Review by The Vic Viper

"10 Mega Man games - 4 are great, 3 are decent, 2 are okay, and 1 is a bad port"

It seems all too common today that a company will decide to port their old games to a new system but, rather than just porting them, they feel the need to “improve” the game. Sometimes this can be a simple matter of upgrading the graphics, but many times the companies will change the gameplay, add new characters and levels, and other things to the point where it practically isn't the same game you used to play. Capcom didn't do anything like that with the Mega Man Anniversary Collection – they are the almost exactly the same games that we played on the NES and SNES.

For those unfamiliar with the series, or at least the original ones, Mega Man games are simple, yet very challenging, shooter/platformers. In each game you must defeat the mad scientist, but to get to him you must defeat his robot henchmen. Each henchman has a specific “theme” and a related weapon – Fireman attacks with a flamethrower, Quickman attacks with fast boomerangs, and so on. Once you defeat the robot master you get his weapon, which you can use in other stages and against other bosses. While the game isn't explicitly linear, each boss is weak against one, and only one, other boss's weapon, so there is an order to fight them that makes the game easier. It's like a game of rock-paper-scissors, except you get to rip off the hand of your opponent once you defeat him.

Mega Man developed a bit over his run on the NES, as you can see with this collection. In the original game you could only shoot single shots and couldn't even duck. Later on he could slide and gained a charge beam. The SNES games focused more on item collection instead of just beating the crap out of everything in your path and introduced several new characters.

The Games

Mega Man I

This is the game that started the series, and it is short, simple, and quite hard. As with most of the NES Mega Man games, it isn't even the enemies that make the game challenging, it's the platforming elements. Or, more specifically, it is trying to get from platform to platform without being knocked into a pit by a swarm of enemies. There are only six Robot Masters, but the final stage consists of four parts, and is much more difficult than the other six stages combined.

Mega Man II

The second game has more Robot Masters to defeat (most of which are a bit more creative than the ones from the first game), but it is a bit easier over all. There are significantly fewer platforming elements and the bosses tend to go down quicker. It is still a challenge, but not quite as hard as the first.

Mega Man III

One of the best in the series, Mega Man III had bosses that were even more unique, had more items to collect, and introduced Mega Man's robotic pet dog, Rush. It manages to be both very challenging and very fun. This game alone practically makes the collection worthwhile.

Mega Man IV

The other “best in the series”, Mega Man gained the ability to charge his weapon and the enemies were adjusted accordingly to counter his new strength. The bosses are quite challenging and the stage designs are greatly improved over the previous three games. IV is the perfect balance between platforming, item collecting, and combat.

Mega Man V

Perhaps it is just because there were already four very similar games available, or maybe it is just because it is so hard to top MMIII and MMIV, but V just isn't as fun as the previous ones. It is just the same thing as before, especially since Mega Man didn't gain any new abilities since the last game. There is one more robotic helper, but it is time consuming to construct and not exceptionally useful. There are a lot more enemies to fight since there are actually two fortresses to get through after defeating the Robot Masters, however even with the extra stages it is one of the easier games in the series.

Mega Man VI

Everything in Mega Man VI had been done before in previous games. The Robot Masters are pretty generic (four are based on elements from nature such as wind, water, etc.), Mega Man gains no new abilities (though Rush does) and it introduces no new characters. Even the story is a bit too similar to MMV since the surprise twist in the end is that the person you thought was the final boss isn't – instead it is Dr. Willy, the same final boss of every Mega Man. There are quite a few bosses in the fortresses and many of the stages have multiple paths, but in the end it is the same old thing.

Mega Man VII

This was the first Mega Man on the SNES and besides better graphics, control, and audio, it developed more of a plot than the other six games. Rather than the plot consisting only of the background in the manual/title screen and the end credits, the story is developed between stages. There are eight Robot Masters as usual, but instead of choosing one of the eight, you fight them in two sets of four. There are no major differences between this and the earlier games, but a lot of little improvements in all areas, which did a lot to rejuvenate the series.

Mega Man VIII

MMVIII is proof that voice acting isn't always a good addition to a series. Since the game was released on CD it could have cutscences and voice acting. Unfortunately all of the voices are very cartoonish that, while fitting for a cartoonish game, get really annoying quickly. Aside from that the game plays much like the last, including fighting two sets of four Robot Masters.

Mega Man Power Battle

If you take a standard Mega Man game and strip out everything except the fights with the Robot Masters (and Dr. Wily), you are left with Power Battle. You can play as Mega Man, Proto Man, or Bass and each of them has a different set of fights. While not a great game, or worth a separate purchase, it does make a fun bonus for the Anniversary Collection.

Mega Man Power Fighters

Just like Power Battle, except you can also play as Duo from MMVIII. There are three different sets of fights, each with their own (incredibly thin) storyline. Like MMPB, while not a great game, it is a nice inclusion in the Collection.

The Anniversary Collection

There are no major difference between the original versions and the Anniversary versions. There were apparently some major issues porting Mega Man VIII because there are major frame rate drops at times and the audio level fluctuates a lot throughout the game. While it is still playable, it would be better to get the PS1 version and just play that. Even with an emulator the quality is generally better than this version.

For some inexplicable reason, Capcom reversed the functionality of the A and B buttons. In this version B jumps and A fires, but it was reversed in on the NES. This isn't a major issue since you can get used to it, and chances are it has been years since you've played it on an actual NES. It just would have been nice if it was the other way around, or if you could customize the controls.

Most of the changes are minor, but for a full list of them see The Dover Tornado's Changes FAQ.

Navi Mode

One “improvement” that is worth mentioning is the optional Navi Mode. If it is on you will get gameplay hints throughout the game. When a hint in available an exclamation mark appears on screen and you can pause the game to read the hint. The hints are usually along the lines of “don't fall in the pit” or “use the weapon the boss is weak against”. Thanks, I wouldn't have figured that one out on my own. The one good thing about Navi mode is that it redoes the on screen display, showing you exactly how many shots of a weapon you have left in addition to a meter. The weapon select screens also have a nice image and the full name of each weapon rather than just an abbreviated name.

The different editions

You can get the game for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. They all have different bonuses, all of which are barely worth mentioning. The PS2 and Xbox versions have an episode of the cartoon which, nostalgia aside, sucked. The GC and Xbox version have an interview about the series with creator Keiji Inafune.

Bonuses aside, the most important differences between the three versions are the load times and controls. The Xbox and GC versions load significantly faster than the PS2 version, both in terms of loading data off of the disc and in terms of reading/writing the save file.

Control wise, the GC controller is the worst of the three for playing old games. No analog stick works as well as a d-pad for 2D games like this, and the GC d-pad is in an awkward place and is too small to work well for controlling a character. The Xbox controller layout is a bit better for this game, but the PS2 controller is the best since its d-pad is in the same place as the NES/SNES controllers. However, if you have a Hori controller (a third party controller that was modeled after the SNES pad) you get the best controls and fastest loads with the GC edition.

Whatever edition you get, it is worth the $20 or $30. Hell, the first four Mega Man games alone are worth that much, and the other five (not counting VIII here) are just icing on the cake.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/25/06, Updated 10/10/08

Game Release: Mega Man Anniversary Collection (US, 06/22/04)

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