Mega Man (NES) review
"First in a legendary series, multiple great concepts, spawned some of the best action platformers ever, blah blah blah. Who cares? Yes, this is the first game in a series that is almost as synonymous with the NES as Mario and Zelda. Yes it may have been revolutionary in its time. But this is 2006, not 1987, and there are a grand total of six NES Mega Man games to choose from. And so how does this one stack up against the others? To be blunt, it doesn't. At all. "
First in a legendary series, multiple great concepts, spawned some of the best action platformers ever, blah blah blah. Who cares? Yes, this is the first game in a series that is almost as synonymous with the NES as Mario and Zelda. Yes it may have been revolutionary in its time. But this is 2006, not 1987, and there are a grand total of six NES Mega Man games to choose from. And so how does this one stack up against the others? To be blunt, it doesn't. At all.
Of course, the basics of the Mega Man series are still here, which is a definite plus. Most notably, the two big draws - choosing what order to tackle the levels and acquiring the bosses' weaponry - debuted in this game. The six (yeah, only 6) robot masters are each incredibly weak to one of the others' weapons, meaning you'll have to tackle one of them with only your puny arm cannon and then hope you move to the rest of them in the "correct" order. But you'll have to move through a lengthy linear level before blasting the boss, filled with your typical traps and pits and wussy little robotic enemies. Thankfully the controls were well made from the very beginning, as Mega Man controls almost the same here as in all other games (well, minus the sliding and charging). And once you finish all the robot masters, you have to make your way through 4 levels of Dr Wily's castle. No surprises there, right? So yes, at least the game looks and plays like the rest of the Mega Man series, at least on a superficial level.
But probe a bit deeper, and it's easy to see why this one falls short of the other five (yes, even the forgettable MM6). After all, it's very primitive. Besides the lack of maneuvers (no slide or charging, to say nothing of rush jets or other fun modes of transportation) and the lack of levels, there were plenty of other aspects that make it clear this is Capcom's first effort. For one, there are no passwords here, so you'll have to beat it all in one setting. The variety of your weapons also leaves much to be desired. Guts Man's "weapon" is to pick up boulders that are only present in a few places, Ice Man's spikes are rather lame, and Bomb Man's bombs are so slow as to be useless in virtually all scenarios. And the other three aren't that much better. Enemies will respawn if you move off screen and then back in, which can get very annoying. On the flip side, so do power-ups, so you can easily recharge to full power by going up and down some ladders in a few select spots throughout the game. There's also the rather silly notion that the magnet beam (your only extra source of mobility in this game) can only be obtained after you beat Guts Man. So if you go to Elec Man's stage (where the magnet is located) before Guts and then try to beat Wily, you cannot beat the game. Sure, you can always go back and finish Elec's stage again, but only after dying and restarting. To me, that's lazy designing, and should never happen in an action game such as this.
The worst, however, are the flying platform things. See, there's this long pit (two of them, actually) where you must hop from one of these platforms to the next to cross. Pretty standard stuff, not much different from Top Man's or Air Man's levels, right? Wrong. These clouds have random trajectories, meaning you may be waiting forever to finally hop from one to the next and make it to the other side. And the second time you face these things there are spikes present, which means you may be randomly killed through no fault of your own! Or the glitch where you can jump over a bullet aimed at you yet still get hit as you land on the platform, thus falling off and dying. Needless to say, this is an inexcusable design flaw, which only serves to make these parts of the game frustrating and a chore to get past. And it's the sort of thing that just doesn't happen in the later games.
As silly as these things are, the one thing that really drops the quality of Mega Man is the difficulty. Simply put, it's all over the place. Take a trip through the hell hole that is Ice Man's stage, complete with disappearing blocks over unkillable enemies, frozen land, and those annoying flying platforms from the last paragraph. And then face one of the easiest bosses in the game. Actually, though, they're all ridiculously easy if you have the right weapon. You don't even have to move; just keep firing over and over and all six bosses will fall within seconds. But then there are the annoying traps in Guts Man's stage or the electric shocks in Elec Man's, before you get a breather through Fire Man's completely barren world. How about the Wily stages? Face three enemies in a row that can kill you in 3 hits, enemies you must get past by running beneath them when they hop. Unfortunately, sometimes they do a short hop and thus crush you without a chance. Or face down the Rock monster, in which you must make very difficult jumps with very little room to maneuver multiple times in order to defeat him. Or your clone, who does more damage on you than you do to him, and who moves towards you faster than you can push him back. One minute the game's simple and light, the next you're dead. Yay!
Can you see why this is such a big deal? Can you see how incredibly frustrating it can be to be cruising along before dying ten times in a row? It's not like you have some backup against this. There are no energy packs, so there's no emergency refills for the tricky parts. Fights against the bosses are such an ugly attrition-fest that you can't rely on your skills improving. Even the normal energy refiller thingies are few and far between. This usually isn't a big deal, since the enemies along the stages are fairly easy. But consider the classic boss rush at the end of the game. You can't fight these guys without getting hit once or twice (particularly Guts Man, since you can't even move when he jumps around), yet there's no refills in between. What a joke! And sadly, that's how I feel playing it. It's not a challenge you conquer, it's a frustrating experience you hope you can get past. That's no fun at all.
And when you couple these crazy so-called challenges with the fact that the game is average at best, it becomes quite clear that it's simply not worth the effort. Why bother dealing with frustrating glitches that knock you to your doom when there are 5 other games out there? Why put up with the pain? There's nothing about the game that is both positive and unique to make you want to play it. Unless you're a completist, there's simply no point. Of course, the fact that you'll likely only be tempted to play this if you bought the Anniversary Collection or downloaded it illegally means you won't be losing anything but time if you decide to try it. So see for yourself. Just don't judge the rest of the series by this rather poor start.
Community review by mariner (October 15, 2006)
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