Review by TheTRobbReport
"Almost 20 Years Strong, Blue Bomber Still Brings It"
Hi there. Before I get into this thing, I'd like to introduce myself. I've been a lurker on GameFaqs for seven or eight years now, hitting up the faqs and forums without giving back so much as a thank you. I've had enough my freeloading ways, and have decided to give back to the community like I was part of NBA Cares, by kicking around my opinions of some games. Much respect to CJayC for maintaining the best general gaming site on the net.
What can be said about Mega Man and his collection of games that hasn't already been said? If you've played any of these games, you know the drill - hop and shoot through themed levels and waste 8 of Dr. Wily's robot masters to grab their weapons. Use said weapons to fight through Wily's castle, kick his ass and make him beg for mercy. One of the most enduring and beloved icons from the NES era, it's a damn shame that Mega Man's games have fallen out of the mainstream. In terms of challenge, skill required and creative level, character and weapon designs, modern gaming could learn a lot from this series.
Maybe Capcom was thinking the same thing. Or maybe they just saw a chance for a quick buck at the expense of its loyal fan base. But in 2004, they released the Mega Man Anniversary Collection (the "MMAC"), a "complete" (but where's my Mega Man & Bass?) collection of all things Mega Man, at least the original series. What we have here is the first eight Mega Man games, plus 2 never-before released on console arcade fighting games, Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man: Power Fighters.
Before getting into the guts of MMAC, some context may be helpful to modern gamers, who probably haven't played a side-scrolling Mega Man game. MMAC is not an EA game. As such, the emphasis is not on slick presentation, nor is there much in the way of hand-holding on your way up the learning curve. Instead, you are going to have to develop skillz with a capital Z. Mega Man has always been about quick reflexes, memorization and an acceptance that death is one spiked pit away. Learning how to survive and master boss patterns and level layouts, not ability to suck your time away in fantasy, is why these games are so rewarding and addicting. Also, there are no pretensions of being cool when your up against the likes of toad man, clown man and hard man. If you play games to overcome challenges, instead of painlessly waste time, then Mega Man is your kind of game, plain and simple. End disclaimer.
Retro collections like this aren't hard to find these days, but for me the gold standard still is the oleskool classic, Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES. This decade-old gem took the NES mario games, brought the graphics and sound up to then-modern standards, added a save feature and threw in a bonus game, the never before released Lost Levels.
If the MMAC had just lived up to the Mario All-Stars precedent, we would be talking absolute must-own territory. Capcom, however, has its own standard to keep up with: that of the lazy, half-assed sequel/port, with minimal development costs, to cash in at the expense of its loyal fans. If you can't tell, I'm one of those loyal fans, but fortunately for you I haven't been consumed with bitterness that would compromise my objectivity.
While falling short of the Mario All-Stars standard, the MMAC meets the Capcom standard to a tee. As such, it can only be recommended to those who don't have access otherwise to the best games in the series, namely Mega Mans 2, 3, 5 and 8. Since there are probably more working NES's in garages and flea markets than peoples' homes, that still means pretty much all of you need to get this.
The most aggravating thing about the MMAC is that while it's a good collection, it would have been great if Capcom hadn't cut so many corners. Take the graphics, for example. In remixed "navi" mode, which is supposedly modernized, the in-game graphics of every game were left identical to the originals in virtually every way, with the exception of removing the screen flicker and slowdown in the NES games. How much cooler would it have been to see Mega Man and all of the classic robot bosses animated with Mega Man 8-type visuals? What if we put to use the extra graphical horsepower and tricks picked up since that game came out in 1997? They are just graphics, but the improvements a more fluid graphics engine can make in gameplay, even in 2-d games, are no joking matter. Just check out how much more precise the controls are in Mega Man 8 compared to the controls in the original Mega Man.
Sound is another area where Capcom's usual laziness takes away from the potential greatness of MMAC. The tunes from the Mega Man games, especially the NES series, are among the most memorable in gaming. I mean, who can resist the bumpin' beats of wood man, or the infectious melodies of spark man and shadow man? But instead of giving us full remixes of every track, Atomic Planet (the company that actually developed MMAC) teases us by remixing only a handful of tunes from the first 3 games and most of the songs in Mega Mans 4-6. The remixed tracks in general are awesome, but some of the most memorable, such as the wood man jam, are not touched. We also aren't given a sound test/music player to mess around with either, which is a true shame.
Capcom's cheapness aside, no corners were cut when it comes to gameplay. Mega Man games have always been known for tight controls, and given the precise platforming and shooting sequences you see in this series, this is the area that Capcom didn't need to fix anything that wasn't broke. Navi mode adds a few improvements, specifically a rapid fire button, shoulder button weapon-swapping and a slide button (in Mega Mans 3-6), that reduce the annoyances inherent in a 2-button control scheme. If there was one area Capcom could not afford to screw up, it was the gameplay, and I'm glad to say they got it right.
As for the games themselves, a true Mega-phile will want to play through every game, because they pretty much all have their moments of brilliant design and/or challenge. For the deprived souls who have never experienced the greatness that is Mega Man, here are the Cliff's Notes:
(If anyone is upset about story spoilers, please punch yourself in the face. Every game here is at least 8-9 years old, and if a deep storyline is what you want, go a) play final fantasy VII and b) cry yourself to sleep.)
MM1: The first Mega Man, and the one time was cruelest to. The controls are familiar, but the gameplay lacks the variety of later installments, and the game is marred by some wacky physics (Mega Man falls faster than in any other episode). The Wily stage will make you rip your hair out, since you can't continue, and must beat all robot masters and Wily consecutively with minimal power up assistance. Thank god for save system and the glitch where pressing select increases weapon damage, or this game would be damn near unplayable. If there's one game in the MMAC to skip, this is it.
MM2: The first great Mega Man game, and probably the most well-known. Not as deep as later titles, this game is still a must-play because of creative robot masters and weapons, fair-yet-tough platforming sequences and one of the best 8-bit soundtracks of all-time. The addition of life-replenishing E-tanks make the difficulty much fairer than in MM1. Above all, this has the best Wily stage in the entire series - every boss is a memorable challenge, and the Dr. Wily fight is the most creative in the series to boot.
MM3: Another amazing episode. The addition of Rush the wonder dog boosts the level variety, and the robot masters are more complex and give better weapons than in MM2. The best idea in the game, which inexplicably never returned in the series, was the addition of an intermediate set of levels between the initial 8 masters and the Wily stage in which you had to fight all of the MM2 bosses using MM3 weapons. Twice the robot masters = twice the fun. Too bad the Wily stage is a cakewalk, with no memorable bosses really, otherwise this could have been the best NES game in the series.
MM4: Tougher than episodes 2 and 3, and introducing the charging up ability to the Mega Man's gun (known to mega-nerds as the "mega buster"), this game is nonetheless a mild disappointment after the last two games. The mega buster is never useful except on a handful of enemies. Almost every weapon and every robot master feels like a retread from the previous games, and the level design takes a step backwards: no new challenge types, and with the decreased functionality of Rush, less creativity than in 3. Even the music was worse than its predecessors! This game did introduce the concept of two boss castles instead of one, which did up the challenge ante, but nothing stands out in either Cossack's or Wily's castle. Very skippable.
MM5: The second most underrated game in the collection, and easily the best Mega Man game behind MM8. Most gamers haven't played this one, because by the time it came out in 1992, the SNES and Genesis were hogging the limelight. Most gamers are missing out. This game is artful: stages are longer than ever before, and the game designers really started to branch out from the jump and shoot bread and butter - see wave man's jet ski section, or the awesomeness that is gravity man's level, fighting upside down. The robot masters are significantly different from earlier incarnations, and have more complex attack patterns. The weapons, while familiar, have new properties, like the stone man expanding shield or the somewhat controllable gyro attack. The slide and charge shot, instead of gimmicky additions, are frequently called upon in unique and creative situations. The Proto Man castle and its bosses, each building upon the last, are challenging and creative. Great music. An absolute must play, and one of the best NES games ever.
MM6: Ahh, the disowned Mega Man game (Nintendo published it in the US, not Capcom). Despite its humble origins, MM6 isn't half-bad. The rush armor was a great idea, and the jet pack opens up new platforming and gameplay challenges. There are some decent robot master designs as well. But when it comes to polish, MM6 doesn't touch its predecessor. The weapons are pretty standard projectiles, and actually have little use outside of taking out the robot masters. There also aren't any vehicle sections like in MM5. The stages, while roughly as long as those in MM5, aren't nearly as creative. A pretty standard installment, which didn't advance the series much at all.
MM7: The 16-bit Mega Man was considered a bust when it came out, mostly because it was preceded by the vastly superior and more complex Mega Man X. Time hasn't changed that perception. While the graphics are colorful, the controls in Mega Man 7 seem a bit clunky and sluggish compared to the razor-sharp NES installments. Stages are large, and the robot masters are far more advanced than the earlier games, but Mega Man 7 is still a bit of a let down. Memorable only because of the hardest Dr. Wily fight of all-time.
MM8: The gaming press really dropped the ball on this one. How this, the greatest Mega Man installment by a long shot, got mediocre reviews and called derivative when it came out is beyond me. Basically all of the stuff discussed in the other reviews, this game does the best. Levels. Weapons. Robot Masters. Depth. Creativity. Challenge. Memorable Wily stage. Length. Replay value, because of the bolt system that encourages you to find every hidden one to max out Mega Man's abilities. Only those blinded by nostalgia or who like to play their games with kiddy gloves can deny that this game represents the best of Mega Man. Too bad this was a sales bomb, as I can only imagine where the series would be today if as much progress was made as there was from the first Mega Man to this. Comparing this to the other Mega Man games is almost like comparing Symphony of the Night to earlier Castlevanias or Super Metroid to earlier Metroids.
Bonus games: As unlockable bonuses for completing certain game objectives, Atomic Planet included Mega Man Power Battles and its sequel, Mega Man Power Fighters. The games feature battles with a cross-section of robot masters from the main games, topped off by a couple of boss fights in a mini-Wily castle. Cooperative multi-player is a blast, as is fulfilling the childhood fantasy of playing as Proto Man, Bass, and Duo from Mega Man 8. While most in the press dismissed these games as throwaways, they are addictive and have good replay, since scores are saved on the memory card. One-crediting these titles is an achievement only the most dedicated Mega-philes will attain.
As you might imagine, there is a ton of gameplay to be had on this disc, although its lightness in the new content department leaves little reason for die-hard fans to get the MMAC. Ironically, these are the same die-hard fans who the MMAC is aimed at, and are probably the only people willing to pay money for these games. This contradiction, caused by Capcom's laziness, is the only reason the MMAC has a less-than-perfect review score. If you missed any of the top-shelf Mega Mans, or would like the convenience of every Mega Man game on one disc, this is a must-own.
Graphics: 7 - Mostly functional, though MM8 and the arcade games hold up well even in 2006. How much effort would it have taken to update?
Sound:10 - So many unforgettable tunes make it impossible to downgrade this score, even though it coulda been better with more remixes.
Gameplay:9 - Additions to old games helps playability, and depth is surpassed only by the cream of today's action game crop.
Length/Replay: 8 - NES games are short, but there are 6 of 'em, and MM8 and the arcade games have incentives for the hardcore to come back.
Overall Score: 8.7
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/16/06
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