Mega Man So Far
25 years ago, in December 1987, Capcom released a simple title, Rockman, on the Nintendo Entertainment System. When Rockman made his debut in the United States later that same month, he would be renamed Mega Man for the U.S. audience. One could wonder if Capcom, or creator Keiji Inafune knew at the time that they had created what would be one of the most iconic and well received characters in video game history, being able to rival the likes of Mario, Sonic, and any other who have made an impact on the video game industry. Despite the Mega Man franchise constantly falling back on the original’s simple formula, the Blue Bomber has managed to make his series one of the most successful, and enjoyable gamers can find.
What is probably most impressive is the fact that the the Blue Bomber’s series, despite its immense success, has rarely changed up the core formula. In 1987, Mega Man released to the world and gamers gained control of a small blue sprite with a vaguely human face, equipped only with his trusty Mega Buster. The objective was simple, blast away all oncoming enemies and dodge all the incredibly well placed traps to make it to the end of the level. Here, he would do battle with another robot with a special power, be it throwing blades, leaves, bubbles, whatever. When victorious, Mega Man could take this robot’s power and use it for himself on all of his unlucky foes from now on. This staple of stealing an opponent’s power, as well as the simple, yet highly difficult and unique levels has remained largely unchanged throughout the rest of the series. For 10 years the Mega Man series would remain unyielding to too much change, all the way from Mega Man 2 and 3, through Mega Man 8, but would also continue to be a hit.
In 1993, our favorite blue sprite would see his first true journey into the realm of change. While largely using the same formula of completing difficult levels and defeating bosses to attain their powers, Mega Man X for the SNES took on a slightly darker tone and incorporated a deeper story, setting Mega Man X, the titular character in a war torn world where two factions are in constant battle against each other. X, now a sympathetic and relatable martyr type of hero and his close friend Zero, must defeat the evil Sigma and bring peace to the world. The Mega Man X series would also span several sequels, all the way to Mega Man X8 in 2004 on the PlayStation 2. Again, the formula stayed mostly the same, but the unique levels and boss fights kept the series mostly fresh, and the popular character of Zero soon became a fan favorite and was given a bigger part, at times making the ultimate sacrifice for his close friend X. Zero’s popularity would eventually garner him his own series, the Mega Man Zero series, in which he and X were now on opposing sides of the war a hundred years after the Mega Man X series.
However, it cannot be said that Mega Man has not enjoyed success from drastically changing up his formula. 1998’s Sony PlayStation saw a new Mega Man born, one that would soon gain a huge following of fans and become one of Mega Man’s most celebrated adventures. Mega Man Legends introduced us to Mega Man Volnut, a half boy, half robot, adopted by the brilliant scientist Barrell Casket and his daughter Roll. Mega Man Legends and its sequel Mega Man Legends 2 become very RPG centric with a new 3D look. The majority of the games were spent dungeon diving, searching for treasure and fighting of other robots with your Mega Buster, which you could upgrade in a few different ways with money. The story itself was deeper than any previous Mega Man game and saw our favorite blue robot searching for clues to his past, eventually finding out that he is part of something bigger than he or his family ever expected.
After several years, the franchise saw resurgence as new titles Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 were released as downloadable content in 2008 and 2010, respectively, as well as the release of the Mega Man Battle Network series, that put a new spin on the Mega Man core. Both 9 and 10 used the same formula and art style from the original Mega Man series, and both saw great success from fans and newcomers to the series.
Mega Man’s Best and Worst
It would be hard to pin down a best game from Mega Man’s entire lineup. Each series had its own special connection with the people that played it. The original series had the simple mechanics and artstyle, but solid gameplay that still work today. Mega Man X had the darker tone and gave us a bit of variety in who we used and how we tackled the situations. The Legends series’ dungeon crawling and RPG elements are highly praised by fans of Mega Man, and of those who are simply fans of this series itself. So many titles and so many fans, picking a singular title and getting everyone to agree is probably impossible. However, in my opinion, Mega Man 3 and Mega Man X are the best Mega Man games in the franchise.
Mega Man 3 ranks at the top because it took Mega Man 2, a game many considered to be the best by many, and improves upon it in every way. Better bosses, better levels, better controls, better everything. Not only that, but the infamous slide ability is introduced in this title, opening up new doors of traversing levels and fighting enemies. The proper application of the slide technique would come to be the boundery between life and death in many instances, and it stuck with the series.
Mega Man X achieves this high praise for simpler reasons. It was successful in being the first attempt to make the Mega Man series darker, more adult, and it worked better than anyone could have expected. The enemies were more complex in personality, but just as challenging. The heroes were deeper, but just as easy to use in the game. Mega Man X showed us that even the cute little Blue Bomber could take on a darker story if need be.
The other side of the spectrum always exists. While most (almost all) of the Mega Man series is good if not great, there is one game that just should never have been. This rotten apple of the delicious bunch is known as Mega Man Soccer from the SNES in 1994. No, that is not a typo or a joke. Mega Man Soccer actually happened. This time, Dr. Wiley decides to battle Mega Man with Soccer, and Mega Man accepts. As Mega Man battles each of Wiley’s evil robots on the soccer field, he uses the robots’ special powers against them while playing an absurd version of robo battle soccer. Aside from the ridiculous set up or the horrible gameplay, this game definitely left a dark blot on the Mega Man legacy.
Fondest Memory of the Blue Bomber
As a long time fan of Mega Man and most of his adventures, I’ve gained a decent sized collection of good memories of the series. My most memorable one, however, would have to be the day I finally acquired my copy of Mega Man Legends for the PlayStation. At the tender age of ten, my family didn’t have a lot of access to the Internet, so I kept up with the release of new video games through the rare trips to Wal-Mart two towns over. In 1999, a few months after its August ’98 release, I finally got a hold of Mega Man Legends. Not having the Internet meant I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got this game home; only that it was Mega Man, which was good enough for me. Perusing the book and back of the case on the way home only got me more excited. Mega Man was in 3D! Holy cow! When I finally popped it in the disc drive, I was blow away by the adventure that unfolded before me. It gave me, what I consider, my favorite experience in the Mega Man series.
Despite what some may say, Mega Man has had a great run as a video game character and has one of the most successful lineups in history. Be it Legends, X, the original series, Battle Network, or what have you, chances are you are going to enjoy your partnering with the little blue soldier that took us all by surprise back in 1987. Happy Birthday, Mega Man! And thanks for the memories, so far.