Now that the NES has been on the market for a little over two years, several publishing houses have risen to the top of the food chain by creating hit after hit. Among them are Capcom and Konami, two familiar names to arcade-goers. In fact, it’s no surprise that some of their best efforts on Nintendo had already been proven hits in the arcades. However, we’ve reached a point where both third party licensees have begun taking bold chances on fully original Game Paks, relying not on arcade name recognition and instead hoping their pedigree and positive word of mouth is enough to get these new titles into the homes of kids across the country. We saw the massive success Konami achieved with Castlevania, and now Capcom is going for it with its own original title: Mega Man.
One of the great things about creating a fully original game for the NES is that it’s not immediately compared to a more powerful arcade counterpart. There is no downgrade in graphics and sound because it was made from the ground up specifically for the home console. This also allows the game developers to think outside the realm of creating games for the sole purpose of eating quarters. Now they can introduce new ideas to further challenge gamers in unique and innovative ways.
This is immediately evident the moment Mega Man begins and players are treated to a never-before seen stage select screen. That’s right, you’re not going to be forced to play each stage in order, instead the choice is completely up to you on what order you want to tackle them. Each course has its own robot menace to contend with: Cutman, Gutsman, Iceman, Bombman, Fireman, and Elecman. Just making it through the challenging levels is a feat – but conquering each robot master will really test your skills. If you manage to succeed, you’re handily rewarded with that enemy’s special weapon that you can then use for the rest of the game. Part of the strategy here is discovering what each robot leader’s weaknesses are. That way you can tackle certain stages first and obtain the right weapons to take down the other bosses even easier.
Of course, you play as Mega Man, a small blue humanoid robot who was created by Dr. Wright. In fact, the other robots were also his creations, but the evil Dr. Wily reprogrammed them and now Mega Man must stop them from taking over the world. Once you’ve defeated the six robot masters you’ll go on an even more dangerous mission: the capture of Dr. Wily!
Mega Man takes some of the best ideas in previous games and merges them into one unique and fun experience. You’ll jump over bottomless pits like Super Mario Bros., shoot bullets like Metroid, and navigate a labyrinth of corridors, ladders, and disappearing blocks to reach the end of each level. Each world is themed around the robot master waiting at the end, so as you traverse Iceman’s world you’ll be slipping and sliding on platforms and trying to perfectly time your jumps onto disappearing ice blocks. Trust me when I say you haven’t been this challenged in a Nintendo game in a long time. Sure, games like The Legend of Zelda require puzzle-solving skills and are difficult in their own ways, but Mega Man really ratchets up the need for perfect hand-eye coordination. Jump a split-second too early or too late and it’ll be game over.
As you defeat enemies throughout the stages they may drop small power-ups for you to collect. Most of the time they will contain small energy pellets that Mega Man can pick up and refill his thermometer-like energy bar. If he’s using one of the special weapons acquired by defeating a robot boss, he will have another energy bar for that weapon. Some enemies may drop refills for the secondary weapons systems, so it’s often in your best interest to keep flipping back and forth between the various weapon systems to try and keep all of them topped off. As you make it further into the game you continue to get stronger with more weapons at your disposal, which makes for a very fun endgame with plenty of firepower to take on any adversary.
As we’ve come to expect from Capcom, the graphics in Mega Man are very good. They’re super bright and colorful and each stage has its own mood and aesthetic. There’s a wide range of enemy types and each robot master has its own animation routines to make each encounter feel unique and different from the others. The game does suffer from extensive flickering when more than a few enemies appear on the screen at once, but it didn’t really distract from my enjoyment. I just wish they’d get the technology worked out a bit better to not have it so prominent all the time.
Also great is the game’s music. Each robot has a unique song for its stage, which makes for a nice variety of tunes. They’re also extremely catchy and I found myself humming the music long after I had shut off my NES. Also, is it just me or does Elecman’s stage almost sound like the theme song from the once-popular carton show M.A.S.K.? No matter, you’ll find some of the best music on the system here in this game!
Controlling Mega Man takes some getting used to. He sort of slips and slides a bit on the screen and you’ll need to really practice his jumps to succeed. Getting hit by an enemy causes him to lurch back and can cause havoc if you’re in the middle of climbing a ladder or mid-jump. Unlike many games, there is no way to crouch to avoid enemy fire so you’ll often have to jump over incoming bullets or brute force your way through the opponents. Also, the instruction book says you jump by pressing up on the control pad and duck by pressing down, neither of which is true (A jumps and as there is no duck). The game is extremely challenging, but not unfair. It doesn’t feature a password system, like so many of this year’s games have implemented, but it does feature unlimited continues.
If you’re looking for an exciting new and original action game that features bright colorful graphics and a memorable soundtrack then Mega Man should be next on your list of games to purchase. The innovative stage select puts the power of decision in your hands and it’s great that if you get stuck on one stage you can simply move onto another until you find success. The controls can take some getting used to, and there is more flickering in the visuals than I’d like to see, but overall the game is a winner. It won’t be easy, but the journey is totally worth it!
Mega Man Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Capcom has done it again! They’ve squeezed in a gigantic and challenging universe filled with originality and fun that’s unrivaled on any other system. Mega Man offers innovative ideas like a stage select that sets it apart from the rest. Don’t let the horrific box art put you off – you should seek this one out and add it to your library.