With the barrage of Mega Man reviews lately (not to mention in the coming weeks), it’s sort of reinvigorated my love and admiration for the series, no matter how feeble-minded some of the titles were (Mega Man 5) or how the reinvention fell flat on its face (Mega Man 8). Last year, Capcom released Mega Man 9, complete with old school graphics, 8 bit sound and music, yet the same tight and immensely satisfying gameplay the Mega Man series has been known for. The problem? It was a lot more difficult than any Mega Man title before it, due to a lot of artificial methods of death (pitfalls aplenty, instant-kill spikes being a little too prominent, as well as some lackluster character designs/powers) . While this new release was indeed an entertaining blast from the past, the difficulty really cramped down on the overall enjoyment, not to mention the overly yawn-inducing bosses and powers.
Just recently, Capcom decided to tap back into the proverbial cow and milk us another title, with Mega Man 10. While the previous installment reintroduced us to the blue bomber, as well as introduce a whole new generation to what a real challenge in video games looks like (albeit a bit too extreme compared to the older titles), Mega Man 10 is that title I have been waiting for since the third installment, for better or for worse.
There’s been three sticking points that have pulled the series down into a slow and steady form of mediocrity — the once mighty musical presentation, boss names as well as their powers, and stage designs. Mega Man 9 didn’t fare overly well in these departments, with certain portions of certain stages directly ripped off from previous Mega Man titles (Splash Woman’s bubble platform segment first appeared in Mega Man 5 during Wave Man’s stage, with seemingly copied death spike placements, bubble platform placements, etc.) With Mega Man 10 however, all three of these stumbling blocks have been rebuilt, creating a solid foundation to the game as a whole. Lets take a look at why each of these three aspects are better than anything the series has seen since Mega Man 3 or 4:
With each stage, there seems to be a much more dedicated focus on making the music more prominent than it has been over the years. Mega Man 5 – 9 really didn’t grab me in any way, shape or form. It felt as if the devs were going through the motions after Mega Man 4, just for the sake of making more money, and that’s not just based upon the musical composition. As pleasing as Mega Man 9 was at times, the music really wasn’t anything special. In Mega Man 10 however, while it’s not as powerful and lasting as Mega Man 2 and 3, it’s definitely the best since those two titles. The boss select screen sounds a bit subdued, though has that feeling like you’re making a tough decision as to who to chase after next. Selecting the boss, you’ll be treated to a familiar remix of previous post boss selection music, which sounds impressive as an 8 bit composition can.
Each stage from there on in does its best to provide something fitting to either the boss of the stage, the setting of the stage, or both. Solar Man stands out as not only the best stage theme in the game, but one of the best in the series, providing some wicked 8 bit beats and giving you a sense of hot action coming towards you soon, which is fitting since Solar Man’s stage is the token fire stage of Mega Man. Boss battles have a heightened sense of urgency as well, though not as poignant as even Mega Man 4, but much better than the five games after it. Top to bottom, it’s the best soundtrack since Mega Man 3, which is a compliment held in high regards.
The boss robots of the Mega Man franchise have had quite an unusual history. The first two titles contained creatively named bosses (for what their powers were, not necessarily just their name alone), as well as some powers that seemed to have fit each boss, their personality and their theme to a tee. Mega Man 3 started showing a noticeable trend with the powers and a bit with the name selection being rather dry and uninspiring, whereas Mega Man 4 began the apparent downward spiral of the famed franchises boss robots. Mega Man 9 didn’t necessarily contain the most sensational set of bosses and powers either, even with the first “female” boss being introduced. Seems like this time around, Capcom really thought hard about how to present each robot, as well as their powers.
The result? Some clever takes on old gimmicks, as well as a few new robots that, although they don’t necessarily fit the bill as evil robots, the “story” helps formulate an appropriate reason as to why such robots exist. Sorta. You have some original takes on the tired and true elemental bosses (Pump Man has a water pump head and a water shield, however the shield can absorb up to six projectile hits, so long as the spinning barrier hits the projectile its self, not to mention you can shoot off your shield in a rotary-like blast off). Then you have some original designs that work well (Blade Man with his blade hands and blade head that he uses to his advantage during the battle). You even have some bosses that sound absolutely idiotic on paper, but deliver in game (Sheep Man, although he’s just an electric boss modeled into something totally original). Each of these bosses have an outstanding character design, going above and beyond previous Mega Man titles. Chill Man looks like a robotized version of Mr. Freeze, and ends up being one of the coolest boss models ever (no pun intended).
For the most part, after the third installment, Capcom really didn’t put much effort into having a stage that properly fit the boss at the end of it. Mega Man 10 has some of the more inventive stage layouts and interactive stages than previous titles. Nitro Man’s stage is a stand out for its constant use of speeding trucks that you have to nimbly hop onto, and either stay on them to traverse through the section quickly, or hop off to avoid being thrown into instant-death spikes (which all have placements that don’t negatively impact or impede your progress, for the greater majority of it all). It’s clever in the way that you can cut down your time in the stage significantly if you know how to and when to hop on and off the truck. Commando Man has a few portions of the level where a giant sand avalanche will try to push you off screen and into a pit or instant-death spike. You can escape these death traps by standing nest to a raised ledge to give you a protective wall from the push, or Rush Jet by as fast as your Jet can go. Chill Man has portions of the stage that break away when jumped on twice or hit with a projectile twice, making for some slippery travels. Even without these newer gimmicks or rehashed gimmicks, certain stages fit the look of the boss to a tee, such as Strike Man with his stadium-like background, playing off the fact that Strike Man throws what looks like baseballs mixed with Pokeballs at you.
Everything in-between has been left untouched, or tuned to the players advantage. Once again Mega Man is without his charged Mega Buster and slide maneuvers, but you’ll hardly miss them, as most encounters are tuned to these omissions. You can play as Proto Man through each stage just like Mega Man, complete with the omitted Mega Buster and slide moves, although he cannot take damage well whatsoever. If you want to play Hard Mode off the bat, play through the game as Proto Man. The story is the throw away nonsense that the franchise has been known for, involving a robot virus affecting robots and driving some crazy, though a typical third act awaits you. The game is short, but then again, the franchise has never been known for its high playtime, even with such titles as Mega Man 4, where you had to complete two moderately short end castles.
There’s a minor control issue with the Wii version, thanks to button placements on the Wiimote. You’ll oftentimes encounter moments where your weapons will change over to the next one in stock, without any conscious effort on your part in activating this changeover. This is thanks to the placements of the A and B buttons. During the heat of battle, you occasionally hit one of these buttons and throw off your momentum, with some unfortunate deaths occurring every so often thanks to this mishap. If you have a Classic Controller, take advantage of it and don’t bother with the Wiimote. If you do not possess a Classic Controller and have to make due with the Wiimote, just be aware that your thumb might hit the A button and change your weapon during the heat of the moment (thanks to the minuscule d-pad), or the way you handle the Wiimote in general will trigger a weapon change from the….trigger.
Finally, you have your in-game achievement system, similar to the one found in the previous installment. While they really don’t add anything of importance, they are a reason for perfectionists to come back and play the game repeatedly in order to obtain every single one of these achievements. It’s a nice addition regardless, as it shows that Capcom went the extra mile to lengthen the experience in more ways than one.
Even without an achievement system, Mega Man 10 manages to hook you in with its clever stage layouts, creative bosses with more thought given to their powers and designs, and a commendable soundtrack. If you’ve never played a Mega Man title, what you’ll find with Mega Man 10 is an old school romp that will put your hand-eye coordination to the test, and provide you with an example of how enjoyable the 2D platforming genre was during the NES days. The game never gets overbearingly difficult, but will definitely challenge you. If you find the game to be a bit too hard on you, try playing on Easy Mode, where instant death is mostly negated. Mega Man 10 has the honor of being considered one of the best Mega Man titles ever, with a masterful blend of entertainment, challenge and high replay value. That’s something most recent big budget blockbusters seem to lack these days. It’s a $10 game — one of the biggest deals this generation thus far. Kudos to Capcom for finally giving the series a proper and thorough revival, while retaining the original look and feel that made this series so endearing in the first place.