Mega Man’s Perfect Marriage
Mega Man has had a rough time over the past decade or so. It seemed like there was a new Mega Man game coming out every few months, and many met with very limited success, if any. Because of this deluge of titles, some fans began to become jaded to Mega Man games altogether. Luckily, everybody’s favorite blue bomber is back in a game that takes the franchise back to its roots by prescribing to the old marriage adage. Mega Man 9 contains something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue (of course).
Fans of the Mega Man series on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) will immediately recognize this game’s something old. What I’m referring to is Mega Man 9’s retro-styled graphics. The entirety of this new game is presented in a glorious 8-bit style not seen from the franchise for a very long time. Every character, enemy, object, and level in Mega Man 9 has been given a classic old school look. While it won’t win any graphical awards, the game looks fantastic for an 8-bit title and feels very authentic to an NES experience, down to the ability to turn sprite flicker on and off.
Although the game may look like older Mega Man titles due to its graphics, it is still a completely new experience rather than just being a remade, retro-looking game. Dr. Wily is once again up to his world domination schemes. This time he is quite underhanded, blaming Dr. Light for the appearance of the new robots wreaking havoc on the world, even going as far as to ask for funding to help stop them. Somehow this ploy is successful, leaving Dr. Light in trouble with the law and Mega Man tasked with uncovering Dr. Wily’s scheme, saving Dr. Light, and setting things right.
To be successful, Mega Man must seek out and destroy the eight new mysterious robots that have been unleashed. As in previous game’s in the franchise, all these robots have a special power that can be used once you have defeated them. These range from Tornado Man’s ability to summon tiny tornados from the bottom of the screen to Magma Man’s three-way flaming projectiles. Adding another notch to the something new category is Splash Woman, the first female boss in a Mega Man game. She dwells in an underwater world and has the ability to summon attacking fish and can also fire electric bolts from her trident.
While you can tackle these bosses in any order, certain abilities you attain will greatly aid you in these confrontations. For example, Magma Man is a very formidable foe but is made much easier to defeat if you use the ability gained from defeating Tornado Man. This will do significantly more damage to Magma Man than your standard Mega Buster, and it also makes his projectiles much smaller and easier to avoid. Although the best order to dispatch of these robots isn’t really made clear to the player, finding the optimal path gives players a reason to play through the game multiple times.
This brings me to what Mega Man 9 has borrowed, which is quite a bit. While the game is a new entry in the series, it borrows heavily from its previous titles. Everything from its look to its design is somewhat taken from previous installments. This isn’t a bad thing, as it makes the game feel incredibly natural and even nostalgic for Mega Man fans. Perhaps the best thing that Mega Man 9 borrows from previous games is its gameplay.
Mega Man 9 plays like an 8-bit game in every imaginable way. Mega Man can move left and right, jump, shoot in a horizontal line, and climb ladders. The controls are very simplistic, relying on just the D-pad and two buttons. While the controls will instantly take you back to older titles, it is the game’s insane difficulty that will remind players just how hard older games actually were.
To challenge a boss, players will need to make their way through their level. These levels’ themes are fairly varied but also contain the obligatory underwater, fiery, and plant-filled locales. While every level plays a little differently, each one is incredibly challenging. Players will need to heavily rely on their ability to time jumps, fire quickly and accurately, and recognize patterns. Pattern recognition was extremely important in 8-bit games, and Mega Man 9 is no exception. Every enemy in the game, including its bosses, moves and acts in their own unique way, making closely observing their actions an absolute necessity. Once you’ve figured out their patterns, it is just down to exploiting their weaknesses, which can also be exceptionally challenging at times, especially with the game’s bosses.
Some players may find this kind of gameplay tedious, but many old school players will likely find it refreshing. The game also includes a store, where players can spend the screws they pick up from downed enemies on items that will help take some of the edge off this game’s difficulty. Here you’ll be able to buy everything from life energy and weapon refills to power ups such as one that will allow Mega Man to take half of the normal damage throughout an entire level. Being able to turn the odds in your favor by spending a few screws definitely makes the game more approachable to newcomers and can also be completely ignored by players looking for a much more challenging experience.
Taking Mega Man back to his 8-bit roots may seem like a step backward for the series, but I think it was the right move. Giving players a new experience that evokes the fond memories they had with the character in years past will go a long way to reinvigorating the franchise. That and having a new 8-bit-styled full game available for ten dollars is quite a bargain, considering how much it would have cost twenty or so years ago. Here’s hoping this title will be successful, perhaps leading to more companies releasing new retro installments to beloved franchises.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
It may not look good by today’s standards, but it looks great for an 8-bit title. 4.1 Control
The controls work well and are very responsive. The only real downside is only being able to fire in horizontal lines. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
If you are a fan of chip tune music, prepare to fall in love with this game’s upbeat soundtrack. 4.1
This is a full-sized 8-bit title, complete with a time trial mode. Playing through the story once can take between six to eight hours, but you could easily spend twice this amount of time with the game and still be having fun.
4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.