MegaMan NES Review

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After a number of month’s, this site is back to doing what it does best – occasionally updating! But it is a new year with new goals and new challenges, so what better way of celebrating nearing the end of the first month by looking back at a classic game that started a franchise. It is easy with successful franchises like Mario and Legend of Zelda to look back and scoff at the simplistic graphics, gameplay and how it is inferior to it’s recent outputs. But what about a series such as Mega Man, how does it fare up today? Would it start off being mega, or anything but?

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Mega Man, also known as Rockman in Japan was unleashed onto the NES system in 1987 with it’s box depicting high resolution (but not HD) graphics and state-of-the-art….something. The box itself looks harrowing to say the least, with an Albert Einstein-inspired character in the top left looking pensively at a human-looking character firing a cannon out his arm. Mega Man is an action-platforming game in which if you didn’t know Mega Man then the plot isn’t necessarily easy to guess, as there is nothing when you turn on the game as to what the plot is about. But, for the sake of this review, the plot is that Dr Light who is a good guy created six humanoid robots who go crazy and being bad thanks to Dr Wily a.k.a Albert Einstein lookalike. You need to destroy these six humanoid robot bosses having passed through the stage, before a final show down with Dr Wily.

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So when you turn on the game, there is no developer’s titles, no schmaltzy backdrop and story to show you what is going on, you just get the title screen. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with this, as when you turn on the game you want to get straight into the action. You press the start button and you’re presented with six stages to do choose from: Cutman, Gutsman, Iceman, Bombman, Fireman and Elecman. You could hazard a guess what type of level each one is with Elec/Fire/Iceman but what kind of level is Gutsman, or Cutman? There are no clues but then life is full of surprises so why should the player be fully briefed what type of level is what? So having picked your level you then progress through the level until you get to the boss. Having completed the boss you then acquire the special power from that level, so for example with Bomb Man having defeated him you then acquire the power of the bombs which can be useful against enemies and certain bosses.

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If ever you know one thing about Mega Man it’s that is *balls hard*. It is that important that asterisks have to proceed and follow that statement but it is as hard as the asterisks make it seem. Mega Man is not a game for casual gamers, you will find a lot of time you will be shouting, swearing and wanting to throw your controller out the window. The problem is that unless you memorise the levels and the enemies within it, you don’t know what is coming up – you jump across a gap and then an enemy flies out of nowhere to knock you into the hole in the ground instantly killing you. Or, an enemy is on the ground so you cannot kill it by standing next to it and shooting, you have to jump on the platform below, jump up and shoot which you find doesn’t kill the enemy but paralyses them for a moment. What doesn’t help is that Mega Man’s moving physics resemble Luigi from Super Mario or if you run on ice in games – you start running but when you stop you carry on a little bit further. This doesn’t help when you have enemies that spring up from the ground and wasn’t expecting it, or on the ice level which you carry on moving even when you stop moving the d-pad, right into an oncoming enemy. Your reflexes and reactions have got to be sharp with this game, it isn’t one you can play lightly and without giving it your full concentration.

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In relation to the game’s controls, they are simple and straight forward enough – the A button jumps whilst the B button shoots your weapon. The d-pad makes Mega Man move which is straight-forward enough so who says that you need multi-button combinations to have a good game? The graphics of the game match the bosses well, moving from the deep reds and yellows depicting fire from Elecman stage, to the blue and white hues from Iceman stage. The colours are bold, bright and well defined – they pop off the screen and are great graphics for a game released early in the NES system. The music and sounds, well they are on point if ever there was – although you will find yourself repeating parts of the stage over and over again due to the difficulty, inadvertently you’ll find yourself humming the music which is memorable and classic.

Mega Man is a difficult game to review, inasmuch the graphics, music and overall gameplay is great, but boy is hard. As noted above, the game is certainly not for casual gamers with plenty of swearing and shouting, and even with gamers who pride themselves on liking challenges, there will certainly be a lot of deaths and retry’s in order to get to Dr Wily for the final battle. If you can overlook the difficulty, then Mega Man is a great game and a wonderful start to the franchise, as were Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda. Copies of the game are not the cheapest you’ll find for NES titles now, but certainly not beyond the realms of affordability, being cheaper than a title for current-gen consoles. It is a game worthy of your time and attention, with which if there was one piece of advice to give, then it would be to be patient. Try not to rush the game and take your time, with your reward being a completion of the stage, and your controller not being hurled out of the window or towards a loved one….

Rating – 4 out of 5

Megaman 2 NES Review

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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.

All the good futuristic happens in 200X - nice it's specific!

All the good futuristic happens in 200X – nice it’s specific!

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.

You'd need a big bag of chips with that piece of fish

You’d need a big bag of chips with that piece of fish

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.

Want to play fetch with this dog?

Want to play fetch with this dog?

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