1995, maps in the latest Nintendo Power, sixth grade, an upcoming birthday, a short-lived neighborhood rental store, a sleepover party, a seventy dollar price tag and a friend's skull smashed into my living room floor by another guest. The amount of memories triggered by the mere mention of Mega Man X2 is simply staggering. In April of 1995 all I could think about was getting my hands on this cart, continuing the battle against the malicious Mavericks.
Looking back, I can't help but wish I could travel back in time and recapture that magic, that unique combination of patience, desire and blissful ignorance that defines childhood. That ability to not overanalyze anything - and I mean anything - at all. Unfortunately, those days don't last and retrospect and insight eventually crash the party. As much as I enjoyed (and still enjoy) the SNES, I can't say I miss paying ridiculous prices for cartridge based games, although I can certainly question what I was thinking when I shelled out seventy bones for Mega Man X2.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't a case of buyer's remorse that's been festering for fifteen years, but in knowing what I know now, that X2 is the definition of a standard sequel, I can't help but think that money could have been spent on a more captivating gaming experience. Still, given how wise a majority of a child's purchases are, that may be too much to expect of my younger self. Yet with the forethought of the place the game once held in my personal gaming hierarchy, what makes X2 worth hanging onto? The answer is rather surprising....
Gameplay wise, Mega Man X2 is pretty much identical to its predecessor: progress through mostly liner stages collecting heart tanks, sub tanks, and cleverly hidden capsules while maintaining one's health on the way to the area's quote unquote boss. Beat the boss and take their weapon; use those acquired weapons to take advantage of enemy weaknesses in future encounters. After defeating the grunts, take down the kingpin (gee, I wonder who THAT could be?) and save the day.
Okay, so it's a bit more fun than my slapdash explanation is making it sound, but in general X2 only adds a few new wrinkles to what players experienced in the original. The most important of these is the introduction of a group of three Mavericks (it was originally meant to be four but the female member was scraped due to the limits of the Cx4 chip, as was Violen's second form) that call themselves the "X-Hunters." Eventually, the player learns the "unification" is just a fancy term for stealing Zero's parts and slapping him back together so he can get his "revenge" on you for "letting him die."
Black and white as that may seem, the X-Hunters prove to be much more than the key to the game's outcome. While I'll admit I'm not exactly goo-goo gaga over these characters themselves, they do add an element that was missing from the original Mega Man X. That element is danger. Looking back at certain Mavericks in that title, some of them hardly left me quaking in my boots, and in a way that dampened the effect certain moments in that game had on me. This really isn't the case in Mega Man X2, where there is a strange sense of abstract edginess, even dirtiness to everything that fights against the clean feel of the original. Much like the opening cinematic says, "a real war is about to begin" and the kid gloves are off. Even Yuki Iwai's peculiar musical score plays into it as does the immediate sequel Mega Man X3.
As impressive as it is for the series to change it's temperament without utilizing major changes in presentation or game play, the effect can only go so far. Additionally, while I wouldn't want to change the game from its final form, I do have to question the usage of the Cx4 chip and the sacrifices made to utilize it. Mega Man X2 probably would have found a wider audience with a lower retail price and larger print run, something the Cx4 prohibited, and is the reason why carts still fetch a decent amount of cash on the secondary market. Of course, today's prices are about half of what the game went for originally, but the game hasn't held its value for the right reasons.
Taking in all the above into consideration, Mega Man X2 on the SNES is mainly geared towards the true blue and perhaps slightly disillusioned Mega Man fan. Those with a mild interest should steer clear of procuring the actual cart and just find a copy of The Mega Man X Collection for the Gamecube or PlayStation 2. As for this Mega Man fan, while I'm glad I've managed to retain my copy throughout all these years despite my decaying faith in the series, it's far from the trophy I once considered it.