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Mega Man 3 (NES) artwork

Mega Man 3 (NES) review

"So the whole 'more of a good thing' aspect of Mega Man 3 isn't what disappoints me. Rather, it was a lack of heart. Where Mega Man 2 had absolutely genius level design and totally cool environments, Mega Man 3 takes a more sterile approach. There are lots of wide, open spaces where not much of anything is happening. The polish isn't there in quite the same evidence, and some of the game's size is derived from repetition."

Whoever said bigger is better needs to stop watching adult films and take a look at the videogame industry. It seems like every time some company makes a great franchise, it feels the need to follow it up with something that's bigger and better. In the case of the Mega Man franchise, it worked once. Mega Man was a great game with six robot masters, and Mega Man 2 was better with eight. However, Capcom messed up when it came time to create Mega Man 3. They made it bigger, to be sure. But is it better? Umm... no.

Now, before you think I'm all opposed to more levels, or bigger explosions, or whatever else, you need to know one thing: I adore more of a good thing. It's the reason I love most every Mega Man game Capcom has chosen to release. It's great to know you can count on a few introductory robot stages that you can tackle in any order, then the showdown in Dr. Wily's castle. I just love that about the series, and I doubt it will ever grow old for me. So the whole 'more of a good thing' aspect of Mega Man 3 isn't what disappoints me. Rather, it was a lack of heart. Where Mega Man 2 had absolutely genius level design and totally cool environments, Mega Man 3 takes a more sterile approach. There are lots of wide, open spaces where not much of anything is happening. The polish isn't there in quite the same evidence, and some of the game's size is derived from repetition. So we've got a bigger adventure, one that will take longer to complete, but at what cost?

Perhaps the first problem is in the robot masters themselves. There are only a few truly cool stages, those being Shadow Man, Gemini Man, and Snake Man. These are the type of environments that take what was cool about Mega Man 2 and expand it to the next degree. In Shadow Man's realm, you'll race along a lava flow filled with tight quarters, dangerous jumps, and an enjoyable, fast-paced battle at the end. In Gemini Man's level, you'll progress along an icy surface, then drop down into murky tunnels to battle tadpoles and penguins. Then there's Snake Man's stage, which is comprised entirely of giant snake bodies. It's genius. Too bad the same can't be said of the rest of the levels. Top Man's stage is a quick romp through a toy factory, with the highlight being a ride on spinning tops over a bottomless pit. Hard Man's level starts out promising but quickly turns to a dull trip through winding, lifeless stone passages interrupted only by dull enemies. Spark Man's level is just flat out boring, and Magnet Man's is often more frustrating than it is enjoyable. And so it goes. For whatever reason, Capcom's developers just dropped the ball.

Only they didn't drop it entirely. There are a few new additions to the series that are quite cool. The first of these is Proto Man, a mysterious robot who shows up in most of the introductory stages. You get to battle him for awhile, then he warps out of sight in a red flash of light. This was a nice touch, and you'll begin to anticipate his arrival. It's almost disappointing when he doesn't make an appearance, even though any match with the red fellow is likely to drain your life meter a bit.

Perhaps the most important addition to the series is the addition of Rush. He's a robotic canine that serves the same purpose as the three numbered objects in the previous outing. You'll have to unlock his modifications, as may be expected, but this is the one place where the game definitely gains some personality. You can ride a jet through the skies, glide through the waters in a submarine, or spring off the robotic pooch like he's a trampoline.

Any points Capcom gains for the addition of Rush, however, are nullified by the Doc Robot stages. When the first eight robot masters are dealt with, you might well expect to go next to Dr. Wily's castle. That is what would have happened in Mega Man 2, after all. Instead, the developers introduce Doc Robot, a mysterious machine that haunts the surface of the planet in four different locations. So you must complete four more stages before Dr. Wily's castle. This may sound good. After all, later games in the series all had a castle of some sort between the eight robot masters and Dr. Wily's lair, right? Right. Only this time, the four stages you must complete are quite familiar. Rather than create four entirely new stages, Capcom simply reworked zones you've already visited. Presumably, this was so they wouldn't have to come up with all sorts of new textures, but the end result really hurts the gameplay. Even though there are quite a few new challenges in these four stages, they feel so similar to what you've already done that half the fun is lost.

Another thing about the Doc Robot stages that some players may find frustrating is the high number of boss battles. These bosses all take the same shape, that of Doc Robot. He looks sort of like Air Man from Mega Man 2, with a few modifications. Speaking of Mega Man 2, you'll fight all eight robots from that game in the Doc Robot stages. The devious robot takes on the characteristics of two of them per level. That's right; Capcom even stooped to reusing old robot bosses.

Eventually, of course, you'll topple Doc Robot, and then Dr. Wily's castle will come into view. And so you'll begin your assault, anticipating a series of cool levels with impressive boss battles at the end. Well, one out of two ain't bad. Though the boss battles are as memorable as any (the rock monster from Mega Man even makes an appearance), the stages leading up to them are often disappointingly short. Only the first castle stage feels truly satisfying. The rest of the levels feel only half complete.

If so far I've sounded mostly negative about what this game offers, I should say that there are a few more changes I do admire. Talk to many people who have played Mega Man 3 for very long, and they'll likely mention that the game is one of the most challenging in the franchise. The number of bottomless pits and spike-lined ceilings has never been higher, and the robot masters have never been tougher. The original Mega Man title was quite difficult, and its successor perhaps too easy. Capcom obviously wanted to make up for that here, and so they did.

If a higher difficulty level intimidates you, though, Capcom also included a good number of ways to cheat. There have never since been so many excellent cheats in a Mega Man title, and newcomers will use them with glee. While I normally wouldn't consider cheats a mark in a game's favor, here they really do mean that you can play the game as it was meant to be played and enjoy it, or you can cheat and enjoy it if the standard game is too difficult. It's the perfect solution.

And while I'm talking about things Capcom got right this time around, I do have to mention graphics and sound.

The Mega Man franchise has always been known for its high-quality music. There's not really a title in the series that doesn't benefit tremendously from an upbeat, synthesized soundtrack. That's true here, too. Though the music is a slight step down from the tunes in Mega Man 2, I felt that overall, what you'll find here is better than around nine tenths of the stuff available on the system. The opening tune is a melancholy little piece, and each piece from there out works perfectly within its context. First-rate stuff.

Graphics are also quite good. They've improved only marginally, and a lot of textures are re-used, but the quality is still very high. It's easy to see the artists must have stayed busy for a long time working on this. Also, there are quite a few new robot designs. My favorite addition is the porcupine monsters from Needle Man's stage. They shoot out spikes, roll into a ball, blaze across the screen, then set up camp in a new location. It's all very fluid and aesthetically pleasing. Also, though you'll encounter numerous monsters throughout the game, some of them quite large, there are only a few places where the framerate chugs. It's easy to get past these moments.

In the end, then, Mega Man 3 is definitely bigger. And it does have its share of improvements. Though nothing here sticks out to make this one the best entry in the franchise (it happens to be sandwiched by my favorite two, in fact), it's still a game you really should play and enjoy if you consider yourself even a slight fan of the blue bomber. Rush out and find yourself a copy today!

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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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