Review by Psycho Penguin
"The only true gem before Mega Man 5"
A lot of people are under the assumption that Mega Man 2 is the best Mega Man game on the NES. Too bad they're all wrong. Yes, I said they're WRONG!
Mega Man 3 was released about a year after Mega Man 2, but you couldn't tell. It looked like it came out about 4 or 5 years after. The graphics underwent a major overhaul that made the game seem totally new. Gone are poorly designed backgrounds and colorless designs, instead replaced with colorful animations, detailed backgrounds, and an overall much nicer look to the series. The gameplay retained all the same elements which made the series so fun, the music suffered no real dip in quality, and the challenge and replay value were spot on. Those looking for a high-quality action action/shooting/platforming game with unique elements can do far worse than this terrifically fast-paced game. Games like this are the reason why I enjoy the Mega Man series so much.
The storyline certainly isn't any reason to enjoy the Mega Man series, since the series uses pretty much the same recycled storyline every game, only adding new characters and plot holes. This game has pretty much the same story as before: Dr. Wily is sending 8 robot masters after you, and you have to kill them all. However, this game marks the debut of Proto Man, who became the series deepest, and overall best, character. The storyline didn't improve drastically, but it didn't have to.
The graphics sure did improve, however. These are some of the best graphics I have seen on a pre-1990 NES game! The enemy designs were so unique and creative for its time. I especially liked the snake head enemies in Snake Man's stage, and the helicopters in Hard Man's stage. Mega Man animates very nicely, as do the enemies. You will barely encounter any slowdown or other graphical problems at all throughout your adventure. The backgrounds are the reason Mega Man 3 improved so drastically when it comes to graphics: they are so much more detailed and colorful. Just look at the background in Snake Man's stage, you get to see little details such as bricks in walls falling out. Plus, the game has more varied graphics and an overall unique look to it. I think the graphics were VERY well done for a mid-generation NES game.
The Mega Man series has always been known for good graphics, and Mega Man 3 certainly raised the bar for graphics, but did it do the same for music? Not really, but for those of you that have read my Mega Man 2 review, it has REALLY good music. Even the original Mega Man game had some good tracks. So, Mega Man 3 had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Capcom really included some fantastic songs in the game. I think there are 6 awesome songs, and 2 mediocre ones. That's not bad at all, as the mediocre songs are at least passable. The Dr. Wily stage songs are not as good as they were in Mega Man 2, but they get the job done. I also love the Top Man theme dearly. It may be the best Mega Man song of all time in my eyes. The sound effects were decent, you get all the typical sound effects of a Mega Man game.
The controls are also typical of a game in the series, they are implemented perfectly. The only complaint I still have is that you have to go to the menu screen to select your weapon. It's not too bad, but I was kind of spoiled by Mega Man 7, but I do know it was impossible to do this on the NES. I am happy that they put all the weapons on one screen and indicated what weapon was which more clearly. Mega Man 2's weapon menu was just weird and poorly done, but it's much easier to select what you need in this game. Plus, the basic controls are solid, you get to jump, shoot, and slide. No X-Buster feature here, as that didn't come along until Mega Man 4. The controls are really quite good, but what else is new?
And almost amazingly, Mega Man 3 has really fun gameplay. Who woulda thunk it, a Mega Man game I like? (heh) Anyways, this game has the same basic setup as every other Mega Man game. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, and have yet to hear about it (SHAME ON YOU!), I'll give you a quick rundown as to what to expect. You start off with 8 bosses, and you get to choose which order you want to complete them in. The advantage to completing them in a certain order is that when you defeat a boss, you get a weapon, which can then be used to defeat another boss with a weakness to that weapon more easily. So, really, the game isn't as non linear as you may think, but getting to select the path you wanted to complete the stages was a unique feature the Mega Man series owned for a while.
The stages are more fun than ever before and represent the main reason why Mega Man 3 is the strongest of the first four. The stage designs are so action packed and well placed. Most early platformers relied solely on making jumps and killing enemies, but the Mega Man series took it to the next level, and you can really begin to see why here. The stages are SO much fun to play through that you will always want to come back for more. I loved the more thought-out and logical progression of the stages, and the game relied much more on tight jumps and challenging areas than spikes and killing enemies. Sure, you get the occasional section where you just have to kill enemies, but the game takes a much more different feel in this one, and the stages are more varied than they were in Mega Man 2.
The bosses are also much more varied and challenging than they were in Mega Man 2. Most of the bosses there relied on the same patterns and were pretty much snoozers. Here, you pretty much NEED the right weapon or you're in for a tough battle. One example is Snake Man. When you enter his room, you will see that there are basically raised platforms every few feet, and he will jump up on these platforms, and throw snakes, and they will slide along the platforms, and you have to avoid them while hopefully getting yourself in the right position to shoot him. It's much more challenging than Wood Man shooting four leaves in the air, I can assure you.
Plus, you now get the ability to slide in this one. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but you will soon start to appreciate as it adds to gameplay. You will have to determine in certain parts whether you wish to jump, slide, or shoot. It really adds a strategic element to the gameplay. Sadly, you still can't charge your shots, as that feature didn't come along until part 4, but it doesn't really affect this game too much, as most enemies will go down in a few shots anyways. The only enemies you have to worry about are the mini-bosses, which feel much more important than the mini-bosses in Mega Man 2, as they usually get their own screen and are much larger and more powerful.
It's the little things like that that makes me want to keep coming back to Mega Man 3 the most of the first four games in the series. The game is simply a ton of fun and very addictive. You may not think that a series with as many games to choose from as Mega Man does could have games with high replay value, due to the fact they're all the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is actually one of the more replayable games in the entire series, due to the fun stage designs, creative bosses, and awesome music. It's also one of the longest games I have played on the NES, and in the series in general. You get the basic 8 stages, then you go to Dr. WIly for EIGHT STAGES, while fighting SIXTEEN BOSSES over again. It's insane, really, but it makes the game worth coming back to.
You'd think that with all the stages, the game is terribly challenging, but it's not. Fortunately, it is a little challenging, and it also happens to be the toughest of the 3 between 1 and 5. Not only due to the amazing amount of stages (just wait till you get to Dr. Wily's Fortress, you'll want to commit suicide by stage 6), but because the bosses are actually challenging in this one. They use their surroundings to their advantage, have tougher patterns, and generally do smarter things than just throw things at you. (Although Magnet Man is, sadly, still an exception. Just imagine a game where Magnet Man tries to get you to stick to him. Talk about a cool idea wasted on ''a guy who throws magnets at you. Oh well.) Plus, the stage designs took a turn for the challenging here. They still are not the most challenging things in the world, but expect to die a few times.
Expect to come back a few times, too. Mega Man 3 is simply as good as it gets on NES. While I still prefer 5 and 6 for certain reasons, this is an incredibly great game. It has no major flaws, and is tons of fun. Everything most people say about Mega Man 2, I say about Mega Man 3. It has awesome stage designs, challenging bosses, replay value, great graphics, and a terrific soundtrack. I recommend this game whole heartedly to anyone just looking for a fun action-based platformer game. Those who are looking for another great Mega Man game to play can look no further than here. The Mega Man series needed a great game to get it going, and this was the boost it needed.
Too bad Capcom blessed us with Mega Man 4 the next year, but that's a whole other story.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 06/29/03
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