Mega Man (1987) / Revisited
I'm kicking off the long overdue video game section of the site with my revist of one the all time classic games of the NES. Mega Man introduced the world to the Blue Bomber, rage inducing difficulty, and the beginning of one of the all time great video game series. I distinctly remember getting Mega Man for Christmas the year it came out, so I had to be around 8 or 9 years old. Of course everything from your childhood has the haze of nostalgia over it...what would the game be like revisiting it close to 30 years later?
The first answer to that question is simple. It's hard. Mega Man, like most games from the NES era (especially Capcom platformers), is difficult. From nail biting jumps, fast enemies, bullet hell, and a trial and error dynamic to the boss fights, Mega Man served up damage and death on a scale that makes Dark Souls look like child's play. That being said, if you could figure out enemy patterns and keep your wits about you, Mega Man can be bested and rewards those who search for the best way to tackle each level. That's not to say there's not some cheapness going on. Those jumping Big Eye robots that would sporadically jump high enough to let you run underneath them are a huge, and potentially cheap enemy. As soon as they spot you they begin their jumping pattern, most of which are short hops in your direction. If you can guess correctly you are rewarded with a path underneath the arc of the jump. If you chose incorrectly you're going to get close to half you health taken off in one giant chunk. It was totally hit and miss, and what's worse is that they frequently guard boss gates.
As I mentioned earlier, if you know the pattern that you should attack the levels then Mega Man becomes a whole lot easier. Back in the day you couldn't hop on the internet and find a subreddit on the best order to fight the bosses. You'd talk to your friends at school and see what they'd had the most success with or hopefully glean something from a cheat code book you found at the mall book store. As a kid I almost always went to Cut Man first because the Mega Buster was strong against him and his attacks were easily jumped. This is NOT the best decision, and probably explains why I was never able to beat the game as a kid. Sure his stage is beatable early, but it's a trap. When I played through last week I went Bomb Man, Guts Man, Cut Man, Elec Man, Ice Man, and then Fire Man and this proved to be an easy path to victory. I only lost one life, and that was figuring out the pattern of the stupid robots while you climb the ladders in Elec Man's stage.
Dr Wily's Fortress follows the regular levels, and to say that the difficulty ramps up would be a severe understatement. Spike traps, platforming hell, and revisiting every boss you just fought await within, along with some new baddies. The worst of all these new bad guys is the Yellow Devil. As soon as you enter his arena he takes a shot at you and then starts breaking apart, piece by piece, to the left side of the room. There's a static pattern here to avoid being hit but you have so little time to memorize it and it happens fast. You're also nervous because you're probably low on life, on a last life, or jittery because of the curveball the game just through at you. When he assembles himself on the left side of the screen you have a second to shoot his red eye before he starts the process over again to the right side of the screen. This fight, for me anyway, was the hardest in the game. I honestly found him to be harder than Dr. Wily. Elec Man's power does a decent amount of damage, but even then you have to weather his jumping pattern 5 or 6 times. Even a few mistakes spell your doom here. I honestly suggest watching some YouTube videos ahead of time. Zero shame.
Your mimic, the bubble boss, and Dr Wily himself feel like the calm after the Yellow Devil storm, and if you can get past him the repeat fights of the previous bosses should go easily (as you already know their weaknesses). The bubble boss is super weak to the Guts Man power and can be taken out within 30 seconds without getting hit. I found Wily super weak to Elec Man and managed to beat him without dying, though it was admittedly down to my last bar of health. Seeing the closing credit screens for the first time as an adult was a fun slice of vindication for all the rage quits of my childhood. It also got my chomping at the bit to dive into Mega Man 2 here very soon.
All in all I am very pleased to say that revisiting Mega Man was like diving right back in to my youth. It hasn't lost a single beat of the platforming fun that it was back in the 80's, proving that you don't need cutting edge graphics and an immersive story to create a AAA title. There's a savage simplicity to the level design and I can appreciate the way the game rewards sticking with it. It's one of the original "git gud" classics that has weathered the years just fine.
Terrible Box Art Alert
A.) It doesn't even look like Mega Man B.) Is that a pistol he's holding?!? C.) It's hilariously awesome in retrospect!