Review by Michael Kelehan
"The perfect collection for both Mega Man fans and new players."
Ah, Mega Man. For the last 17 years, the adventures of Capcom's Blue Bomber have challenged and delighted gamers of all types, proving the old adage that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Now you can re-experience the entire original series, or play it for the first time, in this collection that can only be called perfect.
Even when the first Mega Man was released in 1987, it didn't have the most revolutionary concept. You're a little robot in blue tights who can jump and shoot. You can take on the first six stages in any order you want, and each stage has a boss at the end. The series' main innovation, though, is that when you beat that boss, you get his weapon for your own use. Beating the first stage may be tough, but as your arsenal gradually increases, you start to learn what weapons to use where, and an area that seemed impossible at first poses no threat with the right weaponry. Each boss has a weakness to a certain weapon as well, so if you're having trouble with one specific boss, beat a few others and maybe you'll find what he's weak against.
Subsequent games in the series added a little bit at a time, but they all play very similarly. Additions include the Energy Tank, which refills your life entirely whenever you choose to use it (MM2), sliding like a baseball player (MM3), and buying items with bolts you find lying around (MM7). But the changes are never that important, and so your skills are very transferable from one game to another. And you'll need those skills.
The first Mega Man was known for its incredible difficulty, and even the most seasoned gamer will run into some trouble in its later stages. Other games vary in difficulty, but each has its fair share of challenge, and if you can complete them all, you're one fine player indeed. This is no collection you'll be able to beat in a weekend, unless of course you forego sleep entirely and have already beaten these games years ago. Even then, though, it'll be tough.
In addition to the eight games from the original Mega Man series, the Anniversary Collection also includes the two Mega Man arcade games never released in the US, called Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. These games are just a series of boss battles, playing much like the original games. Since you have unlimited continues, the challenge in completing them isn't too high, but it can be fun to team up with a friend and beat the stuffing out of a boss that's been giving you trouble in another game on this collection.
All of the games come together to form what has to be the best retrogaming compilation in history. The first thing that has to be said is that the emulation of these games is perfect. If you had any of the Mega Man games running on the PS2 next to the same game running on an NES, or SNES, or PS, no one would be able to tell the difference for almost the entire span of the game. The games look just as they used to, sound just as they used to, and slow down just as they used to. Capcom and Atomic Planet did an absolutely amazing job here, and that went a long way towards this game's perfect score.
That being said, there were some changes, but they were all for the better. The most obvious change is that now the games automatically save your progress each time you play, taking up only 8KB on your memory card for the entirety of the collection. You can still use your old passwords for MM2-7 if you really want to, but now that's an option, not a necessity. There are also some new controls, such as the triangle button in MM1-6 for rapid fire, to save yourself the effort of pounding square 10 times to take down a big enemy. You can also use L1 and R1 in all of the games to cycle though your weapons on the fly, which is convenient when you're trying out all of your weapons against a boss to see what hurts him the most. The bug that let you pause repeatedly to beat bosses in MM1 was fixed, so you'll have to tough it out and beat the Yellow Devil honestly this time. Smaller changes include spelling corrections (Drs. Wily and Light are never called Wiley or Right, for instance), and the elimination of slow scrolling text in the NES games (the text just appears immediately now). Oh, and those load times from Mega Man 8? Eliminated entirely. The only loading you'll find in the whole collection is a few seconds when you start a game, and a few seconds when you exit.
There are also a few new options for the games that can make life easier for you. MM1-7 now have an Easy mode for the easily frustrated, and you can give yourself 5 lives when you start instead of 3. You can also switch on the new Navi Mode in MM1-6, which gives you hints as you play (triggered by the select button), tells you which way to go, and even plays remixed music in some stages.
No retrogaming collection would feel complete without unlockables, and Mega Man Anniversary Collection has just enough to satisfy. You have to unlock the arcade games, but you also can get episodes of the TV series, artwork, and some music inspired by the series (although the best has to be a remix of the Mega Man 2 title theme, playing over the menus). None of them are amazing, but beating each of the games is its own reward, and having a little extra to show for it never hurts.
The original Mega Man series was classic for a reason. These games will keep any action gamer coming back for years to come, and they form the perfect collection for both the Mega Man fan and the newer gamer who's never had the pleasure. The games are great, the emulation is perfect, and the value is amazing. An easy 10 out of 10.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/28/04
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