Today, we’re going to take a look at the first installment of what is quite possibly one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time: the action-platformer Mega Man.
Originally released in 1987 and developed by the now not quite as beloved Capcom, the game’s plot revolves around the titular character as he traverses the world to defeat the evil Dr. Wily and his six robot masters: Cut Man, Guts Man, Ice Man, Bomb Man, Fire Man, and Elec Man. How does this game hold up almost 30 years after its release? Let’s find out shall we?
THE LOOKS – Of course, being a 1980’s game and a early NES game, the graphics are rather simplistic, with the character sprites and backgrounds not having very much detail. However, for a game released in the 80’s, they are quite dazzling. Although they’re not very detailed, each level is very colorful and varied in how it looks, fitting each Robot Master nicely in the context of their name and their abilities. To give a good example, Guts Man’s level is basically a construction site, while Ice Man’s level is an island covered completely in ice. Even if they haven’t exactly aged well in some areas when compared to the sequels, the graphics are still very good for a 1987 game.
THE SOUND – One of the things people tend to praise the most about the franchise is the music, and oh my jeebs, they are definitely in the right. The music is simply great, with each level theme giving out a feeling of action, as well as each one being VERY nice to listen to in its own right. The sound effects are also good. Not spectacular, but still good. However, with that said, everytime I hear that sound a Robot Master makes when they’re defeated, I really can’t help but to feel a sense of contentment…
Mega Man in Cut Man’s stage.
THE GAMEPLAY – Now here’s where I tend to differ from most people when it comes to this series. One of the things people compliment the most about this series is the challenge that it offers, but I really can’t help but to disagree. You see, just because a game is challenging, it doesn’t automatically make it good. A good example of this would be the Bubsy games, but that’s a topic for another time. When you’re a designing a game and want to make it difficult, you have to make it fair. The problem I have with this series is that sometimes, it feels difficult in a bad way. Most of the time, it tends to throw enemy after enemy at you, and while some of easy to defeat, most of them are WAY faster than you are, and when you add in the fact that some can take off a large percent of your health and respawn the moment you go back to the spot where you killed them, it kind of makes it a bit too frustrating. Now of course, there are plenty of positives to outnumber the negatives here. The way Mega Man controls, even though it’s not exactly rock solid (PUN COMPLETELY INTENDED) compared to the later entries in the series, is pretty good, making platforming throughout the stages quite fun. The stages themselves are also very well-designed, with each one containing power-ups and collectables galore, as well as requiring you to really time your jumps. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Mega Man review if I didn’t mention that after you defeat a Robot Master, you get its abilities. This alone makes the game very unique from other platformers at the time and even others to come after it, even helping you get to somewhere that you previously couldn’t, as well as giving you more power against your enemies. The gameplay, although frustrating at times, is definitely one of the strongest traits to be found here.
THE BOTTOM LINE – Despite the frequent bouts of unfair difficulty, Mega Man offers a unique, well-designed, and vibrant experience. If you’re a retro game historian, pick this game and its sequels up immediately, as they are excellent examples of NES games.
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