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Capcom is known for having created many classic video game franchises over the years, but none quite equal the sheer size and scope of their Mega Man games. The popular action-gaming franchise debuted in 1987, and over the past 20 years, there have more than 50 different titles bearing the hero's name, including a handful of spinoffs that have gone on to spawn subseries in their own right. The first of these was the Megaman X series, a futuristic spin on the series which made its Japanese debut in 1993. The most recent release in this spinoff series, Megaman X8, came out for the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2004, and while some things have changed, this is one game that is clearly worthy of its predecessors in just about every possible way.
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If you're a fan of previous Mega Man titles, you know what to expect out of Megaman X8 in terms of gameplay. This is a side-scrolling adventure game that features plenty of running, jumping, dodging and shooting action, and as always, this is a challenging game. It may not be as brutally hard as the old-school 8-bit Mega Man games, and it does feature three selectable difficulty levels as well as customizable controls. Even so, this is one title that will put most gamers to the test and will pose a serious challenge to casual players even on easy.
The game features three main characters, each with different abilities. There's Mega Man, known as X in the game, who uses a charge shot, as well as Axl, who can fire his weapon in a 360 degree arc and glide in the air for a short period of time, and Zero, who uses a sword for melee based attacks and can double-jump. Following an introductory level in which you control all three at various times, you need to select two characters for each mission. Over the course of the game, they will gain new abilities, and you can also purchase upgrades for them back at their headquarters as well. Furthermore, they can also utilize a powerful double attack move, and each level features multiple routes and another series staple, fun and challenging boss battles.
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The Megaman X series as a whole takes place in the 22nd century, as humans and robots named "Reploids" live in peaceful co-existence. Well, for the most part, as every once in a while these Reploids turn rogue and are then branded as Mavericks. X, Axl and Zero are part of a group known as the Maverick Hunters, who work to quell Reploid rebellions and keep the peace. At the start of X8, we learn that people are working to build an elevator into space as part of the "Jakob Project" which is being led by a series of new-type Reploids.
All is well until X and his team come across an old nemesis, a former hunter named Vile who betrayed them earlier in the Megaman X timeline. Vile, as it turns out, has kidnapped Lumine, the Reploid in charge of the Jakob Project, and has vowed that "A new world will be born!" It is up to the Maverick Hunters to find out exactly what Vile is up to and put a stop to it, but as is usually the case in video games, things are not always as cut and dry as they may seem. As the plot progresses, there will be plenty of twists and perhaps some more familiar faces making their returns. The story is mildly interesting, and does a good job of tying the action together, but unless you're at least somewhat familiar with the previous games in this series, you might feel a little lost at the ballpark.
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Graphics and Sound
Considering this game is now more than four years old, I'm going to cut it a little slack, but the graphics and sound quality isn't all that great, to be honest. You probably won't notice much in the heat of battle, but the character designs, while large, lack detail. The environments aren't all that bad, and both the anime cutscenes and the character portraits that appear during conversation are fairly well drawn. The voice acting seems fairly lifeless on the whole, and the music reeks of 1980s stadium rock. All in all, it's no better than average.
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In terms of overall quality, Megaman X8 just barely eeks out a four-star ranking from me. Despite what I said about cutting the game slack due to its age, the fact is that this is a very old looking game in terms of presentation. On top of that, it will likely be too hard for many gamers out there, even considering the fact that there are multiple difficulty levels to choose from. That said, if you're the type of gamer who thrives on challenge, and you enjoy a good old-school style run-and-gun type of action game, this is definitely right up your alley. It is definitely a worthy successor to the Mega Man name, and is worth at least a rental.