Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mega Man (NES) Review

Without a doubt Capcom's most successful franchise, the first game in the Mega Man series was released in December of 1987. Despite being arguably the worst of the original Mega Man games (1-8 that is), the franchise's debut doesn't seem get the credit that it deserves. It's nowhere near perfect, but to this day, it remains the cornerstone that every other game in the series is built upon. Sure, later Mega Man games made some fairly notable improvements over the original, however, the Blue Bomber's debut is still something that should not be overlooked by anyone that considers themselves a classic gamer.

First and foremost, if you've never played a Mega Man game before, the basic formula is based upon the timeless game of rock, paper, scissors—which is, for some reason, wildly popular in Japan. The bosses that you face at the end of every level each have one particular weakness and one particular strength. For example, Fire is greater than Ice, which is greater than Electricity, and so on. Upon defeating one of Dr. Wily's minions, you will be granted with the ability to use his power. It may take a few tries to figure out the particular order to tackle the bosses in, but once you've got that figured out, the main portion of this game is a breeze. It's after you beat the first six levels and move on to the Wily Fortress when the game ramps up the difficulty by a considerable amount—this game can be found on many top 10 hardest games of all-time lists. Personally, I don't think the game lives up to those standards, but it is quite a bit tougher than some of the more popular games in the series like Mega Man 2 & 3.

The controls are extremely simple; A jumps, B shoots, and the D-Pad is used to maneuver the Blue Bomber. The Start button is used to bring up a menu that allows you to select which weapon you'd like to use, which also pauses the game, as does Select. Whenever you have a weapon selected that was earned by defeating one of the game's six bosses, a second bar will appear next to your health bar to let you know how much ammo you have left with that particular power-up. Each weapon that you earn throughout the game is extremely effective against one of the other five bosses, allowing you to knock them off in far fewer hits than it would've taken with the power blaster that you begin the game with. Even the bosses you face in the Wily Fortress have their weaknesses, however, they are not as pronounced as those of the original six robots you square off with (each of whom you will face-off against for a second time in the Wily Fortress). However, as long as you possess a fair amount of perseverance, you should have no trouble emerging victorious as the game offers up an unlimited number of continues. On the other hand, there is no way to save your progress (not even a password system), which is something that has been seen in every Mega Man game since.

When it comes to NES soundtracks, you'd be hard pressed to find a more consistent developer than Capcom. Although Konami and Nintendo give them a run for their money, I don't believe I've ever played through an 8-bit Capcom game without having a handful of the tunes memorized by the time I completed the game. The original Mega Man is no exception to this rule and has a number of memorable tracks. Most of the tunes runs at a brisk tempo and keep you locked in to the action on the screen. There isn't a bad tune in the bunch, and although other Mega Man games offer up soundtracks that are just as good, if not slightly better, the franchise's debut sets the bar extremely high—a bar that most other NES games could never live up to.

The visuals are also fairly impressive, although they don't hold a candle to the soundtrack. The smooth animations, bright and colorful graphics, and original character designs have managed to hold up quite well over the past 20+ years. The graphics are by no means a prime example of what the NES was capable of, but the art direction was handled extremely well—the recently released Mega Man 9 (available on all three current-gen consoles' downloadable services) essentially uses the exact same art style, which speaks volumes for how well they've held up over the past two decades.

If for some crazy reason you've never played a Mega Man game before, there isn't much of a reason for you to start here, as multiple games in the franchise's history went on to eclipse the original game. However, those of you that have your fair share of Mega Man experience will undoubtedly be able to find a great deal of enjoyment in the Blue Bomber's introduction to the world. Sure, the MM formula has been a bit worn out over the past 22 years, but that doesn't mean that the games aren't fun, which is, of course, the most important aspect of a game. There are a few moments later in the game that will undoubtedly try your patience, but it will all be worth it in the end once you send Dr. Wily back to where he came from.

Overall Score: 7.0/10 (The first game in the Mega Man series is far from perfect, but it's still a worthwhile experience for any fan of 8-bit, side-scrolling platformers.)


Here's a video courtesy of great website that archives footage from any NES game you can think of!

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