Mega Man Zero is exhilarating action-platforming. The dark tone engulfs the player into the atmosphere surrounding the resistance and Neo-Arcadia. Overall, there is a lot to like about Mega Man Zero; so, where does one begin talking about the great things in Mega Man Zero?
The game takes place half a century after the events of the Mega Man X series. After stopping the evil “Maverick” leader, Sigma, both X and Zero vanish. However, Mega Man Zero begins when Ciel, a human scientist, runs into a sealed chamber to awaken Zero. Ciel awakens Zero after being powered down a hundred years ago and joins the resistance, a group who is fighting against Zero’s previous ally X, the leader of Neo Arcadia. Zero eventually also discovers that the X controlling Neo Arcadia is a copy of the original. Ciel constructed “Copy X” since the original X disappeared a long time ago. Copy X desired world peace, nevertheless, Copy X lacked the moral judgment of the original X. Believing that reploids posed a threat to humans, Copy X branded any reploid posing any threat to humanity as a Maverick. With the spirit of the true X guiding him, Zero sets out on a journey to defeat the four guardians and the Copy X.
The plot is very grim and dark for a Mega Man game. The player ends up helping the resistance, a group that seems to be horribly outmatched and basically a group that fears Neo Arcadia. Helping the resistance allows the player to take pity on the out-resourced and outmatched resistance. Not only does the player take pity on the resistance, the player also pity’s the Copy X who eventually gets defeated by Zero. After being defeated, Copy X claims that “I was supposed to be…the perfect copy…How can this be…possible…I was supposed to be…a hero…”. Even though retiring innocent reploids was wrong; Copy X believed that his actions were just and believed that he was to some extent helping the greater good. He believed that what he was doing was heroic. Defeating and watching Copy X’s ambitions fail only makes the player feel sorry for Copy X’s defeat.
Also, the player may wonder, were Copy X’s actions completely unjustified?
How did fighting mavericks for so long lead to Copy X believing that every reploid is a maverick?
These questions made me fascinated by Copy X’s character and made him a very interesting villain. His ambitions were interesting and well thought out, nonetheless, these questions made me want to explore more of Copy X’s personality. I wanted to explore more of Copy X’s personality because I wanted to feel like his actions were completely justified. I felt enough pity for Copy X that I wanted his actions to be just, so I can feel less pity (this can’t happen though because this would defeat the purpose of a villain). In the end, I like the villain and I think the plot is very well rounded in Mega Man Zero.
The soundtrack deserves praise for matching up with the tone and atmosphere in Mega Man Zero. None of the tunes seem cheery and seem to line up with the grim and dark atmosphere. The music also, most importantly, lines up at the correct moment occurring within the game. The “deadzone” theme is a fast-paced intense tune that generally plays when the player is in a time crunch and in a serious pinch. You will also know when you’re facing one of the four guardians or Copy X due to the dramatic legendary entrance theme. You will also know when “the end of legend” has begun because that theme cues when you have defeated Copy X. It’s a very fitting them that focuses on a loop that changes from a normal to an eerie sad sound. The eerie sad sound matches up with the sad defeat of Copy X and the pity and sorrow felt for Copy X.
In Mega Man Zero the player can dash on the ground, jump, wall jump, climb walls, and hold a primary and secondary weapon. The resistance base also functions as hub and completing a mission can unlock another mission. Players also have three lives to complete a mission before receiving a game over. Leveling up weapons happens when players constantly use the same weapon for a long period of time. In Mega Man Zero, players can only earn a fire, thunder, and ice chip. Thus, there are not nearly as many new weapons as previous Mega Man games. However, Mega Man Zero introduced “Cyber Elves”, a completely new and different mechanic.
Cyber Elves can be found in certain missions or by killing certain enemies. When equipped, Cyber Elves can allow players to take less damage, slow enemies down, and increase health. Only three Cyber Elves can be equipped at a time and some require to be fed energy crystals. While Mega Man Zero is a difficult game, Cyber Elves do help the player and makes frustrating parts a little less frustrating by giving the player a small handicap.
Mega Man Zero offers a fair amount in mechanics and the Cyber Elves do make things easier; however, the difficulty is extremely punishing. Beating the game in a single playthrough blind is no easy feat, while additionally, the game focuses a lot on trial and error. It’s normal to miss very specific jumps or to get gunned down by the massive waves of enemies. Instant kill spikes, hazards, one shot abyss pitfalls, Mega Man Zero has all of those. The player also only has three lives, while additionally, Zero can only take so many hits before dying. Finding one-ups (haha what are those) are not easy to find without the help of a guide and do require a little bit of exploration the further you progress through the game. Zero, however, ramps up in difficulty when trying to get an “S” or “A” rank which requires a perfect run of the level and the boss fight. This requires the player to memorize every single nook and cranny of the level. While I did find Mega Man Zero frustrating at points, I still enjoyed the game and was not turned off completely because of the difficulty. However, be warned this is not an easy game and if you hate challenging games then this game is probably not for you.
The boss fights are fun, nonetheless, a few bosses do have their fair share of difficult moments. One of the first bosses, Aztec Falcon, was a challenging boss since you must beat him at a certain time and the fact that the room is small. Zero also does not have access to any E-chips in the early portion of the game. The guardians are no walk in the park as well. Harpuia and Phantom are some of the hardest bosses in the game. Phantom has no E-chip weakness, whereas, Harpuia even with the Ice Chip is no cake walk. Harpuia generally flies about shooting a large arc beam and can even pick up Zero and slam him into the ground. Also, the final level in Neo Arcadia is a boss rush and requires the player to fight eight bosses before the final battle with Copy X. So, despite the occasional difficulty with boss fights, why are the boss fights fun? I found myself enjoying the boss fights because I felt like I achieved something by beating these bosses. The harder bosses were even more satisfying to defeat due to the sheer difficulty involved. I especially enjoyed the four guardians and would recommend this game based only on the awesome boss fights.
Mega Man Zero is an amazing action platforming that can be relentless with difficulty spikes. However, despite the difficulty, the game still provides a nice punch of enjoyment and players will feel amazing satisfaction when steamrolling through the difficult sections of the game. Zero is also relatively accessible and can be played on the virtual shop on the Wii U, the original Gameboy Advance cartridge, or the Mega Man Zero collection for the Nintendo DS (probably the best way to play the original Mega Man Zero games). Overall, Mega Man Zero is an awesome game and I would highly recommend it.