Review by Retro
"Friends Are Forever"
Did you ever have any friends when you were a kid, like in elementary school, that you were best friends in the world with? It seemed like nothing could tear you apart. But one day down the road in high school, you two eventually became nothing more than just another face in the crowd to each other with seemingly no regard whatsoever as to the great times you've had in the past. You see a former friend you haven't seen in a few years in the hallway and part of you wants to walk up to them and say hi, but the bigger part of you doesn't bother because you sense that either they don't remember you or they don't care. It's all just a chapter in your past.
Mega Man 2 and I first met when I played the game while spending the night at the house of a former 'friend'. It wasn't love at first play, but there was something about Mega Man 2 that grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let go, right from the start. Now that I think back to those days, I believe it was a combination of attributes that all combined into one to make this an unforgettable one-player game that I couldn't wait to add to my expanding collection of NES titles.
Having never played a Mega Man game before, I didn't know what to expect. It was a platformer, yet I wasn't jumping on top of head after head or collecting fortunes of coins; it was different. To begin with, you're taken to a screen that has eight evil faces on it that represent the interesting robotic bosses that must be defeated during your perilous quest. Upon selecting any of these faces, you'll be transported to that being's terror-filled stage.
Whether you're taking a walk in the woods as the wind rustles through the leaves of trees in the background and vampire bats swoop down to take a bite out of you or running as fast as possible to slip by screen-filling lasers that could spell death in just one blow, Mega Man 2's environments always succeed in being exciting and unique. If you live to tell the tale and reach the end of any given level, you'll have the honor of challenging a fierce boss who has murder written on his heart.
Having a cannon for an arm, Mega Man must defeat the first boss with his never-ending supply of ammo. When he shows a boss who the better Man is, he will be the proud new owner of the weapon that once belonged to the now extinct foe. For instance, when Heat Man is defeated, Mega Man will be able to hurl hot as hell fireballs at his opponents from then on.
Each of the eight weapons that you can obtain from the bosses can be used in unique ways. Like humans, enemies and especially bosses have their own strengths and weaknesses.
1. An enemy that moves along floors and pops up to hit you like a jack-in-the-box is invincible to Mega Man's normal firepower, but could it possibly be hurt by Air Man's tornadoes? How about Quick Man's boomerangs?
2. You're down to your last man and you see an extra life that's locked behind a seemingly impenetrable door. What do you do? Pause the game (to get to the menu) and switch to Crash Man's exploding weapon.
3. A rabbit that loves to throw carrots at you is down a flight of several stairs. It doesn't look like you could possibly jump over this idiotic hazard, and since he's below you, shooting pellets across the screen from your cannon would do no good. Mega Man has about enough energy left to take just one more hit before he rests in peace. Should he just give up and let himself die? No way! There's got to be some weapon that could roll along the steps and defeat this menacing rodent!
4. Mega Man just reached what seems like a dead end with nothing more than a vertical wall in front of him that has a ladder way up in the air that is beyond reach. Switch over to Item 3, the item that Mega Man's creator, Dr. Light, prepared for him that you had to earn by defeating the fiery Heat Man. Item 3 is an elevator-like contraption that clasps onto walls and climbs up them. Hop on for a ride and jump up to grab the ladder!
Those are only four examples of instances in which you'd need to utilize the powers of your other weapons. The crowning glory is figuring out which weapon is each boss's weakness. It should be obvious as to which weapon would quickly do in the likes of Wood Man (is it just me or is it hot in here?), but it's not so easy to guess which one could slow down Quick Man. It's all trial and error. It's almost necessary to hunt down the weakness of each boss, because there just might be some work left to be done after you get past all eight of the levels and their bosses.
Not only does Mega Man 2 come packed with thrills, chills, and innovative gameplay, it also has great visuals, especially for the time (1988). Whether it's the shiny, eye-catching blue surroundings of Flash Man's level, the nicely drawn and well animated characters of the game, or the metal contraptions of Metal Man's world that make you feel like you're inside a life-sized clock, there's always something nice to look at. Some of the graphical effects were just amazing. In a certain pitch dark area, there are a few enemies whose heads are made of glowing fire that literally light up the room. The second you destroy one of these hotheaded adversaries, the room darkens until it's pitch dark once again (neat!).
There are two things about Mega Man 2 that truly sets it apart from most other platformers. One of them is, of course, how you can use a downed boss's weapon to send other bosses and enemies to their graves. The other unforgettable asset that places this one on a higher pedestal than most others in its genre is its music. I'm not one who has high standards at all when it comes to video game music, to be honest. You could even go so far as to saying that I like the majority of music I hear in almost any video game, but there are still certain soundtracks that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Mega Man 2's is one of these special treasures, and it might be my absolute favorite. Needless to say, if I were to see an original soundtrack of Mega Man 2's music on eBay or in a real life store, I would pick it up in a heartbeat.
Bubble Man's stage music is especially memorable. You can tell just by listening to the catchy track that you're in a dangerous territory, yet it has a sort of encouraging sound to it that makes it all the more mysterious. Crash Man's territory is accompanied by a cheerful tune that sounds like something you'd hear at a carnival, whereas the terrifying, haunting tunes that are heard in Dr. Wily's stages are so convincing that they almost make you want to turn around and go back! Mega Man 2's tunes are atmospheric and they always seem to fit the mood perfectly. It's impossible to put into words; it's just something you have to experience for yourself. Hell, I even love the title screen's track to death!
Indeed, the phrase right on target can explain nearly everything about Mega Man 2 in a nutshell. The controls and challenge are no exception. Whether you have to stop for a second and shoot at oncoming enemies while climbing a ladder or you need to watch every precious little step as it may be your last while high up in the open skies of Air Man's world, the controls are simple to master after a few go-arounds. The original Mega Man was damn tough at moments. There are some parts of Mega Man 2 that will probably take a few tries, but none will make you pull out so much of your hair that you become as bald as your main nemesis, Dr. Wily.
Mega Man 2 is a mainstay on my list of top ten favorite video games of all time. No matter how many times I play through it from start to finish, I keep coming back to it for more, even though I've been playing it very often for over ten years. Not many games can be fun, exciting, atmospheric, and addictive all at once. Throw in innovative features, great graphics, and one of the best overall soundtracks of all time, and you have yourself a classic.
Through the years, Mega Man 2 has been much more loyal to me than any of the human 'friends' I had as a kid. In the good times and the bad, through times of troubles and turmoil, it has always been there for me when I needed it to take my mind off this thing we call life. I don't think it'll ever just forget about me out of the blue, either. That's what I call a true friend.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 07/10/01, Updated 06/27/04
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