Name: Mega Man 9
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare, PlayStation Network (Reviewed on Xbox Live Arcade)
There’s been a recent trend of re-releasing enhanced versions of classic games with updated graphics, and Capcom has been one of the phenomenon’s biggest contributors, releasing games like Bionic Commando: Rearmed, 1942: Joint Strike, and Wolf of the Battlefield: Command 3, not to mention the upcoming Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. For their most popular franchise, however, Capcom decided to go the exact opposite direction, and create a brand new adventure using old-school visuals and gameplay. The result is Mega Man 9, and for fans of the Mega Man series, it just might be the best offering yet.
Taking cues from the first two Mega Man games, Mega Man 9 puts you in control of the classic Blue Bomber, who starts off with the ability to shoot forward, jump,....actually that’s it. No powering-up your Mega Buster and no Slide Attack. Of course, as you beat the various bosses in the game, you’ll obtain their special abilities, which may be the best collection of powers ever to appear in the series, but in his standard blue togs, Mega Man is stripped down to the essentials. Directing him through the game’s nine levels feels exactly how it did in 1989, with tight, responsive controls that will make you feel like you’re holding an NES controller again.
It’s a good thing, too, because Mega Man 9 is HARD. If you plan to play this game all the way through, you’ll need to be extremely patient, because after shooting and jumping, your most frequent activity will be dying. The classic “Trial and Error” formula of the Mega Man series has never been more pronounced than in this most recent iteration. There are tons of jumping puzzles that require precise memorization, lightning reflexes and remarkable thumb dexterity, and many of them introduce new gameplay mechanics to the series, such as disappearing bubbles and platforms that only swing left and right when you run on them in that direction. Levels are a bit longer than Mega Man fans might be used to, but this only increases the feeling of accomplishment gained by defeating a level.
Visually, there’s not a lot to say here. It looks EXACTLY like Mega Man or Mega Man 2. Mega Man is rendered in glorious 8-bit sprites and looks just how you remember him before he got all tied up in Battle Networks and Star Forces. The nine environments in the game follow the same artistic mandate, showcasing some truly nostalgia-inducing Cold War-era levels. The game’s bosses fit in perfectly with the themed antagonists of the past, and are cleverly designed, both visually and in their attack patterns. The only possible exception is the series’ first female boss, Splash Woman, who looks like she was designed by a completely different team than the other eight. She fights like a Mega Man boss, but looks a little too advanced for Mega Man.
The game sounds perfect, too, with all the classic sound effects intact and a brand new score that feels like we’ve heard it a thousand times before. Even the music introducing bosses is the same as it used to be, and one listening will instantly bring you back to your parents’ basement.
Capcom has produced a worthy successor to the Mega Man legacy. Hardcore enthusiasts who are looking for a serious challenge will not be disappointed in the least. More casual fans may find the game too challenging to bother with, but will still find some nostalgic value in the game’s simple, elegant design. For those who weren’t yet alive when the original Mega Man games were around, first off, I resent your youth, and second, the game may be a bit too simple and challenging. For those with enough patience, however, a truly rewarding and charming experience awaits.