Mega Man VII: The Wiliest of Wilies

The seventh installment in the franchise continues from where the sixth left off, with Wily being taken into custody by Mega Man, but of course it doesn’t take too long until the bad doctor finds himself freed and looking to take over the world with the help of some evil robots. Right off the bat you get hit with just how much better the graphics are on the SNES compared to the NES, the 16-bit color palate really doing a great job, coupled with the smooth animations.

The game actually begins with a playable prologue of sorts, where you control Mega Man as he runs through a city in chaos as robots run rampant, and it is here that you first cross paths with a mysterious robot: Bass, along with his own robot dog in the form of Treble. He’s cops a total attitude straight out of the 1990s, and tells you to not even bother, he’ll be taking care of Dr. Wily so just stay of his way! Sha, right, as if…

Now, Mega Man VII game play wise is pretty much the same as every other in the franchise up to this point: defeat robots, get their powers, and then go on to defeat Dr. Wily. However, going along with what happened in Mega Man VI and started in Mega Man V, there is a much larger emphasis on collecting hidden power ups throughout the levels. Much like in the previous two games, you collect letters to gain Beat the Bird, but you also collect various modes for Rush, powers ups that can help you retain energy for your weapons, as well as the ability to wield Protoman’s Shield!

Although, he doesn’t just hand it over to you, rather he makes you prove your worth!

Yeah, older brothers can be jerks, eh? Halfway through this article is probably the best time to mention that there is a part halfway through the game where you go to the Robot Museum in order to stop Dr. Wily from stealing robots, and in a nice little nod to the franchise the building is ripe with throwbacks to older enemies.

It’s also around this time that you start to get a little suspicious of your new “friend” Bass. He keeps popping up in the most random of places, again claiming to be after Dr. Wily like you, but it appears he just can’t get the job done as you stumble upon him in a weakened state. You send him to Dr. Light, hoping that he will fix him, but oh you’re so foolish!

At this point in the game it’s pretty much time to head straight to Dr. Wily’s Castle, and of course that means it’s also time for all the frustrations to start settling in and causing headaches. This is not to say that the Castle itself is an issue, although you do fight Bass a couple of times, and deal with some rather annoying minibosses, as well as a boss rush which is surprisingly not that bad (?I), but my word is Dr. Wily in this game the hardest I have experienced thus far.

I cannot truly describe in words how overly frustrating said boss battle is, so please watch this video of someone doing a perfect run of the fight, something that I would never be able to do no matter how many damn times I tried:

Now, I want to mention something that is equal parts awesome but also frustrating about Mega Man VII: the collectible currency of bolts and the shop that you use. Yes, throughout the game you collect bolts from enemies and hidden spots within levels, which you then use top purchase items a shop such as extra lives, E-Tanks, etc. This is great but, after losing to Dr. Wily, you lose all the items that you used and, believe me, you will want them all back again. This, of course, involves going through levels, killing enemies, and collecting a lot of bolts to get all those items back to use again.

Regardless, after countless attempts filled with rage, dread, and stepping away from the game for a week, I finally defeated Dr. Wily! It was frustrating, yes, but in the end it was so damn rewarding. The game as a whole was a great one, and I actually did like the item hunting and the inclusion of a shop with the bolts and such, even if I sort of ragged on it a bit. To be honest, that was just because of the end boss battle getting me salty. If it wasn’t for the shop, and the bolts, in order to get more items I honestly don’t think that I would have finished Mega Man VII.

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Mega Man VI: Jetpack to the Future

So we come to Mega Man VI, the final game in the series to be released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and one in which I completed in a matter of hours. This is not to say the game is easy, per say, although once you acquire a certain item it more or less breaks the game. Mega Man VI, along with Mega Man III, is another game in the series that I actually own in its original form but, like every other game, I played via the Mega Man Anniversary Collection on PS2. Honestly, even though I actually own the game, I cannot remember much about playing it back in the day. Therefore, the game was fresh to me, and there were quite a number of things that made me question this game.

Firstly, there are the eight Robot Masters. These, by far, are some of the weirdest collection of enemies I have seen in this series up to this point, making me wonder if they were even trying at this point. Blizzard Man and Plant Man, fine, that seems normal. Wind Man is pretty normal too, but then there’s Knight Man. Research would later reveal to me that these two were actually created via a contest, so I can let that slide. However, Centaur Man? The only thing weirder than the Robot Master himself is his level, which I guess is supposed to take place in Atlantis? I’ve no idea. Then there is Tomahawk Man…

Yeah, I mean, I dunno… his level even takes place in what looks like the old west, complete with robot cowboys shooting six shooters at you. Then there is Flame Man who, well, he wears what looks like a turban on his head, has pointy shoes, and his level looks like it takes place in an oil factory somewhere in the middle east… right. Also, rounding out this cast of characters, there is Yamato Man who is a robot that looks like a samurai… so, yeah,  how about I mention the story? Much like the past few games, this one concerns a seemingly new villain in Mr. X who, during a competitive robot tournament, turns all the robots evil and it’s up to Mega Man to once again save the day!

I mentioned on my Twitter that this game starts off a tad frustrating, which it does, especially with parts like the one above. There is a part in Plant Man’s stage where you have to bounce on these springs over numerous pits, but there’s a trick in how you go about it, as you have to time your button presses just right to get the maximum jumping height. This was just as infuriating, if not more so, as the timed jumps. It also doesn’t help when you have enemies flying out of said pits when you try to bounce over them, therefore if you don’t have enough of said height than you’ll hit these enemies and fall to your doom. Now, this is when the most important new game play mechanic comes in handy, and it’s one that honestly breaks the game: the jet pack!

The funny thing about the jet pack is that, while it allows you to bypass so many enemies and areas, you also need it to get to so many secrets and, in some levels, the “real” end boss. Yes, in some levels, there are two bosses and only defeating one of these bosses allows you to collect the letters B-E-A-T in order to assemble the robotic bird BEAT from Mega Man V. Ironically it’s not even really worth it, at least to me, as I noticed that BEAT tends to not attack as much as he did in the previous game. Oh well. Anyways… as per usual you defeat the eight Robot Masters and make your way to Mr. X’s Fortress, which isn’t too hard. Once you defeat Mr. X, however, you learn a (not at all, this has happened too many times before) shocking secret…

Yes, it’s true, Mr. X was Dr. Wily the whole time! How many times can Mega Man fall for the same old trick? Regardless, Dr. Wily’s Castle is easy enough, again more or less thanks to the jet pack, and although I got tripped up a little in the boss rush (which I always do), I was able to take down Dr. Wily and finish Mega Man VI in one night! Although, it was a mixed bag of emotions, honestly.

It felt good, knowing that this was the last Mega Man game on the NES and that the next one I play will be on the SNES, but I also felt a bit unsatisfied at the end. I dunno, this iteration in the series just felt mediocre to me. It felt like more of the same. Yeah, yeah, I know most Mega Man games are mostly the same thing over and over again, in a way, but I think a switch over to the SNES is just what the franchise needed at that point. New graphics, new mechanics, and new possibilities that I’m looking forward to exploring. Either way, the future is soon!

Mega Man V: Second Verse, Better than the Last

Mega Man V is a lot like its predecessor in a way, mostly due to the story, which sees someone under Dr. Wily’s control. This time it’s Protoman, Mega Man’s “brother,” who first appeared in Mega Man III and assisted you in Mega Man IV. You are lead to believe that the mysterious Protoman has not only turned eight more Robot Masters evil, and thus they need to be stopped, but that he also kidnapped Dr. Light! And so it begins again…

First and foremost, although the plot to this game is more or less the same as the previous, I have to say right off the bat that the level design in this iteration of Mega Man is more or less perfect. Seriously, while every Robot Master level in past games more or less had an overall theme tied to the boss at the end of the level, these levels really crank it up a notch and give you something special with a little extra challenge thrown into the mix. For example, in Wave Man’s level, there is a section of the level wherein you ride along on a jetski mowing down enemies. In Charge Man’s level, since he looks like an angry Thomas the Tank engine, his level takes place on a moving train. Although, my favorite would have to be Gravity Man, whose level contains sections where the gravity of the level changes thus putting you on the ceiling in some places!

So, as per usual, once the eight Robot Masters are taken care of you go on to a multi-leveled building of some kind, and this is no different with Protoman’s Fortress! Which, I have to say, was also nicely designed (along with Dr. Wily’s Castle) as I didn’t really run into any bullshit moments where you needed all the energy you could muster to get over certain sections with either Rush or anything else. This is probably a good moment to mention an interesting item within Mega Man V: Beat, a small little blue robot bird that hovers around you and attacks nearby enemies for you. To obtain this little robo-birdie you need to collect letters throughout all the Robot Master levels that ultimately spells out “MEGA MAN V.”

So, yeah, like I said you ultimately find out that Protoman, who has been evil this whole time, is actually a fake built by Dr. Wily after the real Protoman shows up to help you. Dr. Wily’s Castle is as challenging as Protoman’s Fortress in some places, but again not many truly bullshit moments, although I actually found the patented Boss Rush in this game to be quite easy. Dr. Wily himself was also not too hard to take down, considering how unlike the last couple of games he didn’t have too many multiple forms, and again the real Protoman comes back to help you after Dr. Wily proves to be a sore loser and activates the self destruct on his Castle. Seriously, though, where the hell does Dr. Wily get all the funds for all this stuff?

Like I mentioned before, so far, this is my favorite Mega Man game. It had just the right mix of difficulty, with not too many bullshit parts, and the levels were different and memorable. I can easily see why it just so happens to be the favorite Mega Man game of the Hylian Wanderer!

Mega Man IV: Going Backwards, Not Forwards

Mega Man IV is the first game in the series without Dr. Wily, who apparently died in the last game after having a huge block fall on top him, so this time around we have a new enemy in the form of Dr. Cossack. The game, which was released in 1991, came out around the same time that the Soviet Union was collapsing and communism in Russia was becoming a thing of the past; much like Dr. Wily being Mega Man’s arch nemesis. Although, I still find it weird that they replaced Dr. Wily with an evil Russian… are they trying to make some sort of political statement?

Well, whatever the reason for the inclusion of Dr. Cossack, the fact remains that he’s up to no good with his own brand of Robot Masters wrecking havoc around the world! Just look at them, no really, look at them and especially look at DUSTMAN. His eyes, with their furrowed brow look, just sort of says to me, “Ugh, Dustman, seriously?” Even he knows that he’s kind of pathetic, just a walking vacuum cleaner, although the weapon you gain from him is actually useful later on against quite a number of bosses. So, yeah, not much more to say about the other Robot Masters until you defeat them and finally get to see Dr. Cossack’s face before you head to his Citadel to which my good friend Zak made quite an observation.

Now, here’s where things take a turn for the frustrating, as I’ve tend to notice is the case in most Mega Man games up to this point when you get to the final stages of the boss. Once again the issue arises wherein there is one particular part that, if you don’t have enough energy for Rush Jet (whom is harder to control this time around), you cannot proceed in the game. This type of level design oversight is really started to get on my nerves. Regardless, besides that, Dr. Cossack is more or less a push over until you come to realize a shocking truth behind his intentions:

Yes, that’s right, Dr. Wily is alive and well after having kidnapped Dr. Cossack’s daughter so that her father will have to do what Dr. Wily commands. Okay, fair enough (although maybe a new enemy would actually be good for once?), but now you’re required to go through Dr. Wily’s Castle as well and, of course, endure a Mega Man signature Boss Rush! Now, when I was playing up to this point late one night, I said to myself: “I’m tired, I need sleep, and I got school in the morning. I’ll just finish this tomorrow.” Now, you see, up to this point every game in the series would have you start back at whatever level you ended on, but not this one!

Oh no, you see, neither Dr. Cossack or Dr. Wily’s have any save points. Once you start with Dr. Cossack, you have to keep going until you take care of Dr. Wily and finish the game, or else the next time you start your game you’ll be back at the start of Dr. Cossack’s Citadel all over again. To make matters worse, the patented Boss Rush is in the same level right before the first fight with Dr. Wily. You had better be damn good against all the Robot Masters, one after another, and then also be damn good against Dr. Wily or else you’re starting back over. I did. A lot.

And, much like the final fight against Dr. Wily in Mega Man II, there is only one weapon that does any damage to him so you better hope you have enough energy to take care of him, or else. All in all, I can honestly say that Mega Man IV was the hardest game in the series thus far. Between the fact that you can’t stop playing after starting the fight against Dr. Cossack, to the the Boss Rush followed by Dr. Wily, and some of the Robot Masters being a bit annoying (I’m looking at you DIVEMAN!), this game is both hard and annoying.

Yet, I cannot even begin to describe the sense of accomplishment I got once I saw that screen above, and that’s why I’m playing.

Mega Man III: Nostalgic Frustrations

As I mentioned before, I actually own a copy of the original Mega Man III, but decided to play it via the Anniversary Edition on PS2 like the rest. I can still vividly remember playing said NES gamepak back in the day, and not getting very far, except for when I gave in to the temptation of the Game Genie. Yet I always told myself that, someday, I’d like to go back and beat the game legit; today was that day. However, in the many years since I’d last played, it was funny how much I actually remembered but also forgot.

The vile timed jumps had returned, with this game really being the first one in the series to introduce me to them, considering this was also the first game in the series that I played back in the day. However, I quickly recalled one of the new mechanics that was introduced in Mega Man III, and would go on to be featured in quite a number of games in the series thereafter: the robotic dog, Rush. He could turn into a catapult, an underwater submarine, and the most important: a flying platform you controlled!

To say timed jumps were no longer a problem would be an understatement. Why deal with them when you can just fly over them instead? While the inclusion of the Rush Jet indeed made timed jumps tolerable, you could at least still deal with them without it. However, there were parts of the game where all versions of Rush were needed and, like my gripes with Mega Man II, if you didn’t have enough energy for Rush than you could not get past these parts and therefore could not finish the level as well. You had no choice but to die, get a game over, and start again. I did this. A lot.

Mega Man III is like a lot games in the series (up to this point) where you face the Robot Masters before going on to face Dr. Wily except, in this game, you have to face EIGHT MORE Robot Masters before you even can enter Dr. Wily’s Castle! Known as “Doc Man,” there are actually two of them in each of the four levels, and while they all look the same on the outside they actually use the powers of the Robot Masters from Mega Man II. Yes, you basically have to fight the Robot Masters from the previous game all over again… oh, and did I mention that there is STILL a boss rush in Dr. Wily’s Castle? Meaning, yes, you have to face a total of 24 Robot Masters in this game! DAMN.

To make matters worse, you have to face this asshole again as well! I knew he would show back up eventually although, honestly, he was actually easier this time around even without a glitch to help me. His moving body parts were slower, his attacks easier to jump over, and the weapon that he was weakest against did a bit more damage as well. It’s almost as if they knew how hard the last version of this guy was to deal with and toned him down a bit. That said, I actually found Dr. Wily to be rather easy this time as well (even with him pulling a Mega Man II and having more than one final battle), which was a relief after all those damn Robot Masters!

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention Protoman aka Break Man! He was introduced in this game, first by fighting you at random parts during the game, but then in the end he helps you out and you get the strange feeling like you haven’t seen the last of him… or Dr. Wily! Even though he had a giant block of metal fall on top of him… anyway, all in all, it was nice to finally be able to beat Mega Man III legit! It’s been a long time coming and, while it was hard and frustrating in places, it was worth it in the end. Which is really the mantra of any game in the series, especially Mega Man IV…

Mega Man II: The Good, The Bad, and the Wily

Mega Man II improves upon the first one, as a sequel should, by upping the ante in many ways. Instead of just six Robot Masters, we’ve now got eight, and whereas the music in the first one is rather forgettable, the music in the second one is iconic. No, seriously, there have been so many remixes and video game music bands that have covered songs from Mega Man II (and other Mega Man games) that talking about them all will be saved for another blog post later. Right now, however, we need to discuss the game itself: it is near perfect.

I say “near perfect” because, while the levels of the Robot Masters themselves are quite varied and challenging, Dr. Wily’s Castle at the end is just a lesson in poor level design. Correction: it isn’t so much the levels themselves, but rather the combination of the levels and the obstacles in your way, on top of the weapons that you need to get over said obstacles. Let me give you an example: there is a mini-boss in one level of Dr. Wily’s Castle that is more of less a puzzle. You need to destroy some walls, and orbs, but the only way to do so is to use CRASHMAN’s weapon.

The problem lies in the fact that, like all weapons in every Mega Man game, each weapon carries its own energy bar. If you mess up, shoot too much, and basically don’t have enough energy for CRASHMAN’s weapon by the time you get to this boss you are screwed. You either have to kill enemies beforehand, and hope they randomly drop ammo, or get killed and restart the level from scratch. This is not just a one off thing, however, as there were other parts in Dr. Wily’s Castle where you needed specific items to advance.

Which I suppose is a good time to talk about another new addition in Mega Man II that would, more or less, carry over into further entries in the series: support items. Besides the titular E(nergy) Tank making its debut in this game, you also got items that created hover platforms and rocket platforms that helped you get over spiked pits and climb over obstacles. By far this was one of my favorite additions for one simple reason: it allowed you to bypass so many timed jump sequences that otherwise would have had me removing what little hair I still have on the top of my head.

However, like I mentioned before, in the Dr. Wily Castle segments these items suffered the same drawbacks as the weapons. There were parts where you literally could not advance further in the level if you did not have enough energy for these items. Worse yet, the items do not consume energy like a weapon: as long as they remain on screen, and you’re using them, they continue to consume energy. Didn’t time that jump just right moving from one hovering platform that you created with an item from one to another? Hope you have plenty more energy to make more! Still, despite these somewhat frustrating lessons in energy management, the Mega Man II as a whole was amazing and I am glad I can finally say I’ve beaten the game!

Now, onto the next…

Mega Man: Timed Jumps and Pause Tricks

The first Mega Man game has been completed and I have a confession to make: I cheated. Okay, maybe not really, wait let me explain!

Many people consider the Mega Man series to be an action platformer, but also a shooter, to which I would say it’s also a puzzle game. To this most Mega Man games are formulaic in their approach: there are a number of “Robot Masters” that you have to defeat, thus gaining their powers, before you move on to the final boss. Here’s the trick though: each of these Robot Masters are weak against one of the other’s power. Sure, you could go through the game and defeat them all with just your default weapon (the Mega Buster), but it’s far easier to do the former.

That said, figuring out which Robot Master is weak to which other’s power can be a case of trial and error. Some are a bit more obvious, like FIREMAN being weak to ICEMAN’s power. HOWEVER, to my surprise, it is not in fact the reverse. No, in this game, ICEMAN is weak to ELECMAN because ice is water and water is weak to electricity. Which makes sense, sure, but such a connection isn’t so apparent right off the bat. Therefore, for this game, and most likely every other game going forward, I will be consulting an online guide to which order is best to take down the Robot Masters. Now, some of you may let that one slide, but I wonder how many of you will agree with this next admission…

In the first section of Dr. Wily’s level, the end boss is the “Yellow Devil,” a hulking yellow mass of goo that requires some damn good timed jumps to get around his attacks. I honestly spent at least an hour trying to defeat this guy. I consulted guides. There really is no weapon that he is weak against, except for one, and only if you use a really cheap method: ELECMAN’s power and the pause button. Yes, known as the “Pause Cheat” or the “Select Trick,” you can get off multiple hits with ELECMAN’s power by hitting the pause button over and over. Basically, every time you pause, and then unpause, the game registers that same one blast as a new hit, until the original blast leaves the screen.

I can honestly say that I only used this method on the Yellow Devil, because he was so damn frustrating, but the more I think about it the more I feel bad that I used such a tactic instead of fighting him the way it was meant to be done. Therefore, I might have to return to this at some point and do it legit. Although, I will say this: while I could have used the “Select Trick” at any other time, I did not.

Even when Dr. Wily was giving me a hard time, for well over an hour, I resisted the urge and was able to finish the game legit. While difficult in his own right, I can honestly say that Dr. Wily was not as hard as the Yellow Devil. Seriously, screw that guy, especially since I know this isn’t the last I’ve seen of him in this series… as well as timed jumps!

Did I mention that I hate timed jumps?