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'MEGA MAN X' BLASTS COMPETITION.

Byline: Redmond Carolipio Staff Writer

IN GAMING, there's still no school like the old school.

Retro gaming compilations don't get much better than ``Mega Man X Collection,'' which brings plenty of history and retro joy to anyone who knows the series. But with all of its nostalgia comes some evidence of how gamers have moved on.

Instead of pulling a George Lucas and ``remastering'' everything, Capcom provides deadly accurate reproductions of the side-scrolling games that were originally on the Super Nintendo and PlayStation.

You play Mega Man, a robot with a cannon arm (literally) that fights the good fight against evil robots.

Mega Man made his debut on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, and the ``X'' games ushered in his move to 16- and 32-bit platforms. The franchise helped establish a formula that became a cornerstone of action gaming: the boss battle.

Every game in the collection centers around Mega Man's confrontations with at least eight other powerful ``boss'' robots, housed in different levels and boasting unique abilities ranging from flame-throwing to putting up force fields.

Whenever Mega Man takes one of these robots down, he gains its specialized ability - think ``Highlander'' without the decapitation angle.

Some powers even prove to be the mortal weakness of other boss robots, and it's up to the player to figure out what works. The game lets you choose which levels to attack, adding a little strategic thinking to what is otherwise a shoot-'em-up experience.

The game-play is simple. Blast the enemies, jump on the occasional moving platforms and walk through some doors before facing the level boss. The controls are easy to pick up for beginners. Experienced players will enjoy not having to think about a fat list of button combos, though some might be caught off guard by not being able to crouch or fire upward.

The series' lack of complexity can also work against it. The feeling of repetition is inevitable, since all the games follow the same stage-to-boss template. All of the story lines basically stick to one message - you're everyone's only hope. Second verse, same as the first.

All this can drive down replay value, which has become one of the top draws of today's games. Through blends of catchy control schemes, multidimensional plots and cinematics, action titles now require emotional investment from the player. The ``Mega Man'' games simply asked you to play and win, not emote. Once you beat the games, there's not a whole lot that's beckoning you to go through it again.

But even in the face of cultural change, the ``Mega Man X Collection'' is ideal for anyone looking for a fun piece of gaming history. It may seem simple and limited by today's standards, but the action genre wouldn't be quite the same without it.

MEGA MAN X COLLECTION - Three stars

Platform: PlayStation 2, GameCube.

Rated: E for Everyone.

In a nutshell: Strong-arms retro compilations.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 28, 2006
Words:492
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