Retro Redux: Megaman vs. Mighty No. 9

Keiji Inafune is directly responsible for one of the most popular game series of all time: Rockman (known as Megaman outside of Japan). And there are three major reasons why theyand by extension, hehave become so loved around the world:

1. The games are incredibly fun and well-thought through.

2. There is significant strategy in the rock-paper-scissors aspect of boss fights to warrant multiple playthroughs to see what works against whom.

3. The games are hard as hell.

I remember being a kid of maybe ten and trying to work my way through the “easiest” of the series, Megaman 2, and struggling with each boss, even after I’d learned which characters brought an advantage over others. Maybe the Metal Blade was a bit of a cop-out against almost everything, but with the adventures to those battles being so solid (and slightly different depending on the order you took the stages in), the series as a whole has become a staple of the side-scrolling genre. And even with its imitatorsa personal favorite being the 3DS download title Mighty Gunvoltthere’s nothing quite like the original.

Only maybe, there is. Enter Mighty No. 9, Inafune’s spiritual return to what brought him to popularity in the first place: tough-but-fair platforming, a blue kid with a gun for a hand, and robots. Lots and lots of robots.

Recently, Capcom (and Inafune himself) brought Megaman back to its 8-bit roots, so it gives players the ability to see if the original style of platforming holds up in comparison. Not only is the pixel art cool again, but the gameplay is still fresh over two decades later. With the resurgence of classic platforming from titles like Super Meat Boy (for “hate yourself for playing” difficulty”) and the Wii revival of Klonoa (for cute characters), Megaman 9, and 10 have reminded gamers of that feeling we had back when we would lay on our bellies in front of the TV, screaming “the game cheats” when we would botch the tough jump or land on spikes, with the NES controller glued to our fingertips.

But the difficulty wasn’t the only appeal of the series. The flexibility of play made the entire experience unique; in MM2, I asked myself whether I should charge through Heat Man, or wait and come back when the lava was cooled down? Should I fight Tengu Man first in MM8, or struggle to beat that damned Clown Man and get it out of the way? Sheep Man… really, MM10?

And with so many boss fights entirely unique in their battling styles, it’s always enticing to go back and enjoy seeing how each one needs to be approached. You can pop Pump Man’s bubbles so his main attack allowed for open space to dodge, or watch the jump pattern of Metal Man so he doesn’t trap you in a corner with both his body and his saws. There are so many different patterns to recognize, there is no “ordinary” boss fight or stage through the series, and then using the weapons collected from your fallen foes to use against their brethren, you can easily made the game either easier or harder for yourself in the process.

With his long history with Megaman so prominent and public—it really is Inafune’s blue baby, after all—he doesn’t have the outside competition one might expect with a project like this one. In fact, it’s a bit like playing golf at this point: You just try to beat the course you’re on. Maybe it was the Megaman Legends 3 debacle that made him want to start over with fans having a say (he’s said he wanted fan involvement after that failure), but this is going back to the very basics in the most welcome process possible.

According to their site the game should be available this month, so I suppose we’ll find out just where it ranks in the Rockman/Megaman pantheon. The commander of arguably the greatest platforming series building from the ground-up over 20 years after his initial hardass title… if this is where the genre as a whole is going, then I’m happy to see how we “re-evolve” from here.

What about you? What are your favorite Megaman moments, and are you picking up Mighty No. 9?