Saturday, October 4, 2008

Welcome back to the 80s... The Mega Man 9 Review

Nearly twenty years ago, Mega Man was introduced to the gaming world and provided a challenge and a formula that worked for the rest of the series. Recently, the franchise has been in hiatus in terms of the real games than crazy spin-offs, but Capcom decided to take advantage of their downloadable games initiative with the Blue Bomber and return to the glory days of 8-bit graphics and gameplay with Mega Man 9. This alone feels like a love letter to dedicated fans of the series that experienced the highs and lows to finally return to what makes Mega Man amazing. What I mean everything being 8-bit is even the music, the challenge, the frustration, and satisfaction of beating the stages. Mega Man 9 also feels like a test of whether or not players can still handle definitive old-school skills compared to today's world of games. With of all that, there is still a place for a game like this on consoles today and it is a fun time.

Dr. Wily is up to no good again using Dr. Light's robots to wreak havoc in the city while framing the good doctor at the same time for unleashing them. It is up to Mega Man to clear Dr. Light's name and stop Dr. Wily's plans for another time. A new set of robot masters are ready for players to tackle and then culminates again in a new Dr. Wily castle. While some levels can be simple such as the Splash Woman and Galaxy Man stages, other stages like the Plug Man and Tornado Man stages will test your patience and platforming skills with timed jumps and the return of disappearing blocks as platforms. They do have that trial and error mentality of it may take more than one try to beat these stages and then mastering them when doing speed runs. In addition, it almost feels like the developers themselves are playing mind games with you throwing curveballs from random enemies pulling you towards spikes, blocks that look like platforms but not, and even enemies disguised as items. The bosses themselves are not as a pushover once you figure out the boss order like previous Mega Man games, but only with the Mega Buster makes the bosses a little more tough as it comes down to pattern recognition to defeat them.

The controls are as 8-bit as they could with a jump and shoot button with the control pad as movement. Playing it with the Wiimote sideways, aka NES style, is the recommended way to go for purists, but the game also supports the Classic Controller as well if you want to use that. The Wii version is definitely the one to go with compared to 360 and PS3 versions for the purity of controls, but the 360 and PS3 controllers are not bad playing Mega Man 9. Of course with previous games in the series, the depth of the controls comes from holding the button to jump higher and rapidly pressing the shoot button as fast as possible to take out enemies faster. The frustration you might have from 8-bit games also return with mistimed or misaccurate jumps,
not memorizing patterns of disappearing blocks or boss movements, and the mind games. Every enemy placement feels like they are there to ruin your moment, which means they are spot on along with getting hit to pitfalls or spikes. The shop makes a return to Mega Man 9 which makes the game a little easier meaning with you can get a little careless as long as you have E-Tanks and extra lives, but not too careless as managing them also factors in especially when tackling the Wily stages. Save points after beating a stage (except the Wily gauntlet) or getting the game over screen also makes Mega Man 9 easier than the NES games in the franchise.

Other than the main game, Mega Man 9 also has a time attack mode of tackling the stages as fast as possible with experts doing these stages in like a few minutes. Leaderboards track the best times for this mode and for beating the game especially doing it in less than 30 minutes is pretty amazing. The challenges are like in-game achievements that range from beating bosses in less than ten seconds, beating the game without dying, and defeating 1,000 enemies. These challenges also give Mega Man 9 way more replay value than intended for completionists that are really good at the game. Some challenges are pretty crazy as well from beating the game five times in one day to beating all bosses with one point of health left in each battle. The 360 version's achievements are tied to twelve of these challenges. Downloadable content from harder modes, special stages, and Proto Man being playable also raises the replay value up a notch even though Capcom went crazy with them being microtransactions. Then again, if players love the game that much, then the DLC will give them more reasons to love it despite spending more money.

Mega Man 9's graphics are another reason it feels like the 80s when 8-bit games were around and still doing well. It does feel like a 8-bit game being made in the 21st century with smooth framerate even though purists want that slowdown and jaggies that kept the personality of the NES games. The game is in a 4:3 screen compared to widescreen for all versions, but it doesn't ruin the experience. As for the sounds also being 8-bit, they sound well from Mega Buster shots and the death sound. The soundtrack, while not as good as Mega Man II, is still one of the better soundtracks in the franchise especially with some favorites being Jewel Man's stage and Galaxy Man's stage.

For ten bucks (1000 Wii Points), Mega Man 9 is truly one of the best games on WiiWare and also on the other downloadable services for the same price. It is definitely hard, but definitely beatable. It is also a showcase why the Blue Bomber was cool in the NES days and a love letter by Capcom to fans to show they still care about him being awesome. If I would pick one out of the three consoles on which version is highly recommended, I would go with the Wii version due to the controls being more pure to the experience compared to the others and it feels like you're playing the game in the late 1980s. The other versions are not that bad control-wise and buy it for whichever if you don't have a Wii. Mega Man 9 is a reminder why people still love the old-school game design of precision and challenge compared to today's game philosophies of trying to cater to both casual and hardcore audiences.

Score = 9/10

  • Pure 8-bit experience from the gameplay, graphics, and the sound.
  • Definitely an old-school game with the challenge and precision.
  • Wiimote controls feel great and the one to go with (NES style).
  • A great soundtrack (not the best), but up there.
  • Lots of replay value with time attack, challenges, and downloadable content.
  • The frustration of 8-bit gaming returns in which casual players may not handle it if they never played a Mega Man game till now.
  • If you're expecting an evolution, you're not going to find it.

1 comment:

Sasukedevil said...

Hmm...I might try getting the Anniversary Collection before playing this one, since it comes with the rest of the Mega Man games. :D