Fans of Capcom's Mega Man franchise will be right at home with Mega Man Zero 2. The game doesn't break any new ground in the side-scrolling platform shooter genre, but it does improve upon everything that was good about the previous game. The levels are lengthier and require insane amounts of jumping and shooting; the bosses are larger and really flex the GBA's graphical capabilities; and there are all sorts of suit and weapon upgrades to acquire based upon how well you perform within a level. The intense difficulty may turn some people off, but, otherwise, Mega Man Zero 2 is the kind of game that belongs in the collection of anyone who considers themselves an aficionado of action games.
Zero's buster cannon can make short work of small enemies.
Mega Man Zero 2 picks up where the previous game left off. Humans and reploids are still in conflict over the world's remaining energy resources. Reploids--like Ciel, X, and Zero--were originally built by humans to make life easier, but humanity turned against its creations when energy resources began to diminish. Technically, the outcast reploids are the good guys and the humans are the bad guys. During much of the game, you'll take control of Zero and go on missions meant to prevent the humans from destroying the last remaining reploid base. Eventually, a young reploid leader named Elpizo comes forward with a plan to wipe out the humans once and for all. This doesn't sit well with Zero and, ultimately, places you on both sides of the conflict.
From the get-go, Zero has a wide variety of moves and weapons at his disposal. You can run, dash, and jump, as well as cling to walls for brief periods of time. In some levels, there are spots where you can jump from one wall to the other to reach areas high in the air. Unlike previous Mega Man games, you don't need to acquire parts to add weapons to your inventory. Zero has all four weapons right off the bat. These include the mega buster cannon and z-saber sword, which have become the mainstays of the Mega Man series, as well as the shield boomerang and chain rod. The shield boomerang functions as it did in the previous game by allowing Zero to reflect shots back to the enemy. The chain rod is new and works pretty much like a grappling hook. It allows Zero to retrieve items and latch onto the ceiling. You can have two weapons active at any given time, and you can switch between them from the pause menu. The more you use each weapon, the more experience you'll gain, which unlocks additional combination and charge-up attacks.
Riding up an ice platform and dodging spikes is all in a day's work for Zero.
In the original Mega Man games for the NES, Super NES, and PlayStation, you had to absorb a boss' power to gain elemental abilities and suit upgrades. Although the first three bosses in Mega Man Zero 2 do provide Zero the ability to add fire, ice, and electricity to his attacks, the majority of suits and attack upgrades are based on your actions within a level. There are nine different power suits to collect. To unlock a new power suit, you need to satisfy certain conditions. For example, grabbing 25 life capsules in a single level will earn you the energy form, which doubles the amount of damage you can take. Each suit also adjusts Zero's power and defensive ratings and adds an additional attack to one of the weapons. You can add EX attacks to your weapons as well, but the only way to unlock them is by completing a level with an A rank or better. It isn't easy to earn EX attacks, especially if you waste time collecting the different power suits, but the effort is worth it. An EX attack, combined with the right elemental ability, can destroy a boss in eight hits as opposed to 50.
The "cyberelf" system provides another layer of flexibility, with respect to healing and upgrades. Within each level, you can find cyberelves by eliminating enemies or freeing them from crates. In some ways, cyberelves are similar to PokÃ©mon characters. When you activate one, it will bring about a beneficial effect, like removing small enemies, increasing Zero's health meter, and/or making Zero's attacks more powerful. Back at the base, you can feed cyberelves to help them grow and make their effects last longer. In all, there are 74 different cyberelves to collect. The majority of them bring about temporary effects that last a single level, at the most, but some remain active throughout the entire game. Either way, once you put an elf to use, it disappears, and you can't use it again. When you activate a cyberelf, it counts against your performance rating. This can make it difficult to acquire the full set of EX attacks, but, for some players, the ability to carry around an "8xMax" health meter will prove more valuable than a flashy attack you may or may not use.