Fans of the little blue robot will be pleased to know that Mega Man has made the leap to Sony's PSP successfully. Mega Man Maverick Hunter X has all of the old school charm which made the Mega Man series a hit to begin with, but newbies be warned: this is a tough game that requires skill and perseverance.
Mega Man Maverick Hunter X is a faithful remake of Mega Man X, a game which first appeared on Nintendo's SNES way back in the early 1990s. But while the gameplay and level design is the same, the game has been given a significant visual upgrade. It's still essentially a 2D side scrolling shooter, but the game's backgrounds have now been rendered in 3D, with the characters themselves given an impressive anime-style sheen.
In Mega Man chronology, Maverick Hunter X actually takes place years after the original series. It still stars the blue armour clad hero Mega Man, who this time has to track down renegade robots that have joined forces with the evil maverick hunter Sigma. Each of the game's 13 levels sees Mega Man having to traverse areas full of enemies before taking on a difficult boss at the end. Along the way, Mega Man will find new weapons and armour upgrades essential for future encounters.
Maverick Hunter's gameplay is old school simplicity to a tee. Mega Man can jump, double jump off walls, dash and fire weapons, with the PSP allowing you to switch around which buttons do which functions (for example, we mapped jump and fire to the handheld's shoulder buttons for better ease of use). He starts with a basic blaster at the beginning of the game, but earns new weapons after defeating each boss. Armour upgrades, which also add new abilities to Mega Man, are hidden throughout the game's levels.
Earning new weapons and armour is essential to completing the game, as defeating some bosses or areas are impossible without certain upgrades. The game is completely unforgiving in this regard. After the first levels, players are given the choice as to which area to tackle next. While it seems an open decision, the order in which you approach the different levels is actually quite crucial. You'll need to visit Flame Mammoth's level and obtain leg armour upgrades, for example, before you have any chance of defeating Storm Eagle on another level. And with the game not giving any hints as to what requirements are needed to defeat a certain stage (not to mention the fiendishly hidden armour upgrades), you'll find yourself undergoing plenty of trial and error before you beat the game.
As an old school game, Maverick Hunter X is also quite difficult. Enemies will pop up off screen or in the unlikeliest of places, with quick reflexes (and in most cases, memorising what's coming up next in each level) required to win through. Boss fights are similarly old school in design - they're all pattern-based, so while they're difficult to begin with, learning their attacks patterns and reacting accordingly is the only strategy you'll need.
Persistence and patience should get you through the several hours it will take to complete Maverick Hunter X, but thankfully there's more gameplay to be had after your first run through. After finishing the game, players will unlock a new character they can take through the 13 levels -- Vile has even more impressive attacks and armour than Mega Man. Another bonus is a short anime which details the background behind the game's story.
Mega Man fans itching for the heyday of this once great series will find plenty of cheer in Mega Man Maverick Hunter X. While the levels are the same, enough changes have been introduced (such as boss patterns and locations of hidden bonuses) to make it a worthwhile purchase for Mega Man fanatics. Those new to the series will find it quite challenging, though.
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