Coming Soon: Mega Man Month (and Other Stuff Too!)

Alls been quiet of the Dojo front for about a week now. Sorry about that, old chaps. Wanted my Top 5 Most Wanted Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Characters to pick up more steam. And it did!

But I always hate my extended breaks here at the Dojo, so here’s some stuff I’m planning for this site in the not-too-distant future.

First and foremost, I plan on making this September a tribute to Mega Man, in honor of the release of Mega Man 11 in early October. Now, I already reviewed Mega Mans 1 through 8 back in 2015, but since I recently picked up the Mega Man X Legacy Collection, I figured it’s about time I reviewed the Mega Man X games. And maybe I can squeeze in Mega Mans 9 and 10 after all this time, as well as one other Mega Man title I’ve been meaning to review for a while (three guesses what it is). If I can, I may also toss in some Mega Man-related top 10/5 lists.

Of course, I also hope to squeeze in some other reviews for movies and games. So depending on how much time I have in between Mega Mans, I have a good few other things I’d like to write about.

In the not-too-distant future, I’m also hoping to review the films of Quentin Tarantino (the first of which should be done soon), and hopefully review the three remaining Hayao Miyazaki-directed features. And yes, I still hope to start reviewing some TV shows from time to time.

There are a number of reviews and lists I’d like to finish by the end of 2018. I’m also hoping to continue my game design endeavors really soon. And while yes, that will be time-consuming and effect my website to some degree, I have zero plans to ever stop writing for this site. But learning how to make a game, combined with the financial and time investment of modern gaming, means I’ll be cutting back on my new gaming purchases starting in 2019. So aside from a few AAA games here and there, I see most of my gaming reviews in the years ahead being retro titles and indie games. Y’know, games that don’t take an obscene amount of time to complete.

Maybe I will post updates on my game design progress here on this site, if there’s enough interest. I may even show off a few drawings/sketches from time to time. Not that I have much to show off. I’m not that good.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. This is an update. I hope you enjoy Mega Man Month in September, and whatever else I write. I love you people.

Mega Man 11 is the Real Deal

I don’t get this “Mega Man 11” thing! It just looks like Capcom is trying to rip off Mighty No. 9!

All joking aside, I got to play Mega Man 11 at E3 today (after an excruciatingly long wait in line), and walked away very impressed with the game, which is now on my radar as one of my most anticipated titles of the year.

When Mega Man 11 was first revealed, a lot of fans were disappointed with the new visual look, and wanted another 8-bit throwback title. Personally, I think making another 8-bit entry would have felt a bit tired by this point. Besides, Mega Man 7 and 8 weren’t 8-bit, so it’s not as if Mega Man 11 is the first entry to go against the series’ NES roots.

“At least the long line included monitors with fun questions and factoids about Mega Man’s history. This was by far my favorite one.”

One concern I did have though, was that the new look may have meant a new direction for the series’ difficulty, and maybe ease things up a bit to grab a new audience. I’m not one of those people who demands that every game be extremely difficult, and that any game that’s on the easy side is automatically bad. But in Mega Man’s case, the difficulty is as much a part of the series as the Blue Bomber’s ability to steal the powers of defeated Robot Masters.

Although only one stage was available in the demo (Block Man’s), it proved to be pleasantly challenging. Perhaps more importantly, the challenge was brought about by some creative ideas in the level design, with the standout moment being Mega Man navigating through confined rooms which are on a conveyor belt heading for an insta-kill grinder. Mega Man has to shoot path-blocking stones, and navigate the rooms by jumping and sliding in order to escape them and, by extension, escape the grinder. But once one such mini-room is completed, there’s another one in line on the conveyor belt.

It’s concepts like that why platformers remain one of gaming’s greatest genres. Even with a template as old as Mega Man’s, getting creative with the level design is all the developers need to make things feel new again.

Additionally, Mega Man now possesses an ability to slow down time for a short while, with certain level elements and enemies taking advantage of the mechanic. One enemy hides within a spinning wheel, which has only a small opening for Mega Man’s blast can make it through. While Mega Man can time his blast to destroy the enemy under normal conditions, the enemy’s wheel spins fast enough to make it difficult to get the timing down. That’s when slowing down time comes in handy, as it turns the small opportunity to hit this particular enemy into a much bigger one.

The time-slowing mechanic is a fun little twist on the Mega Man formula, and hopefully a few similar mechanics are introduced to keep things fresh.

From what I can gather from my limited experience with the game, Mega Man 11 looks to not only revive the series after a notably lengthy absence, but also adding to the series’ norms in ways to make it feel like a proper continuation for the franchise, and not simply a throwback.

I was tentatively excited for Mega Man 11 when it was announced, but after playing a stage of the game, it’s really looking like the Mega Man title the gaming world needs…especially after Mighty No. 9.

“I’m a better Mega Man than Mega Man! I’m actually aiming my mega buster at the bad guy!”

Mighty No. 9 Review

*Review based on the Playstation 4 version of the game*

Mighty No. 9

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Mega Man has been MIA for years now, with the franchise seemingly disappearing after the release of Mega Man 10 in 2010. Aside from the Blue Bomber’s appearance in Super Smash Bros., Mega Man has become something of a video game hero of yesteryear. It makes sense then, that when a hopeful spiritual sequel was revealed on Kickstarter back in 2013 under one of Mega Man’s original creators, Keiji Inafune, it gained a lot of attention. Not only did this game, dubbed Mighty No. 9, reach its crowdfunding goal within the span of two days, but it also promised to be a worthy successor to the Mega Man franchise, filling the large gap created when the series came to an abrupt halt.

But that was then, and this is now. After numerous delays, production issues, broken promises, laughable marketing, and a subsequent failed Kickstarter for a spiritual spinoff a la Mega Man Legends by Inafune, reaction towards Mighty No. 9 went from excitement to skepticism. Sadly, said skepticisms weren’t misplaced, because the final result of Mighty No. 9 is a decidedly mediocre disappointment.

In concept, Mighty No. 9 looks to have all the trappings of the franchise that inspired it: It features a robot protagonist (named Beck) who runs and shoots his way through different action-packed sides-crolling stages, which are selectable in whatever order the player feels like. There are eight other robot bosses that need to be defeated in order to gain their abilities, with each robot’s power being particularly useful against another like a game of rock, paper, scissors. And the game even tries its hand at a Mega Man level of difficulty.

Problems arise, however, when it becomes apparent that all of these connections to Mega Man are all incredibly superficial. In execution, Mighty No. 9 rarely understands the finer points of the Mega Man formula that made it work so well.

Mighty No. 9The most immediate issue with the game is the gameplay itself. Beck runs, jumps and shoots like Mega Man did, but he moves more sluggishly, and his jumps feel awkward. The level design feels similarly dumbed down, with much of the so-called “challenge” feeling outright cheap and unfair. The placements of one-hit kill obstacles are far more ridiculous than you’d ever see in Mega Man. While the Blue Bomber often faced similar obstacles, there was a sense of strategy with how to overcome them. They felt like intelligent traps that required the player to think. In Mighty No. 9, there were multiple instances where I felt luck played a more prominent role in whether or not I made it passed certain obstacles than strategy or skill. Then there are segments where you have to make your way through with a ridiculous accuracy, as going too slow means you’re stuck until the trap or platforming obstacle resets itself, and going too fast can lead you to losing one of your precious extra lives. It simply breaks the flow of things.

On top of that, the levels themselves feel largely uninspired. The majority of Mighty No. 9’s stages feel like they’re just marking a checklist of features from Mega Man titles, without having any distinctly creative means to prevent them from feeling like rehashes.

That’s not to say that the gameplay and level design are all bad. A new dash attack is added into the mix, which allows Beck to absorb weakened enemies to rack up points and combos, thereby getting through the level quicker and earning the player a better grade. Another fun addition that feels like it could have served as part of the evolution of the Mega Man series is that the boss robots whom you defeat may appear in subsequently played stages, where they may change up the environment by eliminated an otherwise devious situation or two.

Mighty No. 9Meanwhile, two of the stages – one placed on top of the speeding vehicles of a highway, and the other inside of a more open-ended area, where you must continuously avoid the sniper fire of the boss and track him down -bring a nice change of pace to things.

On the downside of things, even Mighty No. 9’s good points come with a not-so-good flip-side. The Dash, for example, can be repeatedly used in midair, rendering many platforming challenges moot. Most of the abilities you get from the bosses end up being largely pointless, except when up against their assigned boss, and the ice ability obtained from the fight against Mighty No. 2 practically breaks the combo system, as freezing enemies allows the dash to grant you full points from an absorbed enemy without really trying. The moments where defeated bosses help you out is a good idea in concept, but they feel underutilized in execution. Even the two more creative levels I mentioned are among the shortest in the game, while the more uninspired ones tend to drag on and on.

In the game’s defense, it does at least try to give its characters some personality, though it only succeeds so often. I did like the aforementioned sniper boss, Mighty No. 8, who bears a resemblance to Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name character, and wishes to become the first robot president of the United States. I also liked Mighty No. 6, a helicopter robot who thinks of himself as a newsman reporting from the sky. It’s cheesy, but I got a few chuckles out of it.

That charm only applies to some of the characters, however. Beck himself lacks any discernible personality traits other than “he’s the main character,” and the human characters (of which there seem to be too many) are entirely forgettable. And then there’s Call, Beck’s answer to Mega Man’s Roll, who just falls under the anime archetype of the girl robot who acts more like a robot than the other robots. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be cute or something, but it just takes away the potential for another actual character.

Mighty No. 9The cherry on top of this sundae of disappointment is that it just isn’t very pleasing from an aesthetic standpoint. While the original Kickstarter pitched a striking, hand-drawn visual style in the vein of Mega Man 8 brought up to date, the actual game looks like a throwaway 3D action game in a 2D perspective. 2.5D games can look great, as is evidenced by titles like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, but in terms of both art direction and graphics, Mighty No. 9 is certainly no Tropical Freeze. Not by a long shot.

Even the music, one of the most revered traits of the game’s Mega Man lineage, is largely forgettable. It’s not a bad soundtrack, but when you consider how often the tunes of Mega Man would get stuck in your head in the best way, and Mighty No. 9 looks to emulate the series so closely, the fact that I can’t even hum any of the game’s music by heart is a big letdown.

In the end, Mighty No. 9 has some moments of fun, and even some novel ideas that, in concept, sound like they could have made sense as an evolution of the Mega Man formula. The problem is that, in execution, Mighty No. 9 continuously stumbles. Its better ideas feel underdeveloped, and its lesser ideas feel like cheap, lazy knockoffs of its inspiration.

Thinking about what Mighty No. 9 originally promised and what it ended up being is so disappointing, it may leave you crying like an anime fan on prom night.

 

5

The Misadventures Of Tron Bonne Memories

Misadventures of Tron Bonne

The Misadventures of Tron Bonne was released on the Playstation Network recently. This is no small deal, considering the game is one of the rarest PSOne titles ever made (and thus one of the most expensive). It also happens to be one of my favorite Playstation games. Ever.

In case you’re unaware (don’t feel too bad, most people are when it comes to this game), The Misadventures of Tron Bonne is a spinoff of Mega Man Legends, making it a likely candidate for the title of most obscure game in the Mega Man franchise (except maybe Mega Man Soccer).

The Misadventures of Tron Bonne takes place before the events of Mega Man Legends, and turns comical antagonist Tron Bonne into the protagonist, as she tries to raise enough money to save her brothers from a loan shark.

The story is simple and filled with humor, but what makes The Misadventures of Tron Bonne stand out is what a unique game it is. Tron Bonne pilots a robot suit in action-adventure based stages, guides her henchmen through caverns in RPG stages, and even partakes in puzzle-based stages that can become pretty head-scratching. All the while she is joined by the Servbots who, along with Tron’s robot suit, can level up and gain new abilities as the game progresses.

To this day, I’ve never played another game quite like it. Its gameplay meshes genres together in very fun ways, and its story is a fun offshoot of Mega Man Legends, with the villains becoming the heroes as they fight actual heroes and more sinister villains. And it’s swimming in personality.

Misadventures of Tron BonneI have many fond memories of this game back when it was released in 2000. I had recently got Mega Man 8 (after having rented it countless times since 1997), so I was on one of my many Mega Man kicks at the time. I didn’t even know The Misadventures of Tron Bonne existed, since I didn’t see it advertised in any magazines. I went on vacation with my family at around that time, and during this vacation I went into a Gamestop (or EB Games or something, there was more variety back then). That’s when I saw a weird little game called The Misadventures of Tron Bonne on one of the shelves.

I recognized Tron Bonne from Mega Man Legends, so I was immediately curious. I was allowed to get a gift during this vacation, so naturally I picked this video game (even on vacation I couldn’t say no to video games). I had no means of playing it at the time because I was far away from my Playstation, which was still sitting comfortably at home. But I peered through that instruction manual (and player’s guide) countless times during that vacation until I got home (I was ten, okay).

I adored the game so much. Even as a kid, there were some games I hyped myself for but eventually got bored with. But I can’t recall ever being bored with Tron Bonne. It was one of those games that just grabbed my imagination. I would try to draw the characters, or draw my own characters who were really just ripoffs of the characters. I’ll still call it a strong creative influence for me. I loved Mega Man Legends, but I think I always loved this spinoff more.

As the years went by and gaming changed, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne still held a special place in my heart. I came to realize just a few short years ago that the game only received modest reviews from critics, much to my disappointment. But the critics were simply wrong, as far as I was concerned. The game was great, as far as I remembered.

Misadventures of Tron BonneI admit, until a few short days ago, I hadn’t played The Misadventures of Tron Bonne since at least 2002 (though it was probably 2001). I hate to say it, but I began to wonder if perhaps my feelings for the game were simply my ten-year old enthusiasm. I would need to play it again to see if it held up to my memories.

I am not currently in possession of a PSOne, so the news of The Misadventures of Tron Bonne coming to the Playstation Network was a great opportunity to revisit a favorite.

I admit I was a bit skeptical. The game was, after all, from the Playstation/N64 generation, a time that may have been important in my gaming life, but not one that has aged particularly well (Oh Goldeneye, I knew thee well). I was concerned more and more that childhood memories may have been dampened by poor aging. It was a month after I downloaded the game that I finally decided to take the plunge.

I’m glad I did. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne has held up wonderfully, all things considered (there are some camera issues and the mini-games can get pretty difficult, but nothing that affects the game’s appeal too much). I’m having a whole lot of fun playing through this overlooked gem once again, and rediscovering just how unique it really was.

My ten-year old self was right, the critics were wrong. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne may not be the most widely remembered game out there. But for me, it’s simply unforgettable (expect a review down the road). It may not be perfect, but The Misadventures of Tron Bonne remains a fun and unique game, and one of my favorites in Capcom’s illustrious catalogue.

Red Ash’s Kickstarter Troubles

Red Ash

Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s Kickstarter campaign for Red Ash – a “spiritual successor” to the Mega Man Legends sub-series – isn’t doing so well. It’s likely that it will reach its funding by the end of the campaign, but only just. However, people are now beginning to question whether it will end up getting funded at all.

This is in a stark contrast to Inafune’s last Kickstarter attempt, Might No. 9 (the spiritual successor to the original Mega Man series). Mighty No. 9 was an immediate, roaring success, being funded within two days of its campaign’s launch, and is often credited with popularizing the recent trend of crowd-funded games.

One would think Red Ash would have had at least a little bit of the same impact. After all, Mega Man Legends has a pretty strong cult following, and countless people were disappointed with the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3. With Inafune’s previous success with Mighty No. 9, along with fans’ demands for a follow-up to Mega Man Legends, you’d think that Red Ash shouldn’t have had any problem reaching its goals. But it has. Red Ash struggled to get even halfway to its initial goal, and it’s safe to say that the stretch goals are a bit of a pipe dream at this point.

This is a shame, since I think, overall, Red Ash looks like a promising concept. In fact, it’s only the second Kickstarter game I have personally backed, the first being Yooka-Laylee (I do fiercely regret not backing Mighty No. 9, Bloodstained and the new Toejam and Earl though). At the same time, there were some hugely questionable decisions with this campaign that have obviously played a part in Red Ash’s troubles. Here are my top five reasons why I think Red Ash has had so much trouble getting off the ground.

 

5: It’s maybe not quite Mega Man Legends enough?

Okay, so this first reason is actually about the game itself, not the project. This reason is also more speculation based on my personal impressions, so I can’t speak for everyone here.

Honestly, I love the look of Red Ash’s characters and the idea of its world, but it also doesn’t really feel like Mega Man Legends. It looks like a fun, anime-inspired concept, like Mega Man Legends was, but it itself doesn’t feel like Mega Man Legends itself. Since its position as a spiritual sequel to Mega Man Legends was Red Ash’s major selling point, the different vibe from the game might have been off-putting for many.

I know it’s a spiritual sequel, so it can’t be exactly the same. Nor would I want to see Keiji Inafune just recycle the same exact ideas for a supposed new IP. But with Mighty No. 9, the connection to Mega Man was obvious. It simply said that if you love Mega Man, you’ll love Mighty No. 9. But I don’t see that here. Perhaps Red Ash would be more reminiscent of Mega Man Legends if we had more complete information on it. But with what’s been shown so far, it’s hard to make the kind of connection I think Keiji Inafune was aiming for.

 

4: Two Kickstarter campaigns at the same time

Here’s where things boil down to the Kickstarter campaign itself. Or should I have been typing campaigns throughout this whole thing? Because Red Ash has two of them. The main Kickstarter is for the game itself, the second is to help develop an animated mini-series based on the game.

Keiji Inafune is one of my favorite people in the video game industry. I love his creations and I love his passion for his creations. I understand why he wants to turn his creations into big franchises that encompasses different media. I get that, and I respect that.

"The anime based on the game! .....That isn't even funded yet."
“The anime based on the game! …..That isn’t even funded yet.”

The sad fact though, is that this wasn’t a good opportunity to jump headfirst into franchising his creation. Mega Man Legends was never Inafune’s best-selling property, and it had the Mega Man name attached to it! So when making a spiritual successor that has no direct connection to a previous work (other than some reused character names from Mighty No. 9), and with crowd-funding playing a big role in its production, it may have been better to hold off on the animated series until after Red Ash proved itself worthy to branch out into the world of animation.

If you’re at a place where you need crowd-funding to help a project, I think that should be enough of a sign to not get ahead of yourself. It’s true that Mighty No. 9 has now been announced to have a feature film and an animated series in the works, but those were announced after Mighty No. 9 proved to be a success. The Red Ash campaign thought it would be in the same boat as Mighty No. 9 from the get-go, but that was always a gamble.

I know if I want to see an animated series based on a game, I kind of want to love the game first.

 

3: Too soon

There’s also the factor of Kickstarter-fatigue to consider. In the last two months alone, Kickstarter has seen three record-breaking video games: Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and Shenmue 3. All three games fill different gaming demographics, and most gamers who are willing to give their money to back these projects probably already gave a good amount of cash to at least one of them, if not all of them. Frankly, this just seems like poor timing.

Not only are a lot of gamers’ wallets probably running on empty, but after three big success like the aforementioned titles, people may have just been burned out on the whole “Kickstarter games” thing. Red Ash could have used more time to reignite people’s interest with the platform. Which brings me to my next point…

 

2: Mighty No. 9 isn’t out yet!

This seems to be the primary source for most of the finger-waging aimed at Red Ash. Mighty No. 9, the last Kickstarter game by Keiji Inafune and his Comcept studio, won’t be released until this September. Although Mighty No. 9 looks promising, people kind of want to actually play and love the game before they dish out more money to the same studio. You have to deliver on one promise before making another.

This further displays the poor timing of the Red Ash Kickstarter. Way too soon after a series of record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns, and too soon before Mighty No. 9’s release.

After all, Mega Man Legends was what it was because of Mega Man’s legacy. Red Ash hopes to have a similar essence with the legacy of Mighty No. 9, but it isn’t even out yet. You can’t hope to build on one game’s legacy when that game hasn’t made its full impact yet.

 

1: No gameplay!

"This sole piece of concept art is as close to gameplay as we've seen of Red Ash."
“This sole piece of concept art is as close to gameplay as we’ve seen of Red Ash.”

Here is the big one, as far as I’m concerned. If you’ve watched the Kickstarter video, you’ll see some rough ideas for cinematics presented in black and white concept art, some nice character sketches, and a bunch of people talking about ideas for the story and world of the game, with a few not-so-subtle hints about Mega Man Legends.

But no gameplay.

So they have a Kickstarter campaign for a video game, but the only hint of gameplay we have is a vague promise that it’ll probably be similar to Mega Man Legends. But how similar? What’s the same and what’s different? Will it be fun?

You can’t just ask people to send money for a video game without giving them any information on the actual game and expect it to be very successful. Let’s compare this to Yooka-Laylee which, from the get-go, showed some pretty detailed gameplay. Sure, Yooka-Laylee will see more polish and touching up in the year+ until its release (this wait will kill me), but with Playtonic’s Kickstarter, they showcased a basic idea of what Yooka-Laylee will be, how it will look, how it will sound, and how it will play. They mentioned some elements of the world of Yooka-Laylee, but their campaign was ultimately all about the game itself.

There’s just so much that’s still so vague and mysterious about Red Ash, and people don’t want to give their money to a rough idea. They want to invest in a video game.

 

There are some other problems with the Red Ash Kickstarter that I haven’t mentioned, but plenty of others already have. The sad thing is Red Ash should have been the next Mighty No. 9, Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained or Shenmue 3. But it isn’t even close to being comparable to any of them.

This is a crying shame. Mega Man Legends is a cult classic that holds a special place for many, and it’s a series that deserves to be continued, whether through a direct sequel (I’m a dreamer) or a spiritual one. There’s so much that should be right about Red Ash, and I really, really hope it gets funded. But if it doesn’t, it won’t be all too surprising at this point. The campaign has just been too sloppy.

One has to wonder how this all ended up so rushed. Keiji Inafune and Comcept worked wonders with Mighty No. 9. They had it all planned out, and it paid off big time. But with Red Ash, it seems they just jumped head first into Kickstarter before they had anything worthy to show (other than some cool art).

Red Ash should have been something special, and I would love to see it become a franchise. But it should have happened over time, after it had a great game to build on. Now we might not even get the game we want.

 

Mega Man 8 Review

Mega Man 8

Mega Man 8 is a terribly underappreciated game. It was originally released in 1997 to celebrate Mega Man’s tenth anniversary, but gaming was changing at that time, and Mega Man 8 was seen as old hat. As the years have gone by its gained a small following, but still remains largely dismissed. Its reputation doesn’t begin to do it justice, as Mega Man 8 – while not perfect – remains one of the series’ best entries.

Mega Man 8 was originally released on the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation, so it goes without saying that this was the biggest leap in visuals for the series yet. Given that its sequels revived the 8-bit visuals of the NES games, Mega Man 8 is still the ‘newest’ looking title in the core series.

While a lot of PSOne and Saturn games have aged for the worse, time has been kind to Mega Man 8. The lovingly animated character sprites and colorful visuals still look lively. It expands on the art direction of Mega Man 7 and makes the series feel like an interactive cartoon.

Mega Man 8The game even featured fully animated cutscenes that have a similar charm to the anime of the late 80s and early 90s. On the downside, the game’s English voice acting is so bad it ranks among the worst in any video game (Dr. Light in particular sounds like Elmer Fudd, but even less eloquent). That’s quite a dubious achievement. But you could also say the bad voice acting gives the cutscenes a campy charm.

Mega Man 8 didn’t just overhaul the presentation however, as it made some meaningful (and largely overlooked) tweaks to gameplay and level design as well.

Similar to Mega Man 7, 8 separates the selectable Robot Master stages into two halves. After an introductory stage, four selectable levels open up, followed by an intermission stage, then four more Robot Master levels, culminating, of course, with Dr. Wily’s castle.

While the setup remains similar to Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8 built on its sense of exploration while also adding some fun variety to the gameplay, making its levels some of the deepest in the series.

Mega Man 8 includes Bolts similar to Mega Man 7, but they are no longer dropped by enemies. Instead they are hidden throughout each stage, with some requiring you to replay levels after gaining new powers in order to reach them. The Bolts are used as currency in Dr. Light’s laboratory, where Mega Man can purchase new upgrades to his Mega Buster, among other fun new power-ups. Finding the Bolts and acquiring these upgrades is completely optional, but those seeking a good challenge and full completion should have a good time tracking them all down.

Mega Man 8It’s in the levels themselves that Mega Man 8 differentiates itself from its predecessors. Although it’s classic Mega Man for the most part, various levels will suddenly throw the Blue Bomber into a rail shooter (where Rush, Beat, Eddie and Auto can help Mega Man blast away enemies) or he’ll be sledding through a stage at increasing speed, with a robot sign informing him of when to jump and when to slide to avoid obstacles. The levels themselves are some of the most fun in the series, but segments like these make Mega Man 8 one of the most versatile gameplay experiences in the franchise.

It’s easy to say that Mega Man 8 has some of the weaker Robot Masters in the series, with the likes of Clown Man and the trademark-infringing Aqua Man being downright goofy. But on the plus side, the powers Mega Man gains from them are among the more unique in the series. Mega Man gains weapons like an electrical grappling hook, an icy shockwave, a miniature tornado that sends Mega Man skyward, and a sword made out of fire. The introductory stage even gives Mega Man a soccer ball power! Not all the powers are great, but they all come in handy throughout the game in either combat or exploration. This is also one of the only instances in which Mega Man 2’s Leaf Shield isn’t reskinned and passed off as a new ability.

The fact that Mega Man 8 separates its Robot Master stages in two halves also means that the first four abilities are really emphasized in the latter four levels (Sword Man’s stage in particular is built around them). Not everyone likes the change of segmenting the levels, but it actually gave Capcom a means to better utilize the Robot Master abilities. It also gave them the opportunity to further emphasize the story.

In Mega Man 8, a strange meteor has crashed onto Earth, emitting a powerful, dark energy. Mega Man goes to investigate, but Dr. Wily has beat him to the punch, and is using this energy to power his new Robot Masters and a returning Bass in a plot to take over the world. Mega Man, true to his nature, sets out to stop Wily’s plans, but also encounters a new figure in Duo, a robot from outer space.

It’s the usual simple plot of Mega Man, but it gets some appreciated extra attention. The aforementioned animated sequences add to the stronger attempt at narrative, but are also undermined by the comically bad voice acting.

Mega Man 8Mega Man 8 ups the difficulty from Mega Man 7, and has one of the better difficulty curves in the series. The first four stages have their challenging moments, but shouldn’t take too many attempts to complete. The latter four stages turn things up a notch with some precise platforming and waves of enemies. Once Mega Man makes his way to Dr. Wily’s newest castle, things become reminiscent of Mega Man’s earliest entries. It’s never as hard as Mega Man 3 or 4, but Mega Man 8 is nonetheless satisfyingly difficult.

Another plus is that Mega Man 8 has one of the best soundtracks in the series, and that’s no small feat considering the quality of Mega Man’s soundtracks. Its techno-inspired tunes are as catchy as the best Mega Man tracks, and they each have a distinct personality to fit their respective stages. Much like the rest of the game, Mega Man 8’s music largely goes underrated, but it should be ranked alongside Mega Mans 2, 3 and 9 as being among the best soundtracks in the series.

As a whole, Mega Man 8 is one of the Blue Bomber’s most polished games. It has creative level design, fun powers, a good sense of depth and challenge, it has a killer soundtrack and the visuals haven’t aged a day. It might not have the same level of excellence as Mega Man 2 or 3, and the voice acting almost seems to be making fun of itself. But Mega Man 8 has always been, secretly, one of Mega Man’s finest.

 

8

Mega Man 7 Review

Mega Man 7

Mega Man 7 never had it easy. That 7 in the title was already a bit of baggage, as Mega Man had reached that lucky number so quickly that many claimed each sequel was more recycled than the last. It also didn’t help that Mega Man X – the much beloved spinoff that took the series in an innovative new direction – had been released a mere year beforehand. While Mega Man 7 is no Mega Man X, and certainly no Mega Man 2 or 3, it is a better game than it gets credit for, and it added some little innovations of its own to the established blueprint.

Mega Man 7 is the first of only two entries in the core series to not be presented in 8-bits,  as it brought the series up to speed on the 16-bit SNES console. Naturally, this means that the visual overhaul will be the first thing most players will notice in regards to Mega Man 7. The sprites are more colorful and detailed than ever, and the SNES hardware allowed for more fluid character animations, with Mega Man sprinting with the enthusiasm of Mickey Mouse. Some claim that Mega Man’s new, considerably larger sprite makes some areas feel cramped, but you’ll rarely (if ever) notice any detriments in gameplay because of it.

The game is still fun to look at. While the past six games appear endearingly retro, Mega Man 7, like a number of SNES titles, looks timeless.Mega Man 7

It isn’t just visuals that make 7 stand out from its beloved predecessors, however, as Mega Man 7 had a few tricks up its sleeve with how you progress through the game and in gameplay.

The most obvious – and divisive – change that 7 made to the formula was that the game’s eight Robot Masters could not all be selected from the get go. After a brief introductory stage, players can choose between four of the Robot Masters. After their defeat comes an intermission stage, and then the additional four Robot Master stages become available.

The change may be a hard pill to swallow for some, as it eliminates some of the non-linear structure of the series by segmenting the adventure. Others might enjoy the change, since it does allow for the game to have a little more emphasis on its story. Separating the Robot Master stages in two halves means there’s time to tell more story in between. While the plot of Mega Man may never display any deep storytelling, it does help give Mega Man 7 a little more of its own identity.

Mega Man 7After the events of Mega Man 6, Dr. Wily was (finally) put behind bars. But after six months, four of Wily’s newest robots emerge to rescue their master. Mega Man sets out to stop the mad doctor as always, but now Mega Man is confronted with a new figure named Bass, whose allegiance is a mystery. Bass would later go on to become a more forgettable character (being somewhat akin to Shadow the Hedgehog, though more tolerable), but here he added a bit of intrigue to the simple plot.

Mega Man 7’s shift from the series’ non-linear structure to being more story-based may not sit well with some, but after six entries of virtually the same setup, you have to at least hand it to Capcom for trying something different.

The most meaningful change that Mega Man 7 makes to the series, however, is its stronger emphasis on exploration and backtracking. If you want you can just blast through the stages one after another. But Mega Man 7 includes secret items and upgrades hidden throughout its stages, and those wanting to go for absolute completion will need to make return visits to levels in order to unlock them all.

The best part is that most of these secrets are found by using the Robot Master powers, meaning Mega Man 7 once again makes those abilities relevant after the previous three entries downplayed them. Mega Man 7 also expands what 6 started with branching paths in certain levels, some of which can only be accessed after acquiring particular Robot Master abilities. It’s a small bit of Metroid added into the Mega Man formula, and it ends up giving Mega Man 7 a new layer of gameplay depth.

The Rush Coil and Rush Jet return, and are now joined by the “Rush Search” ability, in which Rush digs into the ground in search of more secret items. The Rush Adapter from Mega Man 6 also returns (this time as a single power-up instead of two), but now it must be unlocked by finding four hidden letters in the first four Robot Master stages, instead of merely handed to the player after completing certain levels. Beat can also be unlocked once again, though he now serves a less overpowered purpose and will rescue Mega Man should he fall into a pit. Additionally, Proto Man can be found in three secret areas in the game (including an optional boss encounter), and will reward Mega Man with his shield should the Blue Bomber find all of his hiding places.

What Mega Man 7 gets right that its three immediate predecessors couldn’t quite grasp is that it introduces these new abilities without sacrificing the importance of the Robot Master powers. All of the abilities gained from the bosses are useful not only against other Robot Masters, but also for discovering new areas and uncovering secrets. Even if you unlock the Rush Adapter and Proto Shield, none of these abilities feel so overpowered as to make the Robot Master’s moves feel superfluous. It may not be the most creative lineup of powers in Mega Man’s history (the Leaf Shield is yet again recycled, fittingly in the form of junk), but Mega Man 7 at least keeps them relevant.

The game makes some smaller tweaks to the series as well: The SNES’ shoulder buttons now give Mega Man an easier means to swap which power he’s using (though pausing is still required to switch to the Rush abilities and unlockable powers). There is also an in-game shop accessed by pressing the select button on the level select screen, which allows Mega Man to purchase items like 1-ups and E Tanks, with the various bolts he picks up by defeating enemies working as currency.

Mega Man 7 provides a good challenge for players seeking full completion of the game – which also extends the adventure beyond some of the previous entries, even without a second castle – but, with the exception of its ludicrously difficult final boss, Mega Man veterans may find it relatively easy when compared to the earlier Mega Man games.

Mega Man 7As previously stated, the game still looks great, and the lively visuals are complemented by fun character designs with the standard enemies. The Robot Masters themselves, however, are among the most forgettably designed in the series (does anybody remember Spring Man?). The music is a step up from Mega Man 6, though it lacks the same personality that made the soundtracks to he first three games so iconic.

Overall, Mega Man 7 may not be the overhaul to the series that Mega Man X was, but it did breathe some new life into the long-running series and introduced some depth that Mega Man 6 sorely lacked. It may not be the most fondly-remembered Mega Man title, but the sole 16-bit entry in the core series is not one that should be so easily forgotten.

 

7

Mega Man 6 Review

Mega Man 6

When any franchise reaches its sixth entry, things can start to feel more than a little redundant. This is especially true when a series reaches that number as quickly as Mega Man did. Mega Man 6 is not a bad game by any means, but to say it’s a predictable one is an understatement. It delivers a solid NES experience – often dubbed the last worthwhile game in the NES library – but it is exactly the experience you’d expect.

Mega Man 6 follows the same structure of its five predecessors: There are eight Robot Masters in as many selectable stages. Mega Man needs to defeat them, gain their powers and use them against each other, then he can move onto the castle for the final battle. Capcom was definitely working under the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” on this one.

It is true that there isn’t much broken with Mega Man’s core structure, but the previous entries all tried to add their own spin to the mix to some degree: 2 expanded everything the original started. 3 introduced Rush and Proto Man. 4 added the charged shots and a second castle. Even 5 had some smaller but no less creative twists to its level designs. Mega Man 6 attempts two innovations of its own, but their inclusions don’t do much to prevent it from being the most straightforward title in the series.

The first, and most prominent, of these attempts are the new Rush Adaptors. In the past three entries, Mega Man could call his dog Rush to aid him by turning into a jet or submarine or by giving Mega Man a boost in his jumps. In Mega Man 6, Rush instead fuses with Mega Man with two new abilities.

Mega Man 6The first sees Rush combine with Mega Man to create a jetpack that gives the Blue Bomber short bursts of flight, while the second gives Mega Man extra strength, being able to take out objects and enemies much easier, though in a much closer range.

These two Rush Adaptors are actually pretty neat at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that they ultimately make the Robot Master abilities superfluous. The Mega Buster of Mega Man 4 already diminished much of the usefulness in the Robot Master powers, but here they are an outright afterthought between the Mega Buster and the Rush transformations. Capcom strongly reinforced this by making every Robot Master ability copied and pasted from Mega Man 2 (that damn Leaf Shield is recycled yet again). As cool as the Rush Adaptors are at first, you can’t help but wonder why they weren’t just made into Robot Master abilities.

Mega Man 6’s other innovation is that many stages include branching paths. There are now multiple ways to reach the boss at the end of each stage, with some paths being more difficult but bearing better rewards (like more extra lives and those ever-precious E Tanks), while others are easier but give less. It’s a fun concept that isn’t always used to its fullest, but it adds a nice twist to otherwise straightforward level designs.

Mega Man 6Level design is one of the areas where Mega Man 6 falls short of its predecessors. There is nothing innately wrong with the stages, as they provide the usual Mega Man fun. But there is also nothing remarkable about them either. Mega Man 5 kept things fresh with inventive stage designs that introduced fun and creative gameplay ideas, but 6 seems to be running on empty in this regard (save for one segment in Centaur Man’s stage, where Mega Man must utilizes a body of water suspended above his head to make it through some treacherous platforming). The level design is solid enough, but it lacks the wow factor of the previous titles.

Those seeking a challenge will be happy to find that 6 has upped the difficulty from Mega Man 5, though it’s never quite as hard as the first four games. And if you’re curious about the story, Mega Man 6 basically rehashes the same plot of the past two games.

An international robot tournament is being held for the first time, hosted by the mysterious Mr. X. But the eight finalists in the tournament then get corrupted by Mr. X, who uses them to “begin taking over the world.” Mr. X claims to have been manipulating Dr. Wily from the very beginning, but given the history of the series, the truth about Dr. Wily and Mr. X shouldn’t come as a shock to any player.

The Mega Man games were never about plot, but there was a charm to their simplicity. But here the story almost seems tongue-in-cheek, like it’s more or less laughing at itself and the series. Whereas the previous storylines felt a bit earnest even in their predictability, the plot of Mega Man 6 just comes off as laughable.

The visuals are still crisp and vibrant. The graphics hadn’t changed much from the last couple of games, but they proved that even with the SNES and Genesis on the market, the NES still had some life left in it. On the downside, the character designs are among the most forgettable in the series, with the lineup of Robot Masters feeling close to bottom of the barrel. Given the “international robot tournament” setup of the story, the game has some fun with various exotic locations in its stages, though some of the Robot Masters unfortunately come off as stereotypes (need I bring up Tomahawk Man?). The music, while good, is similarly unremarkable. There’s never been a bad soundtrack in the core Mega Man series, but if one were to compare them against each other, the soundtrack to 6 might be at the bottom of the list.

When taking the whole game into account, Mega Man 6 is fun. It gave Mega Man one last hurrah on the NES by letting him do what he does best. It’s just a shame that the Blue Bomber’s final game on the platform lacked the depth and ambition needed to send him off in the style e deserved.

 

6

Mega Man 5 Review

Mega Man 5

Of all the games in the classic Mega Man series, the fifth entry is the easiest. Some may cry foul about Mega Man 5’s relatively easy challenge, given that Mega Man and extreme difficulty tend to go hand in hand. But Mega Man 5 didn’t signal a dumbing down of the series. Later entries would go back to their brutally difficult ways. Mega Man 5’s more accessible and welcoming approach simply makes it a unique title in the series.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that Mega Man 5 uses the same basic setup as its predecessors: The game starts with eight selectable stages, each one headlined with a different Robot Master. Mega Man gains new powers upon defeating each boss, with certain Robot Master abilities working particularly well against others. Once all eight stages are cleared, Mega Man moves onto the linear stages in the castle levels.

So Mega Man 5 isn’t exactly a reinvention of the series. But it does have some creative ideas of its own in regards to stage design, some of which have notable effects on the gameplay itself.

Mega Man 5The two most prominent examples are Star Man and Gravity Man’s stages, whose concepts may have served as inspirations to Super Mario Galaxy. Star Man’s level throws Mega Man into an outer space setting, which means the Blue Bomber can defy gravity and jump higher than ever, making for some unique platforming. Gravity Man’s stage will continuously send Mega Man walking upside down on the ceiling and back again, and falling upward becomes a whole new hazard.

The other levels also introduce their own fresh ideas to the series (the jetski section of Wave Man’s stage is another highlight), which helps keep things fresh and exciting.

One downside to Mega Man 5 is that the Mega Buster – Mega Man’s standard weapon – still feels a bit overpowered, as you’ll probably rely more on charging Mega Man’s arm canon than using the Robot Master powers (save for in the boss battles). This is a bit of a shame, as some of the Robot Master abilities here are pretty cool, such as Gravity Man’s Gravity Hold, which lifts enemies off the screen. There are still some powers that are recycled from Mega Man 2 (“Wood Man’s Leaf Shield can’t be reskinned enough!” could have been the series’ tagline by this point), but overall they’re more fun than those found in Mega Man 4, even if they rarely need to come into play.

Mega Man’s dog Rush still keeps his jump-boosting coil and jet abilities, but his submarine transformation has been left behind. Mega Man also gains the Super Arrow, which not only hurts enemies, but can also be ridden as a moving platform. Additionally, a secret power can be unlocked that summons the robot bird Beat to attack enemies and destroy hazards.

In terms of story, Mega Man 5 more or less recycles 4’s plot, but gives extra attention to fan-favorite Proto Man.

Proto Man has gone bad it seems, and he’s sent eight Robot Masters of his own to wreak havoc on the world. It wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that Proto Man is being framed, and of course there’s only one culprit who can be behind it all.

It’s another incredibly simplistic story, but it once again extends the adventure to a second castle. It’s in the castle stages where the game’s difficulty picks up a bit, but it never becomes as punishing as Mega Mans 3 or 4.

Mega Man 5The game also retains the lively sprites and vibrant graphics of the series’ other NES entries, and the character designs are an overall step up from Mega Man 4 – even if there’s no single Robot Master as remarkably awesome as Skull Man. The music is still catchy, though unfortunately it isn’t nearly as memorable as those of Mega Man’s more popular titles.

In the end, Mega Man 5 may not match the heights of the series’ heralded second and third entries, but it adds enough fun and creative twists to the gameplay and level design to make it consistently fun and engaging (because seriously, Gravity Man’s stage!). Its easier difficulty also makes it a welcoming starting point for newcomers to the iconic series, and a nice reprieve for veterans of the Blue Bomber.

 

7

Mega Man 4 Review

Mega Man 4

Mega Man 4 is often seen as a turning point in the series. Mega Mans 2 and 3 are hailed as classics to this day, while Mega Man 4 is often seen as the black sheep of the bunch. The next few sequels would similarly be less-fondly remembered, as Mega Man 4 didn’t give gamers much incentive to stick with the on-going NES sequels with the then-new SNES and Genesis on the market.

Mega Man 4 is a better game than its reputation might suggest. It retains much of the fun gameplay and sharp level design of its predecessors, and it even adds a good dose of narrative to the equation. But Mega Man 4 does have its faults – primarily in its lack of creativity and a gameplay change that fans still debate today – that prevent it from reaching the heights of the series’ finer entries.

The aforementioned gameplay change is Mega Man’s new Mega Buster, which allowed the Blue Bomber to charge his arm canon to shoot a more powerful blast. The charged shot made Mega Man stronger than ever, but it also came at a price, as it relegated the Robot Master abilities to little more than window dressing.

Mega Man still gains new powers from the Robot Masters he defeats, and like before their powers are effective against one another in an elaborate game of rock-paper-scissors. In the previous Mega Man games, the Robot Master abilities also found use in the stages themselves, but in Mega Man 4 they are useful almost exclusively in boss battles (some of which feel unfairly difficult without the correct power), as the new Mega Buster subverts them in the overall gameplay.

The Mega Buster was Mega Man 4’s thing. It’s understandable that Capcom would want to play it up. But they seemed to get a better hang of balancing it with Mega Man’s other powers in subsequent games. Mega Man 4 is so enthusiastic about its new toy that everything else in its toybox becomes an afterthought. Most of the Robot Master abilities even feel recycled from the previous games.

Similarly, Mega Man’s robot dog Rush doesn’t gain any additional moves, sticking to the same three he had in Mega Man 3 (with the Rush Jet strangely feeling clunkier to control than it did in its debut). The Mega Buster was at the front and center of Mega Man 4. On its own that’s not such a bad thing, but it feels like Capcom emphasized it at the expense of being creative elsewhere.

Mega Man 4That’s not to say that Mega Man 4 isn’t fun, however. This is still Mega Man, and you’d be hard pressed to find an entry in the core Mega Man series that wasn’t great to play. The run, jump and shoot simplicity of Mega Man is left intact, complimented by some great level designs that build on their gimmicks as you progress through them. Dive Man’s stage, for example, tests players’ underwater jumping abilities, only to test them further once the water levels fluctuate.

The stage design remains challenging, and will push even Mega Man veterans to their limits. At its best it’s on par with Mega Man 3’s difficulty, at its worst it can feel a bit frustrating. In short, if you’re new to Mega Man, you might not want to start with 4.

One of Mega Man 4’s highlights is its added narrative. Yes, it’s a simple plot, but Mega Man 4 presents its story in some fun ways. An opening cinematic explains the fall of Dr. Wily and the rise of a new villain, Dr. Cossack, giving the game a more fleshed-out setup. There’s even a fun (though entirely foreseeable) plot twist! Again, it’s nothing spectacular, but it gives Mega Man 4 a charm of its own.

The plot twist also means that Mega Man 4 gets a second castle segment. After Mega Man defeats the eight Robot Masters, he moves onto Dr. Cossack’s castle. Then, after besting that castle, Mega Man moves onto another castle! This extends 4’s length almost to that of Mega Man 3. Though Mega Man 3’s twist of additional selectable stages may be more fun, you have to give Mega Man 4 credit for including a twist of its own.

Mega Man 4Visually, the game looks similar to Mega Man 3, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. The graphics remain bright and colorful, though the character designs have taken a notable step down, with most of the Robot Masters’ designs feeling less inspired than those in the previous games (with the considerable exception of Skull Man, who remains one of Mega Man’s coolest foes ever). The soundtrack is still a highlight, though its tunes aren’t quite as memorable as those in the previous games.

Overall, the appeal of Mega Man 4 largely depends on if you’re looking at it for its own merits, or stacked up against the other entries in the iconic series. On its own, Mega Man 4 is a NES title that has aged well, boasts some great level design, and provides a satisfying adventure. But Mega Man 4 also lacks the inventiveness, balance and variety of Mega Man’s better titles.

 

6