keskiviikko 23. tammikuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mega Man Xtreme | GBC | 2000

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: October 20, 2000
AVAILABLE ON: GBC
DEVELOPER(S): Capcom
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom

When I started doing the Mega Man series for the original Game Boy, I got an e-mail concerning Mega Man X. Since I've only done the first three games in the past, this anonymous sender asked me if I was going to review the other five games. That's not going to happen, at least not during this particular Mega Man marathon. I don't have access to the games at the moment, and I still have a lot more to go than I'm comfortable with already. I told 'em that, and that I am going to check out Mega Man Zero, which is the next series and continues the X storyline. After finishing my response, I realized Mega Man Xtreme exists. It's basically a cross between Mega Man X and Mega Man X2, and at the same time, a Game Boy Color-exclusive original installment in the Mega Man X series. So, it's got a little Wily Wars in it, and a lot of the earliest Game Boy games in it; now that I'm in the zone, I might as well get this over with and see how one of the best and most complex SNES platformers (and its slightly weaker sequel) translate into one limited Game Boy Color game. From the beginning, I just somehow knew I wasn't going to end this initially intriguing trip too happy.

Xtremely heavy on the hands

Nice to meet you too, Dipsy.
Three hackers calling themselves the Shadow Hunters manage to break into the Mother Computer and cause an outbreak of Mavericks. With the help of a computer genius assigned to aid the Maverick Hunters, X enters a virtual replication of the past to erase the battle data from his past and thus end the onslaught... What? How? Why? You figure it out.

The plot is definitely the weakest and most confusing in all the Mega Man franchise (Grade-A accomplishment), and obviously just something quick that the storyboard designers came up with in under a minute to disguise this remake as a fresh entry in the Mega Man X series. Mega Man X has always been one step forward from the rest of the franchise when it comes to the importance and effect of the plot, but Mega Man Xtreme is definitely a break in the strain. After the intro - which lasts forever - all that's left is to find out how the game plays out. Hopefully good, but remembering how dynamic and complex these games were in 16-bit format, and how great they looked and sounded, casts a shadow of reality on the game before it even starts.

X is looking kinda pale...
The original games looked and sounded very nice; they had lots of colours and graphical detail, and the soundtracks of the first two games were some of the best bundles of tunes in the whole franchise. Those same tunes appear here, and the quality of the ported music changes constantly. The top tunes from both games, Storm Eagle and Flame Stag, sound horrible. Spark Mandrill, the next best thing, sounds alright. The title tune of the first game, again, takes a turn to the shitter. You never know what to expect. On top of all, the audio glitches every time you charge the X-Buster or any weapon once you gain the necessary upgrade to do that. If you do what's recommended as far as smooth gameplay is concerned and set the X-Buster to charge automatically, the music fades and breaks all the time. When it comes to how the game looks, well, let's just say I'd wished for just a little more detail - can't be too rough on the graphics of an awesome-looking 16-bit game ported to the Game Boy Color as well as it's possible. X goes under no artificial changes at all after the upgrades, not even colour changes. That's my only true peeve; you can actually miss the upgrades even if you find the hidden upgrade capsules by forgetting to step into the machine. Not only because of this, but a distracting break-action cutscene every time you manage to find one. Overall, the game has a few too many cutscenes considering how crappy the plot is.

Not quite as pumped up about
this meeting as I originally was.
The badly ported theme and
bulky controls took care of that.
The team did a fine job in picking the cream of the crop from Mega Man X and X2 for the game for a change; all of Storm Eagle, Flame Stag, Spark Mandrill, Wheel Gator, Armored Armadillo and Magna Centipede are in, and that's good enough for me considering the bulk of source material available. The levels are pretty much edited or otherwise modified versions of the very same levels that appeared in the original Mega Man X games. Even the new levels are designed in some fashion of accordance to random originals.

So, Mega Man Xtreme progresses pretty much the same way as the Game Boy installments in the original Mega Man series. At first, there are four bosses from the past, then an original level, another set of four bosses, and then another original level. AND, finally, a boss survival, and the final level. But, there's a little twist, "little" being a term used loosely. The first set is the Normal Mode, the second a Hard Mode in which the levels are harder, but you get to keep all of your upgrades and enhancements. The boss survival and the final level make up for the Xtreme Mode, in which all of your upgrades and enhancements are - BADA-DA-DAM! - removed. And, it isn't just a boss survival, but you have to start the whole game over, with all levels accessible from the beginning. If you want the upgrades and enhancements, you'll have to get those again as well. And, you'll have to play hard versions of the final levels of the two previous modes. It's like the last two "modes" were demos, and this is the real game. Feels kinda vain, don't it? Oh, you have no idea how frustrating it is. You can't tell by just reading this, I swear - especially since you can't feel physical pain by just reading a review.

KYEE, you so bad!
I hurt my hand pretty bad a few days ago, but I've been able to play just fine, and I've also been able to be at 100% at work, so it got better pretty quick. After completing just a couple of levels in this game, the pain came back and my hand flared up so bad that I almost threw up. It's just impossible to translate a game like Mega Man X and its most important unique features (like the dash, dash jump and especially wall climb) for such a limited control scheme, but sometimes it feels like they didn't even try. Jumping from wall to wall with the leg upgrade is uncomfortably stiff, especially in Flame Stag's stage, where you have to do it quick in order to escape the magma erupting from the volcano. Charging up any weapon to use alt-fire such as the Speed Burner doesn't always work and your attempted flame dash will land you straight on spikes with not even a hint of an attempt from the game's behalf (any player who has went for the secret Street Fighter upgrades in the game know what I'm talking about). Generally, the level design is quite cramped and dodging the most basic attacks is not only uncomfortable but extremely hard in such narrow playfields. Although the Normal Mode is named as such, it's far from Normal. The Xtreme Mode, however, could be outright renamed the Evil Mode. I'm surprised if anyone can bear the game that far and won't rather just switch to the awesomeness which is the original Mega Man X.

It's a kind of cool, but a really bulky and uncomfortable port, which could've easily been pushed forward by just a year and be unleashed on the Game Boy Advance, if they necessarily wanted to make it. Just two extra buttons would've helped. But, even while the Game Boy Advance had been out for months, they followed up with a sequel to this game for the Game Boy Color in 2001. Let's not question the logic just yet, let's get that game out of the way while we're at it... first, I have to rest my right hand a bit, though.

UPS
+ The bosses are mostly cream of the available crop

DOWNS
- I would've breathed easier if it was a simple remake instead of a pseudo-sequel with a whack plot
- The break-action cutscenes are annoying and they come in numbers
- The quality of the audio changes constantly, while nothing really lives up to the original soundtrack as much as possible
- Advanced control is painful
- When the Xtreme Mode kicks in, everything you've already done feels less than pointless

< 6.5 >

maanantai 21. tammikuuta 2013

A blue interlude

Listen to this guy go on my favourite Mega Man theme song of all time. Phenomenal fret work. Love it.


REVIEW - Mega Man 10 | PS3 | 2010

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: March 1, 2010 (Wii)
AVAILABLE ON: PS3, Wii, Xbox 360
DEVELOPER(S): Inti Creates, Capcom
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom

In 1996, a group of former Capcom employees founded Inti Creates. They spent their early years working on cult PlayStation games which never were to see daylight outside the Japanese borders. In the west, Inti Creates didn't become known before they returned to Capcom and presented the Mega Man Zero series for the Game Boy Advance in 2002. In a classic case of succeeding by the means of going back to the future, they had their big break with the throwback title Mega Man 9 in 2008 - a vintage 8-bit Mega Man game, complete with a silly plotline, weird bosses, a compact selection of favourite general gameplay features from the series, and a deliberately high level of difficulty. Mega Man 9 was something that was created just for fun, and as a spiritual successor to the most successful game in the whole franchise, Mega Man 2. Mega Man 10, on the other hand, was perceived as a whole new game - while still in 8-bit format, it's as full-blooded as a Mega Man sequel can be instead of an attempt at revival. No matter how they colour this ambitious endeavor up, it's still Mega Man as far as us players are concerned - whether going back to the main series again was a good choice or not, it's as heart warming and appealing for pretty much the same reasons as its predecessor. And extremely difficult - as hard as it is to believe, even moreso than its predecessor. But you've got an alternative, if you're up for being called a pussy.

For those about to play... we abuse you

The Roboenza virus spreads in robots like wildfire, eventually causing some of them to go on a rampage. With robots generally malfunctioning all over the world, people find it hard to perform the most mundane everyday tasks, and due to their machinery failing, scientists are unable to come up with a cure. Dr. Light and Mega Man reluctantly team up with Dr. Wily, who claims to have come up with a cure which was stolen by an infected robot. Mega Man sets out to challenge the "infected eight" in an attempt to locate Wily's missing cure.

And Mega Man's just laughing? God damn
Japanese artwork.
Storylines in the Mega Man franchise have never been ones of poetic and cultural importance, but Mega Man 10 is a new low - however, there are two things to catch the plot's giant fall. First, the whole thing's obvious self-irony, and second, at least it's different. At first. Fans should know by now that whenever Wily so much as appears on the screen, he's going to turn out the prime evil. So, as much as they try to colour it up with cutscenes, Mega Man 10 is still Mega Man of the very same basic structure it's been since 1987. It's just the way fans like it, and the way some critics hate to like it. But there's more to it than meets the eye - it's true that in some ways Mega Man 10 really does feel like a whole new game instead of the simple, endearing revival its predecessor was.

What about the bosses? 'Til this game came along, the Mega Man franchise had used every element available to create a credible Robot Master. Actually, they ran out of all the most applicable ideas somewhere between Mega Man 5 and 6. Recycling old themes and giving them different names might've been inevitable by the time of a "Mega Man 10" - and sticking to recycling with guys like Chill Man and Solar Man might not sound like such a bad idea when Sheep Man and Strike Man (you know, "strike" as in baseball) make their presence known. These two guys aren't even the worst, wait 'til you get a load of Pump Man, who is literally a sewer pump with a face.

The Challenge Mode is MUCH harder than it
looks like.
The developers cheated a little by pulling level design-related stunts that would've at least been extremely difficult to pull without generating the deadliest lag of the whole series back in the actual 8-bit era, such as the sandstorm that washes over the whole screen on brief intervals in Commando Man's level. The Legacy game mode is removed entirely, perhaps to drive home the fact that this isn't just an 8-bit tribute anymore. It's "replaced" with an arcade-like box around the screen, which I don't like too much. The music - which is completely original stuff this time around - is just God damn amazing at its best; Solar Man's theme is one of the best tunes in the main series, and the progressive theme in the first stage of Dr. Wily's fortress is second only to the classic from Mega Man 2.

Mega Man 10 offers the player an Easy difficulty level, due to some gamers and critics being very vocal against the previous game's difficulty level, from which there was no such escape. This mode, as seen on the demo screens, covers up a lot of spikes throughout the game and removes some hazards altogether, just to name a few examples which you might wonder about right off the bat. Let's face it, even if any Mega Man game might drive you nuts, you wouldn't play it on Easy - it just wasn't made to be played on Easy. Doesn't sound like such a bad idea, though, once you get into the game! Seven out of the eight main levels are pure evil with their unfair designs (like having three different enemies mauling you while you're standing on a conveyor belt and trying to nail down a long jump over a huge gap), and Dr. Wily's fortress, as awesome it is to listen to, is pure pain to play. Enter the toughest, lengthiest - and definitely most different - boss survival ever, and already you've got yourself the lousiest ball you've ever had. It's infernally frustrating, especially since you're not allowed to enter Dr. Light's Lab in between the just homicidal levels of the fortress - but addictive. Mega Man has got to be the most ironic game series of all time.

Mega Man 10 also offers the player a free chance to play as Proto Man. He was DLC for the previous game, but he functions exactly the same as he did as DLC; he has more moves than Mega Man and a chargeable weapon, only he takes double the damage. Appealing, isn't he? Why don't you take Proto Man for a spin on Hard and see what hell truly is? As cool as Proto Man is, I wouldn't touch him with a stick, not even on Normal. I've got enough problems with my sanity as it is.

The minibosses will have your blue ass if
you don't come prepared. And even if you do.
What you might find the most challenging and frustrating about Mega Man 10 - if you care for that sort of stuff - are two things, Challenge Mode and the Trophies, which were gloriously missing from the previous installment. I'll get to those real quick, but Challenge Mode needs an explanation first. In the previous game, there was but a Challenge List, which kind of compensated for the lack of Trophies. This list of different criterias included all sorts of challenges, like beating the game without your helmet on (still [IM]possible), defeating a certain number of enemies, finishing each boss off by using the Mega Buster etc.. Well, now we have Challenge MODE, which kind of works the same way, but there's more. You see, you unlock different challenges by playing the game. For example, just reaching a Robot Master adds his name on the Challenge List. You can then check out the related challenge from the list and try to conquer it to add to the 100% completion of the game. You probably need to defeat the bastard, whoever it is, by using the Mega Buster, to nail the challenge. The boss fight reprisals aren't even the worst on the list. Spike/jump puzzles ain't funny - ain't funny at all. Even when there are no enemies present, these might still turn out the most frustrating challenges.

Unless you are somehow able to put your pride on the line by choosing the easiest difficulty level to clash through this son of a bitch, you will have a hard time just completing one level in Mega Man 10. If the levels themselves won't prove to be enough to provide, the minibosses surely will - the Robot Masters themselves are moderately easy once you get started and figure out their weaknesses. The Trophies demand much more from you, too much at that. Like clearing the game without dying, or continuing, and finally, without getting damaged AT ALL. It's just sick. I actually made it to a boss room without getting damaged in Mega Man 9 once... but in this game's case, I see it as an utter impossibility on Normal and beyond. It's just way too unfair and unpredictable for that.

Quit pumping shit, bro.
Once again, unless you're man enough to admit your incompetence and choose Easy, you will find the most difficult Mega Man game of all time in Mega Man 10. There's so much more to it than being able to beat the eight main levels of the game - that's where the hell only begins. Once again, true fans will definitely get their money's worth and then some, but if you're a casual, sensitive gamer, you might want to turn to some other game instead.

Post-review rant - subject: Easy Mode. After getting raped by the first and second Wily stages enough times, I was more than convinced that the only way I was going to see this game to the end was to switch to Easy Mode myself. Well, first of all, the game was effortless to beat, and somehow I was not surprised of it at all. It's like mockery towards people who just can't beat the game. At least it's called Easy and not Practice like Capcom named the easiest difficulty level in Ghouls 'n Ghosts  back in the day - what's ironic is that even that level of difficulty was far from both Practice and Easy, and Practice is exactly what Easy Mode is in Mega Man 10! Not only are most spikes covered, there are also platforms to support your jumps and protect you from falling into most gaps, enemies are weaker and slower, and you take about half the damage you take in Normal even without a Guard Power Up. Health items, extra lives and an assortment of Tanks are scattered all over the place, and you get so much screws that you can empty Dr. Light's stock in just a jiffy, and rarely have to use that stuff at all. To cap it all off, the Easy Mode could just as well be called Trophy Whore Mode, 'cause playing on it doesn't really affect your Trophy run if you're not going for every single one of them. Some of the designs you'll bump into in Wily's fortress are still hell to get by even with all the help from the game, but all in all, this mode is a breeze - a big, insulting joke. Would it be so much to ask for a walk down the middle road again?

UPS
+ It's got a lot of surprises in store... yep, positive ones as well... well, at least on paper...
+ Amazing music
+ Extremely fluid controls
+ The Challenge Mode is frustrating and there are no real rewards for completing it, but die-hards who have followed the series from the early days might have fun with it
+ Adding Easy might make the game appeal to a larger target group...

DOWNS
- ...But we all know what die-hard fans of the series like a certain friend of mine would have to say about the mere concept - and the Easy Mode's completely effortless to beat
- Apart from the aforementioned choice of difficulty level, the game is simply too hard to remain enjoyable to the end; it would be nice to at least be able enter the store between the final levels, since there's simply too much to handle at once down there
- The plot, dialogue and the bosses are ridiculous, to which my friend would respond with "just as they should be", but personally, I miss the days when we had cool kids such as Snake Man, Gemini Man, Quick Man and Shadow Man wreaking havoc
- Why they didn't just give Mega Man Proto Man's abilities and just leave the latter out of the fray is beyond me
- The Trophies/Achievements are simply sick, there's no way around it, even if you choose to whore for them on Easy it's ridiculously hard to even attempt to nail them all

< 7.7 >

perjantai 18. tammikuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mega Man V | GB | 1994

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: July 22, 1994
AVAILABLE ON: GB
DEVELOPER(S): Capcom
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom, Laguna Video Games

We've reached the end of this chapter in the Mega Man saga, and it has been one rollercoaster ride. At first, I didn't rightly know what to expect of this game. Capcom never doubted their desire to have their third party make it, although the idea of uniting two NES games into one Game Boy title had ran its course, and Mega Man 6 wasn't such great source material for adaptation anyway. That's why they took a surprise turn and had them make a completely original game, the first and last for the Game Boy. With its originality alone, Mega Man V has got a lot going for it. It's not quite the punch in skeptics' faces as the last game, but a good, unique experience for sworn fans to have.

The planets align

Months after seemingly putting an end to Dr. Wily's struggle for world domination once and for all, Mega Man is attacked by Terra, leader of Stardroids, a group of renegade robots from outer space. After being nearly destroyed in the short fight, Mega Man is saved by Dr. Light and fitted with a new arm cannon, the Mega Arm. Accompanied by Rush and his new robot cat Tango, Mega Man takes on the Stardroids and their powerful leader before travelling the solar system to investigate their ultimate cause.

This screen is cool, although
I have to wonder about the
presence of the Mega Buster.
Apart from some interesting twists in the Mega Man X franchise, the story has never been a strong point or an eligible focus point in the Mega Man franchise, but I must admit Mega Man V has got a good plot, and even I wasn't able to see from a mile or two how it was going to turn out in the end. I still wish they'd just had Mega Man shut up, but him talking is the least of your distractions when heading into this game. It's so similar, yet so different - finally, they got rid of the "Man" schtick for a spell and gave the bosses cool names taken from the planets of the solar system, and designed them in accordance to what they represent in Roman mythology. The end result of that design is not perfect, but at least it's diverse. Actually, the Stardroids and their behaviour's much closer to that of the Mavericks in the Mega Man X series than the Robot Masters in any previous title in the Game Boy and NES franchises. They climb walls and ceilings, have some crazy poses and combat schemes. For example, Uranus (lol) keeps changing the structure of the very room you face him in, and pulls bricks off the walls to throw at you. All things happening between level sets and within the final levels is quite surprising. So, lest we pick apart the whole game in this one paragraph, the bottom line is that while every other series within the Mega Man franchise got worse towards the end, the Game Boy series actually got better; again, Mega Man V isn't quite as good as Mega Man IV, but it's not a huge drop and it's definitely memorable due to the final huge problem harvested, which was the lack of originality.

Bubbles, this game's version
of the springs in Mega Man 6.
Mega Man V is actually the first game to have Super Game Boy enhancements I've ever seen in motion. If recollection of history's evading you right now, the Super Game Boy was actually a SNES cartridge/adaptor instead of a successor to the Game Boy, which you could use to play most of Game Boy's library on the SNES. It was kind of a silly idea, but due to its fair price it sold quite well and encouraged game developers to really work on Game Boy games, I guess, because now people could play them on their TV's, using SNES controllers, which means they demanded more of them. What was the coolest thing about the Super Game Boy in the eye of the child was that the games were in colours - a whole damn total of 12 in-game colours. Seriously, the Super Game Boy games didn't look that good, and the border graphics (which supported 64 colours) made them look even crappier. I guess they were supposed to create some sort of arcade feel, I don't know - either way, today the same sort of border graphics are used in most ports of Konami's arcade classics available on Xbox LIVE Arcade.

OK, I'm playing on an emulator so I don't have to worry about the borders, they've been snuffed out from this particular version of the file, and I guess it's cool to have the game in at least something else than the usual black and white. But, it still doesn't look good, never did - then again, if we think of the game not as a Super Game Boy game, but rather any Game Boy game, it looks quite damn good. The design is good all around, the cinematics and animation are quite impressive on the scale, and although the lag STILL persists, the game looks and feels the most fluid out of all the titles on the Game Boy. Pissing on the atmosphere a little is the soundtrack, which goes from one extreme to another, mostly digging the bottom. The music is not very good. It's all new stuff, of course, which is a plus, but either it's just OK, or just bottom deep crap - and it just so happens that the latter kind seems to play in all the longest levels. It sounds like leftover stuff from a really bad Disney game or a casino simulator.

Although music is an important part of the Mega Man experience, jumbling it up isn't reason enough for me to start deep-criticizing the game. That's where the influence of Mega Man 6 comes into the picture. Once again, if your memory's not on the mark or if you just haven't followed me that long, I hated Mega Man 6. Not only did it suffer from the obvious - repetition - it had the goofiest enemy design ever seen in the series. EVER. It also had the stupidest and most badly disguised plot ever, and to top all the cracks on the surface off, it had terrible ideas in store for the "benefit" and "fresh feel" of the gameplay. "Optional" upgrades to your basic weaponry which you actually couldn't do without, and at the same time the elimination of Rush, and terrains filled with springs or other materials/elements to make Mega Man jump around like a bunny on dope. Like I said back then, despite the similarities, Mega Man was never DuckTales - adding physical elements like this in a Mega Man game was not a good idea. And it still isn't.

Your new weapon, the Mega Arm, is quite neat - Mega Man's still wearing the Mega Buster in the weapon gain screens, though... - it's your arm, and it comes off. Duh. It's also upgradeable by two different upgrades, which seem perfectly optional. Yet, if you want to survive, they're far from optional, and they cost a lot of P-Chips. The most essential upgrade is the Magnet Hand, which can be used to pick up items inside walls or otherwise out of your reach. At first, there seems to be no use for it. You do the natural thing and spend your P-Chips on Energy Tanks and other Tanks between levels. Then, the game suddenly slaps you across the face with a huge dick and produces about 37 instances of "fuck yous" within one single level, level after level. Energy Tanks, extra lives, crystals (I'll tell you about 'em soon)... don't have the Magnet Hand? Well, fuck you! Have a nice day! In all seriousness, the Magnet Hand is not that expensive, but after you realize how much use you'd have for it, it'll take a while to gather the necessary sum of P-Chips, and during that while, you're going to see a lot of essential stuff just pass you by. Besides, in the final levels you don't have much direct use for it, anyway, as much as you'll have for the other, more expensive upgrade.

How many times must we
go over this? MEGA... MAN.
MEGA MAN. Not MEGAMAN.
That's it for the upgrades and their unfair importance, but the most annoying thing about this game is that Rush is once again absent for the longest time - the excuse being that Light needs to prepare him for space travel. He's done that in every fucking game in this particular series thus far - I don't know how much more preparation he needs. Instead, you get a cat that has absolutely no use at all in my opinion. Once again, of course partly depending of the order you do the levels in, you might bump into essential items that are reachable only by using the Rush Coil. Just to gain this very vintage and basic tool to your arsenal takes time - a lot of it. Rush Jet is once again the only other obtainable upgrade, but before the final levels, Dr. Light PREPARES RUSH FOR SPACE TRAVEL - God fucking damn it!!! - and you can then use a spaceship version of Rush in a surprising and fairly entertaining, but somewhat hollow and linear space shooter level.

Also, Mega Man 6 had very faceless bosses (remember Yamato Man?!), only a few of which had an obvious theme. Here, they have bosses who have obvious themes; Neptune's level has many water-related hazards, of course, and Mars' level is like a crazy army depot with all kinds of heavy artillery set on destroying Mega Man. But, it doesn't carry all the way through. Waterfalls, for just one example, end up disrupting your progress in a lot of different levels, which renders Neptune's level less unique. Also, some of the bosses don't seem to have any sort of themes to their levels at all, although they could've come up with all sorts of neat level designs for 'em, if they'd worked on the game just a while longer. They ended up just repeating things in different order and fashion, even before the final levels in which that's expected.

I guess Rush is FINALLY
prepared for space travel.
This time, I don't want to break the game's structure down in detail. It's different than ever before, and there are two different boss survivals, one obvious one and one less obvious one, nothing really high-end difficult though. Replacing the Wily letters which enabled you to advance in the last game - and which were therefore absolutely mandatory to obtain - are four crystals, of different shapes, scattered across the latter Stardroid levels (yeah, its 4 and 4, of course it is). The crystals are truly completely optional game - I managed fine without them. I couldn't get them since I didn't have the Magnet Hand, and I didn't have the time or the interest to replay the levels just because of them. Surprisingly, I didn't have to. When combined, the four crystals cut your weapon energy consumption in half, nothing else. It's useful, of course, but not essential to anyone who doesn't use the extra weapons all of the time.

"W"? Could it be? Well, of
course it could. And it is. But
it's not as obvious as usual.
When it comes to difficulty, Mega Man V gracefully takes us down the same middle road as Mega Man IV did - apart from the upgrades, Dr. Light's Lab has pretty much the same variety of stuff on sale, and the most difficult spots are the levels themselves, especially since there are so many variables of a small, annoying flying bastard. It's funny how the smallest ones are usually the worst. The bosses really aren't difficult once you figure out the right path - be warned that some bosses are simply impossible to kill without the luck of having the right weapon - and in contrast to the last game, the final multi-phase fight is extremely easy, uncomfortably easy... then you realize it's not the final one. You're facing off with one more enemy after all you've been through in the final levels, who's just about as frustrating as Zero in Mega Man X2, the main difference being that you fight this guy AFTER the supposed "final boss" and there's probably a checkpoint (thank the Lord I had Energy Tanks so I avoided checking this), while you fought Zero just before the final boss and if you happened to die in the final boss, you had to fight him again. Unless you got all the Zero parts, of course. Luckily the upgrades and all that ain't quite THAT essential in this game. They're just annoying not to have.

Mega Man V is a good game, and definitely one Mega Man fans should seek out for the sake of novelty. It slaps the player around a little for the sake of mischief, in addition to already being difficult in the traditional Mega Man style, and I don't like that. It also draws influence from the wrong place and it sounds horrible most of the time, but... it's good.

UPS
+ Another all-around fresh take on a classic formula, and a totally original Game Boy exclusive
+ The plot, as irrelevant as it is
+ Surprising intermissions such as a space shooter level
+ The bosses all have different behaviour like in Mega Man X
+ In terms of artificial design, the bosses are a refreshing turn away from the "Man" gimmick...

DOWNS
- ...However, as strong as some of their themes are, there are a few unmemorable and less unique levels, like investment in them suddenly stopped halfway through development
- The music is awful
- Physical elements like the "nightmare springs" in Mega Man 6 are reprised, and they still simply SUCK... luckily there's only one level with anything of the sort
- The "optional" upgrades, or rather lack thereof, is shoved in your face
- Rush takes the longest time to appear, 'til that you'll have to deal with the useless Tango
- Mega Man is still the one protagonist I prefer silent
- The lag still rears a few times despite otherwise fluid gameplay

< 8.1 >

torstai 17. tammikuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mega Man IV | GB | 1993

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: October 29, 1993
AVAILABLE ON: GB
DEVELOPER(S): Capcom
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom, Laguna Video Games

Let's place the NES game Mega Man 4 and the Game Boy game Mega Man IV in a face-off. Mega Man 4 was a good game, but it was a notably weaker, less inspired and less memorable performance in every way than its two predecessors. Not to mention a very easy game to everyone who had suffered Mega Man 3's torture to the end; a bit too soft of a landing, so to speak. Well, Mega Man 4 followed two extremely grand installments... unlike Mega Man IV. Mega Man IV does not have any great expectations on its side. Mega Man X for the SNES had just been released in the United States to great acclaim, and the Japanese release of Mega Man 6 for the NES was just days away. It's no wonder people didn't believe that this sequel to a decent, but lukewarm and flawed series of handheld games would make any difference whatsoever. Oh, but it did - it turned out the most inspired game in its own series. In contrast to my low expectations, Mega Man IV is one fresh, solid take on the tired old formula(s) - and way better than the NES game that came out a while later.

The feeling you get when it all falls into place

Guess where we're at.
Dr. Wily interrupts a robot exhibition with a reprogramming signal, that causes the subjects to go on a rampage. He then unleashes four of his earlier creations to wreak havoc in the city, and retreats to his fortress with another set of four robots, and his newest pet project, Ballade. Mega Man, who along with some of his friends is able to resist the signal, vows to take the mad scientist down in his toughest and longest black and white adventure yet.

Well, I'll be damned. For real. When I first started reaping through these Game Boy exclusives in the Mega Man series, before I even got started with Dr. Wily's Revenge, I didn't believe I'd bump into anything truly special. There were good games on the Game Boy for sure, but rarely anything that would truly stand out in the big picture. Wario Land - the first one - is the only game to come to mind right at this moment that was a truly unique and memorable title, with all Mario games taken into account. Dr. Wily's Revenge didn't really make an impression since the level design was a bitch, Mega Man II was an entertaining but extremely easy game, Mega Man III was once again a frustratingly hard game with most of its difficulty stemming from the awkward level design and the total lack of slack. The structure of all of these games was near-identical, and all of them suffered from several different issues. Issues most of which are harvested in Mega Man IV. Some technical ones remain, though.

Mega Man stays silent as
he should... for now.
All in all, the game is way more polished than any of the preceding games. Maybe even all of them combined, considering all that it's got in store, which I will spill out soon enough. The graphics are great, the level design is fantastic - no more spaces cramped to the hilt, no extra challenge involved - and the music, both the ported music and the new tunes sound as excellent as you can possibly expect from the Game Boy. On the downside, the deadly lag is still very much present, in fact it's worse than ever, as you might expect from a game that absorbs the Game Boy's capacity by such force.

From the very beginning, Mega Man IV feels like taking an idea, placing it on a slab and hacking it to just the correct amount of bloody pieces to make it feel fresh, yet not alien. First up, it introduces Dr. Light's Lab - which is interestingly mistranslated to Right Lab. This is the first appearance of a store, and unlike in Mega Man 7 where the store was practically under a rock and I didn't even know of its existence before entering one of the final stages, you are clearly given the opportunity to visit the store after the completion of each level, and the acquisition of each password. It's still extremely hard to find any health items or long-term aid such as Energy Tanks in the game, but now you can buy them yourself, by using P-Chips that are scattered all across the levels, and yielded by most enemies at a 70-80% certainty. You being able to buy Energy Tanks, Weapon Tanks and Special Tanks - which replenish both your health and weapon energy - does not make the game too easy. The level design is very diverse (even the lengths of the levels vary), there are some tough-ass enemies to deal with, and finally, you have to enter the very final series of stages with the knowledge you'll never be able to use the store's services again once you cross that final threshold. Believe me, what awaits beyond that threshold is not a comforting sight. What relieves us a little, is that Mega Man IV is far from a near-impossible game to complete. It's the middle road that's been long paved.

Robot Chicken's early days.
Even the Stage Select screen is different. Instead of the usual boss grid, it's a 3D design with a big portrait of the boss and the level's general outlook revealed once you highlight one of the bastards. First, you have to deal with four bosses from Mega Man 4 - Toad Man, Ring Man, Pharaoh Man and Bright Man. Not only that, you might want to go on a little hunt for secrets and collect the Beat letters from these levels to gain the assistance of your bird buddy Beat - who I found no use for, though. After you're done with all you're willing to do here, the next order of business is disabling Dr. Wily's tank. Here, you'll face off with two bosses, including the new Mega Man Killer who is another  pushover in the vein of Enker and Quint if you figure out the right tactics.

After this, you enter Dr. Wily's castle, which is a bit different since it features the rest of the four main bosses - meaning your weapon energy won't be restored between levels. Charge Man, Napalm Man, Stone Man and Crystal Man from Mega Man 5 make up for the bosses in the castle. Instead of Beat letters, you are absolutely mandated to find each and every Wily letter to open the gate in the level that unlocks after you've beaten the four levels. If you haven't figured it out before this point, you can replay the levels. After opening the gate, you're going to find yourself pitted against the Killer again. He's a bit harder than before, but still pretty much a pushover in comparison to his predecessor Punk. What follows is a gauntlet run in which the weapon you got from the Killer turns out essential.

Hey, bro. Fancy meeting you
here.
If you played any of the earlier games, you might fool yourself into thinking you're pretty close to the end at this point, but you certainly aren't. First, you're cut off from Dr. Light's Lab for the rest of the game. You have to deal with the bosses on the deck of Wily's giant spaceship, then with a couple of more bosses in the interior area, and finally... a BOSS SURVIVAL. For the first time in the Game Boy series, you have to beat each one of the first eight bosses again, in succession, and it just so happens that two of them are weakest against the very same weapon. Luckily most of the bosses are quite easy to kill with the right weaponry, and your health is kept in check by the orbs they yield.

If Wily has the resources to
pay for this sort of stuff over
and over again, why doesn't
he just BUY the world?
One who is not easy to kill is Dr. Wily. Seriously, this is the toughest confrontation I've had with the son of a bitch yet. He's not impossible to kill, and there's at least one checkpoint placed somewhere in the three-phase fight, but he's still an extremely frustrating boss. Yet, the feeling you get from finally seeing him drop to his knees to the very same pose he's taken upon losing the game for ages, and then taking to the sky just to be blown up as always, and seeing "Thank you for playing - Capcom" on the screen is extremely rewarding. Mega Man IV was a long and hard game - and hard for all the right reasons.

There's an exact amount of two major problems I have with this game - the selection of bosses (which really can't be helped without any exclusive Robot Masters, the source material just ain't that good), and the graphical lag. Nothing else. It's a fresh game with a few neat surprises that immediately make it stand out from the array of Game Boy exclusives in this franchise - hell, the WHOLE franchise. It's almost as good as Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 on the NES, and a positive surprise if there ever was one. A definite must for Game Boy cultists.

UPS
+ Good, not to mention FAIR level design
+ The same structure is enhanced and enforced with a few surprise levels, such as the gauntlet run after the second Ballade fight
+ Good graphics and music
+ The store is a wonderful addition and a fine excuse for the lack of helpful items
+ It's long
+ It's hard, and for a lot of more right than wrong reasons

DOWNS
- The lag is one persistent issue as it was on the NES
- The selection of bosses isn't from the strongest end
- The ability to shop is removed perhaps a tad too early 
- Once again I find myself bothered by dialogue in a vintage Mega Man game

< 8.8 >

keskiviikko 16. tammikuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mega Man III | GB | 1992

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: December 11, 1992
AVAILABLE ON: GB
DEVELOPER(S): Capcom
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom, Nintendo

With the release of Mega Man III, the series of handheld Mega Man games was heading to nowhere, just like the flagship series of the franchise. Mega Man X was on its way to redeem and renew the franchise - for a spell - but it was still a year off. Mega Man III was released a week after Mega Man 5 saw release on the NES to a somewhat lukewarm response from critics, but good reception from fans. The Game Boy game was greeted as a return to form after the "immensely disappointing" Mega Man II; the team that made the first game had returned. Well, passing on the subject of how the whole Mega Man series would be destroyed by the media if it was made today, for now at least, I'll just say that the difficulty level of the game leaves no doubt that the same guys who made Dr. Wily's Revenge are back. As for how fresh the game feels like after playing the two previous games back to back... well, you know how it is. It's starting to taste a little woody...

...Woody and bloody

I've hardly started the game
and already I'm dying. It's
going to be a long trip.
Dr. Wily is using an oil rig in the middle of the ocean to draw energy from the Earth's magma core to power his latest ambitious creation. Mega Man battles through eight of his rebuilt foes and yet another Mega Man Killer to reach Dr. Wily's oily fortress.

"Oily fortress". If this was any other series, I'd completely refrain from saying something as stupid, but if cheesy's the way they wanna do it, then cheesy response's what they're gonna get. This is Mega Man III, the third game in the Mega Man series for the Game Boy, and in theory, it combines the most notable (not necessarily the best) qualities of both of the previous games, resulting in the best Mega Man adventure the Game Boy could offer at that time. In reality, it's something different. Not even the best there was. Being sort of "hybrids" of two NES games at a time, the original Game Boy series is the most uninspired part of the Mega Man franchise to this day. Not the worst, but the most uninspired one - repeating the stunts of an already repetitive franchise, and trying to disguise it as something new and different, and jumping from one extreme to another when it comes to the difficulty level. That's how it was building up to be.

Oh, come on!!!
Seriously, we saw all of this before. Four past bosses, four more past bosses in Wily's fortress, the new Mega Man Killer, the Wily level. Could it really have been so hard to make a game with a new plot, totally new and exclusive bosses and levels, generally a game that has some potential to be a cult classic that casual Mega Man fans would actually want to own a Game Boy for? Like Metroid II was for Metroid fans? Or like the Super Mario Land series was for Mario fans? I guess only Nintendo believed in the Game Boy that much. Still, Mega Man III was outsourced by Capcom, to a team wholly dedicated to improving from another team's Mega Man II for nearly a year. They had time to create one of the most frustrating handheld games in history by borrowing level design from the NES games and adding in some awkward twists of their own enough to prompt one to break his Game Boy in half, but apparently they had no time or interest to look into what made Mega Man II actually pretty good in my view. Such as fine technological performance, and a semblance of slack. OK, it was damn easy, and that's not good, but seeing Mega Man III's near-impossibilities, I find it hard not to respect the makers of Mega Man II for respecting the player.

The snakes are harder and
bigger. And now I'm blushing.
After the credits of Mega Man II, I headed into this game wishing for not much more than just one thing: balance when it comes to challenge. That would've been enough for me to look at the game a bit differently than what it is: an utterly frustrating and enfuriating, repetitive, ultimately pointless game, but still, irresistable in all its torment. Fuck.

Enough beating around the bush, let's take a look at the game, as pointless as it might seem - in short, you can just refer to the review of Dr. Wily's Revenge, all the things I said about its notorious difficulty and consider their point multiplied by a dozen. You could refer to all the other things said, too, 'cause judging by the look of the game, it feels like Mega Man II was never made. The very same technical issues make their return - there's lag and flicker all over the place and the controls are not quite as smooth. Well, at least the music's once again better (read: listenable by some degree), but it's no wonder since it's largely ported stuff from Mega Man 3 and 4 on the NES. The exclusive stuff might be a bit lackluster, but at least the sequencing's on the mark. Most of the time, that is.

Before we go - autograph,
please? "To Rock"
It's obvious from the start that we're dealing with the brainchild of the original team; although Energy Tanks are present (obtainable only by the spilling of some serious blood and tears, except those handed out to you at a chance of 15% or so), and both Rush and Game Boy debutant Eddie are in, as well as Mega Man's slide ability, Mega Man III feels like a step back when it comes to the cramped level design and the unavoidable hazards it throws at your face just about every passing second. The structure of the levels is merciless to your poor character with his pathetic (and meaningless) health bar, not to mention enemy placements and behaviours. There are way too many enemies that run up to you in tight spots, and damage you by either running into you or upon explosion when you shoot at them - there's no escape. You can only dream of health items, not to mention extra lives. The game's pulling the same not-funny prank as the earliest games in the series on steady intervals - you know, yielding the most useful health items from enemies you shoot to shit right above a chasm or a set of spikes, or inside walls, anywhere they're just and barely beyond your reach. Truly getting a health item in this game with no danger involved is an occasion - usually, enemies just yield weapon energy - which is usually useless to me since I clash through most levels using the Mega Buster.

Piece of cake, until you
realize you're underwater.
The structure of the game is once again slightly different, but very familiar - it looks like they're testing every variation of the same idea out on players, to find the best solution. In my mind, the best solution would've been to make a traditional Mega Man game, since capacity clearly wasn't an issue... oh, well. First, you'll have to make it through four levels starring those bosses from the 8-bit's Mega Man 3 who were missing from the previous handheld installment. Just so happens there are three of my favourite bosses from that game; Snake Man, Gemini Man, Shadow Man, joined by the less awesome lobotomy patient Spark Man. Don't think for a second that these would be the easiest levels in the game - I almost gave up going into the first one I picked off the list. Actually, I think these are the most challenging levels in the game - getting through the quirks of Shadow Man's level dubbed into a lagging Game Boy format, and the boss if you don't have the Gemini Laser to dish out some punishment, are accomplishments in themselves.

Although upon entrance to the center level you seem to be entering Dr. Wily's "oily fortress", that's not the case. I guess it's just the game's way of showing that you're getting closer. The center level is very short, as in five or six screens. In the end, you'll face off with a giant version of Suzy, a regular enemy most common in the first installments on both the NES and Game Boy. She's easy enough to hit and kill, but the arena is extremely cramped (it's set in a boss hallway, ouch) and she does extreme damage with every hit, "extreme" meaning about double the amount any regular enemy does to you. That's a lot in this game. Anyway, you gain a large health orb from the fight, which leaves you expecting more bedlam awaiting beyond the teleport... but, as the prank mentioned a while ago would have it, you have no use for health, as you're taken to another Stage Select screen.

Four bosses from Mega Man 4 now stand in between you and your very unlikely victory - and here we once again see how the imagination of character designers started to go downhill with and after Mega Man 4. At least the singled-out best-looking boss in Mega Man 4, Skull Man, is here to represent, but then we have Dust Man, Dive Man and Drill Man to even the score. Seeing that this bunch nevertheless represents the better part of Mega Man 4, I can't wait for the next handheld game... assuming it continues the tradition, I don't rightly know just yet. These levels are much longer than the first four, but perhaps not as unforgiving as you might expect after what you've been through already. Kind of reflects on the difference in difficulty level between the NES games Mega Man 3 and 4, I guess.

FINALLY... Rock has come
back... to the oily fortress.
This year's model of the Mega Man Killer - Punk - is a NIGHTMARE. Kudos for making him harder and more intimidating than Enker and Quint put together... but draw the line somewhere, OK? I sincerely think this guy cannot be beaten if you're not lucky enough to have some Energy Tanks with you. Considering how hard they are to obtain, and the certainty at which you've used them already before reaching Punk, I do believe you're fucked at this point of the game. If not, you have one more gigantic level to go, complete with the return of Suzy as a sub-boss, and as tradition goes, multiple battle phases against Wily himself. Although I used all of my Energy Tanks against Punk, and I'm *this* close to not only hammering this game to rubble, but abruptly pulling the plug on this whole marathon, I enter Wily's castle for the... 12th, 13th time? Ah, excuse me, "oily fortress". Got to stick with that one.

No - you spare me, please. I
beg of you. Just teleport to hell
and get shot down already. I
know the drill.
My... fucking... God. In all seriousness, a large part of the oily fortress ain't that bad. It's a pretty loose remix of all the stuff you've seen this far - not even necessarily the top worst stuff, which is the first positive surprise, to rear before the abundance of health handouts, which make perfect sense since the level is gigantic and absolutely impossible to beat if there was no extra health available. From the mid-section to the end, the level is infernally difficult. Not only will you have to face off with Suzy again, but survive half of this level (which is as long as one whole standard level) after that, and on the top, two phases with the final boss. You happen to die before figuring out a sure-fire strategy for the first phase, you are NOT taken to the boss door as per usual, you are taken several screens back, to receive punishment from enemies that are very tough to kill, and on which you probably spent your last Energy Tanks on the last round - if they weren't "wasted" on Punk. No rest for the wicked, let's just bear it. Well, Wily isn't TOO difficult. If you're lucky, you might even survive the whole two-phase fight unharmed. Extremely lucky. Thank you for playing - Capcom. Hmm... you're welcome... since I'm inevitably heading into Mega Man IV, I'd just like to say I wish something a little more soothing than a simple "thank you" next time. A blowjob, maybe?

Mega Man is Mega Man. Deep-fry it, and it's still Mega Man, but what the NES titles gave us at their best - hell, even at their worst - was great, innovative level design, cool characters, and most of all, SLACK and clear windows of opportunity, despite being difficult. They were difficult for a lot of right reasons - up 'til Mega Man 3, at the very least - not because of narrow levels with a 50/50 chance of survival waiting at each step even without the presence of enemies, and a deadly lag ensuing every time there's a little too much of that presence. Also, the structure needs work - it's beginning to turn out even more predictable than in the main series. Even with the stench of death lingering all around it, Mega Man III is an entertaining game - most of the time.

UPS
+ Better music and related technical performance than last time around
+ Nearly all good stuff which has been noted before
+ Good selection of bosses

DOWNS
- No, they just can't find the middle road - it's once again just plain merciless...
- ...As in extremely rough on the player, by being extremely stingy when it comes to health items, having narrow levels full of enemies that are outright impossible to avoid, and a pathetic health bar, plus on the technical side, we have a fatal lag to worry about every time there are too many separate characters or items on the screen - something like three or four besides Mega Man himself is enough to summon it
- There's no point in criticizing the repetition within the franchise anymore, since this is the way true fans like it, but the more specific structure of the Game Boy series is getting old; some new sort of plot elements and order of progress wouldn't hurt

< 7.3 >

maanantai 7. tammikuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mega Man II | GB | 1991

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: December 20, 1991
AVAILABLE ON: GB
DEVELOPER(S): Capcom
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom, Nintendo

Less than five months after the release of Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge and just in time for Christmas, another outsourced Mega Man title for the Game Boy hit the shelves in Japan. Mega Man II was released to very poor reception, most of it stemming from a nearly effortless level of difficulty and awful design. I disagree to some degree: I think Mega Man II is quite all right by design, but I do acknowledge the fact that it's damn easy - probably the easiest Mega Man game I've ever played, especially in comparison to its infernal predecessor - and it has its own bulk of flaws. But, it is a Mega Man game, and I think fans will enjoy it to at least some extent. Very brief extent, literally.

A flash of blue... in black and white

I never thought of using Wood
Shield here before. I'm a f'n
genius.
Dr. Wily steals a time machine from Chronos Institute and travels nearly 40,000 years into the future, to capture and remodel the one robot he considers powerful enough to face Mega Man - a future model of Mega Man himself. As always, he pulls into preparation and lets eight of his earlier creations loose on the Blue Bomber.

Going into Mega Man II, I was still a little torn in half on what to really make of the previous Game Boy title. It was a decent enough game, but it suffered from bad design and notorious difficulty for a lot of wrong reasons - including the bad design. For once in the history of the whole series and all its spin-off material, I really didn't know what to expect from Mega Man II. The moment I started the game up, it was like a revelation. It felt like a bright light. And not a very flickering one, either.

Simmer down, Garfield.
The graphics are pretty much the same on the surface, but here we have some good level design. Still pretty random when it comes to environments suddenly changing and having whatnot from past games scattered all over the place as enemies or background items, or platforms, but I respect porting whole rooms straight off the NES games way more than I respected those awkward original creations in the previous game. There are a few technical bumps, such as platforms not appearing until you jump towards them, but surprisingly, nothing too lethal even if they're platforms on open sky. Since a lot of the action takes place outdoors this time around, the pain of narrow hallways is not that present even if Mega Man still feels like a giant. Not too much small, annoying enemies either. No lag or flicker, a much smoother frame rate. We're off to a good start...

...Which almost comes to an immediate halt with the music. It's horrible, simply abysmal, throughout the line. There's some vintage melody in there - somewhere - sure. It just sounds like it's all recorded in a toilet, and (note: and) played from an LP at double speed. Terrible sequencing is the cherry on the top of the crap cake. The music is seriously so bad that it will make you angry, drive you borderline insane, give you a dastardly headache and finally, it will break your concentration in half. You will need to pause the game every once in a while, and you can't take it for very long unless you mute the system. I can't emphasize enough how severely bad music hurts a Mega Man game. The previous one sounded a bit sucky, but still dozens of times better than the noise this one produces.

I was really anxious to meet
"Dali Man".
Well, on to the gameplay. First of all, I'd like to make a positive statement about the controls. The Game Boy was never known for having good controls, but Mega Man II actually works better than its source title, Mega Man 3 on the NES. Mega Man's slide ability works more fluid, Rush works perfectly despite having such tiny capacity on his side, the menu is less of a drag to toggle and Mega Man has decent traction to his backward thrust whenever he's hit; I didn't fall off one damn edge during the whole game! I truly hope no one considered this game "too easy" just for having better controls.

Mega Man II has a similar structure as the last game, but once again, it differs from every other Mega Man game. First, there are four bosses from Mega Man 2 to defeat. They're the ones that were missing from the previous one; namely Wood Man, Air Man, Metal Man and Crash Man, who's for some reason called Clash Man in this game. There's no particular path for you to follow. Although one weapon works on each boss better than any other one, they're fairly easy to just blast through with your standard arm cannon. The levels are also very easy, and relatively short, unlike in the last game in which they represented the planes of hell, and carried on for eternities.

Instead, I met Wilyzilla.
Ehhhh.
After you've beaten each of the four bosses, you're treated to a "cutscene", and a room that looks very much like a standard boss survival room. Actually, it's a Stage Select screen for four more levels, and you have no way of knowing (the first time around), which stage and boss lurks on the other side of each teleport. Kinda dumb. And it just so happens that the following bosses are harder than the previous ones - takes some good luck to hit pay dirt on the first try, and face a mystery boss with a proper weapon, since your arm cannon will no longer work that well to your advantage.

Anyway, as you might've guessed, the following four bosses are from Mega Man 3 - Magnet Man, Hard Man, Top Man and Needle Man, to be precise. Not the worst bosses from that game by any measure, but still, the first two were never ones to mess with, especially not in the extremely small spaces this game offers for boss rooms. Top and Needle are quite pathetic if you have enough luck or knowledge to leave 'em standing last. After these four bosses, you'll meet the assigned "Mega Man Killer" of the game, who's equally powerless as his predecessor Enker. One more level later, you'll meet Dr. Wily in the easiest series of final confrontation phases ever. Thank you for playing - presented by Capcom.

...Wait, what?

Wow. My fastest run in a
Mega Man game in well
over ever.
Yes. It's amazing how Capcom seemed to take such serious offense of the criticism concerning the previous game's difficulty, that they drove their new developmental team to create this much of a polar opposite - an absolutely effortless game on the series' usual scale, and just a brief walk in the park in comparison to the previous Game Boy installment. I understand that overseeing the development of Mega Man II to the last day wasn't on the top of their priority list, but hell, they could've at least seen it through enough to judge if it was properly balanced. I was entertained by the game, sure, but I expected to sweat even a little. It's Mega Man.

As far as challenge goes, it's from one extreme to another, the previous game and this one. However... I must say I don't understand all of the critics, since despite being such an effortless run (one that sounds absolutely rancid), Mega Man II is notably more comfortable to play than Dr. Wily's Revenge and the technically superior game. The next game was made by the same team, and once again, I have no idea what I'm heading into. But, I expect a good game, and HOPE for good balance, as well. Decent music wouldn't hurt, either.

UPS
+ Not too innovative and still very random, but fair level design
+ The most severe technical problems are harvested
+ Good controls, dare I say better than in Mega Man 3 on the NES
+ Balanced item drops

DOWNS
- The music is nothing less of abysmal; horribly composed, repetitive and most of all, sequenced by apparent amateurs
- A little too easy on the franchise's scale; over in an hour
- All of my favourite bosses from Mega Man 3 are saved for another day

< 7.6 >

REVIEW - Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge | GB | 1991

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: July 26, 1991
AVAILABLE ON: GB, 3DS Virtual Console
DEVELOPER(S): Capcom
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom

In 1991, it was Mega Man's turn to conquer the Game Boy with the first game in an artificially confusing, but well received series. Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge was the first outsourced Mega Man title, and it was developed by a team whose leader was apparently a huge fan of the franchise, and knew just what the series needed to shine on the Game Boy, and make a better impression than most of its peers that had recently debuted on the handheld. I've always wanted to try the Game Boy series, so I started the first game up in good spirits. I left utterly torn. Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge is better than your average, old-school portable game - but it is also devastatingly difficult.

Metal up your ass

That jump can be much nastier
than it looks like.
Dr. Wily redesigns and rebuilds eight of his old Robot Masters to stall Mega Man down on Earth, while he's up in his new fortress in outer space, and working on what he considers the ultimate cure for his persistent, blue headache: Enker, the Mega Man Killer.

Not a day goes by I wouldn't have some major game project underway. Not necessarily a game project that I'm doing for the direct benefit of the blog, so I need a quickie for that. I was considering doing Mega Man 10 for the PS3 now, but I'd have to pay my respects to Mega Man 9 first. I still haven't beaten that game, either, so I thought it'd take me a while to wrap up my current major project AND the two unforgiving throwback maelstroms that Mega Man 9 and 10 are. So, I turned to this handheld series, thinking that after such a long and difficult game as Mega Man: The Wily Wars was, Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge would be dealt with in under an hour and I could quickly get started with this cult Game Boy series, that used to confuse a lot of folks back in the day - due to the similarity of the titles between these games and their totally different NES counterparts. Although Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge looks like a quick and easy game on the outside, it's actually one of the toughest Mega Man games I've ever pitted against. It's kind of good, but it has notable flaws just as just about any handheld iteration of a classic game back at that time. Each key subject of my reviews has a part to play in the degradation of the overall taste of the game.

I like this post-boss screen.
Actually, you don't need to do more than watch the game to see there's something wrong with it. The graphics - well, it looks like Mega Man, all right. A giant Mega Man in the land of the dwarves of bad architectural sense. The levels are like puzzles thrown together from bits and pieces of the first two NES games, and extremely narrow, cramped as heck. Jumping, whenever there's just a slight bit of roof on the top of your head and spikes right in front of you, equals death more often than my gamer's comfort can take. It's extremely hard to time or place jumps correctly. Your health bar is absolutely pathetic, and even the tiniest enemy can do a huge number on it by just one hit. Actually, if I'm not mistaken, there are only two regular enemy avatars that surpass Mega Man in terms of size - and as you might know, it's the small ones that unleash the most hell in Mega Man games anyway. There are some really annoying enemies here. All of them have been featured in the series before, but they were never this annoying. Nor were it ever this cramped. The game simply can't take complex enemies, like the egg-laying birds from Mega Man 2 - luckily, they turn up seldomly. Nevertheless, notably. The lag that ensues is guaranteed to leave you with very little, if any energy left. Technical problems such as this and the level design is just the beginning, I'm afraid.

The original music is not that good. The tunes in the first four levels (Ice Man, Elec Man, Fire Man and Cut Man) are taken straight from the first game, and they strike as the most familiar and best tunes here. From there on out, the soundtrack's kinda sloppy and repetitive. There are some horrid sound effects to go with the lackluster music, of which Cutting Wheel's cue might very likely turn out your "favourite". Man, those bastards are a nuisance like no other.

Due to the narrow hallways,
these drills from Mega Man 2
can form quite an unbreakable
wall if your hand fails to take
the pain.
Since it's a Game Boy game, Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge has a different structure than any NES installment. The basic idea's pretty much the same, though. There are four levels in the beginning of the game, which alone makes it pretty easy to pick the right spot to begin. There are actually no wrong ones, since the bosses all move in similar patterns and it's relatively easy to blast 'em all to oblivion with your standard arm cannon - depending on your current state of health. It's the levels themselves that are the true problem. They're very long, there's just a couple of checkpoints per each, and the game is REALLY stingy with health items, not to mention extra lives. There are no Energy Tanks at all. Very soon you'll realize how much the game designers actually prompt you to find every benefit in extra weapons, and how they help you to preserve energy, by offering you a huge amount of weapon energy replenishment instead of health. Kind of a cool idea, since the arm cannon has usually been perfectly enough to hack through the actual levels in any Mega Man game, but it calls for some trial and error, as well as an extensive amount of annoying menu toggling. Besides, using Time Stopper or Ice Slasher against any excessively annoying enemy doesn't remove the threat they pose; they can actually be more dangerous than usual while perfectly still.

We survived the game, what's
a few bosses?
The first four levels are based around bosses from the first game, and as I already noted, Ice Man once again returns to give us a few good laughs and not much more - the trip to him is nothing short of furious, since it's an ice level in a game that doesn't really shine in the level design department. Hell, it's probably the hardest single level in the game - I started from it anyway, 'cause well... I have principles. Principles which the whole character of Ice Man is very much against. Well, after these four bosses, you'd expect the sudden emergence of four more bosses, as seen in Mega Man 7 years later. Well, that's not the case - you're going to Wily's fortress "already", "already" meaning about six or seven hours of cursing later. If you're lucky. Wily's fortress is just one level. One long-ass level, in the end of which a traditional boss survival awaits - but you will not be reprising your battles with the first four bosses, instead you'll be taking on four bosses from Mega Man 2. Namely Flash Man, Quick Man, Heat Man (God damn it, first Ice Man and now him???) and Bubble Man - who's suddenly become a menace. Probably the hardest of the standard bosses. Well, after these bosses you'll go face to face with Enker, who despite being nicknamed the "Mega Man Killer" is not much of a killer at all.

It was 1991, and already we
were thinking how this guy
never seems to learn.
After this, it's time for the final level, Dr. Wily's second fortress up in outer space, which as a level is surprisingly easy, considering everything you've been through - it just has a wide array of single rooms that stack the odds against your survival with utterly unavoidable hazards, which are and have always been just retarded, and do not add up to a true challenge in my opinion. After one more long and grueling journey through a narrow labyrinth of annoying enemies, you're set one on one against Dr. Wily, who's easy enough to beat, as kind of a reward to you, for seeing the worst and conquering it. I don't remember when I've last been so thankful for seeing a game's credits roll. I think I actually got on my knees and passionately kissed my living room floor. I don't remember, for being in a trance-like state.

I'm not sure of my thoughts and emotions, heading into Mega Man II. This is the only game in the handheld series I knew anything about before this, and I still wasn't prepared for such a hellishly difficult game. It's difficult for a lot of wrong reasons, but it's still Mega Man, and probably the best handheld translation you could expect from the first game of its kind. I hope to see a lot of its flaws harvested in the second one - but since it is the first one, I'm willing to let it pass with flying (or at least gliding) colours, 'cause the basics are in order and it can be an entertaining game. It's a much better handheld debut than the one Castlevania made, anyway.

UPS
+ It feels solid, there's nothing to take away from the standard experience as usual (even in great games such as The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening)
+ No invisible walls or comparative gameplay nuisances which plague Game Boy installments
+ A clever structure
+ Makes good use of extra weapons throughout the line

DOWNS
- Technical problems with the execution of complex enemy behaviours; lots of lag and flicker
- Cramped and random level design
- Not the best cavalcade of enemies or Robot Masters I could imagine
- Sucky audio
- Very stingy with items that could actually do you some good
- Only one piece of equipment for elevation, and it sucks ass

< 7.1 >