Capcom continue to release the older Mega Man games in collection form on the PS4. We’ve had the Mega Man games split into two collections, the Mega Man X games split into two collections and now we have the Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection. Judging by the previous two being split this is quite a generous package with all the Zero and ZX games bundled together although the price is about on par.
The Zero games were on the Game Boy Advance and there are four titles. There are two ZX titles from the more advanced Nintendo DS and it all comes packaged in a pleasant wrapper that comes with the usual wallpaper, scan lines and screen size options that you’d expect. You can play the English or Japanese versions of the titles. There are artworks to view and even a music player to listen to all the tracks from the games which is a nice touch and shows the games getting the reverence they should in collection form but so few do.
Although they are different the basic action platformer gameplay of the originals remains in place. Making tough jumps, defeating enemies before facing off against a boss with recognisable patterns is the common thread and one hit death spikes return. The games do have a greater focus on story however, which I could personally do without.
As the titles suggest in the Zero games you play as Zero. Often seen as a ‘cooler’ Mega Man he certainly has more movement and attack options from the off than the Blue Bomber. Zero can dash and wall jump making him far more nimble and he has a Z-Sabre (sword) as well as a Buster Shot (gun) with other weapons to unlock as you advance (depending on the game). Each game handles progression a little differently.
Mega Man Zero has you pick missions from a list. Unfortunately this involves returning to the same areas quite often which isn’t great but your weapons level up as you use them allowing you to charge attacks or perform combos which is good. There’s a cyber elf system which lets you sacrifice creatures in order to strengthen yourself and they are hidden around or can be collected from enemies. You are punished for using them however with your score suffering at the end of levels which locks you out of certain content making the system a little pointless as it dissuades you from interacting with it.
Mega Man Zero 2 is much the same but you do unlock new forms depending on how you get through a level. You can also unlock EX Skills from bosses if your rating is high enough when you defeat them (meaning you shouldn’t really interact with the cyber elves again) and there’s a new grappling hook style weapon which has its uses but isn’t the most intuitive. Mission selection now gives you some boss information so it’s a little more similar to the original games but you’re still tasked with completing missions rather than just defeating bosses.
Mega Man Zero 3 starts to bring in some changes. Primarily you are only punished for using certain cyber elves now, so you can interact with this system and take advantage of some of the upgrades they give you. There are also doors to the Cyber World which will grant you the power of every cyber elf in your possession making you quite strong but again this will dock points .
Mega Man Zero 4 changes the cyber elf system again. You no longer have to collect them and merely level up one and you’re only punished if you over level them for where you are in the game. New though is the weather system that allows you to change the weather to make the level easier or harder with a reward at the end. There’s also a new ability from the off in the form of Zero Knuckle which lets you grab enemies and steal their abilities temporarily, a little like Kirby.
As these were all Game Boy Advance games the sprites are quite chunky and the action is quite zoomed in. This is a problem, especially in the first game as you are constantly being hit by things that have only just entered your screen and can often be jumping blindly for platforms. Bosses also can leave the screen rather than occupying one room that fills the screen meaning you can’t see their attacks and will often take massive damage from them merely jumping onto the screen. This does improve as the games progress thankfully but these quirks do make games that were designed to be difficult in the first place even harder.
The ZX games are quite different as you no longer play as Zero but a human character that can take on the form of X or Zero or any defeated boss as you explore a Metroidvania style open world. Both games are quite similar in approach but whereas ZX‘s map is awful, it is improved for ZX Advent. The human form will allow you to crawl through holes and talk to other humans but the other forms will be for fighting and platforming. You receive missions much like the Zero games but you’ll have to make your way over to the area rather than just loading into a map. As the DS had two screens you can actually use the right stick to interact with a little screen at the bottom right, but its uses are limited.
I think I might prefer the ZX titles to the Zero ones, mainly due to the camera being pulled out a little thanks to being on the more powerful DS. They feel more like other Mega Man titles whereas the Zero games are definitely going for their own thing. Your mileage may vary. Each game’s levels/missions are quite short (if you manage to not die of course) with the games themselves being longer than classic Mega Man but not overly long. They do have a lot of replayability though thanks to the rating system.
There have been some alterations made to modernise things somewhat. An optional checkpoint system has been put in place so you don’t have to repeat an entire level if you die or run out of lives which is very welcome as although the levels are short the bosses will probably take a few attempts to figure out. If that’s not enough there’s a Casual Scenario Mode which makes the games very easy, powering up your characters and making pits and spikes non-lethal. This mode does lock you out from some trophies however.
On top of all that is a Z Chaser mode, which is a time trial mode basically. Select levels from each game can be run to set a time and although that might not sound like much in itself it’s got all the bells and whistles you’d want. You can view replays of the fastest times, you can race directly against ghosts by either following their timeline or having a screen of their run playing alongside as you make your attempt. The ghosts range in difficulty too so you can go against an easier one or test yourself against an SS rated ghost. Some people might not like that you can’t run every level in the game but the presentation seems to have taken some cues from the speedrunning community and it’s really appreciated.
As a collection Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection can’t really be faulted. All the games run as you’d hope and there’s enough care and attention given around the periphery to make this better than merely running them on an emulator. After playing through Mega Man Zero I was a little underwhelmed but the games got better as they went on and now I’m looking at those trophies I missed first time through and am going to attempt some more runs. Even with the added checkpoints these games are still tough so aren’t going to be for everyone but fans of the games or those who have enjoyed the other collections will appreciate what’s on offer here.
+ Extras for the collection are very welcome
+ Games given the reverence they deserve
- Some systems are wasted in the earlier games
- May be too challenging for some