20 years ago today, on the 6th January 1995, Mega Man X2 was released in North America and PAL regions (with Rockman X2 having been released on the 16th December 1994 in Japan). Developed by Capcom for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), it acted as a sequel to Mega Man X, taking place in the same “distant future” setting of the classic Mega Man series.
While Mega Man X debuted a fresh new take on the Mega Man series, which had begun to become incredibly samey by the end of it’s run on the NES, the gameplay hadn’t been changed much in the year gap between X and X2 – although graphically the game does take advantage of the new “Cx4” chip (installed in the cartridge). Capcom made use of this chip to speed up graphical processing, create wire frames (such as those used in the final boss battle with Sigma), and rotate/enlarge/shrink sprites – nothing too spectacular, but it did give the developers the opportunity to play around with a few new ideas. The chip was only ever used in one other Capcom game, Mega Man X3.
As far as the games structure is concerned, it doesn’t stray from the series’ norms in any notable way. There are eight main levels, each ending in a boss battle against one of eight “Mavericks”. X can run, jump, dash, scale walls, and fire his chargeable X-Buster arm cannon, just as he could in Mega Man X. And, like Mega Man X, X2 features various “upgrades” hidden throughout the stages – such as armor upgrades (which grant new abilities), and “Heart Tanks” (which extend the player’s life bar). Once certain conditions have been met the player can unlock a special capsule which allows X to perform a special one-hit kill attack (the “Shoryuken” of Street Fighter fame).
Besides the hidden upgrades introduced to the formula in Mega Man X, X2 also includes three hidden boss fights, with the “X-Hunters”, the defeat of which affects the ending (giving the player a bit more motivation to explore each level thoroughly). Another new feature is the addition of a hoverbike vehicle, which acts as a faster and more maneuverable counterpart to the battle mech, which also appeared in Mega Man X.
One thing worth noting about the game is the music, which was composed solely by Yuki Iwai – in contrast to the group of five who worked on the soundtrack for the spin-off’s first installment. While it might not be quite as impressive as the music featured in the original title, the fact that it was all done by one woman is rather impressive, especially given that she had a much shorter time to develop the music on her own than the group of five did for the first game.
In summary, Mega Man X2 didn’t really add much to the series as a whole, but most fans of the Mega Man would probably have expected as much, given the lack of improvements implemented between Mega Man & Mega Man 6. What is does provide, however, is another slice of well-polished gameplay in the same style as the series SNES/Super Famicom debut – so if you enjoyed that game, expectations are high that you would enjoy Mega Man X2 too, as for the most part what little that was changed was changed for the better. However, if you go into it expecting X2 to feature as much of a renovation from X as it did from it’s predecessor, you will be sorely disappointed.