Mega Man review
The original blue bomber starts his journey strong


Although he's certainly no Pac Man or Mario in terms of fame and fortune in the video gaming world, Mega Man is still a character that defines video gaming. Nowadays a poster boy for being milked by a company who has most certainly seen better days, Mega Man showed the world that not every sidescroller had to be 100% linear - I mean, yeah, each individual stage is mostly linear, but outside of the last level, you could pick and choose which stage you can go through... it's just as long as you complete each stage, that's all. Oh, and nabbing boss weapons to use for later levels... that was something that wasn't in most video games (I mean, you can upgrade your arsenal in Metroid, but you just find them all around the joint - Mega Man prefers to steal powers). But enough of that, let's just get down to reviewing!

The story is that Dr Light and Dr Wily build a group of robots to increase efficiency in a lot of areas like logging and electricity, but Dr Light gets all the credit, so Dr Wily, out of jealousy, reprograms six of the robots to cause anarchy and destruction. One of the robots not touched by Dr Wily is then reprogrammed by Dr Light to put an end to the chaos. It's quite unfortunate that you only get that from the instruction booklet and there's no mentioning of it in the actual game itself... then again, most NES games forgot to include storylines, so it's no surprise. Still, however clichéd, it's still good enough for an action game.

Like I said in the intro, you can select what order you tackle the first six stages in... starting as soon as you press start on the title screen. I also mentioned that you can gain weapons from the bosses you defeat. Well, that's because certain boss weapons have an easier time demolishing certain bosses than others. For instance, Guts Man's piece of shit weapon can give Cut Man a severe beating, and as an act of revenge, Cut Man's weapon can give Elec Man more of a smackdown than Mega Man's arm cannon or other weapons.

Basically, Mega Man is a sidescrolling platformer with more emphasis on shooting, but you still got some jumping over chasms here and there. There aren't too many curve balls in the designs of these levels - rather, they're easy enough to navigate with some tricky segments here and there. But when you do encounter obstacles, they'll let their presence be known, and sometimes sear into your retina. For instance, towards the end of Ice Man's level and somewhere in the Wily levels, you'll have these moving platforms that sway side to side while occasionally going up and down, and to make things worse, they shoot from the side when they enter the screen and every now and again afterwards. Trying to get from one of those to another is quite a pain in the ass until you either get the rhythm down, or if you have the magnet beam and just fire high enough for them to not affect you, but low enough for Mega Man to jump onto. There will be others

In a few levels, you'll encounter the infamous blocks that appear and disappear. To put it simply, one block appears, then another appears, then when the third one appears, the first one disappears, and so on and so forth until we're back to the first one. The first time doing the second set of them in Ice Man's level was almost nightmare inducing because there were a load of blocks, with most of them appearing in sets of two, requiring a lot of memorization.

Now, you may be wondering how this is any more difficult than the later Mega Man games? Well, for one thing, recovery time doesn't cover spikes... what I mean is that even in recovery mode when enemies can't damage you, spikes still kill you, while in future games, spikes only kill you when you're out of recovery time. Another thing is that the later games have E tanks that refill your health from the pause screen. Then there's the lack of passwords, meaning you have to beat it in one sitting, and since NESs are prone to freezing (or at least, some of the ones I know of), well... I guess that's what emulators are for. Finally, this one has a hell of a set of Wily stages... the levels themselves aren't too bad; they're actually what you'd expect, which is harder than the rest of the game, but what I'm referring to are the bosses. Barring one, these boss fights are tricky dicky. Yellow Devil? Two words - pause trick. Mega Man clone? He barely takes damage and the background is designed to *bleep* with your mind. Rematches against the six robots... well, four, actually, because you fight two of them off in the previous Wily stage, but even with just four, those four have to be defeated IN A ROW WITH NO HEALTH RECOVERY, NO WEAPON REFILLS, AND WORST OF ALL, ALL IN ONE LIFE! Thank god you can die against Wily afterwards and fight him with full health! The future games have the boss rematches in teleporters and health refills at the end of each battle, and man, am I grateful for that or what...

The weapons are good for the most part. Ice Man's, obviously, freezes enemies and certain objects, which can be very handy, especially against jump heavy enemies (who, coincidently, can take approximately 24,257 hits before exploding). Fire Man's is more than Mega Man's arm cannon with a tinge of fire added for good measure, as it also spawns a couple of fire balls that circle around you for a few seconds, meaning that enemies who prefer close quarters combat might have a little bit of trouble living. Cut Man's is useful against enemies that don't die any other way, like those spikes that slide on the floor, and it's kind of reliable in close quarters and/or against enemies at little higher or lower than Mega Man himself. Then there's the big one - Elec Man's weapon, which fires three really long electrical beams forward, upwards and downwards, tearing up a lot of shit, and there's the infamous pause trick (which should only ever be used against the Yellow Devil as that boss is just *bleep*ing cheap - anywhere else, and you're a pussy). But then you got two duds, like Bomb Man's, which should be good too, but it takes a while to explode and is only really useful against Guts Man... speaking of Guts Man, his weapon only lets you grab certain blocks, and while it's fine for getting some power ups (health, weapon refills and extra lives) and a certain special weapon (magnet beam), but these blocks are usually few and far between... I wanted something like a really powerful punch or something you could actually, umm, use often.

The graphics are good. The sprites, for 8 bit, are defined well enough to distinguish them from one another and actually look good. Sure, they're not the most detailed looking designs in the world or anything, but they still look good regardless. The backgrounds, unfortunately, aren't much special. Indoor backgrounds have a simple repetitive pattern, but they're at least something to look at other than enemies and Mega Man. Outdoors, on the other hand, are just a single color... and one that surprisingly stands out, like bright neon lights! It'll take a little while for your eyes to adjust and focus on Mega Man, but good god, if you're actually going for plain, make it something a bit duller. Surprisingly, Ice Man's level has palm trees that have frozen over, and clouds in the sky. Whoa, interesting outdoor backgrounds!

As for the sound department, the soundtrack is pretty good... well, ignoring Fire Man's extremely forgettable and, quite frankly, shitty tune that doesn't even compare to the rest, which are all catchy and definitely get the right sort of mood going, especially the boss track for the Wily stages signifying that you're lucky enough to get as far as you could, and I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Elec Man's and Ice Man's tunes... try getting those out of your head! Funny how simple sounding tracks always find a way to claw inside your mind and take a permanent residence there... Sadly, Guts Man's music has a bit of a hard time competing with the sounds of automated platforms, especially if you get stuck on them.. you'll be hearing that 8 bit "WRWWWRWRWRRW" sound more than Guts Man's level's track. Pretty shitty, if you ask me. But other than that, the sound effects... well, they're at least different from other games like Contra and Metroid, pretty much to the point where they're easy to remember. They just have their own tune; as opposed to some generic 8 bit sound effect, it feels like each went through some different audio channels.

Gameplay: 4
Simple yet effective. It includes a few innovations that are done well enough like the usage of weapons from fallen enemies and non linear level selection. The difficulty is surprisingly tough for a Mega Man game - don't take it too lightly, or you'll get destroyed. Oh, and the lack of a password save feature might suck for some out there.

Controls: 4
Tight and responsive, with barely any repercussions, though it feels like Mega Man's on ice... funny enough, there's only one ice level. By the way, where's the duck command? Can't his knees bend more than 90 degrees or something?

Story: 3.5
I like the idea, but given that NES games don't usually like to go above and beyond, the story doesn't do much.

Graphics: 3.5
Most of the outdoorsy backgrounds are pretty boring, being just a single color like that - they also seemed a bit too neon-y. Everything else looks fine as far as NES graphics are concerned.

Sound: 4
Yeah, this game's soundtrack pretty much kicks ass. Well, except Fire Man's song, that one sucks.

Lastability: 3.5
Mega Man is just one of those games you come back to every now and again because of its pick up and play style yet tough difficulty. There are no secrets or any of that bullshit - just plain and simple fun... speaking of which

Funfactor: 4
With some exceptions, this is just a blast to play through. Easy to pick up, but tough to master, especially the Wily levels and the marathon of boss fights. Hell yeah, that's what it's all about!

Bottom line:
Mega Man was a pretty good game. It had some innovations and, even now, it's still fun to go through. It's pretty tough and yet, you can't save via passwords, unlike the later games, which have passwords, but are strangely easier... If you're in for the long haul (that is to say, more than about 10 minutes), it's on, but if you don't have much time for video games, ehh, maybe this is why emulators have save states... either way, this is recommended, though don't think all Mega Man games are this hard if you aren't a fan of this difficulty.


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