Blessed be thy Bomber, Mega be thy name.
I have a soft (but sometimes frustratingly hard) spot in my heart for the little Blue Bomber that could. Sometimes it leaves me thinking I am truly a god of the 2D gaming realm... other times, it makes me feel like headbanging in the box of glass shards from Bloodsport. And in that situation, I act as such: swear, curse, swing controller menacingly (at what, even I don't know), then pick up right where I left off.
[image1]It is Mega Man, after all. Playing out of spite is part of the fun!
For anyone who hasn't played an old-school Mega Man before (which is gaming blasphemy, by the way), there are a few traditions to be aware of: hilariously bad box art, bare-bones (but perfectly precise) control, and the world's most adorable little-person-with-gun-for-an-arm ever. The world has been tossed on its head by Roboenza, a virus that has made every robot on the planet go cah-RAY-zee and attack! And who's behind the sudden outbreak? You might think the eternal enemy Wily, but he's claiming his innocence on this one, and even offering to help! And the ever-elusive Protoman is hanging around, and ready to get the job done as well (and without having to pay for additional DLC, which is awesome).
There are three modes available for play: Easy and Normal to start, then after managing through the Normal mode, Hard is unlocked. After firing it up in the default Normal mode, the first thing I noticed about this new incarnation is that it just feels more... cheap than it should. Not in presentation, but in difficulty. In some areas, dropping down to the next screen can easily drop you directly on top of an enemy, and some of the mini-bosses are annoyingly stubborn at times. Still, Capcom has kept the soul of the series alive here in the one area that matters: After those cheap shots, if you mess up – whether it's against an enemy, or because of a jump, or what have you – it's your fault. And you will be punished for it.
[image2]And if you think Normal's a bit masochistic, try it on Hard... you might end up like that guy from Scanners. Yup, it can induce head-splody. But if you feel like keeping all of your hair attached to your head, there is an Easy route you can travel down, with some areas of spikes closed up and enemies shifted around throughout (some adjusted themselves, others slowed down or removed completely). For the beginning gamers, maybe it's more welcoming to play through (the bosses are still aggressive as ever), but for anyone with any gaming experience, it plays out more like a practice mode.
The bosses are as difficult and annoying as any other entry in the series – complete with weaknesses courtesy of the weapons their partners drop after the fight – and with a few of the most amusing names so far. Being a robot boy with an adaptable gun for a hand is all well and good against a fella named Blademan or Commandoman, but how prepared do I need to be for Sheepman? Should I be scared about Pumpman? The first sounds like just a “creative” guy with a nickname due to his hairy back, but the latter I think I've heard of in passing of a misconstrued Google search.
As for the weapons taken from each big bad guy (unlike MM9, every boss here is a dude), only Sheepman's weapon – a floating cloud that fires a lightning bold downward – is anything interesting and/or new. It's a small cloud that slowly floats up the screen and shoots a single lightning bolt downward. It has its place, and I'll let you figure out just where for yourself, but it isn't something you'll find yourself using on a regular basis. Every other weapon is self-explanatory and standard, which is a bit of a shame, but at least they're ready for use on a regular basis.
[image3]Maybe it's not fair, but maybe with the “true” classic feel to Mega Man 9, I was left wanting more in 10. Maybe more animation, maybe more depth in the story, I can't say for sure. But there is definitely something missing here. 9 left me with that feeling of nostalgia that I'd longed for so much; 10 is fun, but without any notable movement toward forwarding the franchise, so it makes the series come off less stylized and more stale. It makes me think if this is the feeling NES owners were getting back in the day when MM4, 5, and 6 came out.
Staying to the tried-and-true Blue isn't all bad, though. As I said, the control here is spot-on, the level design is ready to rip the ego from even a hardened gamer (especially the pixelated hell that is Hard mode), and the bolt collecting for assisting items is helpful throughout. But it's still getting... well, old. It hurts me to say it, but the retro veneer is wearing thin. No notable upgrades to either the look or play is keeping this from propagating a fully-fledged Mega Man revival. The price point is perfect for what it is, which is another fun entry in a classic franchise, but if Capcom truly wants to bring this back to the forefront, they've got to do something new.
Even if they keep it old. No school like the old school.