Gaming Flashback: Favorite Mega Man Titles
While writinging my recent review of Mighty No. 9, it got me thinking about the Mega Man franchise. The great thing about the Mega Man franchise is how it has successfully reinvented itself numerous times over the years to keep itself fresh, while still managing to appeal to much of its core audience.
It's a franchise with an interesting history, and it's sad that we've seen it fall from grace since the release of Mega Man 10 in 2010. This bring me to the topic of the latest Gaming Flashback. Join in as I reflect on my favorite titles across this great franchise's twenty-nine year history.
Mega Man 3
Choosing a favorite from among the classic series Mega Man games is certainly difficult. The longest running Mega Man series, the "classic" series spanned ten games across a half dozen consoles over the course of twenty-five years. While many fans may choose Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3 did far more for the series than the second entry.
Where Mega Man 2 felt like a refinement of the mechanics introduced in the original Mega Man, Mega Man 3 felt like a natural evolution. The addition of the slide and the introduction of Rush seemed like a logical advancement for the series.
Mega Man 3 features a fantastic aesthetic with great level design and one of the strongest soundtracks in the series. In addition to its set of Robot Masters, the Mega Man 2 Robot Masters also appear and help add additional length and challenge to the game. This is one feature that is unique to Mega Man 3 and isn't shared by any other title in the classic series.
I feel that Mega Man 3 is overlooked when looking at the NES-era Mega Man games and that us shame. I understand that the love for Mega Man 2 comes primarily from nostalgia, but when looking at the two titles side by side, Mega Man 3 is undoubtedly the stronger title thanks to the franchise's formula receiving further refinement when compared to its predecessors.
Mega Man Battle Network
Battle Network sees the franchise take a notable departure from its platforming roots, instead opting for a dungeon crawling RPG. This reimagining marked the first significant change to the franchise's established formula since the release of Mega Man Legends.
Taking place in an alternate timeline, Battle Network is set in a version of the Mega Man universe where scientists focused their efforts on the development of networks instead of robots. Eventually, this led to Personal Terminals (PETs), created by Dr. Tadashi Hikari, being funded over the robotics research of Dr. Wily. Due to this focus on networks and the PETs, the creation of customization AI known as Net Navigators (NetNavis).
Battle Network's story follows the young Lan Hikari and his partner, a NetNavi named MegaMan.EXE. The duo eventually finds themselves wrapped up in a plot involving a cyber terrorist organization know as World Three. Led by the shunned Dr. Wily, the group plans to destroy the world's networks by using a powerful computer virus known as the Life Virus.
As Lan, you must team up with MegaMan.EXE and face off against the World Three agents. Each possesses a NetNavi, most of which are based on a Robot Master from the Mega Mega series including Fire Man, Elec Man, and others. Much like the main series games, each of these NetNavis has their own stage on the Network. These stages, which play out more like dungeons in a traditional RPG, are filled with viruses and puzzles to solve. Viruses are fought in random encounters, much like in Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. Battles play out on an 18x18 grid; with both MegaMan and any viruses having nine spaces which they can move on. MegaMan can use his buster to fight off enemies while also having access to battle chips, which give him various attacks and support abilities.
Mega Man Battle Network may not have been the first time Capcom made such a significant change to the established formula, but it's one of the most successful. Spanning six main entries across the GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS, Battle Network ran longer than any spin-off aside from Mega Man X. The Battle Network games are very enjoyable and successfully manage to transition the Mega Man characters to a new genre and offer up a unique experience.
Mega Man X
At the time of its release, Mega Man X was the biggest leap forward the series had seen, andsingle-handedly changed the course of the franchise and every game that would come after it. From the moment you press the start button and are thrown into the first stage, you can tell that this isn't the same Mega Man as on the NES.
In the first stage the game proves you that you're dealing with a different beast. In addition to the much more vibrant graphics and the guitar-infused soundtrack, the game shows you it means business in the very first encounter. During the intro stage fight with Vile, you are unable to win, the first time this has happened in a Mega Man title. This scenario does more to show you how much the game has changed than you could glean from the entire introductory level.
This feeling is further elevated as you make your way through the game and discover the armor upgrades and learn that certain stages will change depending on the order they are beaten. It's something that comes as an afterthought these days, but looking back at Mega Man X, it laid the groundwork for so many things to come in the franchise.
There's so much more to say about Mega Man X, so much so that I may dedicate an entire article to it in the future. The game is undoubtedly one of the most important in the franchise, and it deserves every word or praise that it has received over the years.
Mega Man IV (Gameboy)
The Mega Man series on the GameBoy often feel like they are overlooked and viewed as no more than copies of their NES counterparts. While Mega Man IV does take four of the bosses from Mega Man IV and Mega Man V on the NES, but that's where the most of the similarities end. Sure the levels share similar visuals to their NES counterparts, but the layouts are entirely new.
Additionally, thanks to Capcom knowing how to get the most out of the Game Boy by the time the that Mega Man IV was developed, takes full advantage of the Game Boy hardware and, arguably, features better sound and visuals than its NES counterparts. Couple this with the game featuring a new storyline, the Mega Man Hunter, Ballade, and a brand new set of castle stages and final boss, and the game stands out from the others on the Game Boy.
After Mega Man IV, Capcom would produce the first entirely original game for the Game Boy in Mega Man V. This game would feature a unique set of bosses, the Stardroids, and not borrow assets from any previous Mega Man game. Despite this original title being something new, I still find myself favoring Mega Man IV. The familiar bosses in a new setting with a new story just feel more interesting that the concept of Mega Man V's Stardroids. While I applaud Capcom for trying something new after this title, I believe that a Mega Man V with the remaining bosses from the NES Mega Man V and four from Mega Man VI would have been far more interesting than what we received.
Mega Man IV was the pinnacle of the Mega Man series on the original Game Boy. It showed Capcom's prowess when it came to developing for the Nintendo's original handheld, and I wish more people had gotten a chance to experience this Game Boy gem.
Mega Man ZX
After the success of the four Mega Man Zero titles on the Game Boy Advance, it only made sense that Capcom would attempt to follow that series with an "X" series of its own, similar to the transition from the NES to the Super Nintendo.
ZX picks up two-hundred years after the events of Mega Man Zero 4 and marks the first time in the franchise's history that the player can play as a female protagonist. This one change makes ZX, and its sequel Mega Man ZX: Advent, stand out when compared to any other Mega Man title. Additionally, this game's female protagonist, Aile, actually controls like Mega Man himself, rather than being a gimmick character like Roll in Mega Man: Powered Up.
The exploration aspect of Mega Man ZX also lends a lot to my enjoyment of the title. While missions are chosen at a computer terminal, the game allows you to freely roam the environment when you're outside of a mission, giving the game more of a Metroidvania feel. Couple this with the new Biometal system, which acts as the weapon system in this title, and you have one of the most unique titles in the franchise.