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Mega Man 2 (NES) artwork

Mega Man 2 (NES) review

"One of the most bizarre attributes of most series of video games in which each game is connected is that your hero apparently lacks the ability to retain the special attacks he learns in early quests to apply to future endeavors. "

One of the most bizarre attributes of most series of video games in which each game is connected is that your hero apparently lacks the ability to retain the special attacks he learns in early quests to apply to future endeavors.

This can become particularly noticeable in the Mega Man series of games. The little blue fellow has appeared in dozens of platform adventures over multiple systems to fight the evil robot forces of villains such as Dr. Wily and Sigma.

In the original Mega Man, everyoneís favorite futuristic robotic savior obtained a number of wonderful special attacks which played a huge role in him defeating Wily. Whether he was exploiting the weakness of a giant rock-like monster with the Elec Beam or freezing pillars of fire with Ice Manís freeze ray, Mega Man gradually got more powerful and more versatile as the game went on.

After absorbing a humiliating defeat, Dr. Wily (like any good supervillain) eventually comes back for more, this time with eight robotic henchmen rather than the first gameís six. Responding to this turn of events, Wilyís benevolent counterpart, Dr. Light, sends Mega Man into action armed with....nothing more than a basic gun???

What happened here? Did Dr. Light not think that being armed to the teeth would be beneficial to Mega Manís chances of victory? Is the old coot too senile to remember that his ally obtained a bunch of new powers in his previous quest? Or was Mega Man reprogrammed after the initial conflict because Light assumed that after his first failure that Wily would simply give up his plans for world domination?

Whatever the reason, the resourceful blue robot must undergo another quest to gain enough power, so he may stand up to Dr. Wily for the second time.

Fortunately, Wily proves to be as simple-minded as he is diabolical. Despite watching Mega Man turn the special powers of his previous six robot masters against him, the mad scientist gives each of his eight new creations a special weapon just ripe for the picking.

Some of these weapons are only truly useful against one particular boss. Some are handy in multiple situations. A couple are necessary to win the game, since certain late-game bosses only have one weakness. Your task is to experiment with each of the eight special weapons to find out which ones are truly useful and which ones are more of a novelty.

This task can be a bit of a pain, though. As in virtually all the games in this series, if you donít know the proper order to challenge the levels, things can get really tough. While a couple of bosses arenít that challenging to topple with Mega Manís default blaster, there are a number of battles in which the difficulty skyrockets without the appropriate special weapon.

But new weapons arenít the only items that Mega Man can pick up along the way in this game. Remember the Magnet Beam in the first game that created temporary steps to help you cross areas too large for simple jumping? Well, you have three such tools now, so you have the ability to climb great heights and cross long gaps. Many times, these items are used to get special power-up items or to make a tough area easier, but occasionally are absolutely necessary to progress in the game.

There are a number of other improvements in this game besides the addition of a few more items. With eight regular levels and the multi-sectioned fortress that Wily calls home, there are plenty of places to blast your way through. Fortunately, unlike the first game, Mega Man 2 utilizes a password system, so you donít have to make it through the entire game in one sitting.

The areas themselves are much improved over the first gameís zones. While many of the backgrounds in the original game were a bit drab, the sequel has a variety of brightly colored and detailed backgrounds. In one level, youíll be traversing a forest; in another, youíll be underwater and in yet another, youíll be among the clouds.

Also improved are the actual enemies. A number of enemies and mini-bosses are large and very cartoony in appearance, giving the impression that you are playing an interactive comic book at times. From the gigantic angler fish and fire-breathing dogs of early levels to the mechanical dragon and Gutsdozer of Wilyís domain, this game has a wide variety of beautifully drawn baddies standing in your way.

The gameís soundtrack matches the graphics. One of the high points of the NES Mega Man games always has seemed to be the excellent collection of tunes played during levels and Mega Man 2 is no exception.

However, what does it matter if a game looks and sounds good if it plays poorly? Fortunately, gameplay is another positive of Mega Man 2. Control is very solid and youíll soon find out that the many levels of this game can challenge your abilities in a variety of ways.

In Bubble Manís world, several walls and ceilings are surrounded by spikes and your jumping ability is vastly enhanced (due to being underwater), making precision extremely important. Crash Manís level has many rooms in which you must ride a lift to the ladder leading to the next room while avoiding enemies. Quick Manís world has an extremely fast-paced section where you must dodge gigantic (and lethal) beams while falling down a shaft. Land on the wrong platform or move just one step too slowly and itís on to Mega Manís next life for you.

Essentially, each and every level has its own specific challenge to separate it from the others, making it truly feel like you are going to eight truly different places, rather than a couple of places that are simply repeated with different graphics. Wilyís fortress combines a number of the above hazards along with a few new ones, such as a room or two where you must use the Bubble Lead to find hidden pits in the floor.

The only potential weakness in the gameplay lies in a number of Wilyís robot masters. Simply put, too many of the battles simply seem thrown together with the opponent simply running and jumping around while attacking wildly ó leaving you to (hopefully) smack it with the weapon itís weak against before it can finish you off. Some bosses (Wood Man for example) have a distinct battle strategy, while others simply jump and blast (Metal Man and Quick Man, for example).

A minor flaw, perhaps, but it seemed to make many of the boss fights an anti-climactic low point of a given level, though. It might be nitpicking, but after working hard to get through a number of deviously designed rooms, I do expect more than a brief battle with some dolt whoís incapable of anything more than imitating a hyperactive rabbit.

Fortunately, Capcom really does an excellent job of pulling off just about everything else in this game, making it one of the best action titles made for the NES. With a wide variety of challenges scattered over a number of attractive, cartoonish levels, this game definitely should be considered an enduring classic in the archives of gaming history.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (January 29, 2004)

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

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