I'll be the first to admit that I never really gave the Mega Man X games a chance until a few years ago, so my experience with them has been pretty limited. That's why when Capcom released the Mega Man X Legacy Collections, I jumped at the chance to play them. The collections were a great idea, after all—bring back a franchise onto modern systems to introduce new players to the games, add in some new features for longtime fans of the series, and you should have a good combination.
When it comes to the actual games, there isn't much to discuss. Mega Man X Legacy Collection contains the first four Mega Man X titles, while Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 contains everything from Mega Man X5 through Mega Man X8. Though I would have preferred to have everything in one package if possible, the division is ultimately fine. You can even change to the Japanese versions with the click of a button!
The games are presented in their original form, but they include an additional save feature and a "Rookie Hunter" mode. Capcom also made the decision to rename the Mega Man X5 bosses to remove references to Guns N' Roses and bring the names more in line with the traditional naming scheme. The save feature runs alongside the password system common to Mega Man games, allowing you to load your game from where you left off without having to enter a password. Unlike the previous collections, though, this feature can only be activated between stages, not in the middle of one.
Rookie Hunter mode acts mostly as an easy mode of sorts. While it doesn't make the game itself easier, it cuts the amount of damage you take in half, allowing you to hopefully progress further. In addition, if you're playing any of the games from Mega Man X4 through Mega Man X8, Rookie Hunter mode also prevents instant deaths by spikes and bottomless pits. However, it's a little strange that this ability is absent from the first three titles.
The games hold up to everything I've heard, both good and bad. I really appreciate the changes to the formula. The armor upgrades, though optional, provide a feeling of progression. The health upgrades and sub-tanks definitely help in the later stages of the games—I'm not sure I would've beaten them otherwise! The second collection is where things get weird, though, containing some of the worst games in the franchise. I'll definitely go through and finish up these titles in time, but only after I've had my fill of the first four games.
New to both of these collections is a boss rush mode, known as "X Challenge." X Challenge consists of nine stages of three fights each. Each fight has you fighting against two bosses from across the franchise at the same time, as, from a story perspective, the Mavericks are out for revenge. The story here is pretty bare bones and feels like it was thrown in as a justification for these fights taking place. I think more definitely could've been done with it, but that's a fairly minor gripe in the grand scheme of things.
You don't have to go into these fights without help, of course (though you do have that option). You're allowed to select three special weapons from a specified list that you can use across each stage. You'll have to be wise with these choices, however, as you aren't allowed to change weapons between fights. You get three lives per stage, and if you lose all of them, you have to start from the first of the fights in that stage.
X Challenge comes in three different difficulties, though you only have Easy and Normal to start with. Beating either of these modes unlocks Hard mode. Easy difficulty allows you to take less damage than normal, as well as completely refilling your health and weapon energy between each fight. As an additional bonus, the first boss that you defeat within each pair drops a large health refill.
With all of these assists, beating Easy mode isn't too much of a task. Normal is where the challenge really starts picking up, as your health and weapon energy don't refill between fights. If you die, you restart the fight with your weapons in exactly the same state as you started it the first time, so you can't death abuse to get more energy.
One of the most interesting aspects of this mode to me is that you play as X from later in the series. This means that you have the ability to dash, hover, and use the Z-Saber. It makes fights from early in the franchise a bit strange since some of these abilities aren't present in those games. It can also be a little jarring the first time you see a boss from Mega Man X and Mega Man X6 in the same fight due to the different art styles, but this fades pretty quickly.
Overall, this mode is pretty fun, at least for the first few tries. Easy was good for getting a feel for the mode, but the enjoyment definitely comes from the challenge of intelligently picking your weapons and the skill required to make it through three straight fights that can be found on Normal and Hard. I haven't tried Hard yet, but I've heard it's ridiculously hard. There's also an extra secret in this mode that unlocks once you beat Hard mode. I won't spoil what it is, but it's a pretty cool Easter egg. I don't agree with some aspects of its implementation, but it is what it is.
These games wouldn't be a celebration of Mega Man X history without a museum feature, and the Mega Man X Legacy Collections pull through here. Each game features a music player featuring the soundtracks of each game within the respective collection, in addition to a soundtrack of the collection itself.
There's also an art gallery featuring images and information about the bosses from each respective game and from the collections as a whole. Both collections have the "The Day of Sigma" anime short from Maverick Hunter X and a gallery of some cool Mega Man X merchandise from across the years. But these are the same on both collections, which is a bit disappointing for those who own both collections.
Now, one complaint I have about these titles is the ability to remap buttons. The collections limit you to changing your control scheme from the main menu of each game. You can't change mappings from inside the game, which makes it awkward to do so since you can't test your setup without having to constantly enter and exit the game. I've also heard reports that on the PC versions, you are limited as to what buttons you're actually allowed to use. I was using a controller when I played, so I can't confirm this firsthand, but it is certainly worth noting.
I also would've liked to have some additional content in the form of gameplay. The Mega Man Legacy Collections included a challenge mode, allowing you to race through boss fights and stages in a time trial setting. It would've been cool to bring this feature back for these collections, just as an extra thing to do for when X Challenge loses its luster. Another idea would've been to include Vile's campaign from Maverick Hunter X as a bonus. Vile's campaign takes you through the events of Mega Man X from Vile's perspective and does some really cool stuff regarding loadout customization that would've been fun to go through again.
All in all, the release of these games on modern platforms, as well as the added accessibility features, will help expose new players like myself to them. As someone who never really gave the Mega Man X franchise a fair chance when that was younger, I can certainly say that was a mistake, and I'd hope that other newcomers could say the same. The collections are also pretty solid for old fans since the games are present in their original forms.
The new X Challenge mode is fun and challenging and will be something I'll be working on for a while to come, at least until I beat it. I do wish the extra features within the collections were more varied, however. It makes sense if someone only gets one of the two packages, but for those who have both, it's very redundant and I feel that something else might've better served its place. You certainly won't be in a bad place by getting both collections, as both have a good bit going for them. But if you could only get one, I'd go with Mega Man X Legacy Collection, just on the basis of having better games overall.
Copies of Mega Man X Legacy Collection and Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 were provided by Capcom for the purposes of this review.