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Mega Man – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Few icons within the realm of video games have managed to remain as popular today as they did when they were first released. One such instance came with the arrival of a little title known simply as Mega Man. Developed by Capcom and released in 1987, Mega Man soared to become one of the most famous video game franchises of all time, as well as helping lead the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in its steady rise in popularity towards ultimately claiming its status as one of the most important video game systems of our time.

In the series debut, you assume the role of a young, human-like robot named Mega Man, who alongside you younger sister Role, were both created by master robot designer Dr. Light and his assistant Dr. Wily. Before the creation of Mega Man and Role though, Dr. Light and Dr. Wily created and assembled 6 robots for industrial purposes, but Dr. Wily became envious of Dr. Light’s accomplishments and thus reprogrammed the 6 robots for destructive purposes in an attempt to conquer the world. We then enter Mega Man, a rather simple housekeeping robot who has been refitted as a combat-ready robot ready to battle Dr. Wily and restore peace to the world.

Like most titles of this era, Mega Man at its foundational level is a very simplistic game from a design standpoint. You have 6 stages to complete with the choice being left up entirely to the player as to what specific route they wish to complete them in. At the end of each stage, you must face one of the six robots that Dr. Wiley reprogrammed in an isolated battle to the death, defeating them in order to progress to the next stage. After defeating one of the boss robots, you are given a secondary weapon based upon the very characteristics of the boss you just defeated. For example, when you defeat Ice Man, you receive the ability to shoot frozen shards of ice at your enemies and so forth.

What makes Mega Man quite unique as a game though is just how these weapons factor in your effort to succeed in effectively completing the game. Each boss has a complimentary weakness for a particular weapon held by another boss, in turn allowing you easily defeat a boss by using that weapon against them, or in a worse case scenario, having to engage in the slow and painful process of attempting to defeat a boss using only your standard blaster. This choice really allows you as a player to choose how difficult you want the game to be when it comes to boss battles. Do you attempt to defeat a boss in under fifteen seconds by using their kryptonite-like weapon against them? Or do you prefer a long-lasting battle that will require much more skill and patience on your part? The choice is yours as a player, which really coincides with the whole “choose your own adventure” gameplay style of the game in its entirety.

One would only wish that most of the weapons in which you acquire throughout the game were more useful outside that of boss battles, a welcoming decision we would only see in later games in the franchise. Mega Man also shares a quality found within many arcade titles – the inclusion of a scoring system. At the end of each level, you are awarded points that culminate in an overall score. Once you lose all of your remaining lives though, you will also lose all your collected points. This does offer a small incentive towards actually trying to stay alive for as long as possible throughout the game, but the scoring system is roughly a superficial display of one’s ability to gain a substantial amount of points as you receive literally nothing for obtaining a high score outside of a personal pat on the back. Plus, the game does not allow for any way to save your score or even display it through some sort of scoreboard for later viewing, which is somewhat disappointing.

Another interesting element of Mega Man is its difficulty. Mega Man is brutally harsh in terms of the challenge it presents to players, mainly stemming from its level design more so than anything else. This is not a game that will favor those wanting to quickly get through a stage or defeat a boss. Even for those like myself who are familiar with the game, it still presents a challenge due to the amount of attention one needs as a player to quickly adjust to the numerous situations they will suddenly find themselves in, whether that be timing a jump correctly or simply dodging enemy projectiles. Some of this difficulty derives from controlling Mega Man though, simply for the fact that the controls are not as tight as one would have liked. For example, there are plenty of instances where you will accidentally slip off a platform due to Mega Man showing some noticeable movement when he lands from a jump. While this is not a huge factor for a majority of the game, some of the game’s later stages heavily rely upon steady jumping maneuvers and landing capabilities on part of the player, which will undoubtedly become an issue for many players.

As such, Mega Man is rather unforgiving towards even the slightest of mistakes. While the game is not utterly impossible to complete, it requires extreme patience and fortitude as you often find yourself frustrated due to an unseen obstacle or failing to rapidly adjust in a tight-knit situation. Though one can undeniably see that Mega Man is difficult from the start, it is one that presents a worthy challenge despite being extremely displeasurable to play at times. The game does provide you some leeway in terms of being able to address such a challenge though, giving the player unlimited amount of continues but also forcing you to start from the very beginning of a stage or attempt a different stage altogether, a good choice even if it is rather limited.

Mega Man remains equally as fun as it is demanding though, in turn offering one of the most unique platforming experiences on the NES. It is certainly not a game that everyone will enjoy, and even fans who enjoy the platforming genre will find some segments within the game extremely arduous, but it is one of these titles that many players will feel a monumental sense of accomplishment once successfully completing it. It is a laborious tasks to say the least, but it is a feeling the harkens back to the notion of overcoming the immense challenges that a game presents to you, with Mega Man remaining one of the highest, most equitable challenges that the NES can offer.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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