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‘Mega Man Zero 3’ is a GBA Masterpiece

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Mega Man Zero 3 Goes Above and Beyond

If Mega Man Zero embodies one core belief, it’s that nothing lasts forever. Despite serving as the direct continuation of Mega Man X‘s story and themes, IntiCreates sought to establish a unique identity for Zero right out the gate. The intent was never to be derivative of X‘s game design, nor to simply evolve it– Zero was and is its own beast. The first game’s story even originally centered on the idea that X’s ideologies couldn’t last, and his sense of justice degraded with time. Although the script would ultimately be rewritten at the last minute so this X was now a copy, the theme is still very much present. The entire reason Zero 1 exists is rooted in the idea that nothing lasts forever– directly stemming from Keiji Inafune’s desire to end Rockman X with the fifth installment. To say nothing of Cyber Elves embodying this concept outright, disappearing forever when used in gameplay. Zero 2 even goes so far as to make a statement, allowing Elpizo to kill the ‘Mega Man’ X, an indication that there really is no turning back. Mega Man Zero was always more than just another Rockman series.

This permanence that seemingly every other sub-series in the Rockman franchise lacked is part of what gave the first two Zero games their charm. They had consequences, both in gameplay and narratively. These were hard, punishing games and their stories reflected that. More importantly, Zero 1 & 2 set a strong enough foundation that allowed for IntiCreates to polish the third game to near perfection. Originally envisioned as the final entry in the sub-series, Mega Man Zero 3 opens & closes with a bang, bringing to the table some of the best visuals, music, and game design on the Game Boy Advance. In many respects, it almost feels like the “ultimate” Mega Man game, loaded with secrets, bosses, stages, and combat depth. Which is really saying something considering how well made Z3’s predecessors are. 

Where Zero 2 was a simple– albeit sensible– sequel that mainly refined pre-existing concepts while trimming the fat, Mega Man Zero 3 makes rather notable changes to what had become series staples; most notably the removal of weapon leveling and a reworking of the Cyber Elf system. Concepts that have been ingrained in Zero from the first entry are removed and retooled entirely, but it’s for the better of Z3. These changes make room for Zero 3 to make its own sizable contributions to the gameplay loop while also recognizing the best qualities uniquely present in the first two titles, bringing them front and center. 

Zero 3 serves as a grand finale for both the X and Zero games, pushing the last remnants of the X series out of the franchise: X truly passes on, the Dark Elf severs her connection to the Sigma Virus by once again becoming the Mother Elf, and Zero’s original body is destroyed. With such a lore-friendly story, it makes sense to highlight the identities the first two games managed to cultivate. To IntiCreates’ credit, Zero 1’s moody atmosphere, action-centric level design, & lore heavy plot pair exceedingly well with Zero 2’s vibrant color palette, skill-based platforming, & cinematic storytelling. 

Mega Man Zero 3 doesn’t dismiss what came before, looking back to both its predecessors for guidance. Of course, Zero 2 being the better game, it only makes sense that more is lifted from the sequel than the original– specifically when it comes to boss design, the combo system, and EX Skill implementation. Even then, Zero 3 does remove Forms, replacing them with a traditional equipment system that keeps the sub-series’ light RPG flavor intact. While equipment may not be as exciting as Forms initially, equitable Chips allow Zero to essentially mix and match different Form abilities without taking on potential stat penalties. 

Broken down into three categories, Chips are one of the many ways that Zero 3 encourages gameplay variety. Zero can equip one of each Chip at a time, more or less allowing players to get three Forms worth of bonuses at once. Head Chips mostly serve as passive buffs, with rather self-explanatory names: Auto Charge, Auto Recover, Quick Charge. Element Chips return from the first two games, albeit as Body Chips this time around. Accompanied by the standard three (Fire, Thunder, Ice) are the Light and Absorber Chips which ignore crumbling terrain and prevent knockback respectively. As handy as Head and Body Chips are, however, they pale in comparison to what Foot Chips can do. 

Unlike Head and Body Chips, Foot Chips outright affect Zero’s mobility, primarily playing off of platforming instead of action (though certain Foot Chips pair well with the combat system.) Worth pointing out, there are almost as many Foot Chips as there are Body & Head combined, each one offering notable gameplay changes. Spike lets Zero walk on slippery terrain, Quick speeds up his base speed, Shadow Dash allows Zero to dodge through enemies, Frog slows down wall sliding, Splash Jump lets Zero jump on water, and Double Jump speaks for itself. Defeating Z3’s secret boss even rewards the Ultima Chip which hosts every single Foot Chip ability. 

Although stages aren’t designed with Foot Chips in mind, they’re Foot Chip friendly. One would think that being able to double jump through familiar stages would completely trivialize their difficulty, but the Foot Chips make it easy to appreciate Zero 3’s level design. There are secrets seemingly everywhere, and the increased mobility makes finding them all the easier. More importantly, Foot Chips simply give gameplay an appreciated edge. Being able to double jump over gaps doesn’t make platforming much easier, so much as it makes it more engaging. Zero can do more than ever before, and replaying the game with the Ultima Chip equipped can be an eye-opening experience. 

Although Zero 2 made sizable progress in reworking the core combat, its most meaningful contributions affected the platforming side of things. More sophisticated level design and the Chain Rod made the game quite difficult, but it’s hard to deny how well designed Z2 is on a whole. Zero 3 goes in the opposite direction. It makes some sizable progress in reworking platforming through Foot Chips, but these contributions have a greater impact on the action than anything else. Both Shadow Dash and Frog are useful combat tools for those to think to incorporate them into the gameplay loop. The former allows Zero to dash through enemies, perfect for the aggressive player, while the latter is suited for passive players who prefer to keep their distance & cling to walls during boss fights. 

“The legendary Reploid Zero awoke from a long slumber…”

Foot chips aren’t the only features that deepen the combat system. Following in its older brother’s footsteps, combo potential is even better in Zero 3, with far more attacks integrating into one another seamlessly. A full combo in Zero 2 was basically just that: a full 3-hit combo, with maybe an extra attack, tacked on or an EX Skill. Zero 3 widens the field considerably, making boss invincibility frames far more lenient than they actually appear. This not only allows for longer combos, but more creative combos. Zero’s 3-hit slash can seamlessly chain into an uppercut, then a down thrust, then an aerial rolling slash without missing a beat, without failing to inflict damage on a boss. Depending on how many rolling slashes players can get in, that’s a potential 7 to 8 hit combo– a full life bar in seconds

Worth noting, the removal of the leveling system means Zero has access to all his non-Cyber Elf abilities at once. This means no needing to unlock a 2-hit combo before a 3-hit combo, or the ability to charge. All four of Zero’s weapons are good to go from the moment they’re unlocked, any bonuses coming solely from Cyber Elves. On that note, the implementation of 3-hit combos and charges into the core game design does mean that EX Skills can be better integrated into combat. 

As mentioned, EX Skills like the uppercut or down thrust can be chained together to create their own combos. Combos that arguably make the game too easy, but that’s why EX Skills are unlocked by maintaining an A-Rank. The Gale Attack, an EX Skill which takes the form of a forward stab, is a particularly useful attack to open combos as its stab can connect multiple times. Beyond Z Saber based EX Skills, Zero’s Buster EX Skills influence his charge shot while one of the returning Shield Boomerang’s EX Skills rapidly circles the weapon around Zero, potentially filling in any combo spots players might miss. That so much combat variety and depth is packed in a single GBA title is as welcome as it is shocking. 

All this said, the nuances of combat are something that takes time to both get used to and even recognize. Strong level design and core mechanics make it entirely possible to have a good time with Mega Man Zero 3 without so much as realizing this combat depth is there, but the same can’t be said for the revised Cyber Elf system. Right from the gate, sub-series veterans will realize that something is amiss. Notably the fact that Cyber Elves are no longer found within stages and instead inside of chips which are redeemed at the end of missions. Not just that, the messy Cyber Elf grid has been replaced with a central hub which allows Zero to feed and use his Cyber Elves, while also allowing him to curiously equip “Satellite” Elves. 

The new Satellite system is a godsend and allows players to use Elves without tanking their rank. Zero can equip two Satellite Elves at any given time, with their effects ranging from offering Zero more health or rescuing him from a pit. Satellite Elves do not die, and only lose their effect once unequipped. Needless to say, this system overhaul allows for Cyber Elves to play a far more active and meaningful gameplay role. Players are free to experiment with Zero’s Elves from the get-go for a change. E-Crystals are still required to feed Elves, but never much, and Zero will have access to Satellite Elves more or less immediately. 

On the flipside of Satellite Elves are Fusion Elves which more or less act like proper Cyber Elves. Use them, and they die. That said, some Fusion Elves can actually be fed E-Crystals to become Satellite Elves, allowing players to make use of Zero’s more useful Cyber Elves without permanently hurting their rank. Beyond increasing his health or offering practical platforming services, quite a few Elves influence combat. Some Elves offer straight up buffs, like +1 damage to the Z Saber, while others outright change how Zero attacks. 

Equipping Lizetus allows Zero to end his 3-hit Z Saber with a rising slash by holding up on the D-Pad. Hold down with Cottus equipped, and Zero will instead end his combo with a shockwave. Malthas allows Zero to do his rolling slashes by holding up or down on the D-Pad while jumping or dashing respectively, and Ilethas lets Zero cut through the enemy fire with his Saber. Like the Chip system, certain Elves end up taking properties from Zero’s Forms from Zero 2, but splitting things up this way just allows for players to truly make the most out of Zero. Equip the right Satellite Elves, and there is so much Zero can do at any given moment. Without the need to grind like in the first two games, you can comfortably experiment with Cyber Elves from start to finish. In a twist of fate, players are even likely to end with more E-Crystals than they need.

Following in the Chain Rod’s footsteps, arguably the biggest contribution Zero 3 makes gameplay-wise is the addition of the Recoil Rod. The Recoil Rod replaces the Chain Rod, combining the best qualities of the Triple Rod from Zero 1 with Zero 2’s Chain Rod. Where the Triple Rod prioritized action and the Chain Rod maneuverability, the Recoil Rod places an equal emphasis on both combat and platforming practicality. Even though the Recoil Rod can’t cling like the Chain Rod could, its charged attack can be used to recoil Zero off of enemies, allowing him to gain an insane amount of height. The Recoil charge attack can also be used to destroy obstacles and move platforms. The weapon may not be incorporated into any mandatory platforming like the Chain Rod was, but stages make frequent use of it by tucking Cyber Elves away in areas reachable only by the Recoil Rod.

Omnidirectional stabbing returns, allowing the Recoil Rod to take out enemies from any angle. Paired with its quick speed, and the Recoil Rod can end up being one of Zero’s most useful weapons. Both of the Recoil Rod’s EX Skills are even designed with combat in mind. Soul Launcher allows Zero to fire four shots into the air with a charged attack, which rains down to do more damage. While a novel technique, the real money maker is 1000 Slash. The Recoil Rod’s 3-hit combo is replaced with a flurry of stabs that can inflict multiple hits at once, making it a great tool to exploit boss openings with. 

In terms of control, the Recoil Rod isn’t as hard to use as the Chain Rod was, but its physics are a bit more interesting. By pressing down, Zero can use the force of a charged attack to launch him into the air. Pair this with a dash jump, and– as referenced– Zero can launch off the tops of enemies, gaining air while killing them in the process. This can be used to platform towards secrets, or just to strategically cut through stages. It requires real skill to pull off (especially against enemies where there are a couple of factors to consider at once,) but mastering the Recoil Rod pays off and lends to some incredibly impressive platforming. 

“The Recoil Rod is strongest when charged. It incorporates features from both the Triple Rod and Chain Rod… it will require some effort to master.”

Although the platforming isn’t as in-depth or as difficult as in Zero 2, that’s not a bad thing. Zero 3’s platforming set pieces are quite memorable and make great use of the mechanics. Oceanic Highway Ruins is an excellent early example of Z3’s inspired level design. The stage pits Zero against the stage boss in an actual race to the boss door, where staying in the lead is advantageous to Zero. In an underwater stage, there are four buttons hidden throughout the stage that lower the water level in the boss room when stepped on. Press all of them, and the boss won’t be able to make the most out of either their abilities or boss arena. 

This advantage only exists if Zero hits all four buttons, though. Let the boss take the lead, and he’ll destroy the buttons outright. Not only do players need to keep a consistent pace ahead of the boss, they need to actually find the buttons– all the while cutting down enemies, jumping over obstacles, and avoiding spikes. Since Zero is underwater, his jump’s center of gravity changes, making it easy for careless players to ram into enemies or kill themselves outright. There are plenty of factors to consider when platforming, but they don’t gel in as overwhelming a fashion as Zero 2’s platforming challenges. This may all seem daunting to handle at once, but the stage is as well-paced as it is well designed, introducing new hazards gradually.

On that note, the difficulty curve on a whole is the lowest of the sub-series, but it’s well balanced and by no means easy. Boss design can be aggressive and missions– while easier on a whole– are denser with varied combat & platforming sections peppered throughout. Area X-2 is a shining example of Zero 3’s balancing act in play. The first section of the stage is littered with enemies, both already present and that Zero can trigger. As the stage progresses, however, the enemies slowly start to phase out while spikes become more abundant. Suddenly, Zero is scaling a tower surrounded by spikes, clinging only to narrow moving platforms. Slowly, enemies are reintroduced, the spikes ease up, and the stage empties up a bit before the boss door. 

Mega Man Zero 3 is filled with these seamless gameplay transitions all throughout. It’s certainly not unusual for a Mega Man game to pack its level design with variety, but Z3 does so with so much focus– rarely relying on gimmicks and instead, working with actual genre conventions or playing off the core mechanics. That said, there is one constant gimmick in place to help out those who need it: Cyberspace. By entering green doors within stages, Zero can enter an alternate version of whatever stage he’s in called Cyberspace. Entering into Cyberspace tints the stage green while activating Zero’s Cyber Elves without needing to equip or kill them. 

Naturally, Cyberspace comes with a rank penalty, but they’re optional, increase replay value considerably, and can help players learn level layouts while also letting them play around with all their Cyber Elves at once. What really prevents Cyberspace from being a problem, though, is the fact that it’s locked out for mini-bosses and boss fights. Rely on Cyberspace too much and players likely won’t be able to contend with losing all their buffs for important battles. It’s an important distinction that helps Cyberspace from becoming a crutch. 

Locking Cyberspace for mini-bosses and bosses also just forces players to engage with the boss design as intended. As this is Mega Man Zero, though, that’s far from a hard sell. The first two games share some of the best bosses on the Game Boy Advance, so it’s only fair that Zero 3 not just follow suit, but outright one-up its older brothers. Even though most bosses can be comfortably punished with EX Skills, they’re all exceedingly well-designed fights, even when tearing health bars to shreds. Enemy AI is more aggressive, with bosses rarely creating their own openings. It’s important to chain hits together, making use of combos and interrupting boss attacks whenever possible. 

Enough patience and knowhow do trivialize the fights in typical Mega Man fashion, but attack patterns are on the sophisticated side, which makes heading into a boss room unprepared a recipe for disaster. Rushing into a fight head-on will almost always lead to certain death, whereas a bit of patience makes rushing into a fight head-on certain death for Zero’s foes. In typical action game fashion, Zero 3’s best boss fights tend to be the one on one, humanoid battles. Notably, the fights against Copy X MK-II, Phantom, and Omega make incredible use of Z3’s refined combat. 

As the name suggests, Copy X MK-II plays out like a revamped version of the final fight from the first game. Copy X is fast, relentless, can block attacks while changing forms, and can heal nearly all of his health during the battle. As he moves around constantly, it’s difficult to land a combo chain into him, let alone a lengthy one, but it isn’t impossible. Anticipating where Copy X will land can offer Zero an opportunity to land some hits in. Once you find the rhythm, the fight against Copy X becomes a frantic back and forth where Zero is chasing him around the screen, landing lethal hits while dodging frequent counter-attacks. 

“The heart is what counts. Not the body.”

The fight against Phantom is the only one that takes place within Cyberspace, which is a fitting setting for the secret boss’ arena. Found within the penultimate stage, Sub-Arcadia, Phantom is an extremely fun opponent. As the battle happens inside of Cyberspace, Phantom is an afforded aggression reserved typically for the final boss. He’ll throw out kunai non-stop, create shadow clones, dash into Zero, and ride his Shuriken around the arena in a frenzy. Phantom is Zero 3 at its most chaotic, but he can be approached any number of ways: with EX Skills, by baiting him out, taking him on from long range. Between Zero’s Chips, Cyber Elves, and weapons, there’s never just one way to take on a boss. A philosophy best exemplified by the final fight against Omega. 

Quite literally Zero against Zero, players have to fight more than just a carbon copy of themselves. Omega has more health than you can have, more abilities than you can use at once, and can pull off an effortless 7-hit combo that rips through Zero in a way he could never rip through Omega. At the same time, this is what makes the fight so compelling. Omega may have these artificial advantages, but you’ve spent all game honing your abilities– unlocking EX Skills, coming up with Combos, finding the right Satellite Elves. Omega is the ultimate test of one’s Mega Man Zero 3 abilities: a final duel against a mirror image after two back-to-back boss fights. The penultimate boss even features a bottomless pit to really punish any players who still can’t platform well. 

What really makes these boss fights great is more than just their design. All these bosses share emotion, weight, and important context (both narratively & thematically.) Zero’s fight against Copy X MK-II is a fakeout final boss unlike any other. The whole game had been building up to yet another confrontation between Zero and Copy X, but the fight ends with the latter accidentally killing himself, unaware that he was revived with a killswitch that would trigger if he attempted to activate his final form. Considering how difficult Copy X can be, the fact he doesn’t have a second form can be taken as something of relief despite the narrative consequences. 

Unlike the other Guardians, Phantom never came to truly respect Zero, admonishing his legend consistently throughout the first game. Phantom even attempts to take Zero out in a suicide attack when he’s defeated. Their rematch in Cyberspace is an opportunity for Zero (and the player) to assert that the legend is real. Defeating Phantom makes him change his mind about Zero completely, meeting the player with genuine respect. That Phantom is an optional boss, and a challenging one at that, only gives more impact to his earned admiration. 

As the final boss, the fight against Omega is the culmination of everything Mega Man Zero as a story had been building up to. This was meant to be the grand finale for Zero’s arc and a plotline that could be stemmed all the way back to 1993, when Rockman X first graced the Super Famicom. Naturally, such a momentous occasion requires only the best in terms of presentation, and IntiCreates yet again delivers with one of the best looking and sounding games on the Game Boy Advance. Of the first three games, Mega Man Zero 3 has the best story, the best presentation, and the best storytelling, making impressive use of both in-game sprite animations and cutscenes. Characters still can’t convey emotion outside of dialogue, but the action has never looked better. 

Picking up two months after where the last game left off, Zero 3 wraps up all the narrative loose ends between the first two games: the fallout of a leaderless Neo Arcadia, the Guardians’ gradually increased respect for Zero, Ciel’s development of a solution for the energy crisis, and the aftermath of Elpizo releasing the Dark Elf. With so much ground to cover, the game on a whole is far more plot-driven, making even greater use of its cutscenes than Zero 2. Dialogue is more frequent, with Zero himself speaking fairly often, but the story is never intrusive. Though that’s in large part due to its structure. 

“All legends are forgotten in the end. Goodbye, Zero!”

Unlike other entries in the series, Mega Man Zero 3 is divided into three very distinct acts. Act 1 positions itself as the first half, and not the first third, building up to a second conflict with Copy X. It’s also perhaps worth pointing out why Copy X is back in the first place. Despite having been killed at the end of the first game, Copy X was revived by Dr. Weil– a scientist who was mentioned offhand in Zero 2. Exiled for 100 years, Weil returns to Neo Arcadia after having led to the deaths of 90% of reploids and 60% of humans during the Elf War. Why Weil revives Copy X isn’t immediately made clear, but the first act operates on the assumption that Copy X’s revival is a Sigma situation, with Weil a side antagonist alongside Omega. 

At the end of the first act, Copy X launches a full-on assault against the Resistance in response to Ciel refusing to hand over her Ciel System– an energy source that could end the energy crisis, but would almost certainly be used to wipe out the remaining reploids if handed over to Copy X. Act 2 sees Zero taking on Neo Arcadia’s three-way offensive head-on. Interestingly, the three enemies featured here were all bosses present in Zero 1– Anubis Necromancess, Hanumachine, & Blizzack Staggroff– and their stages are all based off settings from Zero 2– the opening desert, the forest, & the tundra respectively– really reinforcing a sense of finality within Zero 3. Considering the context, the second act does a great job setting itself up for a finale, especially when the final stage in the set is revealed to belong to Copy X. 

Of course, anyone who’s paid attention to how Zero 2 structured itself will assume this can’t possibly be the final stage. Copy X is the eighth mission, which means there still needs to be a final fortress stage. What someone likely won’t expect on their first playthrough is Copy X being followed by another set of four bosses. In reality, the final fight Zero 3 had seemingly been building up to actually takes place around two/thirds of the way in. It’s better to err on the side of short when it comes to Mega Man, but Zero 3 upping the usual Robot Master count from 8 to 12 fleshes the game out just a bit more without compromising the overall pacing. 

Following Copy X’s death, Dr. Weil ends up taking on the game’s role as the chief antagonist. Unlike Copy X or Elpizo, Dr. Weil is a full-on human. And as a human, he has a capacity for cruelty no other antagonist in the franchise has. He orchestrates a political coup that involves him reviving Copy X, goading a fight between him & Zero, and allowing Copy X to accidentally kill himself while transforming into the first game’s final boss. With no one left to lead Neo Arcadia, Dr. Weil ends up its highest-ranking member, replacing one dictator with another.  Of the franchise’s three major antagonists, Dr. Weil is by far the vilest. He takes outright glee in hurting others, laughing constantly in his dialogue. It’s more than just mania, Weil relishes in the pain he inflicts.

Weil is so despicable that Harpuia– the Guardian most loyal to X– end sup betraying Neo Arcadia to protect humanity from Weil by any means necessary. Despite how needlessly cruel Weil is, however, Zero 3 uses boss dialogue to put into perspective how someone like Weil can be in power. Weil’s Eight Gentle Judges have the cult-like admiration Elipzo’s subordinates had mixed with the genuine loyalty present in Copy X’s Guardians. Through doing everything through “official” channels, through controlling Neo Arcadia’s media, Weil is able to craft a narrative that puts him in complete control with what appears to be near-universal approval ratings. It’s not often a Mega Man villain that uses political propaganda to get ahead, but Weil plays Neo Arcadia, the Resistance, and Zero with an uncomfortable amount of finesse.  

Come to the end of the game, it’s ultimately revealed that the Zero players had been controlling throughout all three games was no more than a copy himself. The “real” Zero was revived by Weil and is actually none other than Omega. The Sigma Virus which once “corrupted” Zero is stripped away from the character, showing the monster Dr. Wily intended to create. Naturally, Zero 3’s story extends the theme of identity present in Copy X’s character to Zero, all while deconstructing the legend Elpizo resented so deeply. Zero’s his usual stoic self, but the act of him cutting down his former body and refusing to accept he’s anything but Zero makes for a powerful arc for a character who suspiciously had taken a back seat in his series up to this point. 

Weil’s motivation is primarily to inflict suffering on everyone and everything around him. He has no morals, ethics, or actual ideals, but he’s more than just “pure evil.” Weil is pure human. He doesn’t even have a warped sense of justice like Copy X did. Weil believes in nothing, with no programming to drive him. Naturally, Dr. Weil contrasts with the only other human in the sub-series, Dr. Ciel– a character bursting with ideology who wants nothing but to end suffering for everyone, human or reploid. Both characters actually share a rather interesting parallel that connects them to Dr. Light and Dr. Wily from the Classic series (fitting considering this was meant to close the door on a saga that has its roots in the Classic series’ lore.) 

Light and Ciel both create a Mega Man X, but where Light puts his X through three decades of ethics testing, Ciel lets her X operate with full agency immediately. Wily and Weil both create a Zero, but where Wily creates an evil Zero whose programming is corrupted into the Zero we know, Weil repairs the actual body and restores his original programming. In turn: The actual X is helping Ciel and a copy Zero, while a Copy X is helping Weil and the “real” Zero. Of course, this copy Zero business is more complex than that and arguably the story’s real draw. 

Although Weil is ultimately the main antagonist, Omega is the more present villain– serving as the first boss, the final boss, and sharing a far deeper, more intimate connection with Zero. Mainly because he is Zero. Zero and Omega, like X and Copy X, share a dichotomy built on nature versus nurture. While X was nurtured to who he was meant to be, Copy X proved it was in X’s nature to create his own justice– no matter the cost. Omega is who Zero was always meant to be, but Zero in his sub-series is more than the result of being reprogrammed by a virus: this Zero has ideals. Both fighting alongside and away from Ciel show him the importance of fighting for a cause. 

“As long as your heart is your own, you are Zero. The one and only Zero.”

Keep in mind that Zero 2 and Zero 3 were developed as a pair. Zero 2’s opening, showing Zero’s struggle to return to Ciel and fight for something, sees direct affirmation in his arc in Zero 3. Zero is more than a body or basic programming. When left to his own devices, X tried to commit mass genocide. When left to his own devices, Zero fought for a people no one else would. Both copies begin life alongside Ciel, but take radically different paths, Zero actually recognizing Ciel and her ideals, unlike Copy X. Mega Man Zero 3 is a celebration not just of Zero’s character & legacy, but what it became with time. Zero’s legend is something brought up frequently throughout the series, so for it to be revealed that this isn’t the legendary Zero all along can feel like a slap in the face. But it isn’t a slap, far from it. 

How can it be when Zero 3 ends with you proving yourself as the only Zero that matters by destroying the original’s body? Omega is stronger and by all accounts ‘better,’ but he’s not a true hero– not like Zero. The fact Omega is a humanoid final boss and not a grotesque transformation like Copy X or Elpizo only drives home how personal this final fight is. Never has a final boss in a Mega Man game felt more earned. More than a ritualistic killing of the murderous Zero rooted in the character’s backstory, this is IntiCreates highlighting the inherent good in Zero. Even if Ciel revived a copy, it’s the ideals he embodies that make him Zero. The legend is redefined by the end of Zero 3. Of course, X assures Zero that it’s only his body that isn’t the same, but the point still stands: ideals make the Mega Man.

As intimate to Zero’s character as Z3’s story is, the game’s way of saying goodbye to this chapter of Rockman history is not to say goodbye to Zero, but to X. After losing his body at the end of the second game, Zero 3 makes the bold decision to genuinely kill X off, no strings attached. It isn’t a sad death, though. If anything, X’s farewell feels like a tender goodbye between friends– him and Zero; him and the audience. Rarely is a Mega Man story as well written as Z3, but considering the sub-series’ track record for strong thematic writing, it’s only fitting what was meant to be the final entry in the series end on a high note. 

Of course, Mega Man Zero 3 did not end up being the sub-series’ finale. Zero 4 would actually end the series a year later in 2005, but it is a game that exists in Z3’s shadow. And it’s not hard to see why. Beyond closing a portion of Rockman history in an emotionally satisfying manner, Zero 3 is simply loaded with high-quality gameplay– arguably IntiCreates’ best work. Well-paced platforming, memorable setpieces, an incredible combat system, and some of the best bosses in the franchise make it easy to understand why IntiCreates wanted to cut the sub-series off here. Zero 3 is the fully realized vision of what Zero 1 and 2 strived to be. All three games are fantastic in their own right, but Mega Man Zero 3 goes above and beyond, ending up one of the best games on the Game Boy Advance. 

An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and The Legend of Zelda, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon Ball and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video game he's currently playing.

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‘Oracle of Seasons’: A Game Boy Color Classic

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Oracle of Seasons

“It is an endless cycle of life… the changing seasons!”

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons are very much two halves of the same grand adventure, but they’re both worth examining on their own merits. Seasons in particular brings with it quite an interesting history. The game that would eventually become Oracle of Seasons began life as a remake of the original Legend of Zelda. This remake would be accompanied by five other games– a remake of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and four original titles– all developed for the Game Boy Color. These games would not be developed by Nintendo themselves, but by Flagship– a subsidiary of Capcom that was also funded in part by Nintendo and Sega.

These six games would eventually be trimmed into a trilogy slated to release in the summer, autumn, & winter of 2000, before settling as a duology that would launch simultaneously in 2001. Where Oracle of Ages was the sole survivor of the four original games, Oracle of Seasons was a brand new game morphed out of the Zelda 1 remake. Considering director Hidemaro Fujibayashi’s own reflection on Flagship’s Zelda proposal, much of what would define Seasons was always present;

 “The core of the game was pretty much decided. That is to say, the fact that it would be on the Game Boy Color, the use of the four seasons, and the decision to retain the feel of the 2D Zelda games. It was also decided that it would be a series.”

Not only was this remake never intended to be a standalone entry, it would kick start its own sub-series while featuring seasons at the forefront of the gameplay. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto likewise asked Fujibayashi to pen a new story for the original Legend of Zelda, suggesting a fairly comprehensive remake as the end goal. With so many inherent changes, however, The Hyrule Fantasy ended up leaving the region altogether. 

“I believe the Zelda series really only started to have scenarios after the hardware specifications improved. The original Zelda was a pure action-RPG and didn’t have much of a story to begin with. I wanted to combine both those aspects (action-RPG and an actual scenario) this time around. At first, we’d only planned on creating a game one-tenth the size of the final version. But it just kept growing as development progressed and gradually turned into an original game.” 
– Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Director/Planner/Scenario Writer

Oracle of Seasons takes after Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask by setting itself away from Hyrule– the kingdom only ever shown during the opening cinematic. Holodrum has one of the densest worlds in a 2D Zelda game, if not the densest after A Link to the Past & A Link Between Worlds. A kingdom geographically similar to Hyrule as seen in the original Legend of Zelda, Holodrum has its own northern mountainside, a final dungeon in the northwest corner, and dozens of old men hidden amongst the land. This all makes sense since Seasons is rooted in a remake of the first game, but it isn’t as if Holodrum is without its novelties. 

Holodrum is distinct from Hyrule where it counts. The kingdom itself is quite large, sprawling when compared directly to Koholint Island. Progression often feels like a puzzle, especially when working around roadblocks early on. Holodrum’s four seasons are out of order, with the weather changing on the fly between regions. Link has to work around snow banks, overgrown trees, flooded fields, and petrified flora to overcome Holodrum’s chaos. As easy as it is to get side tracked in the vast kingdom, it’s only because there always tends to be something around the corner. Getting lost isn’t a problem when the overworld is so secret heavy. 

Old men are frequently found hiding under trees, actually giving players a reason to burn them on sight now, but new systems are in place to make exploration even more rewarding. Link will come across patches of soft soil throughout Holodrum where he can plant Gasha Seeds. Owing their name to gashapon– Japanese capsule toys not too dissimilar to blind bag toys– Gasha Seeds grow into Gasha Trees which bear Gasha Nuts after Link has defeated 40 enemies. Gasha Nut contents are randomized, but they incentivize players to return to previously explored areas. 

Not everything a Gasha Nut drops is worth the effort of chopping down 40 enemies– the worst being five regular hearts and a sole fairy– but the best rewards make it all worthwhile. While the Heart Piece tied to the Nut is probably the best overall get, Gasha Seeds naturally feed into the Ring system. Rings add an inherent RPG layer to the Oracle duology’s gameplay, offering the earliest instance of genuine player customization in the Zelda franchise. Rings, like Gasha Nuts, are completely random. Link will find many in his travels, but he needs to appraise them at Vasu’s ring shop in Horon Village before they can be used. Except in a few rare instances, Vasu’s appraisals are randomized.

There are 64 rings altogether between Seasons and Ages, all with varying effects. Which rings Link obtains can influence how players go about their game. RNG also ensures that each new playthrough is unique from the last. While this poses an obvious frustration for any completionists, it’s a fantastic way of adding another layer of replay value to an already fairly replayable experience. The Expert’s Ring allows Link to punch enemies if he unequips his weapons, the Charge Ring speeds up the Spin Attack, and the Protection Ring makes it so Link always takes one Heart of damage when attacked.

With so many rings to choose from, the gameplay is kept in balance by Link’s Ring Box. Once appraised, Link can equip his rings into his box. While he can only equip one initially, players can find a Box upgrade on Goron Mountain. With RNG already influencing which rings Link has access to, it’s unlikely two players will have the exact same experience in Oracle of Seasons– rings offering more personalization than is still usual for Zelda. Besides Gasha Nuts, Rings can be found in the overworld and dropped by Maple, a young witch who makes further use of RNG. 

Maple is Syrup’s apprentice, the recurring witch who runs the potion shop in A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening. Riding in on her broomstick, Maple will appear after Link has killed 30 enemies. Should players bump into her, both Link & Maple will drop their treasures, prompting Maple to race the player for them. It’s almost always worthwhile to focus on what Maple’s dropped rather than what Link lost. Not only does Maple drop her own unique set of rings, she’s a convenient way of getting potions early on and will eventually drop a Heart Piece. Maple also gets progressively faster, upgrading her flying broomstick to a vacuum after enough altercations.

So much RNG can be off-putting, but Holodrum is such an extensive overworld that randomness isn’t much of an issue. Gasha Seeds drive exploration and Maple’s appearances reward it. These systems also encourage players to fight enemies head-on rather than avoid them when it’s convenient. If gameplay ever feels more involved in Oracle of Seasons than the average Zelda game, that’s because it is. This goes double when taking the very seasons into account. 

The four seasons influence overworld progression significantly and most non-dungeon puzzles center on Link using the Rod of Seasons to restore seasonal order to whatever region he’s in. Most of these puzzles solve themselves since seasons can only be changed on stumps, but concessions need to be made when an overworld features four unique versions of every region. Incredible use of the Game Boy Color’s hardware helps in this regard as well. The handheld was designed with making in-game colors pop and Oracle of Seasons– as an extremely late-life GBC game– stands out as one of the most vibrant titles in the system’s library. 

Each season has its own defining color palette– blue for winter, red for summer, green for spring, yellow for autumn– but there is always a wide range of colors on-screen. Winter matches its light blue with shades of white & gray; spring features an almost pastel color tone where gold & pink flowers bloom against soft shades of green; summer deepens most colors for a bolder effect; and autumn offsets its yellow with orange, red, and in some instances purple. Oracle of Seasons might very well have the best atmosphere on the Game Boy Color, each season stylized & recognizable with their own distinct tones. It’s a phenomenal presentation that outdoes OoS’ contemporaries. Seasons outright has better art direction than most early GBA games. 

The fact Oracle of Seasons commits to its premise in such a large overworld as strictly as it does is praiseworthy, but it’s even more impressive that there’s another world lurking underneath Holodrum. Subrosia is a bizarre underworld, easily the most eclectic setting in the franchise other than Termina (and in many respects more so.) Subrosians are culturally impolite, bathe in lava, and deal in Ore instead of Rupees. The Subrosian Market undersells a Heart Piece, volcanic eruptions are a welcome norm, and Link will be moving between Holodrum & Subrosia multiple times over the course of his journey. Players can even go on a date with a Subrosian girl, Rosa, that’s a clear play on his date with Marin from Link’s Awakening. Subrosia is so alien that it’s hard not to love every moment beneath Holodrum.

Beyond the four seasons and the dichotomy between Holodrum & Subrosia, what differentiates Oracle of Seasons most from Oracle of Ages is its focus on action. Seasons is a puzzle heavy game, but it lets combat drive the gameplay more often than not with a very action-centric tool kit. The Slingshot makes its 2D debut, replacing the Bow in the process, but its 250 seed capacity outdoes any of Link’s quivers. Its upgraded version, the Hyper Slingshot, even fires in three directions at once. The Roc’s Feather returns from Link’s Awakening to once again make jumping an important part of Link’s mobility. Not only is platforming far more frequent this time around– with the Ancient Ruins featuring quite a bit of jumping for a 2D dungeon– it upgrades into the Roc’s Cape which allows Link to glide.

The Boomerang now upgrades into a guided Magical Boomerang which players can control themselves; the Magnetic Gloves are ostensibly a better version of the Hookshot which can pull Link to & from magnetic sources, along with magnetizing certain baddies; and most enemies are designed with a combination of the sword & shield in mind. Oracle of Ages has its fair share of action as well, but not with quite the same focus as Oracle of Seasons.

In general, Seasons is a focused video game in the best ways possible. OoS always gives players a general direction to go in, but otherwise leaves Link to his own devices. There are little to no interruptions, and the gameplay loop emphasizes freedom in spite of the game’s linearity. There’s always something to do and you’re always making progress, whether that be narratively or checking in on some Gasha Nuts. The pace is perfectly suited for handheld gaming and quick burst play sessions. Only have a few minutes to play? Kill some enemies to trigger Maple. Got some time? Scope out the next dungeon and work towards saving Holodrum. 

There are also a number of side quests to round off gameplay. The main trading sequence ends with Link finding the Noble Sword in Holodrum’s Lost Woods; players can forge an Iron Shield in Subrosia by smelting red and blue ore together & bringing the refined ore to the Subrosian smithy; and Golden Beasts roam Holodrum, each appearing during a different season & in a set region. Once all four are defeated, Link can find an old man north of Horon Village who will give him the Red Ring– a ring which doubles the Sword’s attack at no expense to the player. 

All these side quests are worthwhile, especially since Oracle of Seasons is a bit on the tougher side when it comes to difficulty. Dungeons are very fast-paced, full of puzzles that are often deceptively simple. Dungeon items are used in increasingly clever ways, from traversing over bottomless pits with strategic use of the Magnetic Gloves to using the Hyper Slingshot to activate three statues at once. Notably, most bosses in Seasons are actually remixes of boss fights from the first Legend of Zelda

Aquamentus, Dodongo, Gohma, Digdogger, Manhandla, and Gleeok all return with a vengeance. Gleeok in particular puts up a serious fight, forcing Link on the offensive. Not only do players need to be quick enough to slice off Gleeok’s two heads before they can attack themselves back on, the dragon will persist as a skeleton for round 2. Explorer’s Crypt is a difficult enough dungeon where getting to the boss room with full health isn’t a guarantee, so Gleeok offers a surprising but welcome challenge as a result. 

Oracle of Seasons deserves a bit of credit for having one of the harder final bosses in the series, as well. Onox doesn’t have much in the way of personality, but he’s a tough boss to put down. His second form requires Link to use the Spin Attack to deal damage while making sure he doesn’t hit Din in the process, and Onox’s dragon form is a gauntlet of dodging, jumping, & surviving long enough to finally kill the General of Darkness. Players are bound to die once or twice, but the final dungeon is short enough where getting back to Onox takes no time at all. 

If Oracle of Seasons has one glaring flaw, however, it’s the story. The script reads like a massive step back coming off the heels of Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, and especially Majora’s Mask. Link is summoned to aid the Oracle Din, already a seasoned hero and implied to be the same Link from A Link to the Past, but very little time is spent fleshing out Din as a character & giving players a reason to care about her. Her role is more akin to Zelda in A Link to the Past than Marin in Link’s Awakening. Similarly, Onox is an undercooked villain who shows up to kidnap Din and does nothing for the rest of the story. Of course, this light story stems from Seasons’ origin as a remake of The Legend of Zelda

Early press of the game– when it was still going by the name Acorn of the Tree of Mystery– indicates that the story was originally set in Hyrule and the seasons went out of order when Ganon kidnapped Princess Zelda, the guardian of both the Triforce of Power & the four seasons. Hyrule was changed to Holodrum, Ganon became Onox, Zelda turned to Din, and the eight fragments of the Triforce presumably became the eight Essences of Nature. While underwhelming, the plot’s structure if nothing else makes sense. 

It’s worth pointing out that Oracle of Seasons seems to recognize that story is its weakness and lets the gameplay drive the experience. Unlike Oracle of Ages which takes its plot seriously and has a clear thematic arc, Seasons really is just a remix of Zelda 1’s plot. Which is perfect for the kind of game OoS ultimately is: a fast-paced, action-packed adventure through an ever-changing world. When played as a precursor to Ages instead of its ending, Seasons’ story comes off comparatively better. The stakes aren’t that high or defined, but that’s more than okay for the first half of an adventure that spans two full-length games. 

In a departure for the franchise, Oracle of Seasons actually features a proper post-game, marking the first time any Zelda acknowledges that the main threat is over. NPCs will comment on how they haven’t seen Link in a while, the weather has stabilized as spring has set in Holodrum, and you’re free to wrap up any side quests left unfinished. This is especially noteworthy because players can link their progress from Seasons over into Ages and transfer any rings they have on hand. 

An epilogue makes for a charming send-off to one of the most charming games on the Game Boy Color. Oracle of Seasons underwent a strange development, intended to be little more than a suped-up remake of the original Legend of Zelda. Instead, Flagship ended up developing one of the finest games on the GBC– a vibrant adventure filled with personality and some of the best action on the handheld. Oracle of Seasons isn’t just one half of a greater game; it’s a classic Zelda in its own right.

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Games

PAX Online: ’30XX’ and ‘Cris Tales’

Our coverage of PAX Online continues with a Mega Man-inspired roguelike and a charming, time-hopping RPG adventure.

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30XX and Cris Tales

Our coverage of PAX Online continues with a Mega Man-inspired roguelike and a charming, time-hopping RPG adventure.

30XX

30XX

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: TBA

I’ve already given some of my thoughts on 30XX back when I took it for a spin at PAX East. To catch those who didn’t see that report up to speed, 30XX is a 2D side-scrolling roguelike with a hi-bit art style and gameplay reminiscent of many Mega Man games. It’s generally more forgiving than Mega Man in the sense that there’s a distinct lack of instant-death spikes and pits, but the tradeoff is that when you do die that’s the end and you have to start the whole game over from the start. Classic roguelike rules for ya.

This PAX Online demo was very similar to the one I played at East. I chose between the blaster Nina or swordsman Ace then I went on my merry way throughout the two levels. One key difference is that I did not start out with any specials this time around and my maximum health was much lower. This is probably in-line with what it would be like to start a new game completely fresh as opposed to some upgrades as the East demo had. As a result, I actually failed my first attempt at this demo.

That’s where the first additional aspect of this build came into play, though, in the form of global character progression. Beating bosses in 30XX not only grants you a new weapon ability but also a currency called Memoria. Memoria can be spent at a shop in-between playthroughs to obtain permanent upgrades for Nina and Ace for every subsequent attempt. The pickings were rather slim for the demo, such as increased health and energy, but a wider variety is promised for the full release, and if anything it’s exceptionally clear how useful they’ll be to fully clear the game’s ten planned stages in one go. I also await the inevitable “no upgrade” runs that will assuredly come out of this, though.

30XX

The other neat addition to this demo is Entropy conditions, which are essentially modifiers. You can make it to where shop items cost more Nut currency to purchase per run, impose a time limit, and/or increase the amount of HP enemies have. Enabling these options also increases rewards gained from runs, adding a nice risk vs. reward factor that will probably keep things engaging even after you master the game’s earlier stages. More Entropy conditions are promised to be added into the full game that will allow you to fine-tune your experience even further.

The one concern I have for 30XX at this point is the number of dead ends I encountered with no reward to show for it. This is probably a result of the procedurally generated nature of the game, but the number of times I thought I was so clever for platforming up to a hard-to-reach area only to be greeted by a wall was more than I cared for. This is the “30XX Very Pre-Alpha Demo”, though, so it’s a flaw that can still be fixed in future development and with everything else that is being done right so far — the tight platforming, varied progression, and delightful aesthetics — it’s not hard to be hopeful for 30XX‘s future.

Cris Tales

Cris Tales

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Steam, and Stadia
Release: Nov 17th, 2020

I went into the Cris Tales demo after hearing nothing but its name in passing here and there. After finishing the demo, I’d recommend you do the same. If you’re a fan of turn-based RPG’s just download the demo and see it for yourself.

Cris Tales managed to constantly surprise and delight me throughout the entirety of its 45-minute long demo, firstly being the visuals. Playing through the game is like watching stained-glass art come to life with its hyper-stylized character designs that emphasize general shapes rather than specific details and environments chock-full of geometrical sharp edges. I was in awe from the word “Go”.

The story follows Crisbell, a chipper young orphan girl who spends her time happily doing chores for the orphanage and her dearest Mother Superior. After chasing a dapper young frog to a church, Crisbell inadvertently awakens the powers of Time Crystals hosed there and gains the power to see both the past and future at the same time. This manifests as the screen fractures into thirds with the left side showing the past, the middle the present, and the right the future at all times.

It was a trick that took a minute or two to register with me, but once it did I immediately set about traipsing all about the town I had just chased the frog through in order to see how it has and will change. It was a positively fascinating experience that put a big stupid grin on my face the entire time.

Crisbell can use this knowledge of that past and future to make decisions in the present such as locating a missing potion label or creating a concoction that will prevent wood from rotting and leading to dilapidated houses. Choosing which house to restore is also an irreversible choice that will lead to different outcomes depending.

Cris Tales

Time manipulation also plays a major part in Cris Tales‘ turn-based combat in extremely novel and creative ways. Enemies attack Crisbell and co from both the left and the right, and you can attack them with your standard RPG basic attacks and skills. Enemies on the left side, however, can be forcibly sent to the past while enemies on the right to the future by expending Crystal Points. This means reverting a big brawny goblin into a harmless little child or aging it into an elder that can barely move.

That’s not all, though. Douse an armored enemy in water then send them to the future to cause it to rust and shatter their defense. Poison an enemy that has already been sent to the past then brings them back to the present to force them to take all that poison damage at once. Plant a damaging mandragora that would normally take a few turns to sprout then send it to the future to cause it to sprout instantly. These are the examples demonstrated in the demo but it’s abundantly clear that this is only the tip of the creative iceberg. It’s genuinely thrilling to imagine all the possibilities such a system is capable of. The best part is that we won’t have to wait long to find out as Cris Tales launches on all major platforms in just two months.

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Game Reviews

‘AVICII Invector Encore Edition’ Review: Rhythm and Melancholy

‘AVICII Invector: Encore Edition’ is a music and rhythm game perfect for newcomers and fans of the genre.

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AVICII Invector Encore Edition Review

Developer: Hello There Games | Publisher: Wired Productions | Genre:  Rhythm | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch


In terms of a pure adrenaline rush, nothing tops a well-designed rhythm game. Good rhythm games let players feel a euphoric sense of flow and even excitement. But the best the genre has to offer taps into the heart of music itself. AVICII Invector Encore Edition is a rhythm game perfect for newcomers to the genre but also works as a moving tribute.

I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

Whether it’s tapping buttons in time with the beat, smashing feet on a dance pad, or moving an entire body in front of an IR camera, rhythm and music games have always been popular. AVICII Invector Encore Edition takes inspiration from music games that came before it but stands firmly on its own. It’s wonderfully accessible, truly a music game for anyone. From diehard fans of the rhythm game genre to people who are simply AVICII fans who also have a console, Invector checks a lot of boxes.

Levels across AVICII Invector play largely the same. The player picks a track and a difficulty level, and is off to the races. They control a slick spaceship moving forward along a track, and must tap or hold buttons as the ship passes over them. This “falling jewel” style has been popular from the Guitar Hero franchise and beyond, but Invector finds ways to make it feel unique. The art direction is breathtakingly stellar, taking players on far-out trips through cyberpunk-esque cities and crumbling pathways. There are even portions of each level where the player can steer their spaceship Star Fox-style through rings and around pillars to keep their point multiplier up.

Invector feels like it’s trying to affect as many sensory inputs as it can. Though Encore Edition is fully playable on handheld mode on Switch, Invector shines brightest on a big screen with a thumping sound system. The neighbors might get annoyed, but who would hear them complaining?

Tracks are divided up by worlds, with four to five tracks each. Worlds must be cleared sequentially, by scoring at least seventy-five percent on each level in that world. While this may sound initially restrictive, Encore Edition gives players access to two extra worlds with five tracks each right out of the gate, so players have plenty to play with at the start.

There are three difficulties available, and each mode offers a different experience. For players who just want to experience AVICII’s music in a low-stress way while enjoying amazing visuals and ambiance, Easy mode is the way to play. Anything above that amps the difficulty up significantly, with Hard mode escalating the required precision to an unbelievable degree. Building up a competitive high score can only be achieved by hitting multipliers and keeping a streak going. At higher difficulties, Invector feels challenging but exhilarating. Scoring above ninety percent on any difficulty mode above Easy feels extremely good, and the online leaderboards are the perfect place to boast about that achievement. During high level play, earning a high score feels transcendent.

Worlds and levels are strung together with brief, lightly-animated cutscenes. It’s a slim justification for a rhythm game, but they’re better than nothing and provide just enough context to keep things interesting. AVICII Invector is both visually and aurally pleasing, but even if the player isn’t a diehard fan of EDM or House music, there is plenty to love.

This world can seem cold and grey
But you and I are here today
And we won’t fade into darkness

AVICII Invector is a truly fantastic rhythm game. But it’s also more than that. It is impossible to play Invector and not feel a twinge of melancholy. The game is a tribute to a hard-working perfectionist, but the man behind the music had his demons. Though the visuals are enticing and the gameplay electric, it is difficult not to feel sad from the opening credits. It is to Invector‘s credit that all throughout, the game feels like a joyful celebration of Tim Bergling’s music. It is a worthy tribute to a man who revitalized and reinvigorated the EDM and House music scene.

At the end of the day, almost every aspect of AVICII Invector reflects a desire to connect. For players connected to the internet, global leaderboards are a great opportunity to share high scores. Invector is much more forgiving than Thumper or Rez or even anything in the Hatsune Miku catalog. Players can cruise through this game on Easy mode if they want, and they won’t be punished. The Encore Edition even includes a split-screen multiplayer, which is fantastically fun.

In his music, Bergling worked across genres to expand what pop music could look like. With Invector, music lovers and players of nearly any skill level can have a pleasing experience. In video games, that’s rare, and it should be celebrated.

According to publisher Wired Productions’ website, all music royalties from AVICII Invector Encore Edition will support suicide awareness through the Tim Bergling Foundation.

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