Written by Tentacle_giant on June 20, 2020 @ 1:26 am
"The legendary reploid Zero awoke from a long slumber...
With Ciel's Resistance he defeated Copy X, the ruler of Neo Arcadia.
The terror of the Neo Arcadian regime ended, but the energy shortage remained a constant problem.
Ciel devoted herself to researching new forms of energy.
And Elpizo became the newly appointed Resistance leader.
However, overcome by his desire for power, Elpizo awakened the Dark Elf, whose magic had once nearly destroyed the world.
Elpizo, thirsting for the power of the Dark Elf, lost sight of his true duty and was finally defeated after a fierce battle.
However, the Dark Elf fled, her destination unknown...
The battle over the Dark Elf had only just begun..."
MegaMan Zero 3 opens up with this poignant recap of the first two games to get you up to speed with the events thus far. Re-establishing that the Zero games in fact have an in depth plot that one should really pay attention to for the full experience. Now is all the reading worthwhile? Does the gameplay hold up compared to other MegaMan games? Let us take a deep look into this game and see if it is worth playing.
Gameplay - 9
Do you remember playing MegaMan classic as a small child? Enamored with this world of fighting robots you were drawn into the conflict. Do you remember the jump to the X games? Where the gameplay was elevated, faster and more refined. The gameplay in this game feels like the natural evolution in a similar way without the hiccups of the past two Zero games. Gone is the system where you need to level up your individual weapons with use and instead is streamlined and easier to dig into. Your arsenal of tools has also been expanded giving the gameplay a layer of cutsomizability to utilize throughout your playthrough.
The three elemental chips still return from the previous games giving your attacks one of three separate elements. I would say it is a small disappointment they didn't expand upon this but I also say "if it aint broke don't fix it" and that quote applies to this system. The big shake up with the weapons is the addition of the "Recoil Rod" which serves not only as a versatile weapon in tackling shielded enemies but also as a way to traverse the vast levels in a more interesting way. Zero's head, body and foot parts can be changed from the default into other "chips". The elemental chips fall under the body category with two others. The head chips give abilities like "Auto Recover" and "Quick Charge" to name a couple but where this system shines is in the foot chips. Particularly the "Ultima" chip which gives you all six of the other foot chips in one allowing you to dash through enemies, double jump etc. The Ex Skill system also makes its illustrious return. If you defeat a boss with an "A" or "S" rank you acquire their special moves. This system is particularly fun for the skilled players out there.
The level design in this game is also absolutely stellar. There is a certain openness to them which I haven't seen properly rivaled in quality. I will use "Old Residential" as my example. If you have the fire chip when stepping into this level it becomes your playground of copious opportunities. You can use fire attacks to burn away the overgrown plants revealing side rooms with rewards or even short cuts to help speed your way through the level. This stage is a good example because on how it encourages different playstyles. See, there are these items called "Secret Disks" that have cyber elves, enemy data and other goodies inside encouraging you to comb through the levels in detail if you want them all. But like in the previous games using Cyber Elves lowers your overall rank so a player who prioritizes rank over extra tools will burn away parts of the level to reach the end quicker. Those are two examples of playstyles the game caters to. The only way this game falters in the level design I would say is in the "Aegis Volcano Base" where there is a moment of precision platforming that I wouldn't exactly call fair. Basically you need to hop on these boxes sinking in lava and get through the trial as fast as you can before you fall into instant death. There is one jump here that will be the bane of all first time players of this game, a difficulty spike of epic proportions but that is only one level of sixteen in total.
The selections of bosses in this game is also incredibly strong. Each one being a puzzlebox challenge for the player to solve. My prime example would be "Cubit Foxtar" probably the most challenging of the main bosses. His foxfire is incredibly difficult but not impossible to dodge as it circles around the room. A smart player would equip the "Shadow Dash" foot chip to dash through the fire giving the player to option to fight with pure skill, brute force or through brainpower. Another example on how this game prioritizes player choice when presenting obstacles to overcome.
Story - 8
The game opens up in a snowy field. Zero, Ciel and her bodyguards are braving a blizzard in search of their destination. The snow fades allowing them to lay their eyes upon a crashed vessel in the shape of a sword. There is an energy reading from inside eerily similar to the Dark Elf. As Zero goes to investigate he finds the Guardians defeated by this giant reploid named "Omega". A harbinger of destruction resurrected by the true antagonist of this quadrilogy of games: Dr. Weil. A man twisted by his hatred for humanity and seeks revenge. The mad doctor reveals he has rebuilt Copy X, the villain of the first game. A kind gesture that has a sinister underbelly. He seeks the Dark Elf for his own nefarious purposes and proposes a race to see who can capture her first.
This is an absolutely stellar opening for a MegaMan game. It establishes the tiers of villains early on and gives you your goals to strive for. Find the Dark elf and defeat Dr. Weil. Now this is no easy task and it is not without hiccup.
Later in the game you are introduced to the Baby Elves, the direct descendants of the Dark Elf. Their names are Crea and Prea and they are also antagonists in this story. The introduction to them also reveals that Dr. Weil created the Dark Elf over a hundred years ago. Even later it is revealed he created Omega and started the "Elf Wars" leading to the deaths of 90% of reploids and 60% of humanity. A true calamity that he was punished for. Said punishment is his primary motivation for revenge.
After the defeat of Copy X Dr. Weil's true plan is revealed. In the first game the Neo Arcadian people weren't made aware of the defeat of Copy X. That is an important fact because now Copy X is Dr. Weil's pawn. A pawn, once defeated, has all his political power placed in the hands of someone truly evil. Yes, Weil is now the ruler of Neo Arcadia and plans to take control over all reploids to enact his revenge upon the last oasis of human society.
The final twist of the game is not only the best in the game but the best in the series. In the final confrontation between Zero and Omega it is revealed Omega inhabits Zero's original body and has become a true god of destruction. This final battle symbolizes Zero's conflict with the self. He sees in Omega what he was originally created by Dr. Wily to be. A god of destruction made to fulfill the revenge fantasy of a mad scientist. In overcoming this final trial Zero overcomes himself and finds the resolve he needs going into the next game.
In the end Dr. Weil escapes and is in control of Neo Arcadia establishing the backdrop for the true final battle in Zero 4. Now I purposefully didn't go over every story beat because that would be exhausting for me to type and for you to read. I also want to leave some small surprises for anyone who has yet to play this masterclass of game design. Now the primary flaw of this game's story is the fact it's a part three of four. It ends on a cliffhanger and expects you to finish the job next time.
Graphics & Visuals - 8
If it isn't obvious by now I am incredibly biased. I should preface my bias here because I want to address the most controversial aspect of this whole sub series with as much grace as I can. I personally love the art style change and prefer it over the X games. I feel that Toru Nakayama's art style is spectacular. Looking at the character and enemy designs you can truly feel a third dimension in the art and it really pops off the page. I feel that Inti Creates also did this art style justice with absolutely amazing spritework. The only problems I have with the visuals is the limitations of the Gameboy Advance. Only so much art you can show on such a weak console but I would say the visuals do hold up.
Sound - 8
I personally really love the soundtrack to this game. There is a certain heaviness depicted through the small speaker, a sound reminiscent of melodic industrial metal. Whether it is the slow wailing guitar in "Old Life Space", the upbeat metallic beats of "Trail on Powdery Snow" or the bombastic finality of "Cannonball" the soundtrack is a true treat to the ears. The composition is a true tragedy though. The soundtrack is so great but it is limited by the poor sound capabilities of the GBA. It's a shame every re release of the game so far hasn't updated to music beyond the limitations of the time. I would still recommend you play the game with the speaker up since the sound really does enhance the experience.
Overall - 8
In conclusion MegaMan Zero 3 is a fun and fast ride that not only lives up to but exceeds previous entries in the franchise becoming my personal favorite game in the series.
Would I recommend this game? Yes
I would say the positives of this game far outweigh the negatives. I would personally recommend playing the first two games first but I would also say you don't have to suffer through their archaic systems to enjoy this particular entry. The game recaps the story so far well enough and, to be fair, this is also where the real story begins as well. This game establishes a clear antagonist and goal. Defeat Dr. Weil and save the people of Neo Arcadia. If you are on the fence about this game or the Zero games in general let me calm your worries and say this experience is worthwhile. This game is also really easily accessible thanks to the Zero/ZX collection that released earlier this year.
Story Rating: 8
Graphics & Visuals Rating: 8
Sound Rating: 8
Overall Rating: 8
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