"Between A Rock And A Hard Place."
Sega didn’t have just one Mega Man title in the early 90’s, although trying to completely erase Mega Man for the Sega Game Gear from my memory banks would prove beneficial at this point. In Japan and Europe, Capcom released a 16 bit Mega Man/Rockman game on the Sega Mega Drive (aka Sega Genesis outside the US) titled Rockman: Mega World. Instead of it being an exclusive 16 bit installment to the famed franchise, Capcom developed what more or less is considered a 16 bit remake of the first three titles from the NES. Being that this is an update to the audio and video departments, how did it hold up compared to the classics?
It’s pretty much common knowledge that the Genesis/Mega Drive had quite a mediocre sound board under the hood. Only a handful of developers were able to work with its shortcomings and provide any kind of quality sound, whether they be musical bits or standard sound effects. To that end, Rockman: Mega World does stand out as one of the better audio packages on the console, however it still falls quite short of the legendary suite provided by its 8 bit predecessors. With the effects, they are, for the most part, adequately upgraded, with little to no room for complaints.
Admittedly there are a small handful of tunes that do sound about on par in terms of epic compositions, and maybe just a slight bit stronger overall, including Flash Man’s theme from Rockman 2. Others, such as Hard Man’s theme from Rockman 3, come close to the toe tapping power provided by the NES title, and are more than welcome in this addition. Then there are those that just miss the feel completely. Rockman 2‘s character select screen comes to mind here, as it sounds more like a carnival theme than the rather epic loop from 8 bits ago. Even worse are the inclusion of what I refer to as “metallic gargling” in certain songs, suck as Bomb Man from Rockman 1. If you’ve ever played X-Men on the Sega Genesis, then you know exactly what I’m referring to.
Naturally, Rockman: Mega World has received a visual augmentation, and to be frank, it works quite well. It’s not on the same level as Mega Man 7, but the boost brings the 8 bit titles “up to date” with minimal impact to the charm. Nothing extravagant was added; backgrounds are appropriately boosted in quality, while each boss and random enemy stands out just a bit more. There are still some dull backgrounds here and there, but as a whole, the boosts work off each other well.
Oddly enough, the gameplay didn’t carry over as well. Rockman doesn’t seem to fire as fast or consistently, which is mostly noticeable with his Mega Buster shots. Jumping physics seem just a bit off, though it’s not really any kind of hindrance. Then there are momentum issues when Rockman gets hit, which actually plays to an advantage at times. Usually Rockman staggers backwards when hit, though there are instances in which this does not occur, and momentum completely halts in place. This can be beneficial if near a pit, but I found no consistent method of replicating this at will. Finally, boss battles are closer towards the feel of Mega Man 4 and on, as opposed to the original trilogy. Naturally the pause glitch from Rockman 1 was omitted, and that’s just fine and dandy, however the rapid successions in which attacks would land on a boss have been omitted as well. Players must pause a brief moment between shots and wait for the boss to drop their invulnerability flashes before attacks can continue. Some battles feel a step higher in difficulty, though it’s nothing jarring.
I’ve more or less covered nearly every non Game Boy installment of the original Mega Man franchise (Rockman & Forte will eventually be touched upon). While Rockman: Mega World does feel like a successful 16 bit port of the original NES trilogy, it’s not something that I find as a “must play” for longtime Rockman heads. For a 16 bit Sega title, the audio is a vast success overall, though some of the tunes sound like a massive step down. It’s not the prettiest title on the system, but it does the franchise a commendable service. Gameplay issues and inconsistencies pop up, though at the end of the day, it does feel like a proper Mega Man/Rockman title. If you were completely oblivious to its existence, Rockman: Mega Worlds is worth knowing about, though the circus act of tracking down a copy is not worth the price of admission, for the most part.