Mega Man 9
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  • 9/22/2008
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7  |  The Return of 8-Bit Bliss
Dezoris , 10/4/2008 9:58:46 PM

The newest installment of the Blue Bomber (and the glorious return to 8-bit video gaming) is finally here. This is a moment I have been waiting for and hope will inspire an entirely new market of classic game development that revisits a time when great games were defined by their charisma and charm, not their graphics and cut scenes. Capcom has large shoes to fill and as Mega Man is my favorite game series of all time, tied only with The Legend of Zelda, I had the absolute highest of expectations during my review process. So let’s begin… 

Mega Man 9 will truly bring out the worst in all of us. Expect shortness of breath due to the relentless profanities you’ll be shouting (or inventing), as well as the simultaneous palpitation-induced heart attacks you’ll withstand as you traverse an endless realm of spikes and bottom-less pits. If you weren’t one of those people who first purchased the Wii and “accidentally” destroyed your television by whipping the remote at it, now is your chance. Even Capcom’s initial PR emails pled not to review the game poorly based on its heightened difficulty, but that’s a bit of a spoiler, isn’t it? That’s like asking you not to hate stupid people…it may be beyond human capacity. 

Nevertheless, after several revisions, I finally have the piece of mind to share my official thoughts on the Mega Man 9 experience. And luckily for Capcom, they have improved, though not as much as I would have hoped. Rather than follow my usual style of categorically rating different facets of a game, I’m going to assume that most of you are familiar with how the original Mega Man series plays. If you don’t fit that description, then feel free to check out any of the other Mega Man reviews first. When you brush up a bit, read on. 

The Good

Excellent graphics and level detail. Mega Man 9 lives up to what many of us have come to expect regarding graphical styles and level design. Although some stages feel a bit uninspired, for the most part you’ll experience colorful tiles, wacky but deadly enemies, and an array of scenic changes within a single stage. 

Catchy and atmospheric original music tracks. Although they may sound a bit untamed at first, most of the original music tracks in Mega Man 9 are quite creative and energetic. It’s not the best music from the original series, but the use of innovative sound waves and effects heighten the arrangements offered this time around. 

Clever level sequences. There are several events throughout different levels that use creative interfaces for continuing the game progression. The rotating platforms in Tornado Man’s level, as a simple example, involve you not only jumping from one platform to another, but make sure you are mindful of your orientation before leaping. Jump too early or too late and you’ll shoot immediately downward from the underside of the platform. There are also some gravity-altering effects as well as the infamous bubble-riding from Mega Man 5. Although many of these events have difficult twists, they are rewarding to master and show the advanced game development Capcom is able to include using only the 8-bits of power. 

Good Mini and Castle Bosses. Some of the battle sequences were actually where I started to warm up to Mega Man 9. I’d only wish these creative implementations found there way into a larger percentage of the game. The Wily Stage bosses are particularly unique in terms of how they act and how you need to defeat them. Rather than the typical jump-and-shoot-it-in-the-face mentality, you’ll find yourself playing tug of war, dodging giant robotic eggs, and destroying an R-Type-like space ship one piece at a time. 

In-game shop for purchasing familiar items. I didn’t personally buy much, but it is a cool idea to be able to drop some hard earned screws to be turned into useful items in between levels. 

New purchasable items. In addition to the common items you’d expect such as Energy Tanks and Extra Lives, the Mega Man 9 shop also includes some brand new items which can prove incredibly useful in light of the game’s increased difficulty. These include things such as spike shields, damage reducers, and even a bottomless pit protector. Unfortunately, all these nifty gadgets can only be used once, and they are incredibly expensive to acquire. 

Challenges List. This is one of the most fun features of Mega Man 9. Much like Xbox Live Arcade unlockables, there is a list of 50 challenges that you can accomplish as you play the game. Some of the challenges are fun to attempt, such as betting each of the robot masters in under ten seconds, whereas others seem like they only exist for the hardest of hardcore nerds, like beating the game without taking a single hit of damage! Whoever can accomplish that task, I both respect and am ashamed of. 

Online Rankings. Not much to say about this other than it’s nice to see how much I really suck. Regardless, it’s a new feature, and worth mentioning in the “Good” column. 

Legacy Mode (sprite flickering). This is a nice touch that actually lets you toggle whether or not you’ll see graphical glitches and even in-game slow down when too many active sprites appear on screen. It is the perfect merging between old-school and new age gameplay. 

Ability to revisit defeated levels. A newer feature in Mega Man games was the ability to revisit levels after having defeated the robot master. Its nice to see that this is included in Mega Man 9, though it serves little purpose other than achieving particular Challenges, as there are no special items that require collecting in the game (ie. the Beat parts from Mega Man 5).  

The Bad 

Difficulty level is painfully high, even for veterans. You’ve heard it, but until you experience it, you have no idea how truly difficult and demented Mega Man 9 is. Level designs are particularly cruel in many locations and unless you learn exactly how to navigate them, you will be forced to replay a gargantuan portion of the game. Many of the most challenging spots come immediately before or after the mid-level checkpoint, which means that if you get past one and die later, you’ll most likely need to run the gauntlet again. This is one of my biggest complaints about the game design of Mega Man 9. It crosses the line from fun to frustrating, and is particularly detouring for casual Mega Man fans. 

Exclusion of slide maneuver and charged Mega Buster shots. This is perhaps the biggest disappointment in my opinion. At first I thought they would have done something cool and made these abilities achievable, but instead they simply removed them all together. Although some folks don’t seem to mind because its more “authentically” like Mega Man 2, I think the better choice would have been to continue having innovative gameplay, rather than strip it down to bare minimum again. There are a lot of times you’ll find yourself wishing you had a charged blast waiting for the next enemy because every ounce of health becomes so precious in this game. 

Too much recycled music, most of which are poor track selections. Again, in an effort to qualify this as a legitimate homage to the original series, many of the familiar tracks have been directly ported from Mega Man 2. While some of these are good choices, like the password stage select screen, there are far better classic tracks that could have been used to bolster the nostalgic experience for gamers...and frankly because some of the music in Mega Man 2 is just plain bad. Why they didn’t choose the Weapon Acquisition track from Mega Man 3 is simply astonishing. It’s like punching a newborn baby in the face with brass knuckles. 

New MegaMan style logo rather than classic series. This was a big problem in my eyes because the goal of this game was to revisit the original series. This title art is in the newer style of most Mega Man games including the Playstation versions, so I'm really disappointed that they used this instead of the Star-Wars style three dimensional lettering with a Roman Numeral nine. 

Disappointing robot master designs. There’s no question that this round has some of the lamest robot masters in the series. Probably only second to Mega Man 7 and 8, which I don’t consider part of the original series anyway. Recycling powers is one thing (fire, water, elec,…), but at least coming up with more unique sprite designs would have been helpful in Mega Man 9. Magma Man is just a pissed-off Needle Man…Concrete Man is a hybrid Guts Man…you get the idea. And the overall concepts for each robot master seem a little weak too. Hornet Man? Come on, I think all of us could have come up with a better robot master than that. That said, I am very happy about some of the more original characters like Galaxy Man and Splash Woman, who are probably the only two I think exceed the standards of a new Mega Man title. 

Game costs 1000 Wii points ($10). Plain and simple this game should not be ten dollars. Or, if it is, any downloadable content should be free. Nintendo and Capcom gets a big thumbs down for this decision. Why milk the fans for so much. This game cost next to NOTHING for them to develop, yet their going to cash-in for the equivalent of a Nintendo 64 download from their virtual console. Tisk tisk. 

No demo versions of game. Another big knee to the groin is the lack of a downloadable demo. Even though this was probably because more casual gamers would have immediately been turned off by the games difficulty

Downloadable content must be purchased. Again, this should be completely free considering the initial purchase price of the game. Micro-extortion at it’s finest. 

Shockingly simple final battle(s). I don’t want to spoil the plot, but when I experienced the final sequence of boss battles I was amazingly underwhelmed. We’ve been bruised, beaten, and impaled across twelve relentlessly perverted stages only to be confronted with a battle that is typical Mega Man in style and difficulty!?! Maybe it’s just my opinion, but I was definitely surprised. Then again, I could simply be desensitized to all the horror by playing through the entire games. 

Pathetic intro/story. Let’s face it, Mega Man has never been ground-breaking when it comes to storyline, but that’s because it didn’t have to be. Mega Man 9 starts in a traditional fashion but quickly spirals out of credibility because of the embarrassingly cheesy concepts that come across in the dialog. Every line I kept saying “Okay, enough! Stop now while you still can! Save yourself!” Yet they rambled on to the point where I gave up on the story and just got suited up to play. 

Equivalently pathetic ending/conclusion. Alright! A chance for redemption. After being dragged through the mud and cactus fields butt first, I think we’ve earned this ending sequence. Oh, no! It’s just as dumb as the intro! OH, NO! It’s WORSE! Ahhhhhhh! Shut up! Shut up! Wrong! Wrong! When does the talking stop!?

Sigh. Okay, I get it…they can’t write a classic NES storyline. At least the credits sequence is nice. It has large digital artwork of all the robot masters in various scenes as well as the entire cast of enemies from the game’s twelve stages for you to enjoy. It’s okay, little one. Come out of the corner…the evil spikes are gone now. 

The Bottomline

Mega Man 9 is indeed a perverted experience. On the one hand, it makes you want to curl up in the corner and cry. On the other hand, there are some incredibly innovative and well-integrated elements of gameplay and game design that create enjoyable moments, albeit WHILE crying in the corner. Because of this awkward chaotic balance it’s hard for me to arrive at a fair numeric rating. I think most of the reviews online are far too positive, or negative, without much justification. “Mega Man rocks -- A+” is not a rating. Nor is “this game is too hard! – 0/10” That’s why I’ve taken so much time to write, restructure, and rewrite this review. And in part, it was for my own reassurance that what I actually thought about the game was correct. 

That, in a sense, should be the sign of a bad game. I shouldn’t have to dissect so many elements to figure out if I like something or not. But, knowing Capcom, and appreciating the series for all it has given to the gaming community, I thought it necessary to really step back and consider this game from a professional level, and not just as a fan. As a result, I can definitely say that Mega Man 9 should at least be experienced by every fan of the series. And if you’re a newcomer, don’t let the difficulty detour you from trying it out. 

In the end, from a features and development standpoint, Mega Man 9 could have been more and it could have been better. It falls somewhere in the middle of the pack for me. It’s better than the first two games in the series, even if only from a technical standpoint, but it’s overdrawn attempts to be nothing but classic Mega Man really forced some odd gameplay decisions onto the player when I would have preferred a more progressive homage to the best video game series of all time. 

Conclusion: 7/10

 

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