With the second release of Mega Man's new ZX series, Capcom is fighting hard to fend off the sophomore slump. It seems strange, given Capcom's usual pattern. Mega Man II, X2, and Zero 2 were all solid, well-loved games despite their similarities to the firsts in their respective series. Still, Capcom seems to want to steer a bit further away from the path with Mega Man ZX Advent to avoid the rehash blues.
The first ZX was itself a change of pace. With a large, continuous world like Metroid and a new story line, it seemed like a fairly fresh take on the aging hero. Now Mega Man is bestowed with the ability to not only capture his enemy's power, but to actually become the bosses he's defeated.
...ZX Advent packs an ample challenge that will chase away many of those groomed on easier 2D action games like the recent Castlevanias
That's right, no longer will these transformations be limited to a single special weapon. Now he'll assume their physical form, and have a whole host of moves, not all of them attacks. New dashes, climbing, and swimming will be but a few of the powers he'll inherit from fallen foes. This makes the ability to switch forms much more relevant than the simple game of rock-paper-scissors it's been in the past. You'll have to transform to solve puzzle and overcome obstacles, instead of just taking down bosses faster. The first ZX dabbled with this sort of mechanic, but Advent takes it to an extreme.
There are down sides to this new system, though. These bosses aren't just other Mega Men that are about the same size, and control similarly. They're wildly different, and many of them are large, cumbersome, or have limited movement. Simply put, they aren't much fun to play as. You'll employ their powers when you have to proceed, but you really won't want to be using a lot of them when you don't have to. In fact, some of them only work in certain areas. It's a disappointing waste of potential.
The way new abilities are used to access new areas definitely helps build on the Metroid-like progression the first dabbled in. Unfortunately, this makes level progression somewhat more constrained and linear. Not the worst thing in the world, but Mega Man fans are used to having more room to play levels out of order than this.
The levels themselves are still checkpoint-based, and if you lose your lives, you'll be booted all the way back to the main hub, so there's still that feeling of replaying a level over and over to conquer it. While still not rising to the brutal difficulty levels of Mega Man Zero, ZX Advent packs an ample challenge that will chase away many of those groomed on easier 2D action games like the recent Castlevanias.
There's no denying that Capcom still delivers an appealing package that manages to deviate from the formula in surprising ways. It's equally apparent, however, that these changes are not necessarily for the better. Mega Man fans should approach this one with an open mind, but be aware that not all the changes are for the better. Maybe the next entry will find a way to compromise on these ideas and really nail it.