MegaMan Zero is the first in a four-part (as of this writing) MegaMan series for the GameBoy Advance. This is also the first MegaMan action game where the main character is not MegaMan or X - it\'s Zero. About 100 years after the MegaMan X series is completed, A lady named Ciel and her friends are being chased and attacked by an army that appears to be led by X himself, and they hit a dead end. In this dead end, they find the body of the legendary Reploid Zero. One of Ciel\'s friends tries to activate him, and he is knocked back by a force field. Ciel\'s cyber-elf friend, named Passy, insists that time is running out (which it is) and says she can use her power to activate him. Unfortunately, activating the power of a cyber elf kills them. But to save her friends, she does so, and Zero is reactivated. He has no memory of who he is or what has happened, but he protects Ciel, agrees to help her, and so the story begins.
What kind of game is this, and how does it play?
MegaMan Zero is a 2D action platform game where you run, jump, and use one of up to four different weapons to defeat your robotic foes. This game has a lot in common with the classic MegaMan X games, including the incredibly brutal difficulty and rough, mechanical terrain. You start the game with the Z-Buster, and also get the Z-Saber, Triple-Rod, and Shield Boomerang. Each weapon can be powered up through additional use, and some of the charged up forms of the Z-Saber and Z-Buster in particular are very powerful. Once you get the fully powered up Z-Saber, you will rarely find yourself needing much else, but some of them are still handy nonetheless, especially the Shield Boomerang. Unlike most other MegaMan games, you do not have levels with associated bosses like you might otherwise expect. This game has a certain level of free-form exploration that you can do, and instead of the previously mentioned levels with bosses, you get missions, which often but not always have a boss at the end. In several cases, some missions may reuse an area you have already had a mission in, or open up a new place in one of those levels to explore it further. Also, some missions permanently modify the areas that they occur in. For example, one area collapses once you have completed a certain mission, and the collape is reflected in the free-form exploration time in between levels, too. It works pretty well; indeed well enough that the game does not feel repetitive at all.
Since you are Zero and not MegaMan/X, you do not get weapons from bosses. You can sometimes get an element, however. The electric, flame, or ice element each has an effect, and those effects are added to any charged weapon attack. Charged weapon attacks have to be unlocked by powering them up, as mentioned before. Certain bosses are weak against certain elements, and some regular enemies can be stopped for a second by either electricity or ice, while others can take extra burning damage from flame. The cyber elves add an interesting, collectible element to the game. There are close to 80 to be found, each hidden in containers strewn about or triggered when you defeat an enemy. In some cases, you need to defeat certain enemies in the level a certain number of times to get them. It can be a real challenge because without something like GameFAQs, there really is no way to know where all of them come from, though you can get there eventually with enough luck and skill.
Each cyber elf takes on a different power. Some add to your life meter or give you an energy tank, while others defend you or modify the power or existence of your enemies. A few even alter the environment around you. These are very powerful but you should decide if you are going to use them ahead of time, since once they are used up, they are gone forever.
Another layer of challenge is added to this game by not giving you \'lives\' in the traditional sense. In this game you have retries, which are similar to continues in most games. When you die, you restart at the very beginning of a level. The only exception is when you die at a boss, in which case you start at the boss again. You can get no more than a maximum of 9 retries, and they are not easy to come by. You will more often than not find yourself loading the saved game over, and over, and over. Be sure to save after each completed mission, or any valuable power up session. This game also rates your performance with \'ranks\'. Each time you get hit, use a retry, use a cyber elf, as well as take too much time in a level, you get docked points. The sum total of your points lead to a rank of S, A, B, C, D, or F, in that order from best to worst. This game really makes it an incredible challenge to get the better rankings. I consider myself a fairly skilled MegaMan player, and I had a rank C throughout most of the game, and I got a D after the last 2 levels. Keep in mind that I did not use any cyber elves until the last level, too. A higher rank might be easier to attain if the elves with permanent effects are used in between missions, where the game does not seem to penalize you. The time in between missions is also not counted against you.
This game has a nice mode where once you beat the game, you can start over with your existing Zero. Though you have to get all of the weapons back and power them up again, any and all cyber elves you have collected (used or not) are brought with you, so you can collect any remaining that you missed. Your rank is also carried with you, so though you might be able to raise it a letter grade or so, don\'t expect to be able to bring an F rank to an S rank by playing through with the same character again. But you might be able to collect all the cyber elves! You are also rewarded with a hard mode once you beat the game, if the first time through wasn\'t challenging enough.
How are the graphics?
The graphics in this game, considering when it was produced (2002) and the system it is on, are excellent. Everything has extremely fluid motion, and all of the sprites are excellently animated. Each sprite is also of a good, detailed size, so nothing seems low resolution at all.
How about the sound and music?
The sound effects are quite good. You get to hear typical Zero grunts and slashes, as well as also typical MegaMan-style blaster shots. The enemies also make noises in line with typical MegaMan sound effects, and the bosses and other characters may sometimes use one word vocals or other grunts to give them more character. The music is in the typical, catchy MegaMan techno style. It\'s decent stuff that you might find yourself enjoying during play and adds to the atmosphere, though I\'d be surprised if you bought the soundtrack. Wink The boss music is high energy and appropriate for the arena, and the mission music adds an appropriate atmosphere. The in-between mission music is the same in the Resistance base as it is when you explore to other areas (but not in a mission). At times it can get a little repetitive, especially if you are like me and you like to power up those weapons as soon as possible. There are still some enemies around, though often not the same ones as when you are in a mission, but it still pays to power up those weapons, especially for certain bosses, so I found myself kind of getting tired of that tune. Nonetheless, I can\'t fault the overall music too much.
How appropriate is this game for Christians?
This game has cartoon violence, where you destroy other robot creatures. There is a certain element in which the game gives Reploids human-like characteristics. Though a place called Neo Arcadia was originally built to be a Utopia for humans, the mistreatment of Reploids has led to the rebellion that you are a part of. The cyber elves act kinda mystically (they float about like a spirit might) but it is explained that they are actually programs. In this future, programs have personalities. With all of this said (to make you aware), this reviewer feels that there is not a whole lot to mark against this game other than cartoon violence. I do not feel that the plot is of much negative consequence.
MegaMan Zero is a fun, rewarding, and incredibly challenging experience on the GameBoy Advance. Apparently quite a few people agree, so they made 3 more as of this writing, and spawned a sequel series on the Nintendo DS. As for the difficulty, it is as hard as you want it to be. If you go through the effort to power up all of your weapons, that can help a lot early on. If you use cyber elves liberally, then your ride through the game will be much easier. If, like me, you don\'t use any until the very end, then you are in for one tough ride. If you manage the beat the game after collecting and powering up all cyber elves in the game, you are rewarded for your efforts. For any fan of MegaMan style games, or action platformers in general, you should think about this game. If you like incredible challenge and unforgiving game play, then this one is definitely for you.