Retrospective – Mega Man Zero (GBA)

In 2002, Capcom decided it was finally time to give this fan-favorite swordsman his own game series.

One of the most iconic characters to come from the Mega Man franchise has to be Zero, the red saber-wielding Reploid with the long, blond hair. How could you not love him? First introduced in the first game of the Mega Man X series, Zero immediately became an instant hit and eventual playable character in many of the future Mega Man X games. In 2002, Capcom decided it was finally time to give this fan-favorite swordsman his own game series; thus, Mega Man Zero was born.

Released on the GameBoy Advance, Mega Man Zero was instantly recognizable to anybody who enjoyed the fast-paced gameplay of the Mega Man X series. Zero is awakened 100 years after the events of the X games (with a fancy new design, to boot) to solve another problem having to do with robots and their relations with humans. The game is presented in a very unique anime art style, with many of the kinds of cut scenes you would be familiar with if you played any of the Mega Man X games on the PlayStation. The sprite art is absolutely gorgeous, presenting you with character designs and backgrounds that really look like they take place in this grungy, cyberpunk-esque world.

Gameplay is king in Mega Man Zero. The tried-and-true combat you come to expect from this franchise is here in full force and turned up to 11. Armed with his trademark saber and arm cannon, Zero quickly and fluidly blasts through enemies with style and finesse. This unique combination of weapons he has and the dashing he can do through levels feels very easy to pick up and experiment with as hordes of enemies seek to hunt you down. When you take down bosses, you even get elemental chips that allows you to take on the element of said boss and use it against another boss, continuing on the tradition of taking advantage of boss weaknesses popularized in classic Mega Man games.

The stage select that was popularized in the previous Mega Man games is eschewed for an interconnected map that allows you to freely explore and take on missions. In a way, although the word is overused, it feels like an early Metroidvania-style game, albeit with less problem-solving and more slashing around wildly. It is unique in comparison to previous Mega Man games, but isn’t necessarily groundbreaking or done as well as other GBA games at the time.

Make no mistake, though: this game is HARD.

It was, in fact, designed specifically to be one of the most difficult Mega Man games to date. With only a few lives at your disposal and an early difficulty hike, it’s hard to blame someone for giving up early on. While Zero controls very well, the limited control scheme of the GameBoy Advance leaves your hands feeling cramped very quickly as you repeatedly dash-and-slash. Not only that, but many of the bosses border on the “very difficult” to “basically unfair;” I rarely get angry when I play video games, but the original Mega Man Zero was pushing it.

The overall story is… well, kind of odd. Classic Mega Man has very little plot and Mega Man X games have never been known for their easy-to-follow storylines. Mega Man Zero falls more in the X territory with its convoluted timeline and the importance of the original Mega Man X. Zero is woken up from his sleep by a human girl who wants him to help her and her people in a resistance against Neo Arcadia, a utopian civilization bent on destroying so-called “Maverick” Reploids who haven’t actually gone maverick. It is your typical “rebels vs. organization” type of story, but knowing about who X and Zero were in the past gives it a unique twist that brings up some very interesting ideas about one’s legacy and even their reputation. Were Zero’s exploits in the original X games all for naught? How did he become such a legend to these people in the future? What happened to cause Mega Man X to change so much and fall from grace? These questions are mostly answered, but as Christians, we have to wonder: are their answers satisfying? Or do they leave you wanting something more fulfilling?

With the new collection coming out to modern consoles, is the original Mega Man Zero worth playing? Absolutely. In a day and age where people are craving more and more difficult video games, this game can scratch that itch for you. With the complicated storyline and fast-paced, twitch-oriented action gameplay, Mega Man Zero will truly have you shouting out, “WHAT AM I FIGHTING FOOOOOOOOOOR?!”