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Mega Man 2 (NES) artwork

Mega Man 2 (NES) review


"Is this knowledge necessary to complete the game? For the most part, no. It's just good fun. Little tricks like that do quite a bit to add to the experience. More importantly, they present a player with new ways to play. Even if you've gone through the game once using one strategy, it's always fun to try again by defeating the robots in a different order."



Imagine that you wake up one morning, and when you look around, you realize that you're stuck in a baby carriage. Ropes bind you so tightly that it's hardly possible to move. Houses are zipping past you, one exactly like another, and you manage to lift your head just enough to see that at the bottom of the hill, there's a long dock that drops off into the ocean. A watery grave is your future, and there's nothing that can be done to avoid it.

Now, have you got that picture firmly in your mind? If not, keep working until you do. And once you do, know that the image you've fixed in your head has absolutely nothing to do with Mega Man 2. It's the exact opposite of that in almost every conceivable way.

First, the game doesn't star you rolling down a hill in a baby carriage. In fact, there's no baby carriage involved at all. And the row of carbon-copy houses can be forgotten and replaced by dense woods, roaring waterfalls, flame-drenched factories, and crumbling skyscrapers towering over a futuristic city.

That city is never really named, but it's on Earth and the time is the distant future. In 20XX, robots are a fact of life. They help clean houses, they keep the streets safe, and (in special circumstances) they plunge the world into sheer terror as a maniacal madman pulls the strings behind the scenes. Welcome to Mega Man 2, one of the most unique and thoroughly enjoyable titles ever released for the NES.

When first you play this game, you might well let the title screen appear at its own pace, preceded by a cool story that tells of oppression and chaos. As the tale unfolds, the camera shifts so that it zooms up the side of a building, to where Mega Man stands. The wind is blowing through his hair and he looks like a proud soldier, ready for battle. Then you select the difficulty mode and it's off to battle. In 1990 or so, this was the sort of thing that set my blood to boiling. If it doesn't do the same for you, well, you've played too many games.

Once you're past the thrilling title screen, though, things really get good (and just when you supposed they couldn't be any better). You're faced with a menu showing eight robot heads clustered around a central icon with mysterious symbols. Move the selection icon around and you'll discover that you can tackle the first eight stages in any order your little heart desires. Do you go with Metal Man, or the snide little fellow named Quick Man? So many choices can be overwhelming if you're used to linear play, but Capcom proves here that choice is good. Very, very good.

Me, I started with Flash Man. This was actually a fortunate decision, as he is pretty much the one that will fall most easily. However, the game lets you decide that for yourself. I could just as easily have begun my quest with Wood Man and found myself slaughtered, or with Air Man or any of the other foes. The way the game is designed means that you can do whatever you like. Choose poorly, however, and you'd better have the skills to back it up.

But enough about hypothetical you, let's talk about me! As I was saying, I started with Flash Man and started working my way through the stage. To my delight, I found that Mega Man moves more easily than most of his peers. Press the 'right' button and he heads that way. The 'A' button jumps quite promptly, too, and you can control the direction in mid-air (good for later areas in the game, where you'll take quite lengthy drops and will need to change your angle of descent at a moment's notice). So off I went, and soon I found myself at the edge of a ledge. Below, a robot was firing shots in a lazy arc. I waited for an opening between shots, then dropped down and mashed the 'B' button. This turned out to be a good idea. Mega Man let loose with several shots, and soon the robot was toast. Feeling quite clever, I continued my assault on Flash Man's domain. Soon, I came to a branching path. The lower route was blocked by another robot, while a mysterious barrier blocked the upper one. Since the barrier wasn't moving, I destroyed the robot and continued onward.

Soon, I came to a long drop, and partway down I discovered that there were other types of robots, too. One was a machine that sent out projectiles that would flicker and fade. Another was a column of blocks, while yet another was a mech-riding jerk that seemed to like draining my life meter rather quickly. The strategy for defeating each of these was slightly different, yet there never was a moment where I felt totally disoriented. All felt perfectly natural, until suddenly I was at the end of a level and strange doors led me into a room the size of a single television screen.

Here, I suddenly was locked in battle with a single robot. Oh, but he was nothing like those that occupied his level! He had a pattern of attack. He darted around the room, firing shots at me, and I did my best to avoid his movement, and counter when possible. All went well, until in the middle of one of my jumps, the screen suddenly flashed and I found myself unable to move for a moment. Flash Man headed toward me, and it could have been curtains right then, had I not finally broken free and finished him off with a few more shots from my arm cannon.

With Flash Man done, I set about congratulating myself on a job well done. The game soon followed suit, and I was awarded a password and two special items. One of these was a platform I was informed could help me scale high walls. More interesting to me was the ability to freeze enemies for a brief time. It seems Flash Man donated his power to Mega Man. After writing down the password, I decided to make my next level selection.

And so goes Mega Man 2. I was soon to discover many noteworthy things. For starters, I eventually learned that the mysterious barrier from Flash Man's stage could have been destroyed with a shot from the Crash Cannon. For another, the huge mechs fall quite easily to some air attacks. Is this knowledge necessary to complete the game? For the most part, no. It's just good fun. Little tricks like that do quite a bit to add to the experience. More importantly, they present a player with new ways to play. Even if you've gone through the game once using one strategy, it's always fun to try again by defeating the robots in a different order.

And of course, there is more to Mega Man 2 than just the robots and their stages. Once all eight robot masters are down for the count, Dr. Wily appears in his little space pod, wiggles his intimidating unibrow, and whisks off to Skull Castle. Then you get to follow for several more stages of mayhem that will truly test your ability to decide which weapons are best for each task.

Now, while all of this is very cool indeed, it might not have worked so well as it did but for one thing: Capcom crammed this cartridge full of some of the most beautiful, atmospheric graphics and sound the NES system ever played host to.

Each of the robot stages is strikingly different from the next. Wood Man's level is my personal favorite, as Mega Man dashes through a forest inhabited by giant robot dogs, bats, ostriches, apes and rabbits. The backgrounds are never so cluttered as to be a chaotic canvas, always simplistic in design. Colors used are quite vibrant and never really clash or hide enemy shots that may be headed your way. This is true of each stage, from the clouds in Air Man's level to the gorgeous waterfall that serves as Bubble Man's lair.

Environments themselves aren't the only portion of the game with visual flair. Prepare to be astounded by some of the largest opponents you've ever faced. The enormous lantern fish and a not-so-friendly dragon are only two examples, and there are plenty more. It's amazing to see the NES handle all of this with relative ease, though some of the creatures will flicker slightly as their minions crowd the screen. Such flaws are easily forgiven.

And the music? Ah, the music! I'm not very good at describing sound, but I do need to say that what's here is just terrific. Though some have said that a lot of NES music remains memorable due to its simplicity, the stuff in Mega Man 2 has complexity and style that will likely leave some astounded. Most impressive of all, though, is the fact that there's not a single tune in the whole package that seems inappropriate to its area. Lazy when it should be, urgent when necessary, the soundtrack serves as the epitome of great NES music.

Capcom went on to develop many additional Mega Man titles. The blue bomber still hasn't retired, and there were four sequels on the NES alone. But although each of those was bigger than Mega Man 2, none of them were really better. I still buy most titles Capcom produces that star the cheerful little do-gooder, and Mega Man 2 is the reason for that. Play it today, or kick yourself in a few years for not trying it sooner.

Rating: 10/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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