Hooray, hooray, for Mega May

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If you’re not a 3DS owner, you probably have no idea that last month was referred to in some circles as Mega May. Those circles being “Capcom” and “Virtual Console fans.” Obviously I place in the latter. Anyhow, Capcom made it Mega May by releasing the entire catalog of Game Boy Mega Man games through the 3DS’ Virtual Console over the course of the month. (Except for the first one, which has been on there for years already.)

It was glorious, let me tell you. But it wasn’t without its ups and downs. Of the six games released, I’d played only two, so there was a lot of new ground for me to cover here. I mean, obviously I was going to play them all. Even if I didn’t play them, there’s a certain sentimental value in having the entire catalog of classic Mega Man games all packed into a single device.

And by “sentimental” of course I mean “compulsive.”

There’s a lot to say, but not really that much for each entry. So let’s just take a brief look at each one, shall we?

Mega Man II

Mega Man II is the first Game Boy Mega Man I ever played. It’s also the very first Mega Man game I ever beat. Coincidence? No, not at all. This game is retarded easy. Like, you could make me play it with my toes and I could still finish it without breaking a sweat. Hell, you could probably even beat it.

So I beat this one as a tyke and thought “Hey, I’m good at Game Boy Mega Mans, I should get one of my own!” because I had borrowed MMII from a friend. Then I went and bought a copy of Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge (the first one). That game, however, is merciless and will destroy you. Imagine how crushed Li’l Ryan must have been. If you imagined him curled into a ball, inconsolably weeping on the floor, you’re about on target. Also his Game Boy is chucked through a window, but it’s okay, because that thing can survive wars.

Anyway, MMII is stupid easy. The stages are short and nearly void of danger. There are barely any spikes and I don’t think there’s a single tricky jump in the game. The Robot Masters are the easiest ones from Mega Man 2: Air Man, Crash Man, Wood Man, and Metal Man. The second wave of bosses, from Mega Man 3, put up a slightly better fight, but not by much. Really, it’s just that Needle Man can be kind of a prick. (GET IT???)

Crash Man, by the way, is mistranslated as Clash Man. Unfortunately, “I Fought the Law” does not play as his boss theme. That’s not the only disappointing thing about MMII’s music either. The game sort of tries to emulate the music from the NES games it’s based on, but fails horribly. Not only are the tunes barely recognizable, but they’re also just plain bad. Possibly the only classic Mega Man that you want to play with the sound off.

This also might be the case of the least threatening fight against Dr. Wily ever. In the first part of the fight, his robot shoots toenails at you, and the final fight is against an immobile robot dinosaur that tries to punch you with its face. Not only is this the easiest Wily fight ever, it’s not even very hard to win without taking a single hit. That’s just pathetic.

Mega Man III

Honestly, besides the crushing difficulty, I didn’t retain anything at all about my playthrough of Mega Man III. I don’t know if it’s because the game is completely unmemorable, or if my mind just blocked it out because I didn’t really like it. I suppose the main point is that I didn’t really like it. And I did type a lot more words about Mega Man II than I intended to, so I’ll let this one be overly short.

If there’s an upside to MMIII, it’s got a pretty great roster of robot masters. You get the cooler half of the Mega Man 3 masters (Gemini, Snake, Spark, and Shadow) and also Skull Man is in it. Gotta love Skull Man. But his level is stuck inside of Wily’s Fortress, so it’s all technological instead of being an inexplicable robot boneyard like in the NES version of his stage.

Dive Man is also in this one, and his stage is just brutal. As is Drill Man’s stage. Or Dust Man’s, maybe. One of them. Possibly both. I don’t know.

Mega Man IV

This is, as far as I’m concerned, the cream of the Game Boy Mega Man crop. It’s a ton of fun, and the difficulty is tuned just right, so that it’s not baby-easy or frustratingly hard. The first set of stages are only a little tricky, but then the second half ramps it up to the point where you’ll die here and there, but it never gets overwhelming and never feels cheap.

I can’t exactly place why I liked this one the most, but I think that a lot of it has to do with how it takes a lot of the duller masters from Mega Mans 4 and 5, and makes them more interesting. Well, not the masters themselves, but their stages. Some of their stages. The MM5 stages. Yeah, actually the MM4 stages hew fairly close to their original versions, but the second quartet really stand out.

It’s not like they’re drastic changes, really. Charge Man’s stage is still on a train, and Crystal Man is still in a gem quarry, but the stages sure seem to feel a lot more fun to play than their original incarnations. Mega Man 5 is probably my least favourite of the NES series, so take from that what you will. Maybe I’m just glad that there’s no stupid Wave Man stage.

As far as I’m aware, MMIV was the first game to introduce currency and an item store to Mega Man in general. You can basically only buy the usual stuff, like E-/W-Tanks and extra lives, but the Energy Balancer also makes its grand debut here, and that’s quite a prize. (Actually, it was a hidden item in Mega Man 6 first, which came out less than a month before MMIV).

Mega Man V

Mega Man 5 on NES is kind of butt. Oh, I already said that? Whatever. The thing I wanted to get around to is that its Game Boy counterpart is so, so, so much better. Why? Because it’s actually an original game!

Unlike its brothers, MMV is not made up or remixed parts of the NES games, but is rather 100% original content. In this game, rather than simply fighting 8 -Man robots, you get to fight a collection of Stardroids: 9 robots that came from the darkest depths of space, and are named after the planets of the Milky Way.

Technically, it does have some re-used assets, but those are simply the Mega Man Killers: special boss characters that were created for the GB Mega Man games, one for each previous entry. They all show up as mini-bosses here, which is cool. But they’re also piss-easy, so it’s not like you get a rewarding fight from any of them.

Anyway, the whole game is full of familiar elements, but given new twists and placed in entirely new stages. Mega Man himself even has a new trick: the Mega Arm. Instead of firing a bigger shot, when you charge the Mega Buster, Mega’s fist flies across the screen. The rocket punch is cool on its own, but eventually you can upgrade it farther so that it can grab items and cling to enemies to continue damaging them.

The only real downside is that the new boss robots are almost all pushovers. I had never played this game before, and I didn’t have trouble with a single one. Jupiter may have been slightly tricky if I hadn’t had the weapon he’s weak to. On the other hand, there’s a setpiece late in the game that has you flying in a Rush spaceship, squaring off against an off-brand Death Star. I’d call it about even.

Mega Man Xtreme

Mega Man Xtreme is one of the few GB Mega Man games that I had played prior to Mega May. I remembered it quite fondly, as I’ve always loved Mega Man X, and what could possibly be bad about a handheld re-imagining of it?

Well, it’s a little broken, for starters. The jumps are all wonky, as since you don’t have a dedicated dash button, you shouldn’t be able to perform a dash-jump off of walls. Capcom’s solution to this was to make you always dash-jump off walls. It’s pretty darn irritating until you get used to it. Even more annoying is that sometimes, the shoot button just doesn’t work. I think it has something to do with landing from jumps, but that shouldn’t be an issue. X should always be able to shoot, no matter what frame of an action he’s in.

Most importantly, the difficulty balance is way, way off. At the start of the game, it’s much more difficult than any of the SNES games ever were. However, once you get the armor upgrade, you almost have to try to get killed. Probably could have been tweaked a little more to have less of a gulf in power difference.

The game is a painstaking recreation of four levels from Mega Man X and four levels from X2, plus a half-hearted Sigma stage from each. The poor little Game Boy Color tries its best to recreate the SNES stages, but it just can’t quite hack it, and most of the levels feel weird because of it. That’s not to say that it does a bad job, as the levels do hew pretty close to their originals, and the limited colour palette is used very nicely.

It’s not a perfect experience, but it’s a decent representation of Mega Man X on a much weaker platform than it was intended for. I think I probably mostly enjoyed it out of nostalgia, but I did enjoy it.

Mega Man Xtreme 2

Like the first game, it’s a pastiche of SNES MMX games, but this one includes levels from all three of its big brothers, not just the latter two, as I had expected. It makes for quite a diverse line-up of stages, and what’s even better, is that the stages aren’t just lo-fi versions of their originals. Well, some are, but the other ones are new stages with familiar elements, much like how the MMGB games were built.

Both Xtreme games are broken down into three modes, one where you fight four bosses then a final castle, a second where you do the same but with four new bosses, and then an “Extreme” mode where you play the whole game as one. The nice thing about Xtreme 2 is that during your second campaign, you play as Zero, and on the third one, you can freely switch between X and Zero. They also have different final stages, and a whole new one on the third go, so that’s pretty cool.

That said, the game still has all the problems that the last one did, including the wonky jumping and the occasional firing of blanks. So it’s the same broken engine, but at least they tried to spiffy it up by putting some more effort into the design of the content.

I hadn’t ever played this one, though, and I’ve gotta say that I really could have used the nostalgia boost to get through. Despite it technically being a better game, I didn’t have as much fun with this as I did with the previous one. Maybe it’s because they nerfed the ever-loving crap out of Launch Octopus (he can no longer shoot), and then changed his master weapon to something much less cool (a vertical tornado as opposed to homing missiles). Launch Octopus is the only boss in Mega Man X that I can’t beat with ease, so it hurts me to see him turned into a whimpering baby.

 


 

And that about wraps that up. I should probably type something more substantial here to justify having a final paragraph, but I just don’t have it in me. This is just here to tell you that this is the end.


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