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Mega Man Anniversary Collection (PlayStation 2) artwork

Mega Man Anniversary Collection (PlayStation 2) review

"#500: Legend Status Achieved"

So, these past 15 or so years have been a wild and crazy trip, as I've played all sorts of games and jotted down my rambling thoughts about them for an audience that at least consists of SOME people. I've seemingly enjoyed myself so much that, somehow, I'm up to my 500th review for this site! So, if there's a better way to commemorate that milestone than writing about a compilation of a long-standing series of games which provided a good chunk of my early content, I don't want to know about it!

The Mega Man series of action games was a pretty big deal when I was growing up and Capcom obviously knew it, as it seemed a new one was coming out for the NES on a regular basis. The PlayStation 2's Mega Man Anniversary Collection allows gamers to relive that era. It contains all six NES games, as well as the seventh (Super Nintendo) and eighth (PlayStation) entries. By completing games (or parts of games), you're also able to unlock a variety of features, ranging from concept art to a pair of fighting games using Mega Man characters. While I'm not the biggest fan of companies regularly re-releasing old games to squeeze a few more dollars out of them, there are exceptions to everything. And when you consider that this single disc includes games from three different systems, as well as a pair of arcade games rarely seen outside Japan, it definitely counts as one of those exceptions.

This is one of those perfect "diversion" discs to own. If you're like me and think you'll put it in your PS2 and churn through one game after the next until you've accomplished everything possible, odds are you'll get burnt out on the Blue Bomber's adventures around the time you're ready to move from the NES to SNES. But, as something to put into your system on a rainy day for a few hours of jumping, blasting and feeling your thumb gradually go from normal to painful to numb... well, it's a great way to help you forget about how you died 14 straight times to a particularly tough boss fight in whatever game you'd been obsessively focused upon ahead of that point.

Each installment focuses on you controlling a life-like robot against the forces of the malevolent Dr. Wily, even if (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) he frequently plays innocent in order to frame someone or something else for his crimes. Each game opens with Mega Man fighting through a number of stages culminating with a duel against one of Wily's robot masters. Defeating them grants Mega Man their special ability, which often comes in very handy, both for getting through obstacles and for defeating at least one more boss. Defeat all the robot masters and you'll go to a big multi-stage fortress that can be considered your "final exam", as you'll have to overcome more difficult versions of many of the game's challenges, obstacle courses necessitating judicious use of every special item you have on hand, rematches with each robot master and, finally, the climactic battles with Wily. Even the robot masters fall into the "be there, done that" trap, as, over the series, you'll find several holding similar powers. Multiple guys can call up shields and a few different ones have some sort of ability to temporarily freeze time, while robots controlling various fire, ice and wind abilities also will be found more than once.

Though each game is the same at heart, there at least are enough differences that it won't feel like you're playing the same thing over and over again, but remixed. The first sticks out as an odd duck, allowing you to gain points from shooting foes and collecting items, while only having six robot masters instead of the usual eight. The second entry shows actual work was put into creating the levels, with each having its own personality and style, as opposed to the sparsely-decorated ones found in the original. Future NES games added things such as an additional fortress to go through before tackling Wily's, a bird helper only accessed by collecting a bunch of letters and a few additional characters, such as Mega Man's dog Rush, who can transform into various tools that assist in traveling through levels; as well as the aloof Proto Man, who serves both as friend and foe during the various adventures. While the SNES and PlayStation offerings trim some of those extras away, they also add superior graphics and sound, currency to purchase various items in a shop and, in Mega Man 8, comically bad voice acting!

I suppose one could say that the basic Mega Man formula peaked with the NES, as 7 and 8 somewhat pale in comparison to the Mega Man X games and their darker stories. In comparison, the latter Mega Man stuff feels somewhat derivative and tired. To be honest, Mega Man only evolved in small ways over those eight offerings and it's a testament to Capcom's programmers that the series had so much staying power. I didn't find myself caring about how every single game would have rooms requiring you to navigate blocks that disappear and reappear because those rooms tended to provide fun challenges -- something I could say about any number of concepts seen from game to game. Playing this collection day-in and day-out got tiresome eventually, but as a change-of-pace, it's a perfect time-waster.

It'd been a good 15 years since I'd spent a lengthy amount of time with any of these games before deciding to pop in this disc and see how far I could go before burnout set in, but it didn't feel like it as I jumped right back into the fray, finding some levels easier than I remembered and others more difficult. I remembered a few things from those previous play-throughs, such as how utterly godly the Metal Blade is from the second game. Most robot weapons get used in the proper boss fights and are mostly ignored otherwise, as they either consume too much ammo to be used frequently or are somewhat awkward to utilize regularly. The Metal Blade is comparable to your regular gun, but it fires in multiple directions and has so much ammo that you'd have to make a concerted effort to expend it all. It's also the weapon of choice for at least half the game's robot masters, making it as close to a legitimate game-breaker as anything that's ever been in this series. When I finished 2 and started 3, I found that game more difficult than I remembered for a while, simply because I could no longer rely on the Metal Blade to carry me through tough spots.

I also made new discoveries. I'd always used the first game's Magnet Beam in areas where it was necessary, but never realized how it can make some of the game's most difficult platforming areas, such as the pair of levels where you have to jump across a series of randomly-moving, bullet-shooting platforms, trivial. If only it could be used against the Yellow Devil. That dude gets me every damn time… And I also came to the conclusion that I'd probably been a bit too hard on Mega Man 6 when I originally reviewed it. It's a really fun game, even if by that point one could justifiably accuse Capcom of repackaging the same game repeatedly to keep the income flowing. Regardless of its lack of originality, the game has a number of fun stages and I really enjoyed the power-up suits that you could obtain. Especially since the PlayStation 2 uses the shoulder buttons on its controller to allow you to instantly switch between powers without having to go to the menu screen -- something which eliminates the time-wasting screen showing Mega Man equipping those suits.

There's not much to complain about with this collection, other than perhaps the lack of the Super Famicom's Mega Man & Bass, which I'd have preferred to unlock instead of a pair of Street Fighter wannabes. I guess this game was made for older televisions, but I just changed the aspect ratio of my fancy newer model to reflect that era and didn't notice any performance issues, so at the least, there is an easy fix for that potential problem.

Mega Man Anniversary Collection might not be the most essential title in my collection, as it's basically a collection of a bunch of games that I'd mostly played previously, along with a few things to unlock that didn't really capture my attention. But I'm not going to complain about buying it, as the games contained on the disc include some of my favorites from my youth. Being able to pick and choose between any number of classic Mega Man games is the sort of thing that can provide me with hours of entertainment on those days where I'm just not feeling whatever game I'm trying to work through, which is enough to make it a pretty essential part of my collection.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 22, 2018)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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CptRetroBlue posted December 22, 2018:

I too had bought this gem of a collection not too long ago and share your sentiment on being quite a collection. I especially loved the unlockables like the MegaMan Power Battle and Fighters within it.
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jerec posted December 22, 2018:

Congrats on your 500th review!
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hastypixels posted January 02, 2019:

I also had this title for my much beloved PS2, and it was one of my better investments for the system. The Megaman games never truly outstayed their welcome in any of their collection variants.

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