This Mega Man X spin-off is an RPG, and it’s surprisingly competent one at that. While the story and battle system aren’t likely to blow any minds, it’s all very serviceable, although the ending leaves a bit to be desired. Command Mission surely can’t be canonical, so those in it for the lore don’t have a reason to play it, really. Honestly, Command Mission is just here, not really bringing anything new to the table, but also not particularly bad or offensive. It sits in the middle of the X series pack, so you can take it or leave it.
While I haven’t played the original Xtreme, I can tell you this: Xtreme 2 is a stunning and well-crafted Mega Man in its own right. It takes full advantage of the Game Boy Color’s capacities to deliver a colorful and entertaining title. Everything you would expect from the series is here: tight gameplay, demanding enemies and some killer tracks to enjoy while dying over and over again. You can even choose between X or Zero and complete the first of three necessary walkthroughs to reach the true ending and secret boss battle. A really enjoyable—and pretty hard at times—portable adventure.
Mega Man Xtreme feels like a condensed handheld version of Mega Man X and X2. Almost all of the levels, bosses, and weapons are ripped from these two games and squeezed into the Gameboy Color. It is a relatively admirable job, with the faux 16-bit art-style and simplified music being an enjoyable treat. However, the zoomed-in focus and limited buttons make the game awkward. Its biggest weakness is that it is obsolete. When you can play X and X2 on the go through the Mega Man X Legacy Collection, there is no need for an inferior handheld “greatest hits” compilation.
After X7, there was really nowhere to go but up, and Mega Man X8 certainly fulfills at least those very low expectations. Mercifully, it returns to a primarily 2D format, although there are some segments that still take place in 3D. As one might expect, these segments are some of the game’s weaker points, including, what else, a fully 3D auto-scrolling level that gives X5 Volt Kraken’s stage a run for its money on terribleness. However, newcomer Axl feels better to play than in X7 and the controls are vastly improved in general, resulting in a much stronger game overall.
Mega Man X7 is really the pinnacle of the series when it comes to awfulness. The previous two games weren’t great, but the level of strength required to be a Mega Man X7 apologist is likely beyond what mere mortals could muster. To put it lightly, Mega Man X did not make a smooth transition to 3D. Between despicably bad camera angles, laughably bad controls, ear-splitting sound effects and voiceover, and yes, oh yes, yet another agonizingly bad auto-scrolling level that is somehow one of the game’s better levels, Mega Man X7 disappoints even those with the lowest of expectations.
Mega Man X6 is about as direct a continuation of Mega Man X5 as you could imagine, which isn’t great news for anyone who might have been expecting a fresh take on a deteriorating series. Level design continues to be frustrating and hunting for collectibles and upgrades more obtuse than ever. X6 does feature a more interesting arsenal than the previous game, but this does little to distract from the fact that some upgrades are locked behind rescuable reploids that can die before you get to them! The entire game is a slog only broken by reasonably tolerable boss fights.
While Mega Man X4 was solid all around, X5 is a mess. It also establishes some tropes that the series could have done without, like the poorly explained virus mechanic and the ability to rescue reploids scattered around various stages. Rescuing reploids ultimately amounts to an annoying chore, especially since it’s generally a nightmare to navigate the game’s levels. This is never more true than in Volt Kraken’s stage, likely the worst auto-scrolling level in the entire series. Death is likely within its first few seconds. There is little of redeeming value for X5 aside from its traditional core gameplay.
Mega Man X4 finally pulled out all the stops for its debut on the PlayStation by upgrading Zero to a fully playable character that learns entirely different abilities than X. Zero’s also much more responsive than in his X3 appearance. Because he must dispatch his enemies in melee, his playstyle is considerably riskier than the range-centric X. X4 in general has a much glossier 2D look than its predecessors and feels floaty and slightly less fluid. X4 does a lot well, but commits a sin the X series would continue to repeat by featuring a miserable auto-scrolling jet bike level.
Mega Man X3 is often considered to be among the hardest in the series thanks in no small part to stage-hopping minibosses that must be defeated in order to unlock all of the game’s content. It’s also notable as being the first game in the series to feature energy saber-wielding Zero as a playable character, although in an admittedly limited capacity. He feels especially sluggish to play when compared to later iterations. For X, a new vertical air dash causes more problems than it solves. X3 is a tad more frustrating than the first two games but otherwise pretty strong.
Always content to capitalize on their successes, Capcom quickly released a follow-up to Mega Man X with a very similar formula. X2 works in much the way its predecessor does but adds some new traversal mechanics to even further distance (heh) itself from the classic series. Air dashing is a lot of fun, although occasionally unwieldy. The arsenal of weaponry at X’s disposal is noticeably less impressive, though, and a series of annoying roaming bosses that pop up in random stages is a sore point. A less than memorable soundtrack also does it no favors. MMX2 is serviceable but nonessential.