I always intended on picking up Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X, but my early impressions (pre-release, mind you) were that it would be little more than a cash-in 3D remake with a few extra features. It turns out that those impressions weren't entirely wrong, but what
surprising is the amount of care put into the detail and production values.
The core game itself has changed little. Besides a few minor tweaks to level layout and switched locations for X's power-up capsules, it's the same old Mega Man you played 10+ years ago. That's not a bad thing, of course – Mega Man X is a bona fide classic. The only real problem is that if you still remember all of the boss weaknesses, the game will be fairly easy. Capcom has offset this by including a Hard mode for more experienced players.
The most drastic change, though, and no doubt the first thing you'll notice, are the completely revamped graphics. While retaining the side-scrolling gameplay, everything is now rendered in 3D. To be honest, I was initially hoping for some really hot, hi-res sprite action, though few companies seem concerned about those these days. So, suffice it to say, I was genuinely appreciative of the new polygonal aesthetics. In fact, whether it is the talent of the developers, the native resolution of the PSP, or a combination of both, Maverick Hunter X looks less like a 3D game and more like a beautiful multi-planar 2D side-scroller. The excellent character animation does a lot to keep that old-school feel. All of the characters and enemies bend and move with appropriate fluidity, as do the backgrounds, which feel a lot more alive than their static wallpaper counterparts from the SNES version. In the opening stage, you've got vehicles moving in front of and behind X, while buildings and car-filled highways stretch off in the distance. The bottom line is that this is a really good looking game!
To go with the improved graphics are some remixed tunes and voice work for all of the characters. If you're a fan of the old music, don't fret, because Maverick Hunter X does it justice. The vocals work surprisingly well, too. Now, instead of just charging into boss territory and watching them power-up, a short, spoken dialogue will be played out between X and the enemy. Though nothing complex, these new sequences do give some insight into the personalities of the Hunters-turned-Maverick and their respective reactions to X, himself. Some, like Chill Penguin, seem more suited to trouble-making, while others, like Storm Eagle, hold a begrudged reverence for our hero. The voices themselves are well-done (though not incredible) and they do lend something to the story that wasn't there before.
Perhaps the most worthwhile new addition, though, is the ability to play as X's rival, the purple, Fett-esque Maverick named Vile who shows up periodically throughout the game. He's got his own story, focused around his jealousy for X's popularity. You see, the reason that the main villain, Sigma, started the Reploid uprising was to activate X's "true potential." As the mold for all Reploids, he holds the greatest capacity for expressing emotion and doubt, something that Sigma sees as the key to evolving the capability of Reploids. Vile, though, sees himself as the true vanguard of Sigma's new era and seeks to prove that he is more worthy of ushering in the future than do-gooder X. Which he should be, because despite the way he is portrayed in X's story, Vile is a heck of a lot more powerful.
Vile's arsenal is comprised of 45 different weapons, vastly outnumbering X's piddly 9. You only have three at the start of the game, but every time you defeat a boss, you'll receive several new weapons, as well as more energy to equip them. The combination of varied options and the restrictions put on Vile's equipment make his game more strategic in nature. He has no dash or charge shot; instead, he has an arm, leg, and shoulder weapon, each with one equippable spot. Each category has 15 weapons, further subdivided into 3 weapon categories (i.e. The leg slot can be an grenade-type or a flame-type). You can only change equipment at the beginning of a level, so considering how to outfit Vile for each missions makes the game a lot more strategic. This is especially so because his missions are a lot harder. Enemy and obstacle placement is very different (and tougher enemies will show up in places where they weren't found before), while those oh-so-precious heart containers and sub-tanks are more difficult to get to. Obtaining many of them requires mastery of Vile's Ride Armor, which differs from X's in that it has a spread-fire gun and a limited amount of energy which is reduced by every hit from an enemy. You'll often be required to traverse a field of enemies or perform some interesting maneuvers with the Ride Armor in order to get these crucial power-ups. Overall, Vile's game is a lot of fun and plays quite differently from that of X, giving the game a fair amount of replay value.
Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X is the real deal. Going through all 4 modes (X and Vile, both on Normal and Hard) can take 8-10 hours, and the extras are worth it, too: a demo of Capcom's other Blue Bomber remake, Mega Man: Powered Up, and a well-produced 25-minute animated movie (detailing the events that lead up to the game) unlocked upon completing the game once. With wonderful aesthetics, some cool extra features, a budget price-point ($30 or so), and short loading times, Maverick Hunter X is one of the most pleasant experiences on the PSP.