Review by Sb27441X

"A brief flirtation with quality from Capcom"

The Megaman series. It's ubiquitous amongst the legions of NES and SNES fans as well as platform fans worldwide, a dying breed. The genre's grown stale from a lack of innovation and the creeping problem that there are only so many 2D level designs and gameplay options. The lack of innovation has really hindered the Megaman series in the past with its 30-40 games, most of which feature a robot shooting other robots and charging up shots to make them more powerful.

Not that it's a bad thing. However, the question must be asked. Why? Why does Capcom decide to port this PS2 game to the PC, an audience that is hostile to the console port at best and unflinchingly brutal to an un-innovative side-scrolling platformer?

Given the previous unbridled torrent of hatred toward Megaman X4 and X5 for PC , one may wonder how the audience will react toward this title. X4 was a decent platformer with solid side-scrolling action, but the lack of proper controller support and bugs abound doomed the experience to mediocrity. X5, on the other hand, provided a much-improved technical interface, with variable resolution and solid joypad support, but the gameplay felt like a rehash of X4 with increasingly mediocre level design. X8 has taken the gameplay and tech specs in a step in the right direction.

Graphically, X8 is solid. Many particle effects are quality, with the occasional N64-esque effect, but overall the character models and backgrounds are pleasing on the eyes. Less pleasing is the textures, which have a nasty PS1 candy-colored monotone to them that just screams "bad console port". When a character is zoomed in upon in a cutscene (and there are quite a few), the pixelation in the textures is increasingly evident, something that perhaps should have been upped for the PC version. I would have liked an option for anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, but this IS a console port.

The system requirements are a bit lower or on par with the minimum requirements for the game today, and on my Athlon XP 2600, 512 DDR RAM and Geforce FX 5600 I was able to get a solid 40-50 fps in most areas at 1024x768 in 32-bit color. The option for 32-bit color is welcomed . Its presence seemingly improves the textures a bit and makes the world seem more vibrant. Controller support is also very solid, with my old Gravis joypad doing the job quite nicely, although I can't see playing the game without one. The stability is marred slightly by a few bugs that popped up: an annoying glitch upon startup where the game ran too fast, causing sound glitching and making the game slightly more difficult to play. This could be resolved by exiting the game and restarting it, but it was left over from the demo and Capcom had ample opportunity to fix it. Another bug involving a door not opening was encountered once, probably a freak incident. Overall, X8 is a considerable improvement in this area over X5 and other predecessors.

If this otherwise unspectacular 2D platformer can redeem itself, it's through gameplay. For the most part, X8 is a fun 2D romp with many different challenges and level designs being thrown at the player, with a mildly fun jetbike race across Arctic tundra and an irritating jetbike race in a crowded city against a robotic jellyfish with a rather unmasculine voice. I was a little disappointed in only 12 stages, but unlockable characters and options that force you to revisit stages, as well as three difficulty levels, give the game more replay than one would expect from a Megaman game. I felt there was an overreliance on spike pits throughout the game, but there's usually a clear and concise way to get across if the player has the dexterity needed to succeed, unlike the hellish-spike mazes of luck from games such as X6. I can't say I ever really felt frustrated in X8.

X8 also enhances its experience with three characters each with quite the armory of different weapons. X8 probably features more ways to devastate the opposition than any other Megaman game, with everything from giant missiles to ice-powered Gattling guns to a lightsaber-esque warhammer equally spread amongst the chararacters. Voice acting, a previous thorn in the side for the X games (X's god-awful feminine voice in X4 comes to mind), has been improved for all three of the heroes and their counterparts. One navigator in the game is quite irritating, but it's clear from the character design that she was intended to be. X8 isn't likely to win over those who've sworn off side-scrollers, but those nostalgic for the genre will likely find its gameplay enjoyable.

Although the voice acting is great, the sound effects are perhaps only average, with mediocre music for the most part (generic rock, although I've heard generic rock far more generic than this) and the charge-up sound of X's buster being a bit too high-pitched for my taste. I kinda liked the vacuum-cleaner-like buster from the orginal SNES , but there's really no reason to complain as the sound is perfectly adequate and not disruptive. X8 lacks a really catchy tune that the earlier Megaman games had in abundance. This is disappointing, but the music is hardly noticeable anyway.

Overall, I'm quite impressed with this effort. Sadly, it is only an import, but it features full English text and voices if you tinker with the files a bit. It's difficult to find , both legally and for those less concerned with the law would be hard pressed to find a source for it. This is a quality product that is worth buying if you're a fan of side-scrollers with a decent joypad. If you long for the original Megaman X games, this will definitely help you cope.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/18/05

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