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Mega Man (NES) artwork

Mega Man (NES) review

"In a world where we have been exposed to Spiderman, Superman, Batman, the X-Men and countless other superheroes, who would have guessed that the most famous videogame hero would be none of the above? Or that he would not even have been recognized by the Justice League or any of pop culture's notable collections of do-gooders? "

In a world where we have been exposed to Spiderman, Superman, Batman, the X-Men and countless other superheroes, who would have guessed that the most famous videogame hero would be none of the above? Or that he would not even have been recognized by the Justice League or any of pop culture's notable collections of do-gooders?

With dozens of games released on a multitude of systems, Capcom's Mega Man (Rock Man in Japan) and his exploits against renegade robots of all shapes and sizes have become truly legendary. Countless fans have lined up to see what new legions of baddies the evil Dr. Wily (or Sigma in the ''X'' series) has lined up in order to finally put the beloved blue guy out of business once and for all.

But how did the lil' scamp grow to gain such fame, love and adoration? To find the answer to that, one must travel back in time to the early days of the NES, when a tough little game named Mega Man started it all.

The premise of the game was simple --- two scientists named Dr. Light and Dr. Wily worked to build robots for the good of humanity. However, Wily was a bit more concerned with grander goals such as world domination to be satisfied with helping common folk out, so he reprogrammed all the happy helper robots to work for him. Unknown to Wily, though, Dr. Light still had one card up his sleeve --- MEGA MAN!!!

Of course, it's not likely that Wily was all that worried about Mega Man. After all, his robots could do wonderful things such as throw giant rocks and fire bolts of electricity. What was Mega Man's super power? Well...uhhhh...he can shoot small bullets that cause a bit of damage when they hit.

And that is how the greatest aspect of this game (and series) is set. While Mega Man will have to rely on his little pea shooter for a great deal of the game, it won't be his only option for attack. After defeating each of Wily's six robot masters, the blue guy gets to take their special weapon. Whip up on Bomb Man and get the ability to toss bombs at enemies. Crush Cut Man and become able to toss razor-sharp scissors in a boomerang pattern. Of course, you don't have unlimited uses of these abilities (each special weapon has its own meter, which can be refilled by grabbing power-ups), but every little advantage you can get helps.

Because this game can get tough. To overcome Wily, you will have to navigate the stages held by the six robot masters and then head through Dr. Wily's fortress, which consists of a few more stages. Without the ability to save, all of this has to be done in one sitting, meaning that a certain degree of skill will be needed to have a shot at beating this game.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of areas in which pure dumb luck is at least as important as skill, which can create the complaint that this game does get cheap at times. The most blatant examples of this occur during the two areas in the game where Mega Man must jump from floating tornado-like platform to floating tornado-like platform in order to progress to the next part of the level. On the surface, there's nothing wrong with such an endeavor, but there are two little problems that can turn these areas into nightmares.

First, the platforms seem to move pretty aimlessly, leading to the possibility that you'll be waiting for some time to safely make the next jump. In Ice Man's stage, this can be an annoyance. In Wily's fortress, this can result in a number of cheap deaths since a couple of platforms have the tendency to simply carry you directly into a row of spikes on the room's ceiling for a nice automatic death. Second, the platforms have guns on the side which are quite proficient in knocking you off your current platform --- once again resulting in death. While those aren't the only painfully tricky parts of the game, they are among the most noticeable.

While the game's cheapness only manifests itself occasionally, it can be a real hassle during those moments. For most of the game, the difficulty is what you make it. The actual stages themselves are generally fairly easy to navigate (with the occasional tricky area thrown in). However, depending on your choice of weapon, bosses will either be pathetically easy or brutally difficult. Use the correct special weapon against a robot master and it might go down to defeat in four hits. Use the wrong weapon and it might seem to be immortal. This creates an element of strategy to this game. Tackle the stages in the wrong order and you might find yourself in an impossible battle with a brutal boss. Pick a different order and that brutal boss turns into a pushover.

This game is by no means the best Mega Man game out there. While more recent NES Mega Man games had up to eight robot master stages and two fortresses, the original has six and one. While the sound, music and character graphics are nice in this game, the backgrounds are sparsely illustrated.

However, that does not mean this is a bad game by any means. For its time, it could easily be considered a work of excellence and is entertaining even by today's standards. While it may be lacking in certain aspects and may have some frustrating moments, it still provides more simple, addicting fun than many games released far more recently.

I wouldn't say this game is for everyone. With no chance to save the quest combined with the ever-present possibility of dying from either a cheap hit or from fighting a tough boss without the one special weapon it is weak against --- it could prove to be too imposing for some players. However, for those who recall the olden days in which passwords were infrequent additions to games and battery back-up to games were extremely rare, this game will bring back good memories.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (January 27, 2004)

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

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