Review: Mega Man

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Today, I felt oddly sadistic. While browsing thru my 8-bit library, looking for today’s retro classic, I came upon the original Mega Man. As soon as I saw it, I realized it had been a while since I dished out such a brutal dose of punishment upon myself, that today was the day. Yes, I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek about it, but it’s true, this game is hard. It will make you cuss. But it is also a classic. For the purposes of this playthrough, I am not playing a downloadable copy, instead I’m playing the PS2 version found on the Mega Man Anniversary Collection.

I first encountered the game as a rental from the local video store. I was probably 9 or 10 the first time I played it and it pissed me off so much, I promptly put it up and asked my dad to return it. Fastforward a couple years and I find myself living in Japan watching my Japanese friends play “Rockman 3” and I knew I had to try the series again. In Japan, Mega Man is known as “Rock Man“. (Think Rock as in “Rock n Roll”). For the American audience, Capcom decided to westernize the name a bit, and thus Mega Man was born.

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The premise for Mega Man is simple. In the future, people have come to rely on robots for almost all manual labor jobs. There are robots for landscaping, construction, housekeeping, etc. All is well and good, until one day an evil scientist, Dr. Wily reprograms them all to take over the world. Out of a sense of duty, the robot’s inventor, Dr. Light, modifies his own personal assistant, Rock, into a combat robot known as Mega Man and sends him out to defeat Wiley’s robot terrorists. Mega Man has the ability to change his programming to mimic the skills of whatever other robots he has defeated, thus gaining their powers for his own use.

If you can get past the the TERRIBLE boxart, inside you will find a rather pleasant looking anime-style sidescroller. This game is famous for being the one of the first (if not THE first) NES titles that allows the player to select which level to play. After the title screen, the first thing you see is the stage select menu. Once you have cleared a stage and gained that robot’s power, you can use it on any other stage you tackle. When introducing the game to my son, he had a blast dictating which robot he wanted me to challenge.

One of the most important strategies is figuring out in which order to challenge the robot masters. You see, some robots have a weakness to the weapons you earn by defeating other robots. It’s a bit like a grand “rock paper scissors” game. It’s actually quite a clever concept. Sadly, the game was largely overlook at the time of it’s release due to it’s high level of difficulty. Yes, it’s that bad…  This is where the phrase “Nintendo Hard” originated.

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Difficulty: Very Difficult  – As I mentioned earlier, this game is insanely hard. There are timed/vanishing platforms, falling obstacles, unforgiving mini-bosses, you name it. It’s a handful. But there is a very nice sense of accomplishment once you have completed it.

Story: The story behind Mega Man is a pretty interesting concept. It seems a bit shallow at first, and it’s not really eluded to much within the game itself. But when you think about it, it is sort of like a soft and cuddly version of  The Terminator.

Originality: There was a lot of new concepts brought to the table here. It may not seem like much today, but the level selection idea was revolutionary at the time. So was the concept to collecting powers and abilities from defeated enemies. There was a lot of groundbreaking about this game.

Soundtrack: There are some really catchy tunes here, but nothing that really stands out to me. The later games in the series really tend to shine when it comes to music, however.

Fun: Breathe deep, don’t get stressed and you might enjoy yourself. These days, I play MM for the nostalgia and the cute anime style graphics. But it’s easy to get turned off by the high degree of difficulty.

Graphics: The bright colorful anime art really shines on the NES. This was one of the first games that really got this concept right. It’s very cartoonish and it works well.

Playcontrol: The control of the game is not a really an issue. It is your standard platform experience. It’s just very unforgiving.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – The only thing that stops this game from getting a perfect score is the difficulty level. Everything else about the game was really jaw dropping at the time. It’s a semi-rough start into what turned out to be one of the more iconic game series of the 80s.

Currently available on: Wii Virtual Console, Nintendo eShop or Playstation Network

Other Reviews In This Series:

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MMX – MMX2 – MMX3 – MMX4 – MMX5 – MMX6 – MMX7 – MMX8 – MMXtreme – MMXtreme2 – Comman Mission

Zero – Zero2 – Zero3 – Zero 4 – ZX

BN – BN2 – BN3- BN4- BN5 – BN6

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