Mega Man X3 was originally released on the Super Famicom in December of 1995, barely a year after Mega Man X2. Much of the work on this game was actually outsourced to the company who made the Game Boy Mega Man games and Mega Man: The Wily Wars for Genesis, Minakuchi Engineering. This was the last MMX game to be released on the SNES. Both the Saturn and the PlayStation were out by this time, and got their own version of MMX3 in Europe and Japan. That version eventually made it to North America in the Mega Man X Collection for GC and PS2. I played the SNES version for this review, which is available on the Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console.
Mega Man X3 takes place some time after X defeated Sigma for the second time in MMX2. A Reploid scientist named Dr. Doppler has been using his Neuro Computer on Reploids to suppress the Maverick virus. Those Reploids have now founded a Reploid utopia called Dopple Town, with Dr. Doppler as their leader. But soon enough the Reploids start going Maverick again and attack the Maverick Hunter’s base. X and Zero fight them off, and then set off to clean up Dopple Town. Most of the game actually takes place in Dopple Town.
Mega Man X3 plays pretty much the same as the previous 2 games. Aside from the new Maverick weapons, the biggest change to X’s arsenal comes from the new armor upgrades. Like in the previous games, you’ll find blue Light (as in Dr. Light) capsules hidden in some levels, and in them you can get new armor pieces which will give you new abilities. For example, the new leg armor gives you an air dash and a new upwards boost that’s kind of like a double jump, and the new helmet will show you a map with all the hidden items at the beginning of a level. There's no way to pull this map up after that, though. This is still not a Metroidvania. Even though it feels like it wants to be sometimes.
MMX3 builds upon the armor upgrade system with a new Chip enhancement system. You can enhance your upgraded armor with these Chips and add a new ability on top of the ones the armor gives you. For example, the leg Chip gives you a second air dash, and the head Chip will fill your health and E tanks when standing still. There are 4 Chips total, but you can only get 3 of them. The game won't let you get the 4th, and it doesn't tell you which one you’re getting before you step into the capsule either, so you have to know what you’re doing to get the ones you want. Getting any of these Chips will also prevent you from getting the Hyper Chip, which gives you gold armor and all the Chip enhancements.
As if all the capsules, heart tanks, and E Tanks, weren't enough, MMX3 also made the keys to use robot rides into separate items. These are also hidden in the levels and require specific abilities to get to. MMX3 has 4 robot rides, and you need to use some of them to find collectables. So now we need robot rides, armor upgrades, and Maverick weapons to get everything in the game.
Just like in MMX and MMX2, each level has a few hidden items that require specific abilities to get to. You’ll have to replay each level a few times to get everything. This would be fine if the levels were as good as in the first 2 games, but sadly, they're not even close. The levels in MMX 1 and 2 had a certain flow to them. They made you feel like you were on a path of destruction. The levels in MMX3 make you constantly stop to fight enemies with shields or with too much HP, there's hazards waiting to fall right on your head when you're wall jumping, and there's quite a few times when you must blindly jump down into or across a hole when you can't see where you're going to land. The level design really drags this game down.
This one should have been the coolest new feature in the game, but it ended up being kind of a dud. For first time in the series, you could finally play as Zero. You can go into the menu and switch to Zero, but there’s a bunch of limitations attached to this. Zero can’t use any upgrades, robot rides, or Maverick weapons, so even at the end of the game, when X has Gundam armor, can dash twice in midair, and can shoot 5 fireballs at once, Zero is still the same as he was in the intro level. Zero can't fight bosses either. If you're playing as Zero, you will automatically switch to X if you try to go into a boss room. Zero also only gets 1 life. That’s not 1 life per continue, that's one life for the whole game, Fire Emblem style. If you fall down a hole or take too much damage, that's it, no more Zero for the rest of the game.
The graphics in MMX3 use the same style as the first 2 games, and it does reuse some sprites, but I think it has the best graphics of the 3. There’s some really nice looking backgrounds here. I’d say some even look as good as backgrounds in games like Street Fighter II and Final Fight 2. The framerate is also much better than in the first 2 games. There are very few times when it drops at all. A big improvement over X2, which had tons of slowdown everywhere.
The music might the best in the series up to this point, too. It was composed by Kinuyo Yamashita. She was the composer on Castlevania for the NES, Parodius for the MSX, and Pocky & Rocky 2, among others. She was a newcomer to the MMX series, but she had also worked on Mega Man: The Wily Wars, so she was not completely new to Mega Man. The music sounds similar to the music in the previous games, but it has its own hard rock sound with more distorted guitars and less of the electric keyboard and air guitar sounds of the first 2 games.
Mega Man X3 is not a bad game, but it's a disappointment after the first 2 games. The combination of bad level design and the huge amount of collectables can make it frustrating to play, and the playable Zero was a bust. It has good graphics and music, but I feel like it's mostly being carried by the great core mechanics of the first 2 games. If this wasn't a Mega Man game, it would have been forgotten along with many other average SNES action games.