The power of blue.
Hardly a week goes by anymore without a new Mega Man
game showing up at GR. Most recently we've seen him collected
on the consoles and hunted
on the PSP, but his latest is a whole new kind of retread.
Mega Man: Powered Up delivers a controversial look and feel to the franchise with googly eyes and giant heads, but don't let the fresh taste fool you. Underneath its childish exterior lies an abundance of terrific gameplay and an awesome toolset, leading to a truly mega package.
Though anyone with chest hair would likely hide the game box out of sheer embarrassment, Powered Up has plenty of mature allure its in two main games modes: Old Style and New Style. The former is essentially a graphically-enhanced port of the original NES Mega Man, complete with Rock Man-hard level design. Capcom has graciously added invisible checkpoints to each of its stages plus the ability to save your game, so even if your climactic leap to the boss tunnel ends in a spiked pit, you won't get kicked all the way back to beginning.
As the name implies, New Style is a re-imagined version of the original. Some cute, cinematic sequences help tell a light, effective story about Dr. Wily wanting to take over the world. The levels have been slightly tweaked in New Style, just enough so that veterans won't feel like they've been through it before.
Two new baddies have also been added to the original six: Time Man and Oil Man. Time Man's weapon can slow down time, just as Flash Man's gear could in Mega Man 2. But unlike any of the Mega Man games, each of New Style's stages are designed to be easily passable with the standard issue mega buster alone, so you won't need the time slower to counter any particular challenge in any of the levels. The same holds true with Oil Man's low-ranged shot, which spurts out a goop of oil that sticks to the ground if you miss an enemy. Once that goop is onscreen, you can't fire more until it either disappears or you walk over it to activate its second function, the goop slider. You'll gain a ton of speed on this makeshift skateboard, which is handy for streaking through levels, but little else.
Aside from these minor design oversights, having two new bosses in Mega Man is a welcomed addition to the experience, especially since for the first time, all beaten bosses become playable characters. This is something fans have clamored for from the moment they beat their first boss, and though it has taken Capcom more than a decade to finally give it to us, it's still sweet and adds a ton of replay value.
Each of the bosses has his own unique feel and powers, making it fun to replay levels. Guts Man can create boxes from nowhere and either heave them at enemies or use them as platforms. Cut Man has the ability to wall jump, giving him access to hard-to-reach ladders. Ice Man can freeze enemies and lava flows in Fire Man's stage and jump on them to find goodies, while Fire Man himself can melt ice blocks to find secret areas. Sometimes it's more obvious than that, with blocks labeled with big logos representing the weapon required to break them. Some of the bosses are easier to use than others, but they are all distinct from each other and from Little Blue.
New Style's stages have been reworked in the same general spirit as the original Mega Man, with trial and error jumps all over the place, though the added checkpoints will save you a great deal of frustration. The stages themselves are much sparser than the original, mostly because the graphics engine is so processor intensive that to have any more than four detailed objects moving at once will cause some minor slowdown.
Unlocking bosses also opens up ten challenges apiece, as well as ten different Boss Rush levels, coming in at a whopping 100 bonus missions. These mini-games are more intelligently designed than the New Style stages as they utilize the boss' powers to the utmost. Again, since Powered Up can only fit a few enemies onscreen at once without chugging a bit, most of the challenges are about platforming rather than blasting. The few that have you sniping everything in sight only give you one tick of health, but that leads to more trial and error than fifteen minutes of patience can handle.
That's nothing to shrink your head about, though, since you can jump into the main game again on multiple difficulty levels (another new feature) with any character. Other than for the sheer fun, the main reason to do this is to grab goodies like Enemy or Stage Packs for use with the awesome level editor.
The level editing tool is intuitive and clean, allowing you to quickly build entire Mega Man levels without suffering through a four-year program at Capcom U. You can customize the location of the terrain, starting character, weapon-specific blocks, checkpoints, power-ups, enemies, and even the boss at the end. Then, you can upload it for the world to download via the game's Infrastructure ability. The prospect of a bottomless well of levels is an enticing one.
The look, however, is sure to stir both good and bad emotions. Overtly childish and unabashedly cute, the characters have giant heads and adorable demeanors which belie the often difficult gameplay. Even if you hate the style, you can't knock the high polish and smooth animations. It's as good as playing through a cartoon and has the quality voices and sound effects to match. The style might be cotton candy, but the substance is all meaty goodness.
Even while treading over worn ground, Mega Man: Powered Up takes this ancient franchise in interesting new directions. It's a likable retelling of a classic series with enough content to keep most gamers entertained for weeks, and the ability to play as all these old-school bosses is sure to strike your geek nerve. Time to visit Retailer Man.