The problem with re-imagining a beloved classic is that any tinkering will come under extremely close scrutiny. In some cases, criticism for such adjustments can be unfair, clouded as it often is by rose-tinted memories of the original game.
In others, however, the ire is justified. Almost every change made to this iOS take on the 1993 SNES classic is for the worse – what remains is a fairly average platformer in its own right, but a port that will make fans bristle with anger.
The X series is a little different from the original Mega Man template. Taking place a century after events of the original games, it sees the eponymous hero tailing a destructive robot named Sigma, as part of a sci-fi police force called the Maverick Hunters.
Like the mainline series, it blends platforming and shooting, but it's structured very differently. Complete the first stage and you’re given the option to choose from one of eight others, each with a Maverick boss to defeat, and each unlocking a new weapon.
There’s no defined order to the stages, though collecting weapons in one may ease progress in another. In the original game, the order in which you defeated the bosses had an impact on other levels. Finish the aircraft carrier stage and you could expect short circuits at the power plant.
Sadly, this inventive feature is no longer present in this iOS version. It’s a baffling omission, as it’s the one element that set the game apart at the time. But removing the game’s USP isn’t the only crime Capcom has committed here.
Not so mega
The graphics have understandably been updated, but while sharp and colourful they lack the character of the original game, coming across as a fan-made tribute rather than a professional update.
Not only that, but some areas seem to lack the attention to detail of the SNES title. The animation, too, is poor – on occasion noticeably worse than what is now an 18-year-old game. Some areas don’t even scroll, flicking onto another screen when you hit the far edge.
The difficulty level has been tweaked, too – presumably to compensate for the loss of accuracy in the touchscreen controls. By the series’ tough standards, X was never a particularly difficult game, but here it’s easier than ever.
Which is one way of saying that the controls aren’t bad, of course. But they still grate from time to time. The biggest issue is that the onscreen D-pad and buttons can obscure the action quite often.
It’s a problem exacerbated by some enemies’ tendency to wander off-screen. More than once I was attacked and hit by something (or someone) I couldn’t see properly.
If you can ignore the route it’s taken to get here, then Mega Man X does have its moments. A series of challenges specific to each stage adds replay value, asking you to complete stages only using your charge shot, for example, or by defeating a given enemy in a strict time limit.
Sadly, most people interested in the game will be all too aware of its shortcomings, and regardless of what it gets right a remake that's substantially worse than its near two-decades-old predecessor is not deserving of high praise.