March 18, 2006

Review: Mega Man Maverick Hunter X (PSP)

Despite a handful of strong launch titles, 2005 wasn’t a great year for PlayStation Portable games. Even during the Christmas season, few titles were “must-plays.” Substandard ports of PlayStation 2 games seemed to fill the shelves, while the Nintendo DS stole the show with quirky, original titles. Now that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season has died down, a handful of solid titles are arriving that’ll make your PSP’s backlight shine forth once more.

One of the better titles is an update of a thirteen-year-old Super Nintendo game. Wait, wasn’t I just putting down the slew of PS2 ports? Indeed. But there’s quite the difference between downward ports (which suffer in quality) and upward ones, which use the powers of a new system to bring an older title back to life. That’s precisely what Capcom has done with Mega Man Maverick Hunter X, which revives the Mega Man X franchise from the start.

Maverick Hunter is largely the same game it was thirteen years ago, but the graphical prowess of the PSP transforms it into something more modern. Bright, colorful polygons replace the old pixels, making great use of the system’s sharp LCD. Being a Mega Man fanboy isn’t necessary, but it can help. You’ll make your way through thirteen stages as the blue bomber, though you’ll be able to pick the order in which you tackle the majority of them.

Each defeated level boss gives you a new weapon, so knowing the order in which to face them will limit your amount of frustration. While the game is largely a straight-forward 2D side-scroller, you’ll want to do a bit of exploring in the levels. There are several equipment upgrades and energy tanks to be found, so keep an eye out for odd-looking openings and such along the ceilings and walls. You’ll feel powerless after a couple of levels if you don’t pick up any upgrades.

Maverick Hunter is a game of decent length, but completing it once doesn’t mean your adventure is over. Not only will you unlock a half-hour long anime video, you’ll also unlock what amounts to a second game. You’ll be able to play through the game again as Vile, one of X’s enemies. While it is a much more difficult adventure, the levels are changed around enough to be worthwhile to the hardcore fan. A demo of Mega Man Powered-Up rounds out the package, which is clearly targeted towards the fanboy in all of us.

Mega Man Maverick Hunter X makes great use of the PlayStation Portable. Its simple, effective graphics look great, despite occasional slow-down when several enemies are present. Maverick Hunter contains a rewarding adventure broken down into easily digestible levels that can be played in short bursts. On a system lauded for being the most powerful handheld, who would’ve expected one of the best games to be an SNES port? At only thirty dollars, this game is a bargain and is highly recommended.

Grade: B