The plot of Mega Man X7 takes place in the 22nd century, during an age when humans coexist with humanoid robots called "Reploids". As some Reploids participate in violent and destructive crime, a police organization called the "Maverick Hunters" has been established to stamp out this activity. Maverick crime is rising in newly constructed cities. As this new crime wave hits, X retires, tired from the never-ending battles. A new group of vigilantes, Red Alert, is introduced. One of their members, Axl, decides he has had enough of their "murdering" and tries to leave the group. Red, the group's leader, is angered by Axl deserting, and goes on a rampage to get Axl back.
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I can by no means call this a good game necessarily but I had a significantly better time than I ever expected to with this. That being said, it's definitely no better than sub-par but I'd easily revisit this over X6 and maaaaybe even X3, simply because I find this game frustrates me less. The voice acting is really funny too lol
...You know, I'm not even mad. At least it isn't X6.
That's not to say X7 is remotely good. It's not. It's a bad idea at it's very foundation and it could at best hope to be a mixed bag. X7 is a game that's aggressively boring -- a terrible quality, and I pity anyone who paid full price for this back on the PS2 -- but at least it's not utterly infuriating. It's an improvement.
Mega Man X7 attempts to bring the X formula to 3D environments. While the game is still a sidescroller in some areas, in others, you're able to move in every direction while seeing your character from a top-down view. Basic character actions are otherwise still the same: you jump, you dash, and you attack.
There are many issues with this 3D thing. For one, the pacing of the game was made slower, probably to control loading or framerate issues. Character animations take very long and they move noticeably slower, to the point even the 2D sidescrolling stages feel sluggish. It could be just that stages are longer overall -- some have four or five areas -- but the whole game drags.
Then you have the two biggest struggles games usually have when moving to 3D: collision and camera. The game's colliders are odd all around, and from the intro stage you can already get a feel for how weird climbing walls is. As for the camera, it and its positioning feel like they're from a completely different game, like a slow-paced JRPG, instead of an action one. Some stages have you going upfront against gaps, and they force you to be ultra careful to compensate for the awkward viewpoint.
All of these things -- slower pace, odd collision and awkward understanding of distances -- kind of wreck Zero, whose Z-Saber now feels more like a lightstick. Some people swear by him in this game, but I only kept him in the back for his double jump and counterattack -- anything else and I'd expect to take some damage back. The flipside is that, while melee sucks, for projectile attacks, there's an auto-lock-on function that automatically targets nearby enemies, so those characters are far easier to play.
This is a good example of what I mean when I say that, being a bad idea at its core, X7 could at most hope to be a mixed bag. The lock-on mechanic trivializes ranged combat: there's no need to line up shots anymore, and trying to be precise with charge shots is an inefficient way to play. It's much better to turn on auto-fire and just spam lemons. Yet, adding lock-on was the right choice. Without it, the game might as well have been unplayable since there's no way this camera and character movement would allow anyone to aim.
Anyway, I mention charge shots, but in this game, X actually stays on the sidelines, being tired of fighting and having decided to take a support post within the Maverick Hunters. The game introduces a new group of antagonists in the Red Alert, a group of initially well-intended reploids who one day, mysteriously turn ev-- it's Sigma. It's just Sigma. He's back, in a convenient new body, and he's up to his usual bullcrap again. Anyway.
Series newcomer Axl, originally working for Red Alert, leaves the group when he begins to question their goals, joining the Maverick Hunters shortly after. Axl is much maligned by X7's players, and while that's not entirely undeserved, I find that a new protagonist was a good step for a franchise that would have been lucky to just grow stale. Plus, Axl's youth and brashness plays off of X and Zero pretty well. And-- his link to Red Alert helps kickstart the story.
On the other hand, it doesn't help his case that he's being introduced in one of the worst games in the franchise, nor that he's rather wimpy, gameplay-wise. He has an ability that allows him to shapeshift into certain (five-ish total) types of enemy in the game, but doing so is more likely to get him killed than anything else. Also, since he lacks a charge shot, I'm willing to bet he's caused at least one person who didn't know about the auto-fire option to hurt their hands pretty badly.
You can unlock X as a playable character. He even gets a new armor in this game, which, keeping the tradition from X5 and X6, sucks. But to unlock X, you have to go through at least half of the game, and worse: you have to rescue 64 reploids for him to join the fight. Yes, the rescue list was brought back from X6 with exactly the same issues.
Once again, you need to reload a save if a reploid dies, which in turn forces you to suicide out of the stage every once in a while to save the game and not lose the ones you've rescued. Once again, the little clowns carry upgrades that, while not mandatory this time around, do a lot towards making the game more bearable by making Axl less of a pushover. And yes, power-ups only apply to the character who picked them up -- how did you guess that?
The good part is that, with the exception of one particularly atrocious stage (hint: BURN TO THE GROUND), the reploids are mostly easy to rescue, there's no kamikaze-ing over cliffs to try and reach them in time. And since the stage design is, for the most part, less annoying, all it does is bog down the game into a grindy exercise in repetition.
Which is really what X7 is: tedious. It's a game where everything is sluggish, where game systems force you to slow down, where combat is reduced to holding down a button... the game has a ride chaser stage, like X4 and X5, but that stage forces you to keep a low speed to collect small items. Heart tanks and subtanks don't make an exciting sound when picked up... even death animations no longer feel impactful, being more likely to make you snore.
But it is a finished game, one for which there was a real, if futile, attempt to make work. Stages are coherent, bosses make sense and are fully fleshed out, the storytelling isn't too bad (although, as always, Japanese voices are recommended), and they even gave Sigma this really good boss theme. I can respect that effort, even if I never want to touch the final product again.