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Lightning Reviews: Mega Man Series Part 1
In celebration of Capcom’s announcement of Mega Man Legends 3 for the Nintendo 3DS, I have decided to return to my gaming roots and review some of the best and worst of Capcom’s long running franchise. Join me as I journey throughout the several different series that span the Mega Man Universe and take a glimpse into the past, present, and future.
I have always been a fan of Capcom’s Blue Bomber. Mega Man, the original for the NES, was the first game I had ever played. My father had picked it up for me to play on his NES while he hoarded Super Mario Bros. Mega Man wasn’t exactly an easy game for a three year old to play but I did it quite effortlessly. I continued to play the Mega Man series and followed it into the X series, Legends, Battle Network, Zero, ZX, and even Star Force. Over 20 years since the beginning, I am proud to say that I have played every Mega Man game that was localized and even most that weren’t. I am a Mega Man fanboy and recently I have rekindled my passion for the franchise by going back and playing some old games and recent additions. I went through each and every series and have picked out my favorites and the Mega Man games that I loath. This two-part Lightning Reviews debut will give an overview of the game I played, my favorites, my most despised, and my synopsis of the entire franchise.
Part One: The Original Series
Briefing: Mega Man, the original series, was the starting point for many of the fans who have grown up with the Blue Bomber. The journey to stop Dr. Wily is a long one and the quest, which started in 1987, still isn’t finished! Dr. Light’s robot has been saving the world for over 20 years and it all began with…
Mega Man: Back to where it all began. When I started my journey across the Mega Man Universe I had to begin with this. My first game. This is the beginning of my gaming roots. Not an easy task back then. Mega Man was a tough little game that features six stages filled with traps, spikes, fire, vanishing steps, and much more on your way to stop Dr. Wily’s six Robot Masters. This is the only traditional Mega Man game that only features six bosses instead of the normal eight, which started with Mega Man 2. That being said, the shortness of Mega Man wasn’t exactly a bad thing. This was a great entry to the franchise. It was exciting, challenging, and the simple story was enough to entice players into playing again and again. The game isn’t without its glitches and quirkiness but that is to be expected with the NES and an entry-level game.
Mega Man 2: While I won’t be going through every entry in the original series, you cannot over this gem. Considered to be one of the best NES games ever, and featured in many top lists by gamers, Mega Man 2 is a featured game for the franchise. Everything about Mega Man 2 was leaps and bounds over the original. The game looked better, sounded better, played better, and was longer. With eight bosses, the road to Dr. Wily this time took more time but the bosses were much more imaginative than the first game. The stages were thoroughly planned out and the weapons you received are classic (yes, even the Bubble Lead). It is easy to see why this is the best selling of every Mega Man game. Do not miss out on this one.
Mega Man 7: This wasn’t Mega Man’s first steps out of 8-bit, that belongs to Mega Man Soccer, but Mega Man 7 was the first traditional entry of the series to do so. Mega Man 7 is a very fun game to play. The stages and bosses are very unique. There are new game play mechanics introduced in 7 which helps evolve the series. The weapons your get this time around, however, are a bit quirky and not so memorable. The music is great but sound effects are very weird and most of the time do not add to the action and excitement of the game but rather deter it. Mega Man’s buster in 7 sounds like a pea shooter and even some of the special weapons sound like toys. Even with that, Mega Man 7 is a great entry in the original series and brings with it more of a story than past iterations.
Mega Man 8: Quickly out of 16-bit and into 32-bit, Mega Man’s PlayStation 1 debut is a mixed adventure. On the bright side, the game looks wonderful and stage design takes a great evolution here. Music is mostly forgettable with some good tracks scattered about. Grenade Man’s stage and Wily Stage 1 comes to mind as pure winners. Sound effects take a much better role in 8 than with 7. Bosses are weird this time around. Some of them are either very annoying, very awkward, or just fun. Grenade Man, Sword Man, and Tengu Man are some of the better ones while Astro Man, Frost Man, Clown Man, and Search Man are forgettable in every sense. Worst part about Mega Man 8? The cut scenes. While having fully animated cut scenes are awesome to see, the voice acting strips away any attention to the animation and action of the scene. Absolutely dreadful.
Synopsis: The Original Series houses some of the best Mega Man moments and games. It would be a sin to pass up these games if your looking for the essential Mega Man experience. Not every game in the series is memorable but you can’t move on through the story without playing through these games. That is, if you subscribe to the theory that every Mega Man series is connected in some aspect.
Recommended Games: Mega Man, Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3, Mega Man 4, Mega Man 7, Mega Man 9, Mega Man & Bass
Passable Games: Mega Man 5, Mega Man 6, Mega Man 8, Mega Man 10
Briefing: In 1994, Capcom introduced a spin-off of the Mega Man games called Mega Man X for the SNES. The series was very popular and had grew into its own series. The X series introduced many new game play mechanics which evolved throughout the series and has made for some very memorable games.
Mega Man X: The X Series starts here and it is a very memorable experience. The only thing that X1 does wrong is not give a very good background story. The story of the X series is fleshed out much later on but it would have been nice to know more sooner. Everything else about X1 is great. Stage design, bosses, weapons, music, and sound effects are top notch here. The stages compliment the bosses perfectly and the special weapons you obtain from them are fun to use. X1 also introduced Armor Sets. Throughout certain stages you can find four pieces of armor that can enhance X’s abilities such as charging up special powers, halving damage, and even dashing across the surface. Once collected, X looks much more badass and more powerful than his Maverick Hunter friend Zero. All-in-all, X and Zero’s first quest against the evil Maverick Sigma is a great experience and cannot be passed up in this series.
Mega Man X4: X4 is the first game in the X series that is on the PlayStation 1. 32-bit compliments the X series much more than it did with the original series and Mega Man 8. This is also the first game that you can choose to either play as X or Zero. Gamers and fans had a taste of this with X3 but only for a small part of the intro stage. Picking your character wasn’t just a cosmetic feature, either. If you played the game as Zero, you had a different experience than X. While X’s story was more action-focused, Zero’s was centered on his conflict with Repliforce’s Colonel and his sister Iris. Iris and Zero are robots in love, but the war with Repliforce has caused a divide amongst them. The only thing X has to deal with similarly is a betrayal later in the game. Overall, X’s story is easier than Zero’s. Range game play with X is a safer approach than Zero’s close quarters combat with his Z-Saber. With X you also get armor sets and an extra stage. Zero’s story will net you nearly infinite special weapon energy, a change in pace from the previous entries in the X series, and an engaging plot. This is my personal favorite in the X series and one that I have to recommended to every gamer.
Mega Man X5: The reason why I am listing X5 is that the creator of Mega Man, Keiji Inafune, intended for this game to be the final installment in the series. I mentioned earlier about the theory that all the Mega Man series are somewhat connected. Well, with some series such as Original, X, and Zero this is very apparent. X5 was released a couple years before Zero 1 and the two were supposed to be linked together. Whatever reason Capcom came up with to continue the X series baffles me. While I love the X series, continuing after X5 was a blatant milking of the franchise. In any case, X5 continues X4’s plot with Sigma and Zero. The story this time around is very intriguing and did leave room for more expansion, however, if gamers want to witness the pure ending of the X series than you must play X5. The bosses aren’t as well done as previous entries but the stage design is superb with multiple armor sets to find and the ability to switch off between X and Zero at random. Music is forgettable and don’t add much to the game itself but the overall pacing of the story does the job well enough. There are some hiccups in the story, however, when you have to deal with a useless character named Dynamo. This could have been the beginning of an interesting character that reminds me of Jarlaxle from the Forgotten Realms. Unfortunately, Capcom’s portrayal of the character and reluctance to bring back the character in X6 and beyond killed any expectations for the character.
Mega Man X7: Here we go. This is a hard game to do a quick review on. X7 is Mega Man’s first foray into the 3D game play space. Also, its the first Mega Man game for the PS2. Also, sigh, it is my least favorite Mega Man overall. X7 is a travesty to the series and an ultimate low-point for the franchise. Of course, this is all subjective, however here is why I think so. X7 has awkward game play that switches from a behind-the-man camera angle for full 3D game play and 2D-3D hybrid side scrolling parts. I could sit here and name the bosses from every Mega Man X game, except X7’s. The game is completely forgettable. Stage design is the best part of the game but with the quirky controls and awkward 3D game play its tarnished. There are less than a handful of music tracks that are fun to listen to however much of it isn’t special. If you’re a true Mega Man fan, play through once to experience it and add it to your collection but afterwards, toss it aside and never look back.
Synopsis: There are eight games in the X series along with three side adventures. Throughout the 8-game adventure, we get to see X grow and Zero’s story come to fruition. Zero is the main focus point in this series and rightfully so. The next series in the Mega Man franchise timeline centers around Zero and the future after Sigma’s eventual demise. It is easy to see, after X4 & X5, how connected the original, X, and Zero series are. There are a lot of memorable experiences in the X series and it houses some of my favorite Mega Man memories. It cannot be missed.
Recommended Games: Mega Man X, Mega Man X2, Mega Man X4
Passable Games: Mega Man X3, Mega Man X5, Mega Man X6, Mega Man X8
Terrible Games: Mega Man X7
Briefing: Although I said the Zero series is the next in the timeline, the Legends series came out beforehand. Mega Man Legends is found solely on the PlayStation 1 system with re-releases found on the PSP handheld and HOPEFULLY soon on the PSN online network for PS3. Also, the first game can be found in a modified release on the Nintendo 64 as Mega Man 64. This series is very different from every other Mega Man series out then and even now. Legends is an RPG series that focuses on dungeons, exploring, and building items. Mega Man Legends is a highly respected series with many fans who have clamored for a third installment for about ten years. Finally, fans will see that come true with the recent announcement of Legends 3 for the upcoming Nintendo 3DS. Let’s look into the series.
Mega Man Legends: First thing you’ll notice is the all 3D game play. Legends was released well before X7 which makes that game’s failure even more apparent. Though the lock-on mechanic in Legends 1 is quirky, the 3D game play is handled very well here. Simple controls and consistency make Legends a breeze to play. In Legends you play as Mega Man, an orphan who was raised by Professor Barrell and his grand daughter Roll Casket. They are Diggers. Diggers search for treasure and energy crystals known as Refractors. After crash landing on Kattelox island, a huge adventure takes place. The game play is great and search through the myriad of ruins underneath the island never gets old. Combat is quick and fun and the camera rarely gets in the way. Enemies are unique and boss battles are entertaining. The cast of characters are likable and memorable. Throughout the game you can find items that Roll will turn into special weapons and add-ons for Mega Man. Not all of the special weapons are useful and I only find myself using up to four of them total. Plus, once you find the Active Buster, that’s all you should be upgrading and using. With the add-ons, skating around town and doing quests for civilians, showing up on local TV game shows, donating to the island’s museum, and fixing up the damage your battles cause makes Legends a long and great journey. There is just too much to do in this game and all of it is worth doing. The story is epic with a great twist at the end which makes you beg for more.
Mega Man Legends 2: Legends 2 continues the story of Mega Man and Roll as Professor Barrell makes his journey to Forbidden Island. What happens afterward is another great tale with an expanded cast and more depth to the huge story. Legends 2 perfects the controls and 3D camera. Overall, it does feel as there is not as much to do in terms of side quests but there is still a nice amount of fun to be had. The ruins layouts are much more intricate and the change of backdrops and scenery is most welcome. With Legends 1, the most we got was different colored walls. Legends 2 makes great use of the surface colors and aspects in the ruins. Boss fights are enhanced as well as the need for special weapons. Legends 2 is better than the first in nearly all aspect. Many questions are answered, however, many questions arise. Waiting this long for another sequel is a killer to fans but most are delighted to hear that we will finally see a continuation.
Synopsis: Without a doubt in my mind, Legends is my favorite Mega Man series in the entire franchise. I had many memories playing these games and going back to play them again was a joy. As a gamer and a fan of the franchise, you just cannot miss out on these wonderful games. Capcom and Keiji Inafune really outdid themselves with Legends and I, for one, cannot wait to see what Legends 3 holds in store for us.
Recommended Games: Mega Man Legends, Mega Man Legends 2
Passable Games: The Mis-Adventures of Tron Bonne
Briefing: This is the final series I will touch on in Part One of this Lightning Reviews. The Zero series is exclusive to the GameBoy Advance and was later brought out as a collection on the DS. This challenging side scrolling series is the only series within Mega Man to be fully completed. Mega Man Zero span four games and finished Zero’s story. Timeline-wise, Zero happens after the X series (X5, specifically). It is set hundreds of years in the future after the mysterious Cyber Elf wars. Zero is awakened in the ancient Maverick Hunter base by researcher Ciel. Ciel is helping innocent reploid robots in a safe haven against the evil Neo Arcadia militaristic state run by X. This series is touted for its difficulty and classic game play.
Mega Man Zero: The opening scene for the series is the awakening of Zero. We follow Zero as he struggles to remember and fight against Neo Arcadia. The game play is classic with a 2D side-scrolling style. Zero shares many of his abilties he had back when he was fully playable in X4. You’re reunited with your Z-Saber shortly after the game begins but Zero also has access to a pistol, extending pike, and a shield you can use as a boomerang. Using this arsenal, Zero travels throughout the surrounding areas to defeat Neo Arcadia lieutenants and rescue reploids. Zero also collects Cyber Elves which he can use to support himself in his quest. Cyber Elves come in three styles: Nurse, Animal, and Hacker. Nurses deal with health while Animal and Hacker are supportive types. They do add to the game but their helpfulness is realized later on in the series. Zero 1 is a difficult and fun experience. Music and sound effects are top notch and even the GBA helps make the game look great. The story in the Zero series can be a bit confusing but once you figure it all out, it is very intriguing.
Mega Man Zero 3: Zero 3 is my personal favorite of the series. All of the aspects of the series are fully fleshed out and perfected. The story takes surprising twists and is engaging. This is the height of the Zero series which is a great thing to say since Capcom outdid themselves with Zero 2 after the first installment. To see they captured the magic again with Zero 3 was great. Once again, just like the entire series, Zero 3 is difficult. The weapons this time around are fun though to see that one of the best weapons in the series was replaced is sad to see. There are many new game play mechanics in Zero 3 and some don’t get explained too well. Cyber Elves are greatly overhauled, there are extra pieces in stages called Cyberspace, and there is even a collection system with the Secret Disks. Finding Secret Disks can reward you with items, powers, and much more. You are able to gain skills form bosses and enemies to enhance Zero and battle elements change Zero’s appearance. There are plenty of secrets to find in the game and a final battle that is sure to please and engage many fans of Mega Man.
Synopsis: The Zero series is a very strong outing for the GBA and the franchise itself. It closes out the X series and finishes Zero’s story. This is also where the continuity of the timeline begins to blur. ZX is a continuation of Zero’s setting but once again just like the X games after X5 they aren’t needed. Capcom does a great job of making the Mega Man timeline a confusing and convulsive path. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a challenging and classic experience, look no further than the Zero series.
Recommended Games: Mega Man Zero 1, Mega Man Zero 2, Mega Man Zero 3
Passable Games: Mega Man Zero 4
I will continue this two-part adventure through the Mega Man Universe tomorrow with my synopsis of the ZX series, Battle Network series, Star Force series, spin-offs and side games, and the past, present, and future analysis of the Mega Man franchise. I know I may have left out some of your favorite games in this lovable franchise, however I wanted to get in the best of what I played and some of the passable and worst. Who knows, maybe I’ll revisit the rest of the series later on. Enjoy this article and I’ll see you all tomorrow for the finale!