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Classic Mega Man Series Review Pt.1

Mega Man’s 25th birthday is in three days…yet, he still looks and sounds like a 10-year old boy. Everyone knows that this is my absolute favorite series and while I see a lot of sporadic reviews on some of the games, I have yet to see any of the AAA review sites do a full-on review of the series in its entirety. So guess what? I’m going to do it. Why? Well, outside of the developers themselves, I have completely mastered this series and after 25 years, I still thoroughly enjoy the hell out it. In this part of the review, I will be giving you a history of the Blue Bomber and reviewing the first 5 games that appeared on the Famicom/NES. This review will not be covering the classic Gameboy games, Legends series and definitely NOT that Pokémon-esque abomination on Gameboy Advance, either. So without further nonsense, let’s get this rolling!

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Mega Man, known as Rockman in Japan, was created in 1987. Now, a lot of people credit Keiji Inafune as the creator or “father” of Mega Man. Well, he was actually designed and created by Akira Kitamura, with Inafune actually being solely responsible for the creation of Zero in the X Series. But hey, not everybody bothers with details all the time…unless of course you are me…which you aren’t. *ahem* MOVING ON!

The story of the Mega Man universe begins in the mid-20th century with the birth of Thomas Light and Albert W. Wily. These men would attend the same university, the Robot Institute of Technology, studying the field of electronics and eventually receiving PhDs. Some years later, Dr. Light formed Light Labs, with an ambition to use computer and electronic technology to benefit mankind in the coming era. Dr. Wily, meanwhile, tired of being one step behind Dr. Light, constructed a secret robot factory in the Pacific and began to plot a way to conquer the world.

Light Labs made its first leaps in the field of robotics, creating various robots to benefit mankind. Light realized the potential of his projects. He wanted to create robots that were human-like. He wanted to build robots that contained artificial intelligence within them. Thus, Dr. Light produced the first one of such robots – Proto Man. Proto Man was the base design of the Sniper Joe robots, but was instilled with an artificial intelligence unlike anything the world had ever seen. Yet, Proto possessed a true sense of independence, one that made him much like true human beings. When it came to light that Proto Man had a faulty power generator, Proto Man misunderstood his creator’s intentions, thinking that repairing him would take away his individuality. Because of this he ran from the lab. (In the remake Mega Man Powered Up, Proto Man also seems to resent Dr. Light.)

Still, Light did not give up. Later he set to work on building a pair of robots, thinking that two would work together and overcome the independence issue. It was thus that Rock and Roll were born. Rock became the lab’s new assistant and Roll became a housekeeper. With the success of this project, the good doctor went on to create six more robots, each for industrial assistance purposes: Cut Man, Guts Man, Ice Man, Bomb Man, Fire Man, and the prized Elec Man.

It was for the success of these projects that Dr. Thomas Light received the Nobel Prize for Robot Master Design later, sometime in 200X.

Soon, Dr. Wily had finally had enough of living in the shadow of his colleague. Light’s reception of the Nobel Prize, as well as his winning the LIT Manual Design Contest drove him over the edge. Wily realized the potential of robots built with true A.I. – they could be used for other means.

Dr. Wily snuck into Dr. Light’s lab, stealing and reprogramming all of the industrial robots. However, unwisely, he missed Rock and his “sister,” Roll, as the helper robots did not suit his needs. Dr. Light soon discovered that his former colleague was to blame. With Wily on the loose with an army of intelligent and powerful robots, Dr. Light knew that the world’s police forces and armies weren’t ready to deal with this new challenge.

It was thus that Rock, the lab assistant, volunteered to be converted into a fighting robot. Rock had a strong sense of justice and couldn’t sit by and watch his “father’s” work be destroyed before his very eyes. As such, Light reluctantly converted the former lab assistant into a robot of unimaginable potential. Equipped with ceramic-titanium armor and a plasma cannon, Rock became known as the fighting robot Mega Man and set out for Wily’s new fortress to stop him from taking over the world.

The classic series saw the release of 6 games on the Nintendo Entertainment System, 1 on the Super Nintendo, 1 on the PlayStation/Sega Saturn and 2 on the Virtual Console(Wii), Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. Now, I know most of you will probably argue that the Gameboy games had their own story(They take place in-between the main games) and while that is indeed true, I have chosen to stick the console based games this time around. But if you are good boys and girls, I might produce a Mega Man Gameboy series review in the near future. So, let’s take a look at the first 5 titles, shall we?

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Mega Man Classic was released on December 17th, 1986 and this was the title that started it all. In this game, your goal is to stop Dr. Wily from taking over the world, but to do that you have to defeat 6 of Dr. Light’s reprogrammed industrial robots to get to him. Once you press Start on the title screen, you are then taken to the Stage Select. On this screen, you will see 6 portraits of the robots. Each one is a stage you have to go through(Usually representing the “element” of the chosen robot), with you fighting the boss robot at the end. Going through a level is fairly linear as the only thing you can really do is jump and shoot…just..you know what? You can insert your own Egoraptor reference right here. So anyway, progressing through levels has you fighting an abundance of enemies. Upon destruction, an enemy will usually drop items. Those can be energy pellets used to refill your life, weapon pellets used to refill weapon energy, extra lives or score balls…yes, I said score balls.

Now, one of the most interesting features about this game and the rest of the series is the fact that all the Robot Masters and bosses have weaknesses to other Robot Master weapons. So, if you know the order of Robot Masters in each game, you can get through it quite quickly. Now, once all 6 Robot Masters have been beaten, you have access to Dr. Wily. However, you will usually find yourself traversing 3-4 levels, with a boss at the end before actually fighting Wily. Once again, you can utilize the game’s mechanics and extort the weaknesses of the bosses by using the correct weapon against it. This is a staple that has stayed throughout the series and it seemed to have worked out pretty well.

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December 24th, 1988 brought the release of Mega Man 2. The story this time around has Mega Man fighting against 8 of Dr. Wily’s own robots, rather than robots he stole from Dr. Light. The mechanics in the game stayed the same as the previous title, but some new changes were added. Here are some of them:
– They removed the scoring aspect from this title and all future ones.
– This is the first Mega Man game that shows the map of Wily Castle.
– This is the first Mega Man game to feature the standard eight robot masters instead of six from the first game.
– This is the first Mega Man game to use Robot Master mugshots instead of their sprites like in the first game.
– This is the first Mega Man game to have Energy Tanks, although the player could only carry four, instead of nine as in later installments.
– This game was the first one to have more than 4 Wily Fortress Stages. Mega Man 3, 6, and 10 would somewhat repeat this later on.

Also one thing to note is that Mega Man’s popularity skyrocketed after the release of this title, and is considered the most memorable by fans everywhere. The music is also very memorable, with songs being remade by cover bands, OC Remix artists and the like. So, it’s almost safe to assume that this game, not the first one, is what made the series so incredibly popular today.

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September 28th, 1990 saw the release of Mega Man 3. In this story, Dr. Wily claims he is a changed man, and wants to team up with Dr. Light once again. Dr. Wily and Dr. Light begin to work together on a “peace-keeping” robot named Gamma, but for some reason, the newest Robot Masters created by both doctors have gone crazy, and run off. Dr. Light needs the eight Energy Elements that the Robot Masters are protecting for the creation of Gamma, thus Mega Man is called to stop the robots and retrieve the crystals. Along his quest, he meets his brother Proto Man (under the alias of Break Man).

This game was the longest in the series so far. Reason why is after defeating all 8 Robot Masters, you had to fight all the 8 Robot Masters from Mega Man 2(Under the guise of Doc Robots)and THEN you start making your way through Wily’s fortress! Yeah, good times. This game also featured the addition of Mega Man’s ability to “slide” and the introduction of Mega Man’s canine companion, Rush! On a personal note, Mega Man 3’s title screen music is probably my favorite out of the bunch. Just gets you so pumped up, you know? No? Only me? Sad for you.

MegaMan 4 Title Screen

December 6th, 1991 was the day Mega Man 4 was released. This title saw some noticeable changes to both Mega Man himself, as well as the gameplay. The story in this game is a year after Gamma’s defeat in Mega Man 3, many thought Dr. Wily was dead after he was crushed in the last game, and the world had been living in peace so far. However, Dr. Light received a message from a mysterious Russian scientist named Dr. Cossack, claiming to be the greatest scientific genius in the world and having been far too long overlooked, and sent eight of his strongest robots to destroy Mega Man and prove he is better than Dr. Light! Now, I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t played this title yet, but DEAL WITH IT!!

Mega Man 4 was the first game in which it was not known that Dr. Wily was the villain, using a new antagonist until the end when Wily was revealed to be alive and well and merely forcing Dr. Cossack into being an ass because he kidnapped Cossack’s daughter, Kalinka. The game also introduced the New Mega Buster, an upgraded version of Mega Man’s standard Mega Buster. This upgrade allows him to charge his shots for more damage and it stuck with him until Mega Man 9 and 10…more on that later. Eddie(Or Flip-Top), a robot that gives Mega Man a random item, was also introduced into the series at this point. Rush makes a return from Mega Man 3 with the ability to transform into “Coil”, “Jet”, and “Marine” modes for navigating different environments. Aside from Rush, two additional support items called the “Wire Adaptor” and the “Balloon Adaptor” also aid the player in reaching areas not normally accessible. However, these hidden adaptors must be found in the stages rather than being awarded for defeating a Robot Master.

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Mega Man 5 hit the consoles on December 4th, 1992 and for collectors, it’s probably the hardest one to find. The story this time around, Proto Man sends several robots under his command to attack the city, and then goes to Dr. Light’s laboratory to kidnap him, leaving behind his signature yellow scarf. Dr. Cossack, Wily’s unfortunate patsy from the previous title, contacts Mega Man letting him know what is going, but not before upgrading his Mega Buster a bit. When Mega Man confronts Proto Man in his hideout, the real Proto Man shows up and reveals the fake to be a robot called Dark Man, and upon his defeat, Dr. Wily shows up and challenges Mega Man to come and get Dr. Light. Obviously, you do your civic duty and kick his ass.

Some of the level designs in Mega Man 5 are unique up to this point in the series. For example, in Gravity Man’s stage, the gravitation is reversed from the floor to the ceiling, while in Wave Man’s stage, the player drives a water craft from the halfway point to the boss room. The game also marked the introduction of Mega Man’s robotic bird assistant, Beat. However, in order to use him you have to collect a very unique circuit board that are well-hidden within each of the eight Robot Master stages. Gathering all eight of these boards(spelling “M-E-G-A-M-A-N-V”)will give the player access to Beat. When called upon, he will attack all on-screen enemies and is a great help during the last boss fight against Wily. Another new item they added is the Mystery Tank”, which fully refills health and all item power. It can be picked up as well but if all health and weapon power is full, it turns all enemies on-screen into extra 1-ups for you to collect.

Well, that’s the end of Part 1! Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will be reviewing Mega Man 6-10, as well as the legacy it has left behind and some closing thoughts for my fellow fans!

Until next episode…

1 Comment

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  1. vdallos says
    November 20, 2013, 9:00 AM

    excellent, keep working..

    Reply

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