Mega Man Zero is the third Mega Man game released for the Game Boy Advance, and like the other two, it's a departure from the roots of the series--only less so. The previously released Mega Man Battle Network games are role-playing games rather than the sorts of platform shooting games that Capcom's famous blue hero is best known for. Meanwhile, this latest game doesn't even feature Mega Man at all. However, Mega Man Zero is a platformer through and through, and fans of the series will be instantly at ease with the game and its new features. And they're likely to be struck not just by Mega Man Zero's great graphics and design, but also by its challenge.
Finally, a traditional Mega Man game.
Mega Man Zero takes place far in the future of the Mega Man X storyline, when characters Zero and X have come to be known as legendary reploids. X is nowhere to be seen and is believed to have turned evil and to be up to all sorts of evil affairs. Zero, on the other hand, is found abandoned and nonoperational in a mine by a young scientist named Ciel, who awakens the famous reploid in an attempt to save the world from all its problems. From here, you take control of Zero to protect Ciel in the initial stage of the game.
The game follows the traditional formula of nearly every Mega Man game that has come before it. From the beginning, you'll have the usual mega buster cannon to shoot foes as well as your z-saber as your primary weapons. Later in the game you'll also wield new weapons, such as the triple rod and the shield boomerang. What sets Mega Man Zero apart from previous Mega Man games is that now you can level up your weapons simply by using them during the game. For instance, the mega buster starts out being able to shoot only in three-shot bursts, but after a few levels, you'll be able to shoot four shots at a time, as well as charge up your weapon for a more devastating blast.
While the weapons are easy enough to get a handle on, the controls require a bit more practice. You press the A button to jump, press the B button to attack with your primary weapon, press and hold the right shoulder button and B to use the secondary weapon, and press the L button to dash. Because Mega Man games, this one included, tend to always require a firm grasp of just about every move at your disposal, getting used to the control scheme is a little problematic at first, particularly the secondary-weapon command.
As you fight your way through the game, you'll find a brand-new addition to the series in the form of the "cyber elf" system. Throughout each and every level, Zero will find these cyber elves by eliminating enemies, or he'll find them tucked away in hidden areas. Upon successfully besting the level and returning to base, you can then take a look at what your newly found cyber elf can do for you. There are more than 70 different elves to collect and bring to life, each with different abilities, such as slowing down enemies, damaging boss characters, and refilling Zero's health. To make matters a little more interesting, after you put an elf to use, it disappears. This requires you to think carefully about using some of the more powerful ones that you'll come across.