The Return of The Return of The Return of...
You have to admit it: There's something about Mega Man that just asks to be "sequeled" time and time again. Maybe it's the slew of cool weapons. Maybe it's the ultra-stylish striped helmet. Maybe it's all the funky bad guys he has to fight. Who knows? The Blue Bomber has been the subject of no less than 17 of his own games. Most of them were just rehashes of the same dang formula.
However, two years ago a new version of Mega Man came onto the scene. Touted as the big move to 3D, Mega Man Legends turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Although there was still plenty of action and a truckload of weapons, it added mini-quests, item searches and purchases, a progressing story and various other elements which summed up to an above average game.
Mega Man Legends 2 marks the first sequel for the series. Like most other sequels in the MM universe, it's still fun and has all the good features of the original...yet it's still almost the same game.
Mega Man's adopted Grandfather, Barrel, and an old compatriot have planned an expedition to the so-called "Forbidden Island" in search of the "Mother Lode", a treasure thought to be of untold wealth, using their newly created ship, the "Sulfur Bottom." On the maiden voyage, they are sabotaged by a strange woman who looks vaguely like Roll's (Mega Man's stepsister) long-lost mother. So Mega Man and Roll go off to investigate and help.
The game's graphics are slightly improved over MML, with the levels being less blocky and containing more window-dressing. Your enemies are detailed and well animated, while Mega Man's weapons can often be quite impressive. Anime fans will notice some definite similarities between some of the sillier anime and the graphical style used in the game. The cut-scenes (which are rendered in-engine) can sometimes look like they are right out of those cartoons. With this consistent animated style, the graphics are solid, despite the Playstation's waning capabilities.
The game camera, one of the problems in all 3D games have, is actually quite good. While there is a little pop up at times, walls in between you and Mega Man either disappear or turn transparent. This really helps in the middle of a firefight when the camera is swinging about madly.
Control is almost exactly like MML, save for the additional use of the analog joystick. The D-pad or left joystick moves you around, R1/L1 keys turn you left and right, and the right joystick lets you look around. You also have a lock-on button, which lets you keep an enemy in the center of the screen. While it can be a little awkward at first, this control scheme tends to grow on you and ends up helpful rather than harmful.
MML2's gameplay is also exactly like its predecessor. The game is generally a series of large dungeons to explore with occasional mini-game missions in the middle. You can explore the world, find little diversions, find or buy items to powerup your weapons or create new ones. The action portions can be very fun, with some creative enemies, pretty cool levels, and some neat puzzles to solve.
The only major gripe I have is the targeting system. You often have an enemy two feet behind you, but the game refuses to target it since it tends to only target things in front of you.
Another cool feature is the creation and upkeep of your weapons. Like all Mega Man games, you have your normal gun and a whole slew of weird and wacky special weapons. Your normal gun can be upgraded using a series of packs. Each one either upgrades your attack power, range, energy use, or rate of fire. It's particularly fun to try to increase one stat to its highest to see what it does. Your secondary weapons are created by combining very random items (Who would have guessed you'd have to use a Superball to create a bomb?), which require a good deal of exploration and cleverness to find.
The sound and music is pretty good. The ambient music doesn't get in the way of gameplay, and normally keeps up with the pseudo-cartoony look of everything. The sounds include gunshots and explosions, of course, but also include good sounding stomping effects and metal-hitting-metal clangs. But for the most part, the soundtrack is fairly sparse. The voices of the characters is on the campy end, but it seems appropriate for the environment.
While Megaman Legends 2 doesn't do anything wrong, it still doesn't change much from the previous title. But on it's own merits, it's still a good game. I'm just wondering what Megaman games are left...they haven't made a kart racer yet, have they?