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Mega Man 3 (NES) artwork

Mega Man 3 (NES) review

"Ever since the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, a little blue robot named Mega Man has battled valiantly against the robotic forces of evil. "

Ever since the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, a little blue robot named Mega Man has battled valiantly against the robotic forces of evil.

While these more recent days of video games have seen Mega Man partake in 3-D adventures on the Playstation and faux online RPGs on the Game Boy Advance, his roots — and arguably his best days — were in simple side-scrolling platformers.

On the ancient NES, the Blue Bomber took part in no less than six separate games in his ongoing struggle to rid our fair world of the robotic menaces led by everyone’s favorite eyebrow-twitching mad scientist, Dr. Wily.

Even in today’s age of highly sophisticated gaming systems complete with tons of games containing moody, ultraviolent antiheroes, it still is a joy to revisit these antiques just to watch Mega Man’s adventures get longer and more complex. To boldly go from the humble beginnings where you had to traverse six to eight levels and one gigantic castle to the latter NES games, where you had eight levels and two castles separating you from the Wily one.

The third installment in the series is a bit different, though. Perhaps you could say that it bridges the gap between the simple, but addictive, early entries and the longer and more complicated games that came later in the series. Like most games that are gap-bridgers, this one has a combination of wonderful positives and questionable calls that balance out to deliver a game that is very good, but not quite at the level of a true classic.

You see, Mega Man 3 only has one true problem, but it is a biggie. At this time, Capcom had not come up with the idea of creating a second major villain who’d have his own fortress, so they decided on something much more bland to serve as a buffer between the original eight levels and Wily’s castle.

After beating Wily’s eight robot henchmen of the moment, Mega Man finds out that his next mission work through revamped (i.e. tougher) versions of four of those original stages while repeatedly fighting Doc Robot, who has the ability to take on the attributes of Wily’s robot masters from Mega Man 2.

Now maybe I’m just being a mean old killjoy here, but doesn’t that seem just a bit redundant? It’s almost like Dr. Light’s telling you, “Uh...gee, Mega Man, I haven’t figured out where that darned Wily is or why that Break Man fellow keeps whistling and attacking you or much of anything, for that matter.... Why don’t you go back to Gemini Man’s stage and kill some time? I hear the terrain’s shifted a bit to make it trickier and a couple of your old enemies from your last quest are there, so it oughta be fun! Wait, why are you pointing your blaster at me?”

It’s not like these levels are unbearably tedious to drudge through, but they do feel like filler — as though Capcom wanted something extra, but just wasn’t sure what to do. You could remove them from the game and not miss a thing. Or (as in Mega Man 4-6 on the NES), you could replace them with that second fortress and give players something completely new and original to do before dealing with Wily.

However, if you take this game as a whole, that unfortunate situation only detracts slightly from what is a very fun experience.

The eight abodes of the robot masters are very well designed and can become quite challenging. Take Magnet Man’s stage, for example. In the opening section, you must jump over bottomless pits while avoiding the pull that is generated by large flying magnets. Later, you must utilize the ever-enjoyable disappearing blocks (a staple of the series) while not letting the force generated by powerful magnets move you right off the blocks or interfere with your jumping.

And other levels add tricky little parts. Mega Man will blast gigantic snake heads in Snake Man’s stage, eliminate machines that remove all the lighting from rooms in Shadow Man’s stage and endure multiple challenges from a mysterious new robot — a chap named Break Man.

Break Man, who is commonly known as Mega Man regular Proto Man, introduces himself with a simple whistle before flinging himself into battle with you. Defeat him and the gracious robot will open up a path for you to continue in your quest.

Break/Proto Man isn’t the only new addition in Mega Man 3. Remember how in Mega Man 2, you had three really useful items that were mainly used in making jumps or clearing chasms your robot wasn’t physically capable of doing on his own? Remember how they were named something horribly dull like “Item 1”? Well, taking the place of them is your faithful robotic dog companion, Rush. Ol’ Rush has three abilities that you can earn for him (no, they aren’t “fetch”, “roll over” and “play dead”). The cute little guy can be used to springboard Mega Man to higher ground or as transport through the air or water.

And of course, Mega Man will gain eight other powers from the robot masters after defeating them. From the “what were they thinking of” Top Spin to the wonderful (but short-ranged) Shadow Blade, you’ll eventually get the full array of weapons you expect from a Mega Man game.

Also, as always, the order in which you do stages is crucial to potential success. While one weapon might completely devastate a robot master with only a couple of hits, another weapon may bounce off with no effect. Part of the challenge of all Mega Man games is finding out the proper order to do the initial stages in order to not be stuck at a huge disadvantage against a boss.

But even having the proper weapon cocked and loaded will not assure you of victory. Let’s just say that Wily created some formidable adversaries for you to go up against. Snake Man bounces around his awkwardly shaped room firing snakes along the ground. Gemini Man splits into two and both versions sprint around the room firing lasers at you. Spark Man comes at you with both an eight-way shot and an enormous blast. You get the picture. Making it through Wily’s first line of defense will not be an easy task.

But eventually you will. Then, after surviving the four reworked levels and one more fight with Break Man, it’s time to assault Wily’s Castle. Once again, you’ll need to have a decent degree of mastery of the various moves and weapons that Mega Man possesses. Once again, you'll have to endure a number of challenging sub-levels and their bosses (which in two cases, sadly seem to be lifted to some degree from the original Mega Man). Once again, you’ll have to take on the original eight bosses. And once again, you’ll be placed in a multi-part battle with Wily, himself.

And that is one of the main appeals of the old-school Mega Man games — you know what to expect. You know you’ll go through a variety of inventive levels, fight a slew of robots, steal their weapons and use those weapons to defeat Wily.

It’s a simple plan, but one that has worked wonders due to tight play control and the sheer fun of the series. None of the Mega Man games claim to have reinvented the wheel — they just do an excellent job of making the most out of the formula they have. Sure, the formula developed a slight hitch in Mega Man 3 with the redundancy of the four Doc Robot levels, but that shouldn’t be allowed to detract too much from all the things that are done correctly. Mega Man 3 still is a well-designed game that has a lot to offer any fan of the series. It might not be the best Mega Man game out there, but it’s still worth a long look.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (February 18, 2004)

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

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