|Title||Mega Man Zero 3|
|Release Date||October 5, 2004|
|Age Rating||E (ESRB)|
SPOILER ALERT FOR MEGA MAN ZERO 2
I wish I could say that getting to the end of Mega Man Zero 2 was a triumphant moment, story-wise. Sure, it felt great to beat that final boss and win the game, but all it did was stop Elpizo. The Dark Elf, the real problem, got away. In Mega Man Zero 3, the search for it has gone on two months already—and it’s far from over.
Zero and Ciel make their way to what looks like a crashed space shuttle in the middle of the Arctic. Upon getting inside, Zero runs into a huge, ancient Reploid called Omega. After an initial fight with it, a new villain steps out of the shadows to command Omega: Dr. Weil (not to be confused with Dr. Wily from older games). Weil upgrades Omega so that Zero doesn’t stand a chance, even with some unexpected allies trying to fight it.
With so many questions unanswered, it’s all the resistance can do to try to find the Dark Elf before Weil does. As always, this means missions. But Mega Man Zero 3 rejects the trends of the series and opts to be a bit longer, with three phases to the story leading to eleven of these selectable missions in total. These extra-challenging areas give you chances to fight the transforming Weil’s Numbers bosses, as well as a few familiar faces from the first two games.
That, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the subtle but crucial changes that set this game apart from the rest of the series. Where to begin? The elemental chips from before are now only a few of the ones that Zero can equip, and he has three slots that allow for different functions. The foot slot, for example, offers things like double jump, quicker movement, and even the ability to dash straight through enemies and attacks. Some of these replace the Forms from Mega Man Zero 2.
Some chips still come from boss battles like before, but a few are hidden in Secret Disks. There are 180 Secret Disks scattered throughout the game. Some are found right out in the open, others are buried in sneaky spots in levels, and still more get dropped from enemies. A lot of the Secret Disks contain information on enemies, allies, bosses and history, including bits of recap from previous games. Others give you chips, Energy Crystals, and Cyber Elves.
Speaking of Cyber Elves, guess what? Those have been changed up, too. While the old Nurse, Animal and Hacker categories still exist, they’re also further split up into Fusion and Satellite types. Fusion Elves work just like the old ones—use them up, get their effects, and they’re gone permanently, not to mention the score penalty. But there are now two slots for the Satellite Elves. Certain Satellite Elves will drop tiny bits of health over time, and others fire shots at enemies. A lot, though, will give you the same long-term benefits as their Fusion Elf counterparts, without the ranking penalty. In fact, a lot of such Elves can be converted between Fusion and Satellite versions for a low Energy Crystal cost.
When you’re going for a good ranking, the Satellite Elf option goes a long way, and so do some small tweaks to the points system. Overall, though, the general difficulty of the game has gone up enough compared to the others that you need all the help you can get. Like Mega Man Zero 2, your rank can help you get EX Skills from bosses—and this time there are twelve of them. A lot of the skills can be used regardless of your chips, but will be augmented by certain elemental types.
If, however, you don’t care so much about that, there’s another option available to help you bash through a level and just worry about the boss at the end. Every once in a while, you’ll see a holographic door that leads to Cyberspace. In Cyberspace, certain Elves will automatically activate, making it very powerful as you get more. Sometimes there are even shorter paths through Cyberspace to get you through parts of the level. Every time you enter, though, there’s a five-point penalty to your ranking, so it’s really a desperate move.
I should probably mention the weapons. As always, you get the Z Saber, Buster Shot, Shield Boomerang, and yet another new Rod weapon. This time, it’s the Recoil Rod. It’s the shortest-range attack yet, akin to a very small dagger, but when charged it has some interesting effects. Breaking barriers and knocking back large objects comes easily, and if you aim it straight down, it’ll launch you into the air, much higher than Zero’s normal jump. It’s not the worst weapon, but I generally only use it when the situation specifically calls for one of its abilities.
You don’t have to worry about leveling weapons up anymore. Everything comes loaded with its longest combo and the ability to fully charge now. This, combined with less Energy Crystal usage (a few Satellite Elves will stay useful through the whole game), means that you will have no reason to grind at all. The main perk to revisiting levels now is to grab any Secret Disks you might have missed. Yes, previous games had Cyber Elves hidden around, but there wasn’t nearly as much exploration and discovery here before.
Unlike the other games, the opening stage doesn’t involve Zero suddenly jumping out and destroying a mass of enemies, so the usual pick for coolest song in the game isn’t as obvious. In fact, although the music is consistently quite good, there’s not one in particular that comes to mind. If there is one moment, though, where the music brings thing into perspective, it’s probably the first time you fight Omega. It’s simple, but effective, much like Omega’s attacks.
The differences between this game and the others are pretty substantial. Sure, you still have the same fast-paced action, but the way you manage it is all new. Combined with the slightly increased amount of content–more like 5 or 6 hours rather than just 4 or 5–Mega Man Zero 3 holds its own as potentially the best game of the four. At around $11 for the Gameboy Advance game, it’s a good deal, though once again I’ll recommend the Collection. There’s still one last Mega Man Zero game to cover—don’t miss out on that, either!