Today’s launch of the series is a biggie in the retro-anthology craze. At its best, Capcom’s “X” fork of Mega Man puts a giant exclamation point at the end of the “action-platformer” genre. Basically, if you crave a brutally tough mix of high-speed jumps, pesky enemies, overcharged weapons, and incredible sprite artwork, this series’ entries on SNES and PS1 are all you need.
Thus, the seems like a no-brainer purchase, and I expected to type as much in a brief, “X gon’ give it to you” reiteration of the series’ classic status. Sadly, that’s not quite the case. After testing the anthologies’ multiple versions on four platforms, we’re here to clarify if, and how, you should take the plunge.
(Some of) marks the spot
The simplest issue to navigate, at least, is the matter of its “volumes.”
Capcom has split this anthology series into two purchases, each priced $20 digitally on every platform (Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch). Should you opt for a physical edition on any console, you’re stuck buying both volumes at a $40 MSRP. Capcom could have forced all buyers to pay for the whole, $40 package, so its decision to split the purchase is perhaps the kindest thing it could have done.
The first volume, which collects the first four games (three on SNES, one on PS1), is indisputably the better one. All three SNES entries in the series saw Capcom firing on all robot-master cylinders, with each game pushing speed-burst, wall-jump, and armor-upgrade options to deliver the epitome of mid-’90s hardcore platforming. was the first to let players choose the series’ sword-wielding character (named Zero) from the start, which only added to the game’s spice.
The second volume finishes with – (and thus skips a PS2 RPG and a pair of Game Boy Color entries). and , which were mostly 2D affairs on the PS1, aren’t as fondly remembered thanks to those entries running out of new ideas (and being dominated with arguably obnoxious voice-acting and cut scenes). The 3D-ized and from the PS2, on the other hand, garner far more mixed reactions from fans. There’s an argument to be made about ‘s mechanics and levels being good enough to endure its lousy 3D graphics, but ‘s constant camera switches and 3D levels were terrible in 2003—and have only declined with age.
Both volumes include a seemingly identical (and quite fun) “boss rush” mode. In this brand-new mode, every level is a boss battle against “maverick” robots (often from different games). To aid your fight, you get to pick from three special weapons before three rounds—meaning, you need to pick the best weapons for all six bosses. This “loadout” system offers a tricky, interesting way to make players pace out their boss-battling stamina. And in great news, you don’t have to get in order to fight against that game’s later bosses; both volumes seem to offer the same boss rush content.
Thus, if you’re looking to scratch a nostalgic itch or if you’re unfamiliar with the series, aim your X-Buster at . The second volume will still be there should you be morbidly curious or if you think $20 is a fine price to see what you missed on later consoles.
But maybe not on Switch…
We’d hoped to conclude by stating, ” (that’s a mouthful) is a no-brainer purchase for your Nintendo Switch.” Brutally difficult 2D platforming, combined with Nintendo’s snappy portable hardware and bright, beautiful screen, seemed like a no-brainer for a certain type of nostalgic gamer.
The issue, as confirmed by comparing the collection’s games to their cartridge counterparts, is that Capcom’s chosen emulation solution isn’t exactly up to snuff on Switch hardware. The first three SNES games were known for pushing that hardware to its limits—a fact that the series’ speedrunners are mindful of when blazing through those older games—and they all suffered from pockets of slowdown. But our testing has concluded that the Switch versions slow down at least a little bit more than their cartridge counterparts.
These hitches are not constant or even consistent, and they can crop up during inactive, explosive moments after boss fights. The trouble here, really, is that our admittedly inconclusive testing included hitches while trying to navigate tricky wall jumps and platforming sections.
This is weird for two reasons: first, because Capcom has already been down this road by way of the , which launched in 2006 for PlayStation 2 and GameCube. That anthology’s emulated games hew much closer to the cartridge versions—meaning, they retain a few key slowdown moments and otherwise lock to a 60 frames-per-second refresh. So how come the Switch—which is decidedly more powerful than those older consoles—can’t quite keep up?
A clue comes from the second weird issue: that ‘s PlayStation 2 games, which run entirely in 3D and therefore require more horsepower, do suffer from apparent slowdown or hitching. Neither PS2 game has ever appeared in an anthology before, and that means their emulation was likely written from scratch. Hitches in the Switch’s SNES emulation, on the other hand, could point to the game simply relying on the 2006 anthology’s emulator—which ran on decidedly different hardware than the Switch’s Tegra chip. (Capcom has yet to confirm exactly how it’s emulating any of these classic games.)
…ugh, PC issues, too?!
As of press time, the anthology’s PC version has a few quirks, as well. Its resolution picker appears to be locked to four resolutions, no matter what your monitor or Windows PC reports. So if you’re using an ultra-wide monitor or a 4K screen, you’re currently stuck with unoptimized resolutions. That may not seem like a big deal for games with native resolutions as low as 240p, but an inexact resolution makes it all the more difficult to get pixels to line up properly—and our testing revealed some misaligned pixels in every available resolution while testing on a 4K TV.
Worse, perhaps, is a bug that, as of press time, often tanks the game’s frame rate when you tell either volume to run in pure fullscreen mode as opposed to “borderless fullscreen.” This issue is hard to reproduce in the superior collection, at least, but it did crop up in both volumes.
We’ve asked Capcom for comment on the bugs we’ve found and will update this report with any response. In the meantime, we simply have no idea what post-launch support to expect for this anthology, which leads us to only firmly recommend the anthologies for PS4 and Xbox One players for the time being. Everyone else should either tread cautiously or wait for Capcom to offer an official update.