Mega Man 9.
What’s Old is New Again
Mega Man has seen a lot of action over the last 20 years, but in recent times, certain series have faded into the background for others. The classic and X series are the two prime examples as we have seen sequels in the form of Zero, ZX, or branched off into new directions such as with the Battle Network and Star Force games. I can’t say that too many of those titles interested me, so when Capcom revealed that they were bringing back the original blue bomber for one more spin, I was pretty thrilled. Now while I can’t say I grew up with the original series, I had taken a liking to it thanks to the Anniversary Collection released a few years earlier. Mega Man 9 borrows quite a bit of concepts from its past in Capcom’s attempt to bring 8-bit gaming back into the forefront, at least this one time. It’s a game that sets out to win you over with its nostalgic feel, and it succeeds in doing so.
First off, I should say that I misled you with that 8-bit comment. While this game definitely looks and sounds like one of Mega Man’s six NES titles, the game throws in some effects and gimmicks that just could not be done on that old-school engine. Still, Mega Man 9 definitely recreates the feeling that you’re playing one of those bite your nails 2D platformers that Capcom was famous for back in the day. Unlike the more recent entries in the series, you’re given a choice of eight robot masters to go up against from the very start of the game. It’s your choice as to which order you want to tackle them in, and not surprisingly, certain stages are going to be much trickier than others when you first visit them.
I find the overall difficulty to be on par with the game it’s trying to emulate, and that would be Mega Man 2. Case in point, while Mega has access to Rush Coil and Rush Jet, he can’t use the charged up Mega Buster in this one or even slide. I think some would consider the former being left out to be a good thing as it made fighting bosses almost too easy, especially in parts five and six. Personal preference makes me wish the slide were still included as Mega Man 3 was one of my favorites, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker. In fact, not having the slide actually makes getting past some of these bosses a bit tough. Magma, Tornado, and Plug Man can really give you a run for your money if you can’t quickly learn their patterns and exploit them.
The actual stages themselves have the usual assortment of gimmicks. Some of which you’ll encounter all throughout the level in increasing difficulty. Tornado Man’s level have these screws that cause Mega Man to spin on. If you press the jump button on them while you’re on the underside of them, you’ll fall to the next one. Later on in the level, rain and wind come into play pushing you back as you desperately try to land on the next platform. That’s old-school Mega Man at its finest if you ask me. My only issue with this are that some gimmicks don’t seem to get enough action. Literally, there’s a set of blocks at the end of Concrete Man’s stage that rise or fall the moment you stand on them. This is the only time you’ll see this gimmick in the entire game. It’s almost as if Capcom tried to put in every idea they could think of into this one, even if it meant barely utilizing it. Still, most wind up getting featured at least two or three times whether it be within the same level or throughout the game, so it’s all right.
Another thing that helps out with the level design are the special weapons that you obtain from the bosses. Many of them have their uses, and some have more than one. Tornado Blow not only causes all enemies onscreen to fly off the stage, but it also helps you reach new heights when you jump. Concrete Shot forms a solid stone block wherever it lands, helping you get across some tough gaps. It also can freeze some instant kill beams of lava. Laser Trident could arguably be considered the new Metal Blade with how effective it is in dealing with most of the common enemies scattered about. Mega Man 9's special weapons are really some of the best in the series when it comes to tackling these levels.
It’s not all great though. Some stages would rather get you with what I’d consider to be "cheap difficulty". You see, Mega Man 9 has a love for spikes, more so than any other console game in the series. In fact, it’s arguable that it borrowed from the Game Boy games as well considering how many times you’ll find yourself in a room transition that will send you into the sharp stuff and back to the start in no time. I know that 2D platformers required level memorization back in the day, but when the majority of your deaths are coming from surprise enemy attacks that you have absolutely no time to prepare for or those sudden room transitions where you mistakenly fell the wrong way when you entered, it comes across as annoying. Even Mega Man 8 had "Jump, jump! Slide, slide!" to give you a small chance to prepare. Oh well, I feel like I’m griping about something that was standard back in the day.
What was also standard back then was the very high quality soundtracks that the classic series had produced over the years. Once again, Capcom has done an excellent job in creating some memorable tunes here. I found myself humming to many of them such as Tornado Man’s, Splash Woman’s, and Wily 1. . .many of them just fit the situation of the level you’re in. They’re not all winners, but I think you’ll agree that the majority of the songs you experience during Mega Man’s fight for everlasting peace are awesome.
With that said, Capcom set out and delivered a title that looks, sounds, and plays like the old 8-bit titles in the series. Just as well, the game is only $10 whether you get it for the Wii, PS3, or Xbox 360. If you weren’t a fan of those games back in the day, then this one won’t interest you. For those that were, know that Capcom has given you exactly what you wanted. Mega Man 9 is my favorite Mega Man title in the last ten years, and it’s because it doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. Instead, it chooses to take you back to the year 20xx and lets you bust up Wily and his plans for world domination one more time. It’s been a long time, but the Blue Bomber is finally back in action!