Last week, I received a message on Twitter from the owner of Futureretrogamer and pointed out that this week was the anniversary of a special character deeply entrenched in retro gaming. A character that played an important role in my childhood gaming, that I spent hours upon hours playing and although was completed, regretfully have not played any of the sequels since then, nor gone back and revisited. So what better way of celebrating an important anniversary, namely the 25th anniversary of the character known in Japan as Rock Man but changed to Megaman for Western releases. Thanks once again goes to the guys at Futureretrogamer, so do give them a check out, but more important, happy anniversary Rock Man!
Today’s review is based upon the second game in the series that was released for the NES here in Europe in 1989 – Megaman 2, or what was known in Japan as Rockman 2: The Mystery of Dr Wily. For those not in the know about Mega Man, it is a platform game where the hero completes different stages and defeating the boss of that stage, acquiring a special powerup that will help in the following levels. Like its predecessor that was surprisingly called Megaman, after completing the various stages, you then move to the final boss and his stages – Dr Wily, who reminds you an awful lot of Albert Einstein.
So with the stage set, when you turn on the game your treated to the back story should you choose to watch it of course, in which in the year 200x (which sounded so futuristic and far away back then) Megaman is created to stop Dr Wily from doing something terrible, like taking over the world perhaps, or inflicting more terrible music like One Direction who knows, but can always skip this by pressing start. At the main screen you get your first glimpse of the 8 bosses and the stages you can choose to play through, its not linear so you have to complete a certain stage first. It can be daunting at first in not knowing which stage to complete first, but it’s nice your given the chance to pick. When you pick a stage, the level resembles the characteristics of the boss you see on the main screen – for example, the Wood Man stage you make your way through the level thats designed like a forest. As well, when you complete the level and defeat the boss your then rewarded with a special weapon that was relevant for that level. Again using the Wood Man stage as an example, when you defeat the boss your then given the power of a shield made of leaves. It’s interesting to note that certain bosses have certain weaknesses which make them much easier to destroy with the newly acquired weapons than if you used a normal standard gun, however you wouldn’t necessarily know this the first time round.
So for an action / platform game, you’d want good controls and good gameplay would you not? Well fear ye not, for the developers ensured that both go hand in hand – the controls are responsive and solid which in turns make the gameplay even better than what it already is. The d-pad moves Megaman, the A Button jumps and the B button shoots your weapon. Pressing the start button not only pauses the game, but also makes you select your special weapon – this will be blank at first but as the game progresses the special weapons are listed here. As well, over the course of the game you also get special items, three in total, that allow Megaman to access areas he couldn’t before, due to the platforms being too high for instance, so you are handsomely rewarded for your efforts. Finally, a new feature that was implemented in the second Megaman was a password system, so unlike Festers quest where you had to sit through the whole game with no saves, after each stage is completed a password can be displayed, in the form of grids and placing blobs in the co ordinates, so again its nice not to have to type in 32 characters of both lower case, upper case, numbers AND symbols!
The graphics themselves are bold, bright and well defined from the start screen where MegaMan is in top of a building in the city with the mountains in the distance, right down to the levels themselves. The only gripe about this though is that sometimes when there’s lots of action going on, the game can lag a little bit, and on one of the levels that has a waterfall if you stare at it long enough it could screw your eyes over so you look like Clarence the cross-eyed lion, but that is minor imperfections on the graphics. Given the constraints of the cartridge, the developers did a great job with the music in the game – right from the main menu screen to the final battles with Dr Wily, the music is memorable and still hummed on a quiet day 25 years on, with the sound effects equally as good – a far cry from the lasers and the explosions that was on every Atari game regardless of the genre.
Megaman 2 has been regarded by many as being the best in the series, and it’s very easy to see why. Having built upon the moderate success of the original MegaMan, the team developed the game further and tweaking the not-so-good stuff and enhancing what was already a solid start to the franchise. This is evident in which the game ranks within the top 100 games not only of the console, but of all time. Everything in the game seems to work perfectly, the controls are simple yet knowing which special power to use on what level keeps you playing the game time and time again. The music is memorable and you’ll be humming the main screen tune and other level’s music well after you shut the game of. Copies of the game can be expensive with the cartridge alone worth at least £25 on all good auction websites and local retro game stores, but for serious collectors and also those who may have lost faith with more recent offerings in gameplay. If you do anything in the new year, I implore you to check out Megaman 2, see the blue robot in action and thank me later. I’m off now to stop chuckling at the name Wood Man, being the mature kind of guy that I am…
Rating – 5 out of 5