I have a confession to make, and while there are probably a few I could admit to the one I’m confessing to today is that I have never played a Mega Man game. What can I say? I was faithful to SEGA and Sonic; I didn’t look at other platforms, let alone other characters. Now that I’m older – and a little wiser – I have made up for my misguided ways and with all these HD collections; there has been no better time to get acquainted with some of the finest series the industry has created over the years.
Mega Man, I’m told, is one of those games you simply must play. Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 picks up the series at Mega Man 7 through to Mega Man 10. The recreation of the pixel artwork into something high definition screens can render is glorious – have you tried plugging in an old console to a new TV? It’s a blurry mess.
A charming musical score floods your ears but the cutesy presentation hides a really tough set of games. Using the D-pad as opposed to the Left Stick helped greatly but I’ve come to the disturbing conclusion that I’ve gotten worse at games as I’ve aged. A more acceptable conclusion was that games are just far easier these days than when I was younger. Thankfully, tucked away in the top menu of the collection is an extra armour mode, which essentially makes enemies deal half damage.
There are also several checkpoints, which neatly nod to modern gaming, allowing you to reset with all your lives and energy intact. You can also choose to manually save, but this will save you at the previously passed checkpoint so you can’t incrementally crawl through the levels. Each checkpoint is spread out through each level, providing enough of a challenge without spoiling the game. It makes Mega Man immediately accessible to newcomers and to those who have softened from playing too many modern games.
The premise of Mega Man is simple. Select a level and attempt to get to the end before fighting the boss and absorbing their power, which allows you to then switch weapons. The order you tackle the bosses is key for an easy route through the game. If you gain the right weapon before a particular boss, then the battles become considerably easier. After the initial, “damn, this is really tough”, it wasn’t until my first powerup before I began to really fall for Mega Man’s charms.
Starting with Mega Man 7, I was instantly hooked to the sights and sounds and it was the wonderful charm that kept me going when the difficulty of the levels had me close to sulking at not being able to beat them. While tough, it never felt cheap, although jumping onto ladders and missing because you didn’t press up in time is just bullshit.
Despite its difficulty, I adore 7 and moving on to Mega Man 8 felt like an odd progression with a very different look and sound to the game, with cutscenes that have an 80s weekend morning cartoon vibe, it’s pretty cool even if some of the voice acting is dubious. While a huge departure from the style and gameplay of 7, I found 8 to be instantly accessible, playing more like the Sonic games I had grown up on with flying sections that are reminiscent of Tales’ biplane levels. Mega Man 8 still has dastardly gameplay mechanics that will have you sweating at the palms as you navigate the various platforms while avoiding (and destroying) the numerous bad guys thrown at you.
Mega Man 9 makes a drastic jump in style as it returns to a more ‘retro’ feel, harking back to the earlier titles in the series. Its charm is one of nostalgia. Navigating the vertical maze as it scrolled across the screen towards the inevitable boss battle reminded me of New Zealand Story. I enjoyed the updated pixel art but regressing earlier titles in the series felt like a backward step from the progression that 7 and 8 had taken.
Similarly, Mega Man 10 also takes cues from earlier Mega Man titles, introducing multiple characters and a selectable difficulty making it far more accessible by shackling the punishing difficulty of enemy patterns and tricky jumps. Regardless of the extra help, 10 is a lot easier than 9. Similarly, I felt 8 was easier than 7.
The collection is a great slice of Mega Man’s history, showing off how the little 2D fella made the jump from simple pixel art during his years on the SNES and PlayStation before making a retro return to his roots for sequels on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii. At £11.99, it’s perfectly priced.
Achievement hunters will feel slightly shortchanged with achievements rewarded for game completion and beating various challenges, which will particularly appeal to fans of Mega Man – if you thought the main game was tough, then the challenges will push you to the edge.
For me, I could sit and listen to the soundtrack for hours. It’s wonderful. I’ll keep chipping away at the levels, allowing the blisters on my fingers to heal before trying again. Discipline, timing, patience and listening to the game’s music cues are key to beating the games. Give up and you won’t uncover a gaming gem.
Mega Man may be hard but it’s a piece of gaming history. One that shows how we old folk used to play games, games that took longer than four hours to beat the first time round…
Thanks to Capcom and Xbox for supporting TiX