The Blue Bomber returns for his third installment of metal-munching mayhem. This time he’s faced with eight new master robots. And they’re slightly eviler…TO THE MAX! At the risk of being severely lashed by you the readers, I would like to explain why I feel this game is the absolute pinnacle of the original Mega Man series (*gasp*…even better than Mega Man 2!? yes…even better than Mega Man 2…).
It’s important to review each title as a self-standing game, but at the same time one must at least partially consider predecessors and sequels when attempted to accurately rate something that is part of such an extensive series as Mega Man. The gameplay here is nothing reinvented. Our hero still runs, jumps, and blasts his way through endless levels of crazy robots determined to stop him in his tracks. But this time around, Rock is equipped with a few new tricks. When in a pinch, pressing Down and A makes him slide under nearby obstacles. If that’s not enough to get out of a jam, he can also discover adapters that transform his power pooch Rush into various vehicles for traversing bottomless pits and even underwater mine fields.
To wipe out each master robot you must traverse their eight different levels in an order of your choosing. This can be a fun challenge, especially if you’re familiar with the boss weaknesses and choose not to follow that route.
But what is truly special about this installment of the series is that after defeating the eight master robots, and mysterious set of four addition levels are uncovered. And each one is defended by an evil robotic question mark!!! Oh, wait, that’s because they aren’t showing you who you’ll be fighting. Damn. Got over excited for a minute there. Well, hopefully not spoiling the surprise for anyone, it in fact turns out that you’ll be pitched against the eight master robots from Mega Man II. Each pair is hidden across the now destroyed levels of four Mega Man III boss stages, and you’ll have to discover who you’re facing next…as well as which Mega Man III weapon, if any, the masters are vulnerable to. This was so cool the first time I experienced it and I loved the fact that the battered remains of the stages captured the progressive gameplay of Rock laying waste to Wily’s evil operations, keeping in mind this was before the time Mega Man games let you revisit levels of defeated robot masters. Pure gold.
Control schemes for Mega man III are just as satisfying as ever. Your movement responses are down to pixel level accuracy. Many veterans will tell you tales of inching as close to the edge of a pit as possible, where only half of Rock’s foot remains grounded, in order to make those absolute hail-mary leaps to a distant lower platform. Jump and shoot mechanics function as one would expect, and you can even shoot while performing the new slide maneuver to really keep the baddies away. The only flaw I’ve ever seen in the original Mega Man series is that you’re limited to three Mega Buster blasts at any one time. I’ve often felt that a fourth could really come in handy. Then again, Needle Man’s no-button-mashing needle shot surely fills that small hole in my heart.
One sly addition to Mega Man III, and another reason I feel it is the best in the series, is the secret super jump that is attainable by pressing and holding a particular key combination on the Player 2 controller. This lets Rock jump to the very top of the screen and still retain his full amount of air control. And if space jumping across the entire game weren’t fun enough, this particular maneuver prevents Rock from dying should he fall into a bottomless pit. The eerie result is hearing the standard death sound effect and immediate silencing of music, only to see Rock reappear out of the pit by jumping a second time. It’s like the afterlife in Mega Man, what’s not to love!?
Replay Value: 8/10
Mega Man titles will always retain their replay value if you’re a fan of the series. You know exactly how to defeat each boss, you know exactly how long each level takes to travel, yet somehow you always pick up the controller and willingly wage war from the very beginning. That is the subtle magic Capcom has instilled within our hero, and so within us.
The only downfall to replay of a series this straightforward is that there isn’t as much motivation to continue playing to the very end. It requires dedication and a true appreciation of the experience from start to finish which not all fans may have attained. And that’s okay, though I can’t stress how much you might be missing otherwise.
Capcom does not disappoint when it comes to the vibrant visuals and mechanical menaces that are hiding in every corner of this game. As you discover each one there’s always something new to revel about the artwork and animation that went into making enemies this crazy, yet, somehow very appropriate to the series. I personally enjoy the larger enemies and bosses that had to be tiled together in order to create one gargantuan sprite. Not online is it a technical achievement, but it can scare the piss out of you in-game as you hear the preliminary life meter of a Wily invention fill up waiting to see it immerse from the jet black abyss.
This game is home to the absolute best selection of music in the original series. Although it doesn’t contain every recognizable beat, such as Wily’s Fortress from Mega Man 2, it does house it’s own share of popular tracks. Why even now I’m listening to the main title theme, which I believe to be the best of all Mega Man games of any generation, and the playback clock has just passed the 20:00 minute mark. Even the password and weapon acquisition beats are better than some games main themes. This is partially due to the sheer talent of BunBun, who went one to compose additional music scores for Mega Man IV. The complexity and atmosphere that accompanies the varying beats of each song simply can’t be taken lightly. And if you’ve played this installment of the Mega Man series, you’ll know just how much depth it adds to the gameplay and storyline.
Sound effects are another great testament to the skill and polish overflowing out of most of the games Capcom produces. However, the one critique I do have is that the majority of Capcom games (even non-Mega Man series) contain sound effects that are a bit too similar. Aside from a few even being completely recycled, I often find myself thinking they could have done a little better coming up with a unique sound for a particular effect rather than finding one in their library that was close enough.
That said, Mega Man III had some perfected sound effects as well. One of the most satisfying examples is the ripping metal sound that Rock inflicts as his Mega Buster shots tear into enemy robots. Is there anything sweeter in life? If so, I possess no interest to know.
Mega Man is a game series you either love or don’t. It’s hard to find an in-between because the formula has remained much the same for over three generations of platforms. Nevertheless, the classic platform and almost arcade addicting action simply works, no matter how hardcore of a gamer you might be. Beyond your and my personal opinions of the series, there is no question that Mega Man is simply legendary. And I do wager that Mega Man III illustrates this most successfully.