Mega Man Zero Collection
When Mega Man Zero first hit the Game Boy Advance in 2002, it was regarded as one of the most challenging Mega Man games ever. After all these years, I can confirm these four titles are still the toughest in the franchise. While insane difficulty should satisfy the most sadomasochistic gamers, the implementation of a brand new easy mode offers respite to those who want an unhindered cake walk through the game.
If you’ve played any Mega Man game ever, you already know the game’s basic formula. Players step into the robo-boots of lone savior Zero years after X's defeat. Each game consists of shooting and slashing through varied stages packed with punishing enemies, deadly spike pits, and perilous platforming sections. Stages are tests in hardcore skill capped with a fun, frenetic boss battle requiring pattern memorization and twitch reflexes. Zero strays from other Mega Man titles in that lives are incredibly limited, grades are issued after each mission, and enhancements are derived from collecting and feeding Pokémon-esque cyber elves. All four titles play identically and the entertaining structure is barely tweaked from game to game. Challenge is consistent too, and when playing on normal mode you can expect to repeat stages multiple times until you’re as familiar with them as their designers. Defeat is always bitter, but as in other brutal Mega Man games, the payoff comes with landing the killing blow on a boss and bathing in its glorious destruction.
If you were turned off by the unforgiving nature of Mega Man 9 or 10, Mega Man Zero has you covered with easy mode. Unlike Mega Man 10’s newbie-friendly mode, which idiot-proofs spike pits and reduces enemy numbers, this easy mode decks Zero out in all his end-game gear. Maxed-out sub-tanks, life bar, weapons, and abilities are granted to those who prefer to feel like a badass robot right away, rather than earning it throughout the game. This mode robs much of the game’s reward factor, but it makes playing all four games back to back a much smoother process. When the games are played on normal mode, each begins with Zero losing all his powers, which provides a greater challenge but creates a jarring transition between sequels.
Mega Man fans that missed out on the Zero series should pick up the Mega Man Zero collection, as it makes the drought of new Mega Man titles a bit more bearable. These handheld gems were developed by Inti Creates, the same team behind Mega Man 9 and 10, and their skill shines through even in these early games. If Inti Creates’s recent retro sequels caused you to shed a tear of frustration, the Zero series could make you weep, but they may be tears of joy.