Super Fighting Robot: Mega Man!
There was a time when the Mega Man series was the Madden of the platformer world. Almost every year, a new one was released making very minor improvements on the previous installment. Then, when the 8-bit console era came to a close, the franchise splintered into more and more series. Nowadays there’s, I don’t know, a jillion different Mega Man sub-series, each with a different take on the character. Yet, no matter which direction the series chooses to go, Mega Man’s glory days were, and likely will always be, on the NES. It seems someone at Capcom knew this, because a couple years ago they had Inti Creates roll back the clock on the series and presented Mega Man 9 in classic 8-bit fashion.
Now they’ve done it again, with Mega Man 10, only this time they can’t rely on nostalgia to please gamers. As a result, Mega Man 10 is packed to the brim with content to elevate it above its brethren. The ability to play as Proto Man is available without any required DLC, there’s an easy mode for the less experienced players, and a new challenge mode has been added to test advanced players’ skills. Besides that, though, there hasn’t been much advancement from Mega Man 9. Mega Man still can’t slide or charge his buster, there are no new Rush attachments, and the robot master count still stands at eight. I guess if it isn’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it?
To be honest, it took me some time to warm up to Mega Man 10. The game just has a different feel to it than Mega Man 9 did. A lot of 10’s levels have a more earthly feel to them, while many of the previous Mega Man games were much more abstract in their design. I also felt a greater sense of urgency from the storyline compared to the other entries in the series. It’s still the same Mega Man formula we’re accustomed to, but it just has a hint of something else under it. It’s an intangible difference, but it does help the game stand out amongst the other games in the series.
Out of all the robot master rosters there have been, Mega Man 10’s might be my favourite. I mean, there’s a guy who looks like a baseball, an electric sheep, a dude who has an old fashioned hand pump on his head, and a man who turns into a friggin’ motorcycle. That’s so rad! All their patterns are about as predictable as ever, but come on; there’s a dude who turns into a motorcycle! There still is the odd weak entry. For example, Blade Man is pretty lame. He just jumps around from wall to wall throwing hard to avoid swords at you.
I found Mega Man 10’s music to be some of the best composed in the series. While a typical Mega Man tune usually focuses on being driving and frantic, 10’s music seems to focus more on atmosphere. While they’re still, for the most part, very adrenaline driven, the music seems to fit each level a bit better. It blends into the background more seamlessly, is what I’m trying to say. The music that plays during the Wily Castle stages are a good example of this, with a slower, moodier song playing over the intro section, before breaking into the typical determined beats that Wily Castle stages are known for. Another great thing about Mega Man 10’s soundtrack is that it doesn’t reuse tunes from old Mega Man games like Mega Man 9 did.
After ten entries in the series, it’s not surprising that some of the robot masters are starting to blur together. It’s impressive that they keep coming up with new ones, but some of the themes are so similar I’m beginning to forget who’s who. For example, in Mega Man 10 we have Chill Man. I had to look up his name, just for this example, because I can’t tell him apart from Ice Man, Blizzard Man, Freeze Man, and Frost Man. I can’t wait until Mega Man 11, where we will meet Snow Man or perhaps Sub-Zero Man. To be fair, though, Chill Man has a way cooler design than any of the other ice related bots.
What is up with those distracting bars on the sides of the screen while playing on widescreen and why can’t I turn them off? I know the bars are there so the game stays in its correct aspect, but do they have to be so obnoxious? They show the various sprites used in the game and there is no way to turn them off aside from manually changing your system’s display settings. Mega Man 9 had black bars, so I have no idea why there isn’t even an option to change it. They’re even worse when you play as Proto Man, because while Mega Man’s borders are shaded blue, Proto Man’s borders are shaded bright red
! I honestly don’t think I can express how much I loathe those bars.
I might be the only person who cares about this, but what the hell happened to legacy mode? In Mega Man 9, we had the option to turn legacy mode on, which simulated sprite flicker, commonly found in NES games. In Mega Man 10, this option is bizarrely absent. Wasn’t it already programmed? Why take it out? If you’re going to stick to the NES’s other limitations, why not acknowledge its limited number of sprites? It really doesn’t affect gameplay at all, and some gamers might not even notice its absence, but it bugs me. I just feel it takes away from the game’s authenticity.
Finally, it’s difficult not to complain about Mega Man’s lack of innovation. I understand that it’s built to emulate an old formula, but since Mega Man 9 was pretty much just Mega Man 2-2, can’t something be done to shake things up. It’s true that most of the 8-bit Mega Man titles are entirely interchangeable, but most of them have something different to stand out. The original title had only six robot masters, Mega Man 6 had you combining with Rush, Mega Man 4 gave you the chargeable buster, but Mega Man 10 is really no different than Mega Man 2 or 9. This isn’t a big deal for me, because I generally view each entry in the series as more of an extension of the first game, rather than a different game, but I still feel some changes could be made. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Even something as simple as increasing the number of robot masters would at least help satisfy my desire to see something new done with the series.
The Bottom Line
Admittedly, I am something of a Mega Man fanboy, so if you’re not an established fan of the series, you may wish to take my opinion with a grain of salt. If you haven’t enjoyed any of Mega Man’s past installments, then Mega Man 10 isn’t likely going to change your mind. However, if you are a fan of the series, you will probably enjoy the blue bomber’s latest title, because really, it’s more of the same. It’s the same tight, well-designed, tried-and-true formula that we’ve grown accustomed to. If, on the other hand, you’re new to the franchise, Mega Man 10 is a good place to start, since its easy difficulty mode is a little friendlier to beginners. Overall, Mega Man 10 is an OUTSTANDING game.