Year of N64 – December: Mega Man 64(ish)

Okay, so… I didn’t actually play an N64 game in December. Fact is, I ran out of games that I wanted to play, and I couldn’t find any other decent ones for cheap. So I did the next best thing: I played a Playstation game that is also a Nintendo 64 game.

Aside from having changed the title from Mega Man Legends to Mega Man 64, the game is almost the exact same. Slightly better graphics and slightly inferior audio are the traits that define the N64 port from its source material. If you don’t believe me, here’s a list of differences between the two. I think that justifies me.

For the record, I also “cheated” last month, as I played the Virtual Console version of Majora’s Mask instead of the N64 cartridge that was sitting right there.

It should be noted right away that I love Mega Man Legends. Yeah, I know I probably shouldn’t put the conclusion so close to the beginning, but this is a retrospective, not a review. You’re not here to look for a score before rushing out to buy the game. You’re reading this because you’re interested in my thoughts on Mega Man Legends… I mean Mega Man 64. Either way.

Legends was the first 3D Mega Man game. It also came out at a time where the Mega Man X series began to spiral out of control and get all serious and grimdark. As a result, you might think that it would also be a “mature” title. In fact, it’s about as colourful and cartoony as games get. At least on the surface…

At the outset of the game, your airship has crashed on an island that barely registers as a speck on the map of the somehow-flooded Earth. It’s filled with lively people and cute animals, and you have a family of goofy pirates as your rivals. The voice acting is silly (in a good way), and the main characters all have animated faces pained onto their polygonal heads. It’s very light-hearted and fun.

Oh and also the pirates command an army of adorable little LEGO men. It really doesn’t get any cuter than this.

Then by the end of the game, you’ve delved into several caverns filled with bloodthirsty robots, several districts of the city have been demolished, and it turns out that the treasure you’ve been seeking the whole time is actually a robot who intends to murder everyone on the island with a giant ion cannon (or something like that). That took a dark turn.

Those are just the broad strokes, though. And it’s not really the story that stands out. You really have to play the game (and be thorough about it) to be able to appreciate its wonderful characterization and setting. All of the main characters are lovable and overflowing with personality. To think that a Playstation game could have such three-dimensional characters is almost astounding. Even though you never stray from Kattleox Island, you’ll never long for more, as the game world is abounding with its own personality and has plenty of areas to explore and little secret and details to discover.

You will, however, feel like maybe there could be more game there. And not because it’s too short or otherwise lacks content, but because it’s simply a joy to play. The controls take some getting used to, but once you get a feel for moving around, moving around is pretty fun in and of itself. Mega Man Legends is one of those games where it’s fun just to jump. It just feels so right. And it sounds right too. The mechanical whoosh sound effect is perfect, and you can really feel the impact of a landing. I don’t know how exactly, but that’s just the way it is. Jumping is very satisfying.

Of course, Mega Man has other moves, too. There’s a sideways roll that’s sort of hard to pull off, but it’s pretty cool. Later on, you get a pair of “jet skates” that allow you to… I don’t even know the word to describe what they do. You press the button, and Mega Man leans forward and just sort of glides along the ground. It’s weirder than just allowing him to dash, but it’s unique and pretty fun. And your feet shoot out sparks when you turn! Neat!

Then there’s the massive arsenal of weapons. Check it out; Mega Man’s got land mines, grenades, a machine gun, a vacuum arm (?), a drill arm, a laser beam, and much more. Each one can be upgraded in several areas (firepower, range, etc), but enhancements will cost you a huge chunk of change. The downside is that you can only equip one special weapon at a time, and you’ve got to have Roll switch them out for you when you want a different one. So you’ve either got to know what’s coming and prepare accordingly, or just pick one you like and hope for the best.

Special weapons are definitely secondary, though. Mega Man’s trusty Mega Buster is always equipped, and will get you through even the toughest scrapes. You get to customize it with different parts too, which will change how it works. Want a powerful shot? Equip a couple of Power raisers. Maybe you’d rather just overwhelm you enemies with continuous fire? Use parts that increase your rate of fire and energy (which dictates how many shots you can fire in a row). Perhaps you’re more interested in a challenge? Try to beat the game without using any Buster parts. It’s very flexible!

Despite all the options, combat is a little stiff. Mega Man can lock onto enemies, but he’s completely immobile while doing so. It’s a little more Resident Evil than Mega Man. Fortunately, locking on isn’t terribly important, and it’s just as easy to defeat most enemies without using the feature. Occasionally it’s somewhat necessary, and in those instances you really need to learn to find your best opportunities to attack.

Mega Man Legends, in my opinion at least, has aged pretty well. The joints are a little creaky, sure, but it holds up a heck of a lot better than the vast majority of 3D Playstation games. Against the heavy hitters of the N64? Maybe not quite as well, but there’s nothing else like it on the N64, so it’d still be a welcome addition to anybody’s library. At the very least, you need to experience it through a Let’s Play or something. Preferably one made by someone who loves the game as much as I do.

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