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Mega Man II (Game Boy) artwork

Mega Man II (Game Boy) review

"Mega misfire"

Established franchises had a rough start when debuting on Game Boy. Developers had to figure out how to convert their well-known brands into bite-sized products without sacrificing quality, but often failed to accomplish this mission. Mario stumbled, but mostly landed on its feet with an awkward, forgettable performance. That's more than we can say for Wizards & Warriors and Castlevania, who both tripped, rolled down a rocky hill, slammed into a tree and somehow caught fire thanks to their nearly unplayable disasters. Thankfully, one series seemed to be in a prime position after its Game Boy launch: Mega Man.

Not that I'm saying the game Dr. Wily's Revenge was spectacular or anything. It was a mostly serviceable entry in the Blue Bomber's career that suffered due to brevity and occasional cheapness. It only offered six staged: four of which were selectable "Robot Master" fare and two Wily levels (with the first one housing the remaining four Robot Masters). However, it encapsulated the Mega Man experience well enough to earn moderate applause.

Given how considerably well the first title turned out, you'd think its sequel Mega Man II would knock it out of the park the way Super Mario Land 2 and Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge did. Sadly, that was not the case, as the game shamelessly recycled material from a couple of NES Mega Man adventures, except with much weaker results.

As you start the campaign, you see the familiar stage select screen. Once again, four rehashed bosses from Mega Man 2 on NES greet you: Metal Man, Wood Man, Air Man and Crash Man. If you've played through that title already, then you know the recommended stage order here because it's not much different from the console version.

Hell, few things in this affair are different from the console version...

You enter Metal Man's stage first and everything is familiar. Backgrounds from the NES iteration return, as well as enemies and obstacles. You battle wacky robots riding giant gears, sometimes while negotiating conveyor belts and pits. You've seen all of this before (and not even just in Mega Man games), and nothing stands out as particularly challenging or noteworthy. You deftly blast through basic platforming situations, and if you're a seasoned vet, then none of these moments will even register with you. It's just another boring day at the office.

After only a few minutes, you stand before Metal Man's gate in disbelief. You wonder if you accidentally took a shortcut, because the real estate you just visited felt like a mere fragment of a level. It's as if Capcom copied half of Metal Man's NES domain and pasted it onto a Game Boy cartridge. Despite your mounting disappointment, you push through the barrier and challenge the repurposed boss, who now sits in a tiny, crammed room. With only a couple of attempts at most, you make short work of this dude and move on.

Unsurprisingly, the remaining three levels offer the same quality of content: lots of revisited assets, no new surprises, underwhelmingly brief stages, easy segments and bosses that perish with minimal effort. For instance, Wood Man's area still features the fire-breathing dogs, and Air Man's digs sport loads of floating platforms and giant heads that materialize out of thin air. The only thing that keeps you playing is the standard Mega Man formula, where you earn new weapons from bosses, which you can then use to defeat other Robot Masters more easily. In this case, though, it's "waaaaay more easily," as guys like Wood Man bite the dust with only three shots of Metal Man's blades.

Whenever a segment proves to be even somewhat difficult, you can easily bypass it by jumping on Rush Jet, a robotic dog that acts as an aerial surf board. For instance, one part pits you against appear/vanishing platforms, along with a ladder that's well out of reach. That's no problem, though, because Rush can easily guide you to your destination without even engaging the featured obstacle course. You no longer need to worry about timing your jumps, falling, swearing and starting over. And yes, Rush's other two forms appear in this adventure as well, ready to reduce any slightly troublesome scene into a passing memory.

You should have those initial four stages wrapped up in under an hour. After that, it's on to Dr. Wily's castle, which typically hits you with unique trials and huge, awesome bosses. However, you won't be gunning down giant dragons or the infamous Yellow Devil this time. Instead, you watch a short cutscene that leads you to four teleporters, each of which holds a new stage and a Robot Master from Mega Man 3: Top Man, Hard Man, Needle Man or Magnet Man.

Remember how the first four stages reiterated levels from the NES Mega Man 2? Well, these sections do the same for Mega Man 3. As before, each one is an unimpressive chunk of a realm from a prior title, followed by a simplified version of a previously-used boss.

This game's only unique moments come after this quartet of downgraded reruns, and by then it's too little, too late. One includes a new boss called Quint, who expires with minimal effort and gives you a new weapon. Now you can summon a weaponized pogo stick that allows you to jump on foes. Finally, you burn through one last stage that's actually somewhat original. However, it ends with probably the easiest finale the series has ever seen, even despite featuring three phases. Not only is your standard buster more than enough to handle the situation, but the boss' patterns don't pose much of a threat.

Unlike some of the famous Game Boy sequels, Mega Man II is a mediocre platformer that serves as a feeble retrospective for two superior titles. It represents a small step back for the blue hero on Nintendo's premier handheld platform, and does nothing to expand the series. Granted, the early games in this brand aren't known for innovation; quite the opposite, actually. By that same token, each subsequent NES game added new features: the slide technique, Rush, Beat, "E-Tanks," passwords, a chargeable arm cannon and purchasable upgrades, to name a few. Instead, the portable line of Mega Man games refuse to evolve, stubbornly standing in place and giving players few reasons to bother checking them out. You can already experience their offerings on NES, where the games are more engaging and have actual color palettes.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (April 29, 2020)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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dagoss posted May 07, 2020:

One thing I always found interesting about this game was the music. I used to think it was terrible, but I heard a compilation on YouTube where the pitch is corrected. I guess it isn't the music that was bad but rather the programming for it.

I don't think this is a good game, but I do play it once and while. It plays differently that other mm games. Development of the GB mm games were outsourced, and this dev interpreted some things differently about the game--stupid things like how energy recovery and boss doors worked
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JoeTheDestroyer posted May 29, 2020:

I never knew about the outsource bit. I found out this particular game had a different dev from the others. It definitely feels different, especially in regards to difficulty.

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