Mega Man X2

Someone must’ve taken a cue from the original Mega Man 2 on this one…

Mega Man X2 is the sequel to the Super Nintendo’s “X” series of Mega Man games which spun off of the originals, which only saw one true dedicated 16-bit sequel with Mega Man 7.

The reason I say that X2 took a cue from the NES sequel is the difficulty: this freaking game is insane at certain points. It also has some of the more “interesting” and utter useless weapon upgrades in any MM game.

Granted, they still look cool and are at least creative, but in the end? They suck!

The story and mechanics are all familiar here. Beat bosses, obtain their special powerup, go fight the main boss…

Many of the “Maverick Hunters” (bosses) are incredibly cheap to fight against. One is a gator which you can’t see, then it grabs you and doesn’t let go. Another boss board has spikes – which means instant death!

Outside of the “norm” for these titles, the graphics are incredible for an SNES game. I had to see if it had a special chip in the cartridge and apparently it did. The “C4” chip improved the game’s graphics to where this title looks as good as Mega Man 8 on the original PlayStation (minus FMV cutscenes, of course).

There are also some vector 3-D graphics which look about as cutting edge as watching the Lawnmower Man on DVD these days but were likely state of the art at the time. They feel both revolutionary and out of place at the same time, as if to just show off that there was some special tech that could be accomplished.

Regardless, it’s a feat and an unexpected one at that.

In all, I actually liked this title a bit more than the first MMX. The story was cool, but it didn’t build much on original otherwise. However, the menus, sound, and graphics were all better and part two still feels like a step forward in the series as a must-play for any Mega Man fan.

Mega Man 10

Another digital-only release, Mega Man 10 is a direct sequel to the main storyline. As such, it continues the plot of one Dr. Wily and the story somehow still sticks despite this being the 16th title I’ve played in this series! (And I have yet to get to most of the X and any of the Zero titles!)

Now, let me say, for my gripes with Mega Man 9, 10 is a really solid title. I felt most of the weapons were balanced (except that sheep/wool/cloud crap) and being able to replay as different characters (such as Protoman) is really cool.

However, they left out some key abilities from previous iterations, like being able to slide, which I felt took away from this game.

Another change I wasn’t happy about with 9 or 10, is the return to MM1/2 style graphics: the later games in the series looked sharp, including 5 and 6 on NES.

There was no need to strip MM10 down to its bare bones.

Following playing the Genesis release (which was a remake of 1, 2, and 3) I question the move even more. The Sega version was sharp. The Super Nintendo games were sharp. And Mega Man 8 on the original PlayStation was tremendous, almost like playing an anime cartoon.

This felt nostalgic, but it was unnecessary – unless it was deliberate to churn more profit by not getting too fancy with the visuals.

Regardless, if you’re into Mega Man or retro games, this one holds up pretty well. (No wonder this spawned yet another sequel!)

Mega Man 9

After praising the last two iterations of Mega Man games (7 and 8, which were on the SNES and PlayStation respectively) the ninth game in the traditional series takes us way back to Mega Man 1 and 2 visuals and gameplay… sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst.

A digital-only release and the first in the main series since Mega Man 8 on the Sony PlayStation in 1998, Mega Man 9 is a weird duck of the bunch. Rather than progressing the series, it felt like more of a throwback to the day of old, where, once again, Capcom had not lost their sense of sick humor to torture gamers.

Let me be firm in saying:

This game is stupid hard with all sorts of cheap killing mechanics littered throughout.

Rush reappears to help get through some difficult areas, but gone are the ability to charge up the “mega buster” or slide. You can, however, play with Proto Man too and he does have those abilities… for whatever reason that may be.

Some of the weapons are especially cheesy, as are the bosses you face to acquire them. Concrete Man leaves you with the “concrete shot” which creates a concrete block.

The “Hornet Chaser” is another reach in the series, as Mega Man shoots hornets which sting enemies or retrieves items.

You’ll likely settle on two or three special weapons you’ll use throughout the game, if that, and the rest will be long forgotten – showing how long in the tooth the series was at this point, even with a ten-year hiatus.

Some additions to the series are achievements tacked on and a save menu (in lieu of the password system). There’s also another Mega Man first: a female robot master!

Overall it’s a good look back at how these games began, but I really wish they would’ve stuck with the cartoon/anime style they used on the PSX, which feels like a far superior experience rather than going way back to some boring and drab 8-bit styles.

At least the storyline has a few surprises worthy of Mega Man fans playing through the end of the game as well. Otherwise, casual gamers may be more prone to avoid this like many of the original titles in this series as it offers more in the sake of nostalgia than anything truly “new” (and that despite there being nearly a decade between main series releases!)

Mega Man 8

Sometimes my retro gaming adventures seem to feel mundane, as if my queue is filled with only one series or genre of game.

Aside from Super Mario Bros., which spans so many different spinoffs, only one other series fits the bill of having a vast amount of titles to play: Mega Man.

With six NES and five Game Boy titles linked to the main series, Mega Man only saw one “main series” sequel on the SNES and some rehashed (though excellent) Sega ports through the 16-bit era life cycle.

Then Sony’s PlayStation ushered in a new era of console gaming and vastly upgraded the only main series Mega Man title that would appear on the system: Mega Man 8.

By this time, you would expect these games to become so run of the mill and boring, but MM8 breaks down some barriers with the PSX’s new technology.

Mega Man 8 is a huge (and I mean HUGE) update to the series.

This iteration continues the traditional boss fights, Wily stages, et al, but changes the graphics style to almost like a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s not quite anime, but the included full motion video cutscenes (which seem corny at first) give you that impression.

They go from corny to commonplace and really add to the game as you play it. Literally, it felt like I was playing a cartoon version of Mega Man… and that’s a good thing!

The boards are colorful, well-detailed, and most of all, they found several ways to bridge tradition with new creative direction.

Now the bad news: the folks at Capcom haven’t lost their sense of dickery: this game is as hard as any of them! They included some midway checkpoints and all of the usual items are there to help: Rush, extra energy tanks, charge beam, sliding, and other non-boss weapon upgrades are just a part of the overall package.

With how many of the Mega Man games were made, this one felt like a true successor to their 16-bit brothers and more so an upgrade to the entire series heading into 3-D polygon era of gaming.

I highly recommend it, even if the other Mega Mans gave you grief!

Mega Man X

Continuing on my quest to conquer every Mega Man game, the offshoot series of Mega Man X is next. It’s basically Mega Man but not in the same timeline/storyline. Dr. Light and Dr. Wily have been replaced with similar characters Dr. Cain and Sigma. Mega Man has been swapped with “X” and has a new pal named Zero and the robot masters are now known as “Maverick Hunters”.

Otherwise, it’s all the same stuff with a fresh coat of upgraded 16-bit SNES graphics and a few more goodies, such as the ability to charge the mega buster, a dash feature, and the ability to scale or slide down walls.

Those latter features made the game incredibly enjoyable, but man does Capcom return to their roots of making these games HARD. This wasn’t the worst difficulty, but it was up there in the series.

Luckily the weapon upgrades are actually worth a flip (more on that as I post sequels!) The music is a joy and the controls are tight, which adds to part of the difficulty, but what’s new, right? We are talking Mega Man.

Overall this is a game I highly recommend, maybe more than most in the series. While it follows the same proven formula, the fresh coat of paint and the upgrade into the 16-bit world, are more than enough to lend this game “cult classic” credibility.

PS – I still contend that Sega and Capcom were in a battle of one-upmanship between Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man. There are far too many similarities between the two series to disregard! (This game features a level not much unlike the Wing Fortress Zone in Sonic 2!)

Mega Man 7

I often say I’m surprised by games at the least likely of moments.

Thus, is the case with Mega Man 7, the first true sequel of the Mega Man series of games on the Super Nintendo.

While it’s true that the Mega Man X games came out first on the SNES, “7” is a true successor of the NES line of games of which there were six, and five other Game Boy titles which shared similarities with their bigger brother.

The X series took the Mega Man stories in a different direction whereas “7” brought us back to the formula we were used too… or, yeah, it’s almost the same. The difference I believe is just being tied to the same ol’ Dr. Wily, who may as well be called Dr. Wile E., after the Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote, as neither can ever defeat their nemesis in the end.

The major wow factor of this game, especially when compared with the early SNES “X” titles, is that the graphics and sound would lead you to believe that this was not an SNES title: in this era of retro gaming remakes, you could’ve sworn this was a reboot of the series made in the present day.

That’s how good MM7 is, in my opinion.

It doesn’t really add much to the previous formula otherwise and that’s a good thing. The gameplay is what you expect, the bosses are just the right difficulty, and the controls are tight instead of cheap.

Alas, it’s still more of the same. I liken MM7 to the “Super” upgrades of every other game which came to the SNES, except it didn’t add a whole lot. Still, why fix something that isn’t broken?

That’s how I felt with MM7 and think any fan would enjoy the trip down memory lane as I did.

Mega Man: The Wily Wars

The second of the two Sega Mega Man titles, this one will also seem as obscure as the Game Gear title because it was only released in Japan and Europe as a cartridge: with the American release being available exclusively via The Sega Channel…

Remember that service?

Wow, that could’ve been cutting edge! It was Netflix for video games delivered directly to your Genesis via a modem… but who had the capability back then?

Okay, back to the game: it’s a sequel and it’s not.

Wily Wars includes the first three NES Mega Man titles completely revamped with new graphics and sound. Think of it like Super Mario All-Stars is to the NES Mario games… which, Mario All-Stars also included a fourth game, and so does Wily Wars: the “Wily Tower”.

Wily Tower is unlocked after completing the other three games and retains the same look and feel as the remakes. The remakes themselves, compared to their NES originals, appeared to play faster; the music is fantastic, and graphically, I like this rendition of Mega Man as opposed to the NES appearance which was rehashed for MM9 and MM10 on later generation consoles. (Those games looked very generic by comparison of this 16-bit collection.)

Another great feature is when you begin Wily Tower. You are brought to a menu screen where you select eight of the 22 weapon upgrades obtained by beating the other three games’ bosses, plus an additional three items. This is the coolest idea I’ve seen in any of the Mega Man games I’ve played thus far and adds some replayability and strategy to the status quo. (This being the 16th Mega Man game I had played to date.)

The Wily Tower itself is short but can be difficult. There are three robot masters, but plenty of other goodies once you get to the Wily stages. Cameos occur and the game was just so much damn fun I’m not sure what else I can say about it: even if a great portion is mostly a remake.

It’s kind of disappointing that this title doesn’t get more recognition. I actually prefer its reboot style to the NES originals. The addition of Wily Tower, despite this game being released in 1994, should be a heads up to other developers with classic IP to reboot their series by packaging the old games with an updated look and then adding new challenges.

In summation, this is one of the better classic Mega Man games to play. Unfortunately, the cartridge itself is rare and a properly translated North American ROM can be as equally challenging to find: due to the translation of both the English language as well as the proper speed/framerate for NTSC (versus PAL systems it was released on).

Regardless, if you can obtain a way to play it, Wily Wars is an incredible trip down memory lane that definitely needs revisited even by the most casual of Mega Man fans.

Mega Man (Game Gear)

Well, well. This was a quirky little find.

For those unaware, Mega Man’s developer, Capcom, had been an exclusive partner of Nintendo’s from way back when the NES launched. Following Sega’s successful market penetration with their Genesis, Capcom broke that exclusivity by releasing games for both, the Genesis, and Sega’s handheld “Game Gear”.

But that’s not the only reason this game is “quirky”. As the only Mega Man game on the Game Gear it mixes elements of it’s NES siblings. Due to hardware limitations, only two of Mega Man’s “buster” shots are on screen at any time (rather than three in other games) but the charged shot does more damage. The game also feels faster, with not only MM but the robot master bosses and even jumping or climbing ladders.

Now the frustrating parts.

Like the Game Boy game, the small screen makes it impossible to find platforms below you, so you often fall to your death. Unlike the Game Boy, the color graphics really pop. (I may even prefer this to the NES games honestly.)

The game’s difficulty is about what you’d expect, with Capcom pulling cheapshots all over. Overall, the main concepts are pulled from the NES MM4 and MM5 so it’s a blend of both games, yet an original title.

However, the campaign is short. As a handheld title, there is only four main robot masters (rather than the usual eight) plus another two in Wily’s Castle (which is also an abbreviated tour).

Regardless, this title holds up as one of the more solid Mega Man titles of the 15 I’ve played so far!

Mega Man 6

Admittedly, this game just feels like a direct phone-in attempt by Capcom, replacing MM5 with new characters. There is a really cool “suit/armor” mechanic, which gives Mega Man a “big suit” that can break boulders, etc.

Overall, the music and everything really is MM5 with a new coat of polish. This was the final MM NES game and you can tell they were pushing the console to it’s limits. A small change in the storyline as usual keeps it a bit fresh, and if you’re like me and played through the others, you have to complete this one too.

In order of my favorites on the NES: MM3, MM2, MM4-6, MM1… MM1 is really awful by comparison and incredibly difficult. You also can’t fully enjoy MM3 without playing MM2, but that’s the reason why MM3 is much more fulfilling (storywise). That’s why it’s my favorite.

Onward to more games, including (gasp) the Game Boy versions of Mega Man!

Mega Man IV

The least innovative and least creative of the Mega Man games I’ve played on NES and/or Game Boy thus far. The collectible items were new, but also a tacked on, and mostly useless feature. You purchase those add-on items from Dr. Light’s lab, by using “P Chips” as the currency… those are found by defeating enemies throughout the different levels, but the lab itself is an annoying side attraction, with far too many dialog windows to you can easily be trapped into by hitting B instead of A or vice versa.

The enemies are lifted straight out of MM4/5 (NES) again, but I suppose the rematches are “new” to the GB versions. Capcom usually has a way of making each of these games worthwhile, but this one nearly had me quit the series. Chief among them a new feature requiring capturing the letters “W-I-L-Y” to open the final stage!

It was far too repetitive and boring… good thing I didn’t stop though! (More on that in the near future.)