in one ‘collection’ but point still stands. The US only got the game via Digital Release, while other regions got limited retail runs of the title. Thank you NeoGaf Member televator for pointing this out to me, as I knew this but forgot to mention that before this point.

It is a fun adventure and a great lead-in for the future game, A Crack in Time. Many regard that is one of the best Ratchet games of all time and very excited to tackle that very soon.

Ratchet & Clank Tools of Destruction – Future Series

Today was hectic with Retrospective stuff but that is not stopping me covering the dynamic Lombax and Robot from going on another adventure! As of 4/29/2016, the series had its first movie air in western markets and going to celebrate that with a Retrospective covering this game; Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.

The game is part of my on-going Ratchet & Clank Retrospective series!

This game is the very first PS3 game for the series and one that really made me want a PS3 back in 2007 when it came out. Lets go into the galaxy of space and see where the hunt for the Lombax’s takes us.

Development History:
The game started development not long after the 2005 release of Ratchet Deadlocked and Insomniac had two studios at this point in time; one making an upcoming PS3 Launch title that will help sell the system (Resistance Fall of Man) and another making the Ratchet & Clank series.

Now that Deadlocked finished production, the Ratchet Team started work on the series jump to the PlayStation 3. They really wanted to make the hardware sing and from current work with Sony on the at the time upcoming Resistance, they had a good idea how to make games for the system.

They pushed for a ‘Pixar’ look for Ratchet & Clank and this affected the direction of the storytelling; instead of the game being focused on being a comedy with some fun story beats, we get a more tone-downed adventure that has the series humor but the main point is the plot. They wanted to give Ratchet & Clank important backstory from their origins never covered before and the PS3 series, dubbed ‘Future’ was a sign that they wanted the Ratchet series to have major story telling elements.

That wasn’t the only focus though, as they wanted to return to having a tight ballence between action combat (shooting) and the platforming that the original game & Ratchet 2/Going Commando had. The idea of having powerful gadgets used in combat called ‘Devices’, some fun gimmicks that would use the motion controls of the PS3 controller well and bring back space travel from Ratchet 2; all of these were goals the team had in mind.

The game finally released in Fall 2007 for the PlayStation 3, with Naughty Dog’s own title “Uncharted: Drakes Fortune” coming out not long after. Both games did very well sales and review wise and started a new trilogy of games for both franchises. Ratchet continued on PlayStation 3 with two other games in the Future Series, two spin-off titles and an Epilogue to the Future Series; all of which will be covered in the future.

Story:
The story is very important to the series, as the franchise is known for being a fantastic Pixar-like adventure for a long time. But here, they really try hard to acomplish telling an epic tale for Ratchet & Clank.

The story begins with the Lombax and his robotic pal working on building some hoverbike and then they hear Quark sending a message that he is being attacked. After crash landing in the middle of a city, Ratchet & Clank blast their way from waves of foes until they get cornered by Emperor Taceon who wants to kill Ratchet due to him being the last Lombax.

They high-jack his ship and crash land on another planet. As the adventure continues, Ratchet begins to learn more about his race as a Lombax and Clank starts seeing these odd creatures that have strange powers.

The story here is good, with Ratchet & Clank bouncing off each other well all the while the new characters like Cronk and Zeffer being great additions to the cast. Really love the Smugger, as he is more or less a funner version of Moneybags from Insomniac’s own Spyro series. The last character I want to highlight is Talwyn Apogee, as she is a great addition to the series. She is funny, smart and gets into the action often (fighting alongside Ratchet, Clank, and her warbots Cronk & Zeffer). She appears in later games and I hope she appears in this new reboot series that Ratchet 2016 starts.

My only gripe with the story is that the comedic ‘edge’ is softer then before. I mean, the game is still funny at points but you can clearly tell that the humor is used more sparingly compared to past games in the series. And that is fine as long as the story is good, and it mostly is. But the ending concluding on a cliffhanger and Ratchet being a jerk to Clank (like the first game) but only without a decent reason was destracting for the few times that happened.

Good story overall though.

Gameplay:
Its a return to the style of gameplay we got with Ratchet & Clank 2; tight controls, great line-up of weapons to play around with and some great platforming sections that remind me of parts of the first Ratchet & Clank at points.

In many respects. Tools of Destruction feels like a ‘proper’ sequel to Ratchet 2 more so then Ratchet 3. Ratchet 3 focused very heavily on its gun play while Tools of Destruction has a larger focus on platforming (though you still do a lot of shooting). My main point, is that the balance is done stronger here.

But the gameplay can be broken down into a few sections:

Ratchet has the great gameplay from Ratchet 2 and Ratchet 3. The gun play is a lot of fun and the set pieces that Ratchet goes through are very impressive. Grinding on long rail sections avoiding trains and the camera panning all over the place, the camera going top-down and side-ways during the intro stage, and the levels having a lot of location theme choice (planet with dinos, large city that has a ton of flying cars all over the place, a lost jungle that has you fighting various creatures, navigating across floating asteroids, and fighting across two pirate bases. Will cover the weapons and other stuff in another part but Ratchet controls great here and for greater reference to the specifics to his control, give my Ratchet 2 and 3 Retrospectives a read.

Clank has a lot of new abilities in this game but his solo-gameplay is a bit weak. His new Zoni powers allow him to fly in the sky, slow down time and break down walls with a powerful laser. Ratchet can use two of these powers at different points in some planets and they are very fun. But Clank’s solo gameplay is weak compared to past games. He controls the same and still controls an army but this time, its of Zoni. They can repair things, attack foes, hover in the air, and even allow Clank to slow down time with holding the R1 button.

That sounds like a lot of fun, but it really isn’t anything that special. If anything, it lacks the charm of Clank controlling little robots in Ratchet 2 or the odd concept of working with a AI controlled monkey. Also no Giant Clank this time out too. Overall, his functions are fun, but not on the level of past games.

Ship Combat is where things get interesting. Unlike in Ratchet 2, its not all-range mode Star Fox but linear Star Fox like some stages in SF64. And they are a visual highlight with amazing effects filling the screen and the controls working very well. If you are a fan of Star Fox, you might have some great fun with these sections. Otherwise, they are a nice inclusion but don’t really add or take away from the game.

The gadgets Ratchet has a few new gadgets like the Gyro Bike, New hacking tool and the Pirate-Guise. Gyro Bike is a Monkey Ball-like mode that has you rolling around and its fun. Its mainly used for some tricky platforming sections and its underused but when it is used, it can be quite fun to play with it. The Hacking Tool allows you to get through locked doors or activate things and you do this from either moving the left stick or tilting the controller. You control this little ball and have to help a ‘power surge’ move to the end goal. I had a lot of fun with this motion controls or not honestly.

The Pirate-Guise is very simple but very funny; Ratchet turns into a little pirate that dances to open some doors and its fun! Used more for laughs then anything else but still, a nice addition to the game and a cool successor to the Tera-Guise.

The line up of weapons are great here, but we get some recycling of old ideas in past Ratchet games. We have another whip item but its electric this time. We have a shot gun but this time it shoots crystals. We have a pistol but this time it shoots fireballs. They play with traditional weapons we see all the time ‘slightly’ different and that is cool.

But the creative weapons, that is where things get nuts. We have a bee nest we can plant on the ground to sends little insects to kill everything, a Disco Ball called the Groveatron that makes EVERYTHING dance, health absorbing grenades that can give you needed Nanotech and the Plasma Beasts that are little blobs that can follow you when fully upgraded and slam into other creatures. And of course, Mr. Zerkon. This lovely robot spouts one-liners as he kills everything in his path. Love this guy and he appears in many future games.

But some weapons are not ‘really’ weapons; they are called ‘devices’ due to being very overpowered and can only buy X amount of them (none of them upgrade outside the Groveatron but you need a lot of money to get that). That is a smart move on Insomniacs part.

You also have an upgrade tree where you use a new currency called Rareatainum that is very common and can give added upgrades to your weapons. If you loved the custom mods from Deadlocked, this is a similar deal here but more indepth. It gives you options on how to upgrade your weapons and later games like Into the Nexus and Ratchet 2016 refine this upgrade system further.

Presentation:
This game looks amazing, it still looks great in 2016 like it did back in 2007. The game has such a bright and vivid art direction that screams ‘Pixar’ or ‘Disney’ in many cases and the squash-and-stretch that the PS2 games had comes across here but thanks to the stronger PS3 hardware, the game looks much better then the PS2 games. And the PS2 games looked fantastic.

The musical score though, takes a step down compared to the PS2 games. Its still great stuff, but not on the level of Ratchet 2’s or Ratchet 3’s soundtrack. I really enjoy it though and its one of the final times the series musical composer took reigns of the soundtrack. David Bergeaud made the soundtracks for every Ratchet game at this point and did amazing work on the PS2 titles. While his work here is more ‘movie’ like, is still sounds great.

Kerwan – Metropolis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yKG…pzev02&index=3
Kerwan – Grind Rail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQX-…e1Z2IeLgpzev02
Kortog – The Docks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxuk…zev02&index=12
Voron Asteroid Belt – Space Pirate Territory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6C3…zev02&index=17
Mukow – Imperial Fight Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIXx…zev02&index=20
Apogee Space Station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or5-…e1Z2IeLgpzev02
Ardolis – Pirate Base 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZieK…zev02&index=31
Viceron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0M3…zev02&index=45

Overall:
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is one of the stronger games in the series and it does a lot right. Great gameplay, amazing production values and tight controls all make it a treat to play. And this is only the first PS3 adventure of the series, with two more being covered very soon.

Ratchet Deadlocked – PS2 Series

I know I said that I am taking a break with gaming Retrospectives, but want to cover this first before I go on my week break; have fresh thoughts on the title and do not want to forget about it. Besides, the Ratchet Retrospective has been on-and-off for a while now and things got back on track with the Going Commando/Ratchet 2 Retrospective; want to keep up consistency.

Now all of that is out of the way, Ratchet Deadlocked. This game released in 2005 and it appears to be a radical departure for the iconic series. Harsher tone, gritty visual style and complete disregard for the series platforming roots becoming full-on Unreal Tournament but with cartoony aliens. Appearances can be deceiving though and what we have here is a natural conclusion from what we got with Up Your Arsenal/Ratchet 3.

Development History:
After the grand success of Ratchet 3, how can you top that? I mean, when you make perfection, what do you do next….. Insomniac decided to push the series to its natural conclusion; a third person team-based shooter.

They introduced shooting mechanics with Going Commando/Ratchet 2 and perfected it with Up Your Arsenal/Ratchet 3, with Ratchet 3 going further by having base missions, introducing online multi-player and more traditional shooting controls (FPS and TPS control styles).

Taking the Base levels, they made a game centered around Ratchet fighting waves and waves of foes in more arena styled locations but with the trademark Insomniac charm and polish. Meaning we get crazy weapons, tight controls, great humor and fun set pieces to go through.

Releasing Fall 2005 alongside Jak X Combat Racing, both showed the developers Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog going in more serious directions for their platforming IP. Despite this, both got strong reviews but Deadlocked got higher scores compared to Jak X and Insomniac went back to more light-hearted Ratchet & Clank with two future games; Tools of Destruction and over seeing production of High Impact Games’ Size Matters (Ha).

Story:
The plot set up is that after the events of Ratchet 3, the gang is relaxing on Starship Phoenix with Sasha (a major character Ratchet 3) phoning in Ratchet, Clank and Big Al that heroes are being captured and killed. She warns Ratchet that he and Clank might be next but right as she finishes her message, robots invade the ship and capture the three.

After a humorous cut-scene with Ratchet commenting on his new battle armor, he learns that he is part of a underground Gladiator sector called the ‘Shadow Sector’ with the show ‘Dreadzone’ being the biggest show being covered. Gleeman Vox is the head of the show and tells Ratchet that if he doesn’t compete, the collar Ratchet is wearing will kill him.

Ratchet agrees to fight and with Clank being the guided voice & Big Al being the tech support (fixing up two awesome combat bots for Ratchet), Ratchet climbs to the top while he is bad-mouthed by some of the funniest co-hosts I ever saw in a game.

The plot here appears darker, and it is. People get hurt and its tone is more harsher compared to Ratchet 3. But the game really is light hearted and in many respects, a commentary on reality shows on TV back then and today. It is really funny and the game still has a lot of heart despite the more grim direction the games seems to go in.

Gameplay:
This is where things change a lot, but not really. Remember, Ratchet 3 had big shooting elements despite being a proper platformer. So, the series fully investing itself as a shooter is logical and was a direction Insomniac did right with. Ratchet’s default control style is the TPS (move with left stick, aim with right stick, shoot with R1, jump with L1, R2 swaps weapons, L2 controls ducking/wretch throwing) and it works very well.

What makes combat fun is how tight the controls really are. They feel perfect and Ratchet moves smooth like butter. But what makes the game really fun is how powerful the guns are. Deadzone offers Ratchet with 10 different weapons and while that sound small, it really isn’t.

You have a mine gun that launches mines toward your foes and explodes when people go near them. A shot gun that is very powerful. Dual Pistols that can be used when grinding on rails and can bounce all over the place when upgraded. Ball & Chain weapon that has a lot of impact. Sniper Rifle that packs quite the punch.

The weapons are more traditional but they are a lot of fun to use and the game has an interesting way of giving them unique abilities. Ratchet can use the bolts he finds to not only buy weapons but buy weapon MODS. These allow you to give your gun elemental properties like Ice, Lighting, Poison or even non-elemental ones like Confusion and Sheep.

This makes your load out very flexible, as you can give your ball & chain the Ice Mod to have more splash damage with Ice being everywhere when it hits the ground or give your rifle shock mod to stun them from far distances.

The gameplay is further enhanced with AI partners, co-op support and ride-able crafts. The AI robots you have following you around are very useful, as they can toss EMP Blasts to take away force fields, create a shield around you for when you are turning bolt cranks and even heal themselves when they take too much damage.


The game fully supports co-op local and online, so you can play the entire game with a buddy and with the large amount of skins you can unlock, it will be fun for you and a buddy playing as Ratchet & Clank. The crafts you can ride include an upgraded hovercraft from Ratchet 3, spider-walker that shooters missiles & bullets (it rocks) and a jet-bike that is tough to control at first but very fun to use not long after you get the hang of it.

Note how I ignore any platforming, as that is mostly gone here. And that is fine, as the game still is a blast being a shooter, so the lack of major platforming is okay.

Presentation:
This game, like past Ratchet games, looks great on the PlayStation 2. Animated character models, beautiful locations to visit, strong voice acting and stable performance.

One thing I really take away from the game is the soundtrack, as it really is great. Haunting but action packed. Dangerous but still heroic. It matches the somewhat confused tone of the game itself, with it ‘looking’ edgy but really still having the heart that makes Ratchet & Clank what it is.

Dreadzone Training Course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppeE…-OugbhEEyAIImG
Dreadzone Station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpZg…-OugbhEEyAIImG
Sarathos – King of the Leviathans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXzI…-OugbhEEyAIImG
Kronos – Infiltrate the Cathedral: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8Xv…-OugbhEEyAIImG
The Valix Belt – Lost and Found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIdD…-OugbhEEyAIImG
DreadZone Station Interior – Destroy the East Generator: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3Wd…AIImG&index=47
DreadZone Station Interior – Defeat Gleeman Vox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5Xw…-OugbhEEyAIImG
Challenge Failed – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72HNp8ZyMAY

Overall:
This is a fantastic shooter and is a game any fan of the genre should give a look. It might push away gamers looking for a platformer but if you are open to getting a shooter, this is a fantastic one. Insomniac knocks it out of the park yet again.

You can get the game via original PS2 version or from the 2013 PSN remaster but that has some odd graphical issues with cut-scenes and the like. But it has the online modes from the original game (didn’t talk about them due to never playing online on my PS2 back then).

Mega Man X4 – X Series

 

This continues my ongoing Mega Man Retrospective and since I covered MM4, lets move to the fourth Mega Man X title! Man, this game is a massive one. It brings a lot to the X series in major ways; new gameplay style, updated presentation, and anime cut-scenes. We even get insight on backstory of Zero!

Mega Man X4 is my favorite Mega Man X title and I can’t wait to explain why this is such a fun action platformer.

History:
This game has a simple history, with the developers trying to make a great sequel to the fun Mega Man X3. One thing they set out to do was make Zero playable, but work different compared to X. In Mega Man X3, he was more of an ‘extra’ character with larger health and a stronger Mega Buster.

In X4, they made him play COMPLETELY different from X and it shows, but will get to that in the gameplay portion.

The rest of the history follows here thanks to the game’s Wikipedia Page:
“Mega Man X4 was developed by Capcom. Instead of designing the game’s various pieces of artwork as he had done in the past, Keiji Inafune focused his attention on being a producer. He was also involved in creating the game’s storyline, a role he described as “only slightly less than it was for X1”. Instead of presenting Repliforce as blatantly evil villains like Sigma, the writing staff decided to leave them some “moral leeway. They did not want the ideals of Repliforce and the Maverick Hunters to be so black-and-white. Inafune left his former design responsibilities up to other artists that had previously worked on the Mega Man X series. Artist Haruki Suetsugu did not design its characters as he would do for later games in the series, but was given drafts in order to draw illustrations for promotional purposes. Hitoshi Ariga was responsible for designing X’s secret “Ultimate Armor” featured in both the game and as a Japanese Bandai action figure. He spent four days coming up with the initial blueprint, but was told by his supervisor to go back and try again. After tinkering with the Mega Man X3 armor parts, he noticed that attaching them in specific ways made it look like an airplane. Ariga recounted creating the armor as an extremely difficult yet fun task. He also revealed that Zero was intended to have his own Ultimate Armor, but the development team chose to not finalize it.”

So the focus on making a more realistic story with the Repliforce and not making things so black-and-white was important for the development team. The game released in August 1, 1997 to critical success with high reviews and people loving the game. The cut-scenes were made fun of in the western versions though…..but we will get to that soon enough.

The game also saw release on other platformers, like the Sega Saturn the same year, 2006’s MMX Collection on PS2/GC, and most recently in 2014 on North American PlayStation Network (with support on PS3, PSP and PS Vita).

Story:
The plot has X and Zero head out to protect a city from attack with it sadly being destroyed by unknown forces. A army of Repolids called the Repliforce come storming in to help but then get labelled as Mavericks due to people thinking they caused the attack.

They revolt and send members of their armies across the world to take over the world. In the shadows, a familiar face is pulling the strings *cough* Sigma *cough* and X & Zero have to save the world yet again.

But things are different this time out……while X just goes out to stop Sigma from ruining things as usually, Zero has a much more larger tale. We get insight on his history before becoming a Maverick Hunter, his relation to Sigma, WHY Sigma became so evil and most importantly, hints toward Zero’s true origins as the game progresses.

Even Marvericks have more personality, with X & Zero having fun dialog’s with the different hunters when they meet them. Overall the story is enjoyable and I really like how strong it is. But, what makes it gold, is the voice acting. The NA voice actors for the game are…..amazing.

We have a young boy voice X, some whinny guy voice Zero and we get the infamous statement.
“What am I fighting FOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRR!?!?” – Zero

Love the story in the game and the bad voice acting makes it even better.

But toward the ends of the thread, I saw this amazing post breaking down everything for the story in both X’s and Zero’s plot lines, so will be putting that in the OP. Thank you so much Edson for the detailed breakdown on the plot! Great work!

Originally Posted by Edson Farley

Megaman X4’s plot captures that perfectly. Inafune wanted X4 to place importance or Zero and his backstory along with Iris and Colonel, yet everything around that is basically nothing. 80% of the plot of the game is on X’s side of the story. The ending of X’s story, though both playthroughs before the end seem to be canonical in certain ways, seem to be the canon as well.

First off stage design seem to favor Zero for progression (in most cases) while favoring X for everything else like hidden paths short cuts, etc.

The Boss Battles were built with X in mind. Outside maybe Colonel.

Sigma seems to be built with Zero in mind as well.

But the main thing is that X’s Dialogue with everyone in the game and Zeros are completely different. And seems to be based on Capcoms own spin based on the writers and the double producers.

  • In Megaman X’s story, X mentioned that humans may die and people die after Sky lagoon falls.
  • Split Mushroom actually tells X he’s under orders to Destroy Him and X says “who” and Split says “Take a wild guess” indicating Sigma is involved and half the Repliforce are mavericks. While Split is just there to fight Zero.
  • Cyber Peacock actually tells X he was ordered to test X’s abilities through his level. Also that X had limitless power.
  • Only to X does Magma Dragoon say HE made the Sky Lagoon fall. Said basically Sigma offered him a chance to fight X if he pretended to join Repliforce. Literally, just to fight X.
  • Double cements the Sigma intrusion by killing hunters and revealing he’s a spy.
  • The difference between the X and Double fight and the Zero and Iris fight is amazing. Zero find Iris and just is like “hey” and Iris is like “You killed my brother it’s over” and then Zero kills her and she’s like “I wanted to believe” and Zero is like “what am i fighting foorrrrrrrrrr!” and that’s it. While Double actually confirms that there are Actually mavericks, that them, hunters, and Repliforce were intentionally pitted against each other, and again, he was a spy.
  • The General is another one. With Zero he’s just like “General people died” then General says “I have no regrets less fight” Then the weapon activates on the satellite. While in X’s story General actually tells X the goal is to build a utopia for Reploids and any interference will be stopped. X says that the fighting is mindless, which it is, and General says that they have no choice but to fight because they have been labeled mavericks. The General even tells X when the laserr activates that HE should hurry up and stop it and X says he’ll stop it. While Zero just ends with General saying “oh no someones controlling the laser”
  • Sigma is the biggest issue, you get a cutscene with Zero and Sigma showing Zero was a maverick even though that he transferred the Virus to Sigma and then it just ends and you go to the final boss room, while Sigma literally tells X, “Double did a good job we got the Hunters and Repliforce to kill each other”, which makes Double more important to the plot than Iris, Sigma also tell you Repliforce built the weapon and he intended to use it to destroy the Earth.

I mean that’s like 80% of the plot. If you play as Zero all you get is literally Zero knows the Colonel and Iris is his sister, he likes his sister, Repliforce goes on a coup, He kills Colonel and Iris, Sigma reveal some info about Zeros’ past and that’s it.

X’s story literally has the whole main plot of the game you are currently playing. You would have Zero idea of what’s going on.

This happened in X5 as well

  • Grizzly Slash (yes I’m going to use the Gun and roses names) Actually tells X he is slowly being infected by the virus, and that he wants to fight before he has no control over his mind, while he just wants to attack Zero just because.
  • Squid guy’s actual motivation for quitting the hunters is because X killed Launch octopus and then he slowly goes crazy. While he mentions quitting the hunters to Zero but for no reason.
  • Izzy Glow tells Zero he wants to analyze Zero and X through battle since he is about to be taken over by the Virus. But actually makes a comment about the rough entrance you had to make since the start of the level blowing up bridges and doors, and X says it’s because the whole lab is infected. He then says he won’t cooperate with hunters, and says that he may be wrong but he won’t make up his mind and fights X.
  • Duff Mcwhalen tells Zero to fight him because why not. While he tells X either if you haven’t launched the laser that he won’t let you take control of the sea without fighting him. or if you already launched the laser, that the sea is infected by the Virus and he wants to meet the same fate.
  • Both X vs. Zero fights have info you won’t ever see if you are not Zero in this fight.
  • Sigma in the final boss tells X that an old man who i would assume is Wily but we see no from of him at all, Not only built his body, but also that the virus at the start of the game taking over the world was not significant enough and that he had to make the colony hit the ground. oddly he says this if you actually destroy the Colony to. He even tells X, unlike Zero, that the old man build multiple robots, that they knew eachother and they both hate X.

Gameplay:
Well, its more Mega Man X. Iconic jumping, dashing and shooting robots and Mavericks that get in your way across colorful and well designed stages. But, what makes this different is how the little things work.

X has two different types of arm cannons he can pick up from Dr. Light and his special weapons are mapped to /\. Outside of that, his upwards Air-Dash is sadly gone from X3 and the Ride Armors only come in one style. Though the Jet-Bikes are back from X2 and they are a lot more fun to use compared to that game!

Zero is where everything changes, with his gameplay being completely unique from X. Zero has his Z-Saber and can learn different abilities when beating robot masters, not outright having new ‘cannon weapons’. So, instead of shooting a fireball upward, you have a fire sword uppercut. Instead of shooting a electric web, you have a powerful forward lighting strike. This continues and it makes Zero more of a fighting game character then a platforming hero.

The best part about the game is that every level is designed for BOTH X and Zero. Nothing is that different for each character and it allows the game to work on a Sonic 3 & Knuckles style level. You have these different styles to play as, but they function evenly.

Level Design:
Very strong with great usage of themes. You have the fire level but flaming rocks keep getting close to you, they are destroying your grounding and pillars of flames are over your head. The Ice stage works great too, with ice blocks, well, blocking your path and the ice making movement more slippery.

This continues with a cyber space stage that pushes you to have a literal time attack and by doing so, you can get more goodies for X (heart tank, Dr. Light Armor upgrade).

Love these stages as both characters. The bosses have great designs and patterns too. While they are easy with the weakness, they are very hard with Zero and this makes fights fun. A new play style & classic Mega Man challenge? I’m game!

My favorite fights are with Split Mushroom and Jet Stingray. Not to mention, the game has its own Street Fighter character. Yes, Magma Dragoon might as well be a dragon version of Ryu with fireballs and uppercuts making him quite the foe to fight for either character.

X knows some of those moves though, as X and X2 prove.

Sigma Fortress:
This section of the game is fun, they are hard but fair. You have options to take the upper or lower paths, great visual design and some great fights against a number of foes. Fighting the Repliforce Leader, Ires (Zero) or Double (X) are some of the most fun fights in the X series.

The final fight against Sigma is quite hard too but was fun.

Presentation:
The game looks great with really detailed sprites, strong animation work and great designs for characters old and new. Love the little details in every stage and the Ice Level has some nice nods to X1 and X3.

Then we get the anime cut-scenes and history on that is here:
“The FMV cutscenes in Mega Man X4 were produced by IG Port’s subsidiary XEBEC. The game’s musical score was composed by Toshihiko Horiyama. The score also features the opening theme Makenai Ai ga Kitto aru (負けない愛がきっとある?, lit. “Unbeatable Love I Surely Have”) and the closing theme One More Chance, both sung by Yukie Nakama.”

Musically, the game rocks, man. You have wonderful Intro Stage theme for X and the other stages have catchy themes too. Not as memorable as X1 or X2, but still really great sounding tracks.

Player Select: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V96N…d9KadNadVR6koK
Opening Level (X): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EceE…d9KadNadVR6koK
EREGION THEME: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMI3…d9KadNadVR6koK
Stage Select: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3YF…VR6koK&index=3
Colonel And General: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzB4…R6koK&index=18
Final Weapon Stage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzZI…R6koK&index=23
Web Spider: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHu9…VR6koK&index=8
Cyber Peacock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlGU…VR6koK&index=9
Magma Dragoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odgb…d9KadNadVR6koK
Frost Walrus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYb1…d9KadNadVR6koK

Overall:
This is a wonderful Mega Man X adventure and one I highly recommend any fan of the series give a look. Zero gives the game a lot of replay value and the core game is fun as X OR Zero.

I’m hammering this point home as X6 will make this a major talking point. Overall, lovely game and recommend everyone gives this a shot!

Mega Man 4 – Classic Series

This game started development not long after Mega Man 3 released and Capcom wanted to pump out as much Mega Man games as they can to the market, as it became a killer and flagship IP after the release of Mega Man 2.

Other important information on the games development stems from its entree on the games Wikipedia Page:

“Mega Man series artist Keiji Inafune, credited as “Inafking”, stated that the development team had very few problems while working on Mega Man 4. Inafune designed Dr. Cossack and Kalinka as two new storyline characters for the game. Cossack, who was originally named “Dr. Vice”, was made much younger than Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. Inafune also considered giving him American traits, but decided upon influences from Russia instead. Kalinka was created because so many male characters already existed in the series at this point. However, Inafune did not intend for players to compare her to Mega Man’s sister Roll. The idea for Eddie originally came about during the development of Mega Man 2. Eddie was designed as a supporting character that “would behave like a lottery”, either pleasantly surprising or disappointing the player with the item he gives Mega Man.

Mega Man 4 was the first game in the series for Hayato Kaji, credited as “K. Hayato”, a prominent designer for many later Mega Man games. Kaji was responsible for the chargeable Mega Buster, a gameplay mechanic that would become a staple of the series. “We knew adding a two-level or three-level charge would change the whole flavor of the game in some respects, and we were very mindful of that,” Inafune explained. The Robot Masters in Mega Man 4 are a result of a design contest for fans held in Japan. With over 70,000 character submissions, the development team spent an extended period of time narrowing them down to only eight bosses. According to Kaji, the team was very satisfied with many of the chosen designs and almost no changes were made to their original illustrations. They were so impressed with Skull Man that they scrapped an entire level being created just so they could restart it and devote it to that Robot Master. The winning eight contestants of the design contest were each issued a special “golden cartridge” edition of Mega Man 4. As there are only eight of these cartridges in existence, they are extremely rare and fetch a large collector’s price today. The musical score for Mega Man 4 was composed by Minae Fujii, credited as “Ojalin”, while the sound programming and sound effects were handled by Yasuaki Fujita, credited as “Bun Bun”, who had composed the soundtrack for Mega Man 3 the previous year.”

This history is interesting, as it was nice seeing a new developer Hayato Kaji, give some new gameplay mechanics to Mega Man and the concept of fans pitching Robot Master concepts is something that continued in later Mega Man Classic titles. Mega Man 4 released in December 6, 1991 to strong critical reviews and development on Mega Man 5 soon followed.

Gameplay & Level Design:
The gameplay is strong, mirroring Mega Man 3 on many levels. The slide returns, as does the core Rush features. But the new addition is the Charged shot, which allows you to fire two types of blasts (small charge and full charge); that is very helpful for the robot master fights. The game appears to be very hard, which was the case for me making this Retrospective, but its in the end, one of the easier Mega Man games.

Mega Man 4 has a lot of spikes placed in its level design and that could appear to be lazy, but thanks to creative gimmicks like the grasshopers in Bright Man’s stage or moving platforms, they can become a fun challenge to overcome. Items you get like the hook shot and balloon also make these annoying parts more manageable.

I mean that, as Toad Man is a good example of this. His fight has a simple pattern and is a great first robot master to fight…..but his stage is initially quite hard. You fight two snail-like robots at points in the stage and it can be annoying. You have to dodge bombs that have a wide blast radius and his eye attack can be annoying. Not to mention the second fight where you have a waterfall in-between a platform that gimps your jump if you are under it. But once you get the pattern, it feels so rewarding to get through it with enough practice.

The level design has some great points, like Pharaoh Man’s quick sand being a great stage gimmick and Bright Man’s moving grasshoppers being a great platforming gimmick. Others stages like Dive Man’s water moon jumping and Ring Man’s rainbow platforms also present fun challenges to over come too.

Lastly for gameplay, we have two towers to run through. Yes, not one but TWO towers to fight through and this is a first for the series. You fight three-four stages against Cosec but after Protoman saves his daughter, he stops fighting Mega Man and we head to a few Wily Stages. This was a great reward and felt like an improvement over the Doc Robot stages in Mega Man 3; it IS padding to make the game longer, but done in a better fashion. This continued in Mega Man 5-6 as well.

Will comment on other gameplay mechanics though. You have new Items (like in Mega Man 2) such as the hook shot that can pull Mega Man up on walls above him and a balloon platform that can be stacked. These make some platforming elements more easier to deal with (large pit in Bright Man’s stage……really needed this item for me). Rush returns with Rush Jet, Underwater Craft and Rush Coil too.

Not to mention Mega Man’s new power; the charged buster. This is a very powerful tool that can be used even when you get hit. Once you charge it enough, it can take out powerful foes with less shots and make some robot masters very fun to fight.

The new robot master items you get are fun to play around with too. Like Ring Man’s weapon a lot and the rain storm power you get is a great screen nuke.



Presentation:
Game looks great like past Mega Man games with bright colors and very detailed stages. Toad Man’s rain and Pharaoh Man’s stars shining in the sky really stand out to me.

Musically, its a great soundtrack like the other Classic Mega Man games and I like it quite a bit.

Bright Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OJ-…6692B4&index=7
Toad Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zncV…6692B4&index=8
Pharaoh Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T11J…692B4&index=10
Ring Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtZU…692B4&index=11
Skull Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oy-2…692B4&index=14

Overall:
I enjoyed my time with this game when I went back to play it again; it has fun gameplay, offers rewarding challenge and overall, does a lot right. But please, play this on a NES, Wii (VC), Wii U (VC), or Nintendo 3DS (Legacy Collection/VC). The original version I played for the initial Retrospective? The Complete Works PS1 version on my Vita. That version reportedly has bad input lag, leading to all the frustrations I had with my initial playthrough for this Retrospective.

In the end, many love the game and it is a quality Mega Man title.