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Mega Man 9 (Xbox 360) artwork

Mega Man 9 (Xbox 360) review


"The “Mega Man” franchise has had a lot of highlights. Among the best are the definitive trials of “Mega Man II”, the polished action of “Mega Man IV”, the secrets and Easter eggs of “Mega Man VII”, and the whimsical visuals of “Mega Man 8”. At worst the franchise has delivered disposable fun, as in the fifth and sixth installments, but at its very best “Mega Man” has demonstrated invention like no other game. "



The “Mega Man” franchise has had a lot of highlights. Among the best are the definitive trials of “Mega Man II”, the polished action of “Mega Man IV”, the secrets and Easter eggs of “Mega Man VII”, and the whimsical visuals of “Mega Man 8”. At worst the franchise has delivered disposable fun, as in the fifth and sixth installments, but at its very best “Mega Man” has demonstrated invention like no other game.

For a while, I thought this ninth installment had the magic. It’s difficult to resist the robot menu, with possibilities like “Tornado Man” or “Galaxy Man” or…”Splash Woman”? Huh. Anyways, I jumped into Concrete Man’s domain. The music was absolutely flawless, and soon enough I was caught up in blasting hornets and jumping gaps and tackling tricky pachyderms. Typical “Mega Man” stuff.

The obstacles of “Mega Man 9”, I must admit, are among the trickiest the franchise has ever seen. Among its trials are: fighting against fierce winds to land on the barest of platforms; “pincher” robots that appear out of nowhere and attempt to grab and drag you into typically fatal spikes; climbing discs over a bed of spikes, before your foothold expires or hits a wall; a soaring fire dragon, and the usual tricky jumps and vanishing platforms. All of this happens before you even set foot into Dr. Wily’s Fortress, which is an absolute nightmare.

Beating this game is an immense undertaking, but like any other “Mega Man” there’s satisfaction in surmounting the adversities. For me, the problem was when I shelved “Mega Man 9”. The greater the distance between me and the game, the less desire I had to jump back into it. Months after I had beaten “Mega Man 9” and gotten all the adequate achievements, I attempted a replay. The experience felt tiring. My thumbs couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to go through the motions.

I think the problem with “Mega Man 9” is that once it loses the “shock of the new”, its spell also loses its hold on you. The novelty of its “neo-retro” aesthetic and design fades into the back of your mind, until "Mega Man 9" is rendered yet another NES game in your recollection. The levels are fun, but not enduring. I would rather replay “Bubble Man” or “Dive Man” than “Splash Woman.” “Magma Man” doesn’t hold a candle to “Sword Man” or “Turbo Man”. And “Hornet Man”? It’s “Wood Man’s” world, and he’s living in it. That’s the thing with legacy, I suppose.

What I took from the experience was the music, which had all the right beats. It makes me wonder if the game exists for its soundtrack, instead of the other way around. Loading up the mp3s on my Blackberry is certainly more enticing than fighting “Yellow Devil” again, a recurring boss in the franchise that sees its most tedious incarnation in this game. Memorizing where yellow blobs are going to fly isn’t fun. Jumping over them while waiting for the “weak spot” to be exposed for a few seconds, so you can inflict two or three sticks of damage, is less fun. The least fun is dying and having to start all over. Less than least is running out of lives and having to restart the level. Oi.

Great “Mega Man” games know how to balance the fun and the intensity, so they avert moments like the Yellow Devil in “9”. Good “Mega Man” games know that fun is better than frustration, that jumping and shooting is better than memorizing where thorny obstacles are and making split-second adjustments to avoid them. In trying very hard to re-establish their “retro-core” credentials, Capcom forgets these lessons. They step all the way back to the original “Mega Man”, where the “slide” move didn’t exist and obstacles were less forgiving. That game was at least fresh, and it spawned a much better sequel. “Mega Man 9” rides on the coattails of those sequels, exploiting our nostalgic memories rather than creating new ones. As long as we’re playing the game, “Mega Man 9” is good enough that the scheme works. We think “I’m playing a new ‘Mega Man’, just like my childhood.” Take a breather, let the “old-new” become just plain “old”, and “9” becomes another retro game in a sea of retro games. What then? We follow our nostalgia to “Mega Man II”, of course.

Rating: 5/10

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Community review by joseph_valencia (July 02, 2009)

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Felix_Arabia posted July 02, 2009:

Excellent, excellent review. Did you lock yourself in a room and practice your writing between the time you removed your old reviews and started subbing new stuff?
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randxian posted July 02, 2009:

I agree. This may be the best review I've read written by you. Nice in depth analysis and good arguments.
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joseph_valencia posted July 02, 2009:

Really? I was feeling kind of iffy about this one, but if the public likes it, who am I to say otherwise?

Did you lock yourself in a room and practice your writing between the time you removed your old reviews and started subbing new stuff?

It's more like I adopted a new attitude towards writing about video games. Before that, I constantly wrote and scrapped reviews, and I put lots of pressure on myself to write the "best thing ever" and "cover all the bases". Starting with "Manhattan Project", I decided to throw caution and planning to the wind and just write and submit stuff.
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aschultz posted July 02, 2009:

That definitely rings a bell. Stuff like worrying if the next review is better than the last, or thinking it better be--that may be one of my biggest blocks. I find that is the best way to miss something obvious. Just have to accept ups and downs. This review definitely made me want to try the Mega Man games I haven't played--despite being an NES retro fan.

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