To say that Mega Man ZX Advent is a step in the right direction from its predecessor would be very much like saying that the surface of the sun is hot: Both are accurate statements, but neither really gets the point across as well as it probably should. Perhaps a more suitable thing to say is that Mega Man ZX Advent includes a complete overhaul of the arcane and largely useless map system that bogged down its predecessor, all while keeping the difficulty setting cranked to 11, the environments varied, and the Metroid-esque gameplay intact. As with the original, fans of the more classically styled Mega Man games--specifically the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero series--will feel immediately comfortable with it, and its amped-up difficulty will earn it a place in the heart of any side-scrolling platformer masochist itching for a portable fix. Unfortunately, the improvements made to the game's map system and its more intuitive use of the touch screen are undermined by its rehashed story and terrible voice acting, making Mega Man ZX Advent a worthy sequel to the original, though flawed nonetheless.
As in Mega Man ZX, you will begin Advent by selecting between two characters named Grey and Ashe. However, unlike in the original, your selection is more important than which gender you prefer, as it completely alters your various attacks. Grey fires quicker but weaker shots, his charged shot is a single blast in the traditional Mega Man style, and his sub attack fires multiple homing energy bursts. Ashe, on the other hand, fires less rapidly but more powerfully, has a charged shot that reflects off of solid surfaces, and her sub attack fires a single blast that homes in. In addition, some of the abilities that the two gain throughout the game are also slightly different, and each has a separate backstory, though their games progress almost identically.
The story is, for the most part, a complete rehash of the story from the original game: Your main character unwittingly becomes fused with a sentient metallic fragment known as a "biometal" and must battle a madman in possession of the Biometal Model W to save the world. While Grey and Ashe each have separate reasons for fighting, they will unfortunately play through a nearly identical game, which differs only in starting location and key bits of dialogue. Occasionally, fully animated cutscenes, which are drawn in a vibrant anime style, will appear to advance the plot, though this happens infrequently, as the game prefers to keep the storytelling in the second dimension.
Gameplay is a fine mixture of the side-scrolling platformer action of the traditional Mega Man games and the open-ended exploration of the Metroid series, although it leans slightly more toward Mega Man than its predecessor. The world itself is divided up into a number of different levels, each of which is further divided into stages. The different environments, which vary from an undersea volcano to a mysteriously floating island, are all connected by color-coded doorways and transervers--computer terminals that allow you to teleport to different locations--which means that you'll be free to roam about from one level to the next through a single, connected map. To speed things up, each stage has an access point that lets you warp directly to it from any transerver provided you have activated it. Stages themselves are each designed to be self-contained challenges, and you must typically pass four in order to challenge the boss of the level. Unfortunately, for as much as the game tries to make you believe that it is open-ended, it is a surprisingly linear game veiled in a thin illusion of freedom. You'll spend much of the game performing specific tasks in a prescribed order, as you are prevented from doing almost any exploring at all by the lack of a particular ability or colored keycard.
This time around, you are actually assisted by your minimap, which occupies the bottom screen most of the time instead of being tucked away in the menu. The DS touch screen is put to good, intuitive use here, allowing you to click and drag the map around, reset it to your current location, and toggle a more detailed terrain map that points out doors and relative heights. In addition, you can now select which access point you want to warp to at a transerver by tapping it directly on the map rather than selecting it from a list, making long-distance travel far less obtuse and annoying. The touch screen is further used by a new touch-activated selection screen that makes switching between your various powers as easy as tapping its icon.