As apparent from my nine previous Mega Man reviews, I’ve once again grown attached to the series. Sure, with all the ups the series has seen, there have been plenty of downs, most notable with the regression of level bosses, their powers, the stages they call home, as well as the accompanying musical scores in each stage. While Mega Man 7 on the Super Nintendo made strides in the video, as well as audio department, although the boss line up wasn’t any spectacular. Better than the previous two titles, but nothing outstanding. Years later, Capcom decided to bring their series to the 32 bit realm with Mega Man 8. With the leap to a 32 bit platform, will Mega Man finally reclaim the glory he had long ago, or will this be another case of “more of the same”?
You’ll open up MM8 with an animated scene, with probably the worst voice acting on the system. Seriously, the delivery and dialog is worse than Resident Evil, which I felt the latter was supposed to be intentionally cheesy. Mega Man sounds like a seven year old….gender undefinable kid. Dr. Light’s making reference to “Dr. Wiwy” just furthers the lack of care they gave these voice overs. Really, was it that hard to find voice acting that was suitable enough, or better yet, leave the Japanese vocals in and add subtitles? Purely idiotic on Capcom’s part to include such a painful element into this title.
The actual game its self is a rather mixed bag. The sound effects are a bit too whimsical, without much intimidation behind them. Even the sound of a defeated enemy lacks any sort of reward to it. What’s worse is they’ve given limited vocal bits to each of the bosses you’ll encounter, which are as horrendous as the animated cut scenes. The comments and vocal outbursts they have during the fight isn’t going to hamper your experience, but it does grate on your nerves. They will make you want to cut out your ear drums with a box cutter. Mega Buster shots and other sub weapons at least have a somewhat passable audio cue to them.
Everything else, in a general sense, lacks much power, impression or satisfaction.Which leads up to the music, a key element in what helps drive the Mega Man experience forward. While the first three titles were nearly immaculate, the three titles afterward exhibited steady decrease in quality and impression. Mega Man 7 on the Super Nintendo tried to present a musical selection that was more “in touch” with the series and the stages they represented, and did a somewhat decent job at it. With Mega Man 8, you went in expecting a much better quality musical performance, based on the power of the system it was on. You’d be surprised to know that yes, there’s actually a bit of quality to the music in this installment.
From the first “mini boss” you encounter on your little “warm up” stage, to nearly everything in-between, Capcom actually put in a bit of effort into the music you’ll be fighting to. Other than Tengu Man (Tengu Man?), each stage seems to have that fitting theme to it. Clown Man has that sort of cheerful amusement park-like theme that run throughout the stage. The boss theme music is the best in the series since Mega Man 4, which had a surprisingly engaging and chaotic boss theme. While the mini boss and boss themes do stand out, and are quite catchy, you won’t care for the rest of the package soon after you turn the game off.
The typical tight controls that fans of the series have grown accustomed to, are faithfully represented in this 32 bit incarnations, with no real tweaks thrown in. Just as solid as ever. Your HUD however, has been tweaked somewhat. When selecting your sub weapon (which can be done by pressing the L1 or R1 buttons — a carry over from Rockman & Forte on the Super Nintendo) you’ll notice a number below your sub weapon bar. This represents how many shots you have left until the power is depleted. It might seem like a useless addition, but in actuality, it’s something that should have been added years ago. It helps you further gauge how many shots for each sub weapons you have left, rather than make an educated guess, and plan accordingly from there.
In a few stages, you’ll be treated to some auto scrolling bits, a feature that’s been done here and there in the past Mega Man titles, though take up sizable chunks of certain stages in 8. One stage features a Rush Jet auto scrolling bit, which is actually a nice change of pace from the old “run and gun” formula featured so prominently in the series. Another is a snowboarding stage, where you have to jump or slide according to an auditory and visual cue. Fun little diversions from the game plan nevertheless.
Visually, there’s a bit of a problem. While the boss models and Mega Man “him”self look more impressive than their 16 bit counterparts, the world around them, as well as the enemies, fail to impress. In fact, it looks like a large portion of the enemies featured early on are just stock use from Mega Man 7, with no graphical tweaks, updates or anything. The stages themselves try to feature a festive color selection, however it seems like they all mesh together, and really don’t brighten anything up. In fact, stages like Clown Man (really, Clown Man?) look pretty drab, as opposed to the colorful romp that the look was trying to go for.
While on the subject of bosses, these names and powers are some of the strangest you’ll encounter in the series. Clown Man is an evil, sadistic robot clown, with a pretty pathetic power you’re bestowed when defeating him. Tengu Man is your wind robot with that Tornado Hold weapon you see in the Marvel vs Capcom line of games. While they all look creative, especially the hulking beast that is Frost Man (great name, guys!) their stages really fail to look impressive enough to fit their characters, and their powers, both used and bestowed, are not that fun. You’ll know how weak the weapon line up is when Dr. Light gives you a Mega Ball to kick around which, while its situational, is rather useless for the most part.
Probably the biggest knock on this installment is the difficulty. While it’s no as easy as Mega Man 3, you won’t be dying constantly. This is thanks in part to a leniency in the instant death spikes and pit falls that you’ll encounter. While they are still around, they are not nearly as prevalent as previous games. The bosses are some of the least challenging fights you’ll encounter in the series. They have their patterns of course, but seem to become briefly dazed when the counter weapon is used on them, or even if a charged Mega Buster shot lands on them. Its only after the initial four bosses, where things start to get a bit more difficult, although it’s still no where close to the realm of the first two Mega Man titles. You’ll be trying to hang yourself with your controller cord, attempting to get through the looping switch maze of Astro Man’s stage than you will be fro actually dying in game.
It sounds like Mega Man 8 fails to bring any type of fun and entertainment in this installment, but that’s not 100% true. While flawed in similar ways that 5 and 6 were, as well as some flaws unseen previously, even with the weakest of Mega Man titles, you’ll still enjoy the core gameplay ahead of you. While it’s a poor “Anniversary Collectors Edition” in the way that the animated cut scenes, voice overs and loading between and in the middle of stages is a disservice to the series, you’ll no doubt find some enjoyment from the core gameplay. Far from the best Mega Man title, though not necessarily closest to the worst.