Mega Man Zero 2

Another week in May, another Mega Man release on the Wii U Virtual Console! Capcom has finally delivered us Mega Man Zero 2, the peak of the Game Boy Advance's excellent Mega Man sub-series.

If you never got around to playing them, the Mega Man Zero games were Capcom's successors to the classic Mega Man X games, and they pick up the story from where Mega Man X6 ended. Zero awakens after a century of being sealed away only to find his world totally destroyed by war. Humans, Reploids, and Mavericks still roam the planet's expansive deserts, but they still can't seem to get along, unable to bury the hatchet after a century of massacres and robot genocide.

To say these four games have a bleak plot would be an understatement, and it is a far cry from elementary school kids who can jack into anything with their EXE robots.

Of course, the limited technological capabilities of the Game Boy Advance couldn't accurately recreate the stunning 2D graphics from the PlayStation games. Capcom tapped the now-famous Inti Creates to come up with a new graphical style that would be more suitable for the Game Boy Advance's audience, and the results were a collection of some of the best art that Mega Man has ever produced. Mega Man Zero's spritework also was a huge hit with fans.

Mega Man Zero 2 stands out from the bunch thanks to its balance. All four games carry an infamous reputation for their difficulty, especially because using bonuses punishes progression. The games reward players based on how well they perform, and boosting a life bar or using an E-Tank lowers your rank, greatly reducing chances of finding new weapons and armor. Mega Man Zero 2 finds the best way to minimalize those penalties while still making sure that players feel the consequences of their choices.

Plus, it has a sweet spear/grappling-hook weapon that towers over the other games' "third string" weapons.

Mega Man Zero plays like the classic Mega Man X games, but it tosses the stage based structure out the window in exchange for a light "metroidvania" exploration system. The design works well, and the added NPC and RPG elements give them lots of replay value.

I highly recommend Mega Man Zero 2 at $7.99, but it is not for the faint of heart. This game will weigh on your soul, both with its crushing difficulty and heartless story. Be sure to play the first one beforehand or else you might be lost in the confusing narrative.