Barely a year after the release of Mega Man X, Mega Man X2 was released for the Super Famicom in December 1994. It came out on the SNES a month later in January 1995. It really isn’t too different from MMX in terms of gameplay, but it does tell a better story. It’s pretty clear that the main goal of the game was to bring Zero back to life. I think this was when Zero and M. Bison started competing for the title of most revived Capcom character.
Mega Man X2 takes place 6 months after MMX. After Zero blew himself up taking out Vile’s mech at the end of MMX, X became the leader of the Maverick Hunters. X is called Mega Man X multiple times in this game. Apparently, the localizers wanted to push the idea that X was the original Mega Man. With the help of Dr. Cain, the Maverick Hunters track the Mavericks down to a Reploid factory. X and Green Biker Dude chase a Maverick to the factory, but sadly, Green Biker Dude got blown up while popping a wheelie before getting there. Inside the factory, X discovers that the Maverick rebellion continues, even after Sigma’s defeat.
After the factory stage, we find out that 3 Mavericks, called the X-Hunters, have stolen Zero’s body parts, but couldn’t get their hands on the control chip. They also took over the North Pole. No, you don’t have to save Santa in this game. After beating a couple of levels, the X-Hunters start appearing in normally sealed off rooms in the 8 base levels, and they will shuffle around their locations every time you exit a level. If you beat one of these Mavericks, you can get one of Zero’s parts. The story will play out a little differently depending on whether or not you get all the parts before going to the final levels.
The game’s progression is pretty much the same as in MMX. You can just beat the 8 Mavericks and go straight to the final levels, or you can go back to each level and get all the upgrades before going to Sigma’s lair. Along with the 4 suit upgrades, there’s also 4 sub tanks, and each stage also has a heart tank, for a total of 8. Getting all the upgrades will require you to use the suit upgrades and some of the Maverick weapons, so multiple playthroughs are required to get everything.
All of X’s suit upgrades have been changed or upgraded in some way. The new helmet upgrade gives you a secret item scanner, and the new chest upgrade gives you the Giga Crush move. They don’t have a big impact on the gameplay, but the new leg and X-Buster upgrades do. The new X-Buster upgrade gives you a super powered shot, in addition to your regular charged shot, instead of just another tier of the charged shot, like in MMX. It also lets you charge up any Maverick weapon, like in MMX. Since you start with the dash in this game, the leg upgrade gives you an air dash. This gives you some more options in terms of maneuverability, and lets you reach some of the hidden items. You even can combine this with a charged up Speed Burner for a double air dash.
MMX2 has some pretty good boss designs, and I think most levels have pretty cool themes. Flame Stag is my favorite overall. I love everything about him. His Volcanic Zone level looks cool, the music in that level rocks, his design is funny, and his fight is pretty good, if you don’t use the Bubble Splash on him. My favorite level has to be Overdrive Ostrich’s Desert Base. That’s where they let you play with the hover bike, the Ride Chaser, which you can use to jump off a bunch of ramps while shooting enemies. I also really like Wire Sponge’s fight, but he does look like some kind of angry sea pickle. I think Magna Centipede and Crystal Snail are the only really bad fights. Both of their patterns are just so annoying, even when using the weapon they’re weak against.
The graphics in MMX2 look slightly better than in MMX. The backgrounds are a little more detailed. There is more slowdown in this game, though. Pretty much every level has slowdown somewhere. Sometimes it goes away quickly after beating an enemy, but sometimes, like on Bubble Crab’s stage, half of the stage is played in slowmo. There is a big mechanical fish that swims through a large portion of that stage, and it slows everything down to a crawl the whole time it’s on screen. I thought maybe there was bad slowdown on the Crystal Snail fight too, but it turns out that’s his special power. Maybe the mecha fish has that power too.
Mega Man X2 came out around the time when developers were using polygons in SNES games, with the help of special chips. Following this trend, Capcom put their own special chip in MMX2, the Cx4 chip. It allowed them to scale and rotate untextured polygons in the game. It didn't look good. It just didn't fit in with the game's 2D sprites, and didn't look very impressive when compared to games like Star Fox. They used it in the intro for a Mega Man X head, on the “X” in the logo on the start screen, on a lame sword mini boss, and in the final battle, which is a rotating, untextured, disembodied Sigma head. A big disappointment after MMX’s final battle.
The soundtrack doesn’t sound as rock influenced as MMX’s, but it has a similar sound. There are still some pretty rocking tracks, like Flame Stag’s stage theme. It really reminds me of other Capcom SNES game soundtracks. The main composer, Yuki Iwai, who also worked on MMX, worked on Final Fight II and the SNES version of Street Fighter II Turbo too, so that explains why this game has that unmistakable 16-bit Capcom sound.
Mega Man X2 is a very good game, but maybe it came too soon after the first. It just doesn’t do a whole lot that’s new and exciting. It’s just more of the same. More MMX is alright with me, though. At least it brought Zero back to life, so it served a good purpose.