It has been one year since Zero came back to life to fight for peace. He has helped Ciel, a human scientist, along with the Resistance, a group of Reploids falsely accused of being Mavericks, escape the reaches of Neo Arcadia's Iron-Fisted Policy. A Reploid from a century in the past, Zero was forced to adjust to this new, crueler world, and has been constantly fighting ever since he defeated Copy X, a corrupt take of the original X. Copy X's protectors, the Four Guardians, have been reduced to three, with Hidden Phantom's misguided attempt to stop Zero resulting in his death. Sage Harpuia, the wisest of the Guardians, has stepped in to take Copy X's place as leader of Neo Arcadia, reassuring the public all is well in their leader's absence.
Ever since these events, Neo Arcadia has sent out garrisons of troops day in, day out, to pursue and punish those who would threaten the haven of humanity. Up against millions upon millions of robot soldiers, Zero's fight is a bleak one. Exhausted from unending battle, Zero has barely put a dent the massive hordes of Pantheon troops advancing their way to the Resistance, forcing them to abandon their damaged base. Zero is hopelessly lost, extremely worn down from fighting for a full year. His weapons are breaking, and his skills have diminished from continued injuries. The fighting has gone on so long, the battles have become meaningless to him. He must find the Resistance, if he wishes to restore his sense of purpose, put a stop to the fighting, and above all, survive to see tomorrow...
The Toll of an Endless War
As the game begins, you'll see a worn-out Zero fighting his way through a thick sandstorm, and be given a prologue of what has happened since the last game concluded.
In a brief moment, the sandstorm clears up, but Zero hears oncoming metal footsteps from behind. A quick glance behind him soon reveals he's about to be swamped by an incoming unit of Pantheons.
Knowing it has outlived its usefulness and will only hinder him in battle, he tosses aside his tattered cloak and gets ready to fight, even in his despairingly weary state. Though his armor is heavily cracked and some of his weapons are broken from excessive use, Zero steels himself for what might be the last battle he can physically endure.
With the conclusion of the opening cutscene, the game has begun...
Items to collect
Elves to obtain (5):
- Clear Time Limit: 2:10
- Enemies Killed: 37
You start out in the opening level with Zero constantly hunched down in agony from his damaged state, with a worn-down version of the Sub Screens from the first game, right down to Zero's mugshot. It's no surprise that means most of the items you had are gone as well. The Triple Rod is busted, the Shield Boomerang rotating system is wrecked, and the Element Chips are broken. It's just you, a Buster Shot Gun, and the Z-Saber. Make skillful use of your weapons- you'll need them right off the bat.
This intro stage is simplistic at best, but has a few dangers along the way that can result in disastrous mistakes. The stage's most concerning obstacles are the frequent pits, crumbling ruins, and the sub-bosses.
Notice many of the enemies here are ingeniously designed to blend in with the desert environment. Alongside them are the malicious Pantheon Gunners that have been around since the first game, which have been dogging Zero for 365 days straight, morning, noon, and night.
Another curious thing about this stage can be identified by getting a good look at the area around you. If you haven't realized it yet, the wastelands are filled with the remains of Area X. Ruined pieces of the satellite have crashed into the desert and littered the landscape. Even now, after a full year has gone by after Copy X was vanquished, remnants of the past are still very evident.
The controls and gameplay are the same as those of the first Mega Man Zero. Adjust the button configurations as you like, and get ready to fight.
Escaping the Death Squad
You must start advancing to the right from the get-go, as Pantheon Gunners are coming from behind, and they'll never stop pouring in. Up to five will appear on screen at a time, but as soon as you kill one, another appears to take its place. If they get close enough, they'll start surrounding you and opening fire. Kill about 15 or so to help rack up a kill count high enough to meet the mission criteria. The rest of the enemies in the stage will make up the difference.
These Pantheons can't jump to save a life. Once you make it to the first ledge where you need to jump, they'll get stuck beneath the ledge and won't be able to follow you anymore.
It's futile to keep shooting down these Pantheons forever, and even Zero is sick of the perpetual battles. If you do keep attacking them, you'll get a disheartening message from Zero to drive it on home.
It's time to make your move and get through the desert, and you only have a worn down Buster and Z-Saber at the ready, which means there's some leveling up to do before they can really do some damage. This puts you at a disadvantage in this mission and all others to come until you restore fully Zero's skills.
Unfriendly Flora and Fauna
The first stretch ahead has two Pantheon Gunners. Unlike the group coming up from behind, they patrol a set path and shoot on sight, fire three rounds, then reload to fire again. However, they are the grunts of Neo Arcadia's troops, mass-produced and made cheap. Naturally, they aren't very durable and go down quickly after a brief exchange of bullets. Against your Z-Saber, they won't last a second.
Deeper into the wilderness are unfamiliar Mechaniloids made with the idea of camouflage in mind. Each one looks like an ordinary desert feature from a distance, but when approached, their killer nature is revealed. you'll approach a pair of Shabarollers, weaponized mechanical cacti. They have two spinning sections guarded by rotating shields, which only move out of the way to let the cacti segments fire needles at you, alternating from top and bottom. Pound them with Buster gunfire when the shields aren't in the way and their weak spots are exposed.
Next, there will be a few pits to jump over. Falling in one means curtains for Zero. Use normal jumps to clear the smaller holes, but dash-jump to get past the bigger pits and uneven terrain. While this area looks clear, another new enemy, Shaball, a spiked tumbleweed, appears several times in ambush, rolling through the air to knock the wind out of an already winded Zero. Kill these Mechaniloids at once. If you ignore one when it comes to a rest, it will open up and fire spiked seed bombs from its pod. Cut through them and move on. If some are persistent, lure them over the cliff sides.
However, this is merely the start of your troubles. Run a little further and be met with a familiar, imposing machine rocketing into view. An old enemy is back to get you, with some new weaponry equipped...
Sub-Boss: Golem Type E
Right away, this intro stage gives you a real challenge with the first sub-boss in the game, Golem Type E. It's a variant of the original you first faced, but instead of hands, it has electric rod appendages that fire three beams on each side and continually adjust their positions to alter the course of the beams so they either criss-cross or fan out in a "W" formation. This Golem and others you'll run into later also won't die instantly if they get slashed by the Z-Saber. Neo Arcadia adapted the Golems to handle energy swords as well as bullets.
Golem Type E proves to be a constant pain in the glute in many areas of the game, one of three element-based Golems used as guardian-type enemies that protect either restricted areas or captured Cyber-Elves.
The sub-boss itself is simple; pay attention to the side that it's going to fire from, and dash in the opposite direction to get away unharmed. If you don't, you have to be standing in just the right spot to avoid being grazed by the incoming shock blasts.
It can be a tooth-grinding experience trying to damage this sub-boss. Golem Type E is a huge target only vulnerable from its vented chest panel up to its head. However, its head is out of attack range, and until you can upgrade your Z-Saber to do a charged slash, it doesn't cut with enough range to hit the Golem or do as much damage than a partially-charged Buster attack. It's even harder to hit the Golem up close with the Z-Saber without getting damaged by colliding into its lanky arms or leaving yourself exposed to its shock blasts. Instead, charge up the Buster Shot Gun and fire at its upper chest where its furnace vents are located to cause some damage. Because the Golem bobbles slightly on its hover jets, at times, its weak point might raise too high to hit as you reach the apex of a jump and prepare to shoot your Buster. You can dash-jump to leap higher off the ground if you seem to be missing it. Soon enough, the Golem will be destroyed, but the stage is unkind enough to pull double duty with this sub-boss...
After a few more bottomless pits, and a couple more Pantheons dotted between them, you'll encounter a second Golem-Type E, this time with pits in the ground, making it much harder to dodge the shots from the Golem, especially with the knockback effect from getting damaged. Be careful and destroy it (make sure you're below solid ground when you do, as the controls lock up when it explodes), and you'll get Cyber-Elf Stoccum.
As you keep going, you'll find yet another new enemy feeding off a dead Pantheon's corpse, Condoroid MKII. It's a nastier version of the old Condoroids from the first game. These carrion lovers have grown faster with their upgrade, but aren't as temperamental. In the past, these birds would sic their talons on you with an angry screech if you were in striking distance. The Mark Two versions are more forgiving. If you come near one, you'll disturb it. The Condoroid, now spooked, takes flight for a few seconds before returning to its meal, but chooses to ignore you.
However, if you ruin its meal by destroying the dead Pantheon it was eating, they turn stark-raving mad in a heartbeat, which will cause them to attack. The birds try to get a few licks in before they calm down and decide to flee the coop before you get a chance to trash them in return. Keep your reaction time honed to face off with any Condoroids pestering your mission. You might feel obligated to shoot and slice everything in sight, but be wary of the Pantheon remains when you spot them. Clear away the Condoroids before you decide to waste the remains.
Mind the increasing degree of pits as you travel deeper through the wilderness. Some pits may require a combination of dash-jumps to initially cross, then a small number of wall-jumps for the task of climbing up the cliffsides. Use charged Buster shots to kill off any enemies on the other side of the pitfalls before they can attack you. If their attacks make contact, the recoil from a hit might send you falling to the bottom of a gorge.
Ruins of the Past
Near the end of the wilderness, you'll discover the results of Zero's handiwork; the remains of slain Pantheon troops, mixed in with a few ruined parts of Area X, have piled up into columns of shaky scrap. You can jump onto them and use them as temporary platforms. These junk heaps are unstable and crumble as soon as you make contact with even so much as a corner of scrap metal. Get to safety before you plunge down a pit with the collapsing scrap. There is also a Life Energy Capsule further along the pile of collapsing scrap if you've been roughed up by the Mechaniloids in the desert.
There is one Z-Panel hidden in the desert, inside an opening directly past a Condoroid MKII and a Pantheon Gunner situated on a ruined building foundation. When you pick it up, it gives you a an extra continue. You get two continues from the start of the game and keep the additional continues you receive until you would need to use them. All hidden Z-Panels reappear every time you re-visit the location you found them at, giving you a perfect chance to max out your total continues to nine by continually obtaining this one in later visits to the Sand Wilderness.
The last area of the Wilderness a populated by a small mix of enemies that inhabit the whole stage. You'll run into more Condoroid MKIIs, a few Pantheons, one lone Shaball, and a final Shabaroller before making it to the outskirts of the Sand Wilderness. Get through the enemies with caution, and you'll eventually make it to the flatlands, devoid of any hostile machines... so it would seem.
As Zero finally reaches a clearing, a group of Pantheons is there to head him off. All of them fix their guns on Zero, but a disturbing tremor stops them from firing. Something big is stirring nearby...
As soon as the quaking ground settles, a gigantic, glowing claw comes rocketing in from behind! Zero would normally detect sudden attacks with ease, but his senses are dulled, slowing his reaction time. He lucks out, jumping over the claw a split second before it hits him, and escapes the attack unharmed.
The Pantheon squad doesn't fare so well. Nowhere near as swift or sharp as Zero, they're unable to process the danger in time and fail to get out of the way in time. Standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, all of them get mulched.
The Predator of Reploids
The Pantheons were unaware that another weapon of Neo Arcadia has been secretly deployed. Its mission was to pursue and kill the Reploid that became a thorn in their side. Disguised by the rubble of Area X, it tried a sneak attack but blew its cover. The attacker isn't deterred by its mishap. Instead of giving up the hunt, it bursts out from its hiding place.
As Zero looks from behind, a huge Mechaniloid beast emerges from crumbling ruins: Mega Scorpia.
Boss: Mega Scorpia
Mega Scorpia is the first boss of the game, a giant mechanical scorpion sent to destroy Zero, and it will stalk him relentlessly until either he or it ceases to function. The beast is more than twice the size of him, with two iron claws, plasma guns, and a recoiling tail sporting a needlepoint stinger on the end. Since this beast refuses to let you get away, it keeps forging ahead to corner Zero. In response, you'll have to keep up with a scroll by staying close to the right side of the screen. You need that extra space to dodge Mega Scorpia's set of attack moves.
For an intro boss, the battle against it won't be mind-numbing, but the monstrous Mechaniloid is a feisty combatant that shouldn't be written off as a joke. Newcomers to the game can be caught by surprise when this scorpion lashes out its attacks. Memorize them well and be ready to dodge each one before you get picked apart.
Mega Scorpia's simplest attack is a round of three bullets from its smaller claw; simply dash-jump over the trio of plasma pellets.
At times, Mega Scorpia will stop crawling forward, but only to lash out its stinger. The weapon has enough force to shatter the ground and create a new pit to jump across. If the tail can break through solid rock in a canyon, you definitely don't want that thing to spear you! On the plus side, dodging it is a piece of cake. Walk to the left of the falling tail to avoid it and rush up to Mega Scorpia's head with the Z-Saber. It won't start moving until it pulls its stinger back to its resting position. Use those precious seconds to reduce this boss's health before it begins crawling again.
Mega Scorpia's roughest attacks come from its tremendous pincer claw. Mega Scorpia's claw was designed to shear through metal armor, equipped with an internal burner that can heat the bladed edges to searing temperatures that can melt the armor on contact to slice through, much like a warm knife could hack through butter. It also shoots off the claw from its arm via rocket propulsion as a projectile weapon to punch the enemy with its superheated edges, doing the most damage possible. You saw it earlier when it initial pincer strike munched up the Pantheons.
Before Mega Scorpia thrusts its claw at you, it clicks the claw twice and ignites the burner inside its claw, which heats the claw blade tips with an eerie orange glow. This is your warning to back away, before Mega Scorpia releases it. Due to its immense size You have to make a skillful jump to avoid it, preferably a dashing jump to get a little more distance over the claw. If your jump is improperly timed or executed badly, you can get clipped by the pincer as you arc into the air or descend. The pincer claw will keep flying straight until it reaches the edge of the screen, then returns to re-attach itself to the arachnid. You'll have another short opportunity where Mega Scorpia is stopped in place as it waits for its pincer to attack its head directly with the Z-Saber, but give yourself enough time to react to the pincer so you can dodge it a second time.
Weak Point & Battle Strategy
Mega Scorpia is wrapped in a thick exoskeletal armor, impenetrable by most means. On the other hand, Mega Scorpia's solitary weak point is its car-sized head, which has lighter armor to avoid falling over itself on the weight of its own cranium. You can damage it quite well with half-charged Buster shots when you can't approach it directly, then change to the Z-Saber to reduce its life bar when you can get up in its face. To perfect this attack method, use the Buster as the scorpion is inching across the screen, and the Z-Saber whenever it stops in place prior to a tail or pincer strike.
If you repeatedly attack Mega Scorpia with a rapid string of gunshots or slashes, it tries to block your attacks with its pincer, which absorbs the damage, but it is weakened by each hit it takes. After it endures a moderate amount of damage, Zero's attacks will compromise its armor and penetrate into the pincer's internal burner, which explodes. This causes the claw to will break and combust, stripping Mega Scorpia of its pincer attack and making it defenseless. However, Mega Scorpia will double up on its tail and gunshot attacks to make up for the loss of the weapon. Regardless, with no way to protect itself, you can keep slamming Mega Scorpia with damaging hits in between its tail lashings and gunfire, allowing you to finish off the boss effortlessly.
When you've beaten Mega Scorpia, its tail falls apart piece by piece, followed by a blinding explosion as the Mechaniloid's body gives out.
Once Mega Scorpia has been destroyed, you'll receive a Mission Report. Like the previous game, this happens any time you successfully accomplish a mission. There is no Cyber-Elf reward for beating a boss now, so the Mission Report appears immediately. You'll be graded on how complete your objective was, how fast you were, how many enemies you wiped out, the damage you took in battle, if you died and/or had to retry part of the mission, and for the use of Cyber-Elves. Since this is the first mission, you don't have to worry about an objective or Cyber-Elf penalties, unless you played the game before. How well your final total is affects your ranking. The ranks are S, A, B, C, D, E, and F. The worst rank is F, and the best is S, or the Hero's rank. Your final score each mission will determine if your rank goes up or down. Here is the list of where rankings fall for future reference:
- S - 96 to 100
- A - 86 to 95
- B - 76 to 85
- C - 66 to 75
- D - 56 to 65
- E - 46 to 55
- F - 45 and under
Finally, you'll be given a code name depending on how you got through a mission, and the skills you used to accomplish it, such as "Lightning" for speed, "Flawless" for no damage, "Gunman" for heavy reliance on the Buster, or "Edge" for using the Z-Saber as your go-to weapon, whereas a nickname like "Wounded" means you got butchered by the enemies a few times too many. S-Rank code names are much more noble and worthwhile, as you'll start off with "Hero" and work your way up to "Redeemer" if you stay at S-Rank for a long time.
Along with this, you may unlock Forms if you accomplished a secret objective during a mission. See the list for more details.
Your average score must total at least 86 points to achieve an A-Rank, and at least 96 for an S-Rank. As you'll see, keeping at least an A-Rank throughout the game long enough will allow you to accumulate all the powerful EX Skills. If you get an A or S rank, i.e. at least 86% of maximum score, the next boss will use an EX Skill, a weapon/attack that Zero can learn. If you ever drop to B-Rank, you can make use of Hacker Cyber-Elves to bump your rank back up for a mission, but the penalties may start a downward spiral into lower ranks. There are repercussions to having ranks below A, as bosses will see you as less of a threat, and restrain themselves from fighting at their full potential.
Do Cyber-Elves Affect Score?
As you have just seen, the number of Cyber-Elves collected in the mission does not count toward the final score, so don't waste time looking for any off the beaten path. Only grab those that are dropped by enemies and right in front of you to bag, thus saving time and increasing your score. Backtracking the stages for missing Elves is unwise. Time is a valuable commodity you can't squander during the missions.
After you complete the mission, you can re-access the area and collect every remaining Cyber-Elf. The previous game wasn't as smoothed out: some captured Cyber-Elves would only be dropped when enough enemies unique to a particular mission were destroyed. If you missed an Elf, the enemies would be permanently gone from the explorable overworld, meaning in order to collect it, you would have to repeat a playthrough of the game to re-access the mission so you could get it. This time around, the process of getting all the Elves has been perfected.
When you've completed the mission, come back for the remaining Cyber-Elves in the Sand Wilderness. You are free to explore the area again without any penalties incurred. Zero also has an Escape Unit that you may use after the completion of a stage to immediately vacate the area at will. If you advance to the end of the stage, Zero transfers out automatically.
Destroy three Shabarollers and you'll get Cyber-Elf M-orina. This particular Elf changes every minor enemy in a stage into Metalls, reminiscent of the Mets from the original Mega Man series. Land enemies become Metall RWs that waddle around, duck under their unbreakable hard hats, and shoot a bullet out of their mouths when they reveal themselves. Aerial enemies become Heli Metall RWs, Metalls with propellers on their heads that hover in a circle, and two guns instead of feet that fire diagonal shots. They become regular Metall RWs if you sever their propellers. Aquatic enemies become Swim Metall RWs, Metalls with scuba snorkels and flippers that swim underwater. Changing foes into Metalls drastically reduces the difficulty of any stage, but that doesn't mean the Metalls themselves aren't annoying to deal with. It's also not recommended to be used in a stage if you need a certain Cyber-Elf from there, as its effects make it impossible to distinguish which enemies are which and how many to destroy.
Destroy four Shaballs and you'll get Cyber-Elf Itemeter. Once this Elf is used, all minor enemies, save for sub-bosses and bosses, are guaranteed to drop an item. You can rack up E-Crystals, health refills, and even extra lives with this Elf. However, the effect goes away once you leave a stage or lose a life.
Destroy the two Golems Elec-type and you'll get Cyber-Elf Stoccum. If you use this Elf, all enemies onscreen will be momentarily stunned in place and unable to move or attack, giving you ample opportunity to strike them down or get past a large group of ornery machines. However, the effect lasts for only thirty seconds, and you can still suffer damage by colliding with enemies. Listen to the ticking timer to figure out when the time is up. Three seconds before you run out of time, the ticking will speed up.
Destroy five Condoroid Mk.2, and you'll get Cyber-Elf Birwin. This Elf rescues you from a pit, but only once, and will let go of you if it runs out of strength to hold you mid-flight and dies, or if you force it to let go by pressing ; you'll jump out of its talons, at which point, the Elf immediately perishes.
Just before another Shabaroller rolls onto the screen, make the junk crumble, drop down, and you'll find a Cyber-Elf box with Cyber-Elf Arnue, an Elf that gives you 2 extra lives when fully grown. You need to feed the Elf 300 Energy Crystals for it to reach full maturity.
A Difficult Choice
With the destruction of Mega Scorpia, Zero realizes he's finally slain all the enemy squads pursuing him in the desert, but the fighting has exhausted him beyond his breaking point. He knows his chances of being rescued are very slim. If the Resistance couldn't find him in all this time, chances are no one else will, other than the ones who want him terminated.
As the ancient Reploid feels his life force dissipating and his body ceasing to function, he believes this wasteland will be his final resting place, where he died in a hopeless battle to protect those that still mattered to him. Now, they will be helpless before Neo Arcadia.
"Somehow... I... I did it... But... It cost me everything..." Zero's last words echo with the great despair that has gripped his mind as his consciousness fades, and the Reploid collapses in a lifeless heap.
Zero has avoided detection from his enemies by never staying in one place for very long and hiding whenever possible. Just as vultures would locate a carcass, his enemies will soon locate him. Surely enough, out in the open sands of the desert, he is spotted by the one person most interested in finding him: Sage Harpuia. The Guardian has taken every opportunity to examine the vast desert for any sign of his worthy opponent, and to further his search, he had Aztec Falcon brought back to life to serve as his steed in the harsh environment. Harpuia immediately descends upon Zero's motionless body, and dismounts Aztec Falcon, who has assumed a griffin-like form.
Given the choice to finish his sworn enemy off here and now, Harpuia contemplates the act of killing a fellow warrior while he's helpless. Refusing to throw away the warrior's code of honor, he spares his adversary for the time being, carrying him to the location of the New Resistance Base in a rare act of mercy...