Mega Man 2 has been my favourite NES game ever since I first played it in the early nineties at a friend’s house. It wasn’t my first experience with the series, I had the rather excellent Mega Man 3 on the Gameboy, but something about Mega Man 2 really grabbed me. The level design was so well thought out, it was a joy to control and it didn’t feature any of the gimmicks like the megabuster of later games. I think most of all it was the music that grabbed me and as far as chiptunes go it can’t be beaten. I remained interested in the series but missed out due to not owning a NES or SNES at the time and UK gaming press’s unwarranted negativity towards the series which put me off many of the games until recently. At least I eventually got the chance to experience what I’d missed out on thanks to a combination of emulation and ebay.
When I heard that Inti Creates was making a new Mega Man I was very excited for a number of reasons. When I saw those screenshots it was hard not to be excited. Mega Man 9 was to authentically resemble an old NES game, right down to the low resolution graphics, three colour sprite limitation and authentic sounding chip tunes. It was even going to have the option to include sprite flicker, a hardware quirk of the NES that meant sprites would flicker on and off if more than 8 sprites appeared in a horizontal line. On top of that all the gimmicks such as sliding and the megabuster of later games were being left behind in favour of the simpler Mega Man 2 control system. I was also excited to hear about the involvement of Inti Creates who are a great developer that have shown they understand how to make a quality 2D action game with the excellent Mega Man Zero games on the GBA.
Mega Man 9 certainly looks and sounds the part and thankfully it also plays the part as well. The Mega Man NES games have an undeserved reputation for being extremely tough. They might be tough by today’s standards but in fact are some of the easier games on the NES and back at release were actually criticised for how easy they were. Mega Man 9 however is by far and away the toughest Mega Man in the original series. Thankfully it’s never unfairly hard or frustrating but be warned that if you want to tackle this game it’s not for the faint of heart. I was particularly impressed with the boss designs and also with the inventiveness of some of the weapons. For a series that was getting formulaic with bosses and levels featuring repeating themes between games, there always seemed to be a take on a fire or ice level, it’s nice to see some creative ideas for what had become a stale formula during the NES era.
With its authentic retro charms, chiptune music and challenging gameplay I would rank Mega Man 9 up there with Mega Man 2 and 3 as the best in the series, high praise indeed. Inti Creates then followed up with Mega Man 10. While it keeps the same retro look of the previous game it ends up feeling somewhat phoned in. There are still some inspired stage designs such as the crazy Sheep Man stage but there’s also Solar Man and Chill Man lazily using the tired fire and ice themes. While nowhere near as good as Mega Man 9 it’s still a worthy entry into the series and a damn sight better than Mega Man 4, 5 and 6.
One last thing I have to mention is the naff-tastic mock up box art Capcom created to promote the games. They draw inspiration from the god awful original Mega Man box art.