Genre: Platformer
Year: 1995
Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Capcom
Platforms: SNES, PSX, Sega Saturn
Feeling Like: Time’s a Factor

No wonder nobody played Mega Man X3. It came out in December of 1995, three months after the Playstation had already launched in North America. Fans were already drooling at screenshots of Super Mario 64. The Mega Man franchise has a long history of quality and success, but also has a tendency to get long in the tooth before making the leap to something new.

Entry #271 isn’t a leap. Mega Man X and Mega Man X2 were landmark games, legitimate entries among Super Nintendo’s finest. The upgraded graphics, the superior animation, the legendary soundtracks were just a part of what drew in fans, both old and new alike. Once you play as X, it’s very difficult to go back to OG MM.

Mega Man X3 doesn’t necessarily do anything worse than the first two. The cutscenes were longer, you could play as Zero, you could dash upward in the air. There were undoubtedly some improvements, but I played this in 2008 and the lack of nostalgia impacted my enjoyment. Thirteen years takes a toll.

That’s why it’s not any higher.

But (mega) man, I’m eternally endeared to these types of graphics. I can’t help it. Look how simple they are, look how clean everything is. Look how uncluttered the user interface is. There’s barely anything to obstruct your view. Mega Man X looks amazing, he’s got all these cool bits of white armor on. That wacky teleporter is urging you step inside. We’re clearly in some futuristic factory place with all the wires on the background walls. I want to hop in right now and dash and blast away.

Capcom had a very specific sound philosophy for the Super Nintendo; make it fast, make it loud and make it an electric guitar. You’ll find this constant across nearly all Capcom offerings and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. From the second you step foot in a dastardly dungeon, you’re hit with a wailing guitar, ready to melt your robotic face off. There aren’t any soft beats here, only encouraging rock songs, amped up rock songs, ominous rock songs and elated rock songs. It’s a comfort I can always rely on.

Gravity Beetle’s theme has to be the front runner for the best track.

God, listening to that makes me want to run through a wall.

I appreciated that they went for a darker tone, the riffs seem more intense than previous iterations. I wasn’t super into the cut scenes, but you did get to play as Zero…sort of. He can’t do half the things X can, but he does come with a killer theme.

If I had played this with Kasim and Aslam, I guarantee we would have lost our collective minds at the notion of playing Zero. No doubt, we would have passed the controller to Aslam, the resident expert. The impact would have been too much for us mediocre Mega-Manners to handle.

I’m perplexed watching a Let’s Play on Youtube. They make it look so easy, when it was anything but for me. It definitely put my skills to the test, particularly since I tried to find out the proper boss order on my own. If you’ve never heard of a Mega Man game, congratulations for making it this far on the 500. Mega Mans typically have a series of levels that you can choose the order to tackle; this was very unique for an early NES game. The prospect of choosing a stage outright was novel; choosing between six or eight was unparalleled. The catch is each boss has a weakness obtained from another boss. They can be defeated with your main weapon, but your blaster deals far less damage so you’re encouraged to test and experiment before you figure out that Metal Man’s weapon is like a small nuclear weapon that works on everything.

Within seconds, you can look online and find out that Blizzard Buffalo is the smart first choice, then Toxic Seahorse, followed by Tunnel Rhino, and so on. Or, you can do it on your own and try Volt Catfish only to die four times before giving up and looking up the order online. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone through a Mega Man without resorting to relying on outside knowledge, but it doesn’t ever diminish my enjoyment. After all, I’m still the one that has to traverse the pitfalls and blast away cybernetic soldiers.

Mega Man X3 tested me. It’s easily one of the most difficult Mega Man games I’ve played, though mercifully it’s nowhere near as maddening as Mega Man Unlimited. I don’t know if my heart could take another game like that.

The end boss conquered me many, many times. This is when looking up the Youtube playthroughs make me feel like finding the nearest crow and eating it quickly. The streamers make it look so simple. Even though Sigma takes up most of the screen vertically, they just hop over him, blast him with the right weapon, avoid the projectiles and win. Easy!

Failure is always part of Mega Man ethos. When you look at the success of Dark/Demon’s Souls, it largely hinges on players finally overcoming an impossible level or a monstrous boss and the satisfaction of doing so. The roots were laid long before 2009, back when the NES was the most advanced console on the market. When you fall in a pit, you’ll know next time not to jump too early. You’ll know that Light Man is weak to Toad Man’s powers. You’ll know where to find the Energy Tank. The game doesn’t gift wrap this information to you, but the fact that you’ll always have a code to zip back to where you were means you’re not all that afraid of losing all your lives in the pursuit of excellence. Add in frame perfect controls, a banging soundtrack and a simple concept and it’s no wonder the franchise has retained its popularity since 1987.

That’s why Mega Man X3 is at 271 and not any lower. Difficult or not, the core DNA of a Mega Man game is here. I was glued to it early, and often and I stay attached even today.

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