- Original Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
- Current Platforms: NES, Sega Genesis (Mega Drive), Playstation, Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, Mobile Phones, Playstation Network, Nintendo Virtual Console
- Publisher: Capcom
- Release Date: December 1987
What can be said about Mega Man that hasn’t already been said before? He’s one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, among the ranks of other prestigious characters such as Pac-Man, Mario or Sonic. There have been a massive assortment of titles based on his character since his inception in 1987, beginning from the main series to the many spin-off titles, which have branched off to form into their own spin-off series, with countless sequels leading up until the early millennium.
Unfortunately it feels as if the ‘Blue Bomber’ has receded from modern gaming culture these days, with a significant decrease in released titles, with the majority of them being relatively small releases within the past few years. It’s a shame that Capcom hasn’t devoted more attention to the franchise that helped shape them into the mega-developer and publisher they are today.
The first and original Mega Man was truly a humble game, so humble in fact that it sold quite underwhelmingly when released, it wasn’t until its critically acclaimed sequel when the franchise gained popularity. So, does that mean the game is far inferior to its successors? Just how well does it hold up today?
Firstly, there is one thing that should be addressed before going into anything else about the game, which is its cover art:
It’s absolutely awful to say the least, to the extent that it’s appalling to continue looking at it. It looks amateurish, and judging by the absurd depiction of the character the artist obviously had little idea of the context. Then again such things were trivial concerns back in those days. It’s amusingly ironic in a way, that this was how the character was first depicted to North American audiences.
Compare it to the European box art and some fans can’t help but feel like they got shafted, as it’s much more superior. It’s still extremely cheesy, but it boasts a cheesy awesomeness that is appealing, and compliments the game much more effectively.
Mega Man is an action-platformer game, were you take control of the prepubescent-looking robot out to stop a maniacal scientist, who has taken control over other robots in a diabolic attempt to conquer the world. It’s up to him to stop the rampaging robot masters, and then thwart the evil Dr. Wily (pronounced ‘wile-ee’) himself, in a variety of themed stages. It’s premise was simple, but it boasted charm and style that was elaborate and unique compared to other titles released at the time.
Mega Man’s abilities are as basic as they can get, merely consisting of jumping, shooting, and a combination of both jumping and shooting at the same time. However, the series staple that began here is his ability to obtain a boss’s weapon after defeating them, which greatly broadens the game’s playability. Eventually you will unlock a variety of weapons at your disposal as you progress through the game, some more useful than others, such as Elec Man’s weapon, which can simultaneously fire three thick beams in different directions.
One of the other big features is the freedom to choose the order in which you can complete the stages, although each robot master faced at end of their respective stage is vulnerable to a certain weapon, so it’s beneficial for the player to select their order strategically.
This is all very familiar for anyone who has experienced a Mega Man game, but there are some considerable differences. For one thing there are only 6 robot masters in this game instead of the traditional 8, which consequently means there are also considerably less weapons to collect in the game. There are no sub-tanks or energy tanks to collect for later use, instead there are rare power-ups that refill both weapon and health energy on pick up, which are usually found in hard to reach spots before a boss. The gates leading to bosses that were traditionally safe zones to respawn in are instead littered with enemies and hazards, which can frustratingly spoil your attempts at defeating the boss before even getting a chance.
There are a few other nuances that directly effect gameplay, such as the speed that Mega Man falls. Gravity seems to be heavier in this game, as he falls almost twice as fast compared to the other games, which can be potentially disorienting when attempting to time certain jumps. It’s also worth noting that the invulnerability window you get while recovering from damage doesn’t temporary bypass instant death if you also happen to fall into spikes, so if you get knocked into them, there are no second chances.
Unfortunately, unlike its future installments this the game lacks a password system, so you are forced to complete the whole thing in one sitting. This, in conjunction with the above mentioned differences makes this one of the hardest entries in the series, and the hardest out of the six on the NES console.
It also features one of the most difficult bosses in the series, Yellow Devil, which has been a popular re-occurring enemy in other games, however they all don’t compare to his original incarnation. Even after memorizing his pattern of attacks it’s still difficult to avoid massive damage, as they demand quick timing and almost precise maneuvering. Even for experienced old school players, it will take a considerable amount of time and patience to beat.
Just like other decent games, Mega Man boasts a catchy soundtrack. Although the majority of featured music is pretty simple in design, consisting of a lot of short musical loops in many of its tracks but it’s effectively pleasant to listen to, and some are guaranteed to get stuck in your head even long after playing.
Since its release the game has been ported to numerous systems and virtual consoles including the Playstation, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Xbox, Gamecube, Wii, and the Wii U; there are also compilation titles such as Mega Man: The Wily Wars, and Mega Man Anniversary Collection.
So, is Mega Man inferior to its sequels? Undeniably, yes. It’s a little unrefined compared to the rest of the series, but is it a bad game? Certainly not. It is still very playable – a few frustrations aside – and definitely worth a look just to experience the series roots.
Mega Man’s legacy is undisputed, no matter how prominent his influence may or may not be in current gaming culture, and shall forever be, fondly remembered for kindling gamers with joyful passion that shall never be diminished.