Mega Man 9 (PlayStation 3) review
"After finally obtaining a “next generation”
After finally obtaining a “next generation”
gaming system media center (?), it seemed prudent that I should make an effort to experience the best that my new PS3's cell processor could muster. I wanted to make a point to experience a game that was technically beautiful and fresh from all the genre-centric titles that had dominated the previous generation. In that spirit, I purchased Valkyria Chronicles.
You may find this to be a curious way to introduce Mega Man 9, isn't a game worth discussing, let alone discussing in the context of god-like cell processing power. This isn't an issue of technology nor of quality; it is the fundamental concept behind the game's design, that retro culture and nostalgia can be the sole justification for a new game in a series that was long ago burned and it's soil polluted with salt.
It might be worth mentioning that I have a mild love obsession with the 8-bit Mega Man sexilogy – called such because there are six of them and playing them is similar to having sex (that is, if you are having sex with 8-bit people) – and I have played all of them to such a point that beating any of them without special weapons or losing lives is hardly a challenge. These are games that I know well and and for which I have a strong affinity.
Unlike previous entries in the series, Mega Man 9 initially resisted my attempts to mount and dominate it into submission. I don't know if I simply haven't had the requisite 15-20 years to sit down and memorize each and every level tile by tile or what, but I found myself dying far more than I rightfully should. Part of this seems to stem from Capcom's translation of “old school” mentality into harder difficulty, though in practice “cheap” would be a better term. Artificial would be an acceptable word too. Superficial as well. Don't let the 8-bit style fool you; Mega Man 9, more than even Metal Gear Solid 4, is obsessed with its immediate surface details.
Difficulty is only one part of the very self-conscious game that Capcom (or rather, Inti – because god forbid Capcom do the milking on their own cash cow) has devised. I don't consider Mega Man 9 a sequel so much as I consider it an encapsulation of “hip” retro gaming culture. It falls in the same category as that Gameboy Advanced SP Nintendo released a few years ago that bore the NES's color scheme or web comics that use sprites ripped from popular 8-bit games. The graphics, the music, the cheesy “box art” -- none of it is necessary in the least, and, when considered in a modern context, makes Mega Man 9 look like it's trying too hard.
In respect to emulating the feel and sound of games from the late 80's and early 90's, Init does as good a job as anyone could possibly expect. The music is extremely catchy, the bosses are vulnerable to predictable patterns, and the levels lend themselves to breezy and cathartic play-sessions. I frequently hum the music from Jewel Man's stage in the shower, though what one does in the shower is really beyond the scope of this review. As far as the quality of the game's design goes, it is top notch and on league with other entries in the original series.
It isn't the quality of the game I necessarily question, it's its legitimacy. This is a case where a large amount of the pleasure and enjoyment that one can take from a single game comes not from what the player is playing but what they have played in the past. There's a significant “ah, that takes me back” feeling that Mega Man 9 induces, and while there isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, it reflects poorly on the game's intellectual originality.
For all intents and purposes, I still consider the Mega Man series proper to conclude with Mega Man 6. There is a moment during the ending of Mega Man 9 (don't worry – it's only a spoiler if there was any suspense) in which Mega Man shows Dr Wily little clips of the mad scientist surrendering to him from each game in the series. It's a moment that shows just how aware the game is of its own history, and that that history evokes something in the player. It's a self-awareness that the game displays at every opportunity, from Capcom's description in the PSN Store that reads like an actual love letter to “you haven't done this in awhile” in the game's introduction up until the moment Dr Wily gets on his knees and gives Mega Man what he really wants, an excuse for a sequel.
I can't help but wonder how this game would fare if the rest of the series didn't exist. Games have changed – a lot. Mega Man 2 was a contemporary to games about hedgehogs in running shoes and shmups when people actually played shmups. Mega Man 9, however, when stripped of its artificial nostalgic milieu, exists in a time with games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Super Mario Galaxy, or even Capcom's own Okami run rampant. Games now are about more than just fun, they can often be beautiful, moving, and even a bit heart-wrenching.
I'm not saying that playing Mega Man 9 because “you were there, man” is a bad thing; but I don't think it should be played – and likely enjoyed, for I will admit that retro gaming is neat for a reason – without keeping the almost total lack of originality in the back of your mind. It wants to remind you of what you played in the past, but offers nothing new. Who would have thought that a franchise with over 50 titles was just milking it?
Featured community review by dagoss (November 26, 2008)
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