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Mega Man 9 Review

11 October 2008

    In recent years, Capcom has been doing a lot of fan service, and Mega Man 9 is no different. The Blue Bomber returns to his roots in this 8-bit sequel to the original Mega Man series. With a brand new 8-bit engine, Capcom promised a return to the golden age of the original series, and more specifically, Mega Man 2. In the end, is it a brilliant coup, or a horrible cash in?

Although this is Mega Man 9, it is actually the tenth game in the original Mega Man series, with Mega Man and Bass being the ninth entry. Confusingly though, Mega Man and Bass is supposed to be an alternate entry according to canon, even though it is directly referenced in the end of 9.

Let's be honest, though; story has never been the franchise's strong point. Here's all you need to know -- there are eight Robot Masters, and you have to go kick their asses and take their powers before making an assault on the final level. This Mega Man starts with a twist, as all the Robot Masters were built by Dr. Light, the good guy, and he is quickly arrested. It's up to you to clear his name and stop the maverick robots in the process.

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For being rendered in all 8-bits of graphical glory, the cutscenes are fantastic. They're static for the most part, but the clean and cartoony design of the characters means they are all lovingly recreated in some of probably the best 8-bit cutscenes ever rendered. The rest of the game is exactly how it was back in the NES days, including the option to turn on 'sprite flicker' when more then so many things are on screen at once.

But here is the problem. You have in front of you a PS3, a machine so powerful it could probably host a Skynet-like entity and destroy the world. However, the game is presented lovingly in 8-bit, 4:3, 256 by 224 resolution, with low-grade music to match. There are definitely naysayers complaining about the old-school style. However, the game is so much the better for it.

Back in the days of the NES, memory and graphics were very limited. Graphic design would take the better part of a week, with the rest of the time spent on actually making the game. These days, with the constant expectation for high definition graphics that reach out and grab you by the family jewels, more and more time is spent making Solid Snake's mustache look even more bristly, or getting Ivy's chest to overfill her brassiere. Pure gameplay is not the forefront of the equation. Effectively, Mega Man 9 is going back to the highly creative mindset of the 1980s (at least by video game terms), with the production values and time of a game made today. (Just to make it clear, that was not a jab at either MGS4 or SCIV. Both are awesome games.)

The music is worth a mention, and while it's going to be pretty much impossible to beat Mega Man II and Mega Man III as an 8-bit soundtrack, Tornado Man and Splash Woman's level music are particularly awesome, along with a load of the Wily's Castle music.

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On the subject of gameplay, Mega Man has lost his ability to slide or charge his Mega Buster. Actually, let's just stop for a moment. What is the Japanese obsession with the word 'Buster'? You have the Buster Sword in Final Fantasy VII, and the Buster Rifle in one of the Gundam animes, not to mention the Proto Buster, Roll Buster, X Buster and so on in the Mega Man games. Weird. Anyway, no chargeable Mega Buster this time round, which is a strange thing to remove. Although, Mega Man 2 did not have it, and they are going for that sort of gameplay. The game is no worse for it, though, as the standard shot has been powered up to compensate.

The running and jumping mirror that in past titles in the series. Tricky jumps and plenty of enemies hamper your attempts to get to the Robot Master in some of the finest designed 2D levels in a number of years. The difficulty, however, is excruciating in some places the first time round, and you will be cursing deities from both real and fictional cultures for that placement of a certain construction hat robot thing. The game is not impossible, but requires the old school 'learn the patterns' staple, and said patterns are mostly straightforward.

The weapons aren't bad, although, like in any game of this nature, you will gravitate towards certain weapons. Any situation in the first levels can be handled with just the Mega Buster, but there is usually a best weapon for each situation. For example, the Jewel Satellite will protect you from one hit enemies indefinitely, while the Laser Trident can go through shields. Also, the Robot Masters have the same weakness system as in past titles, although some of them are difficult to figure out (finding Galaxy Man's weakness is particularly infuriating).

Speaking of which, Capcom seems to be running out of robot names. Hornet Man? Concrete Man? Plug Man?! And on the subject of what's wrong with the game, why the lack of a switch weapon button? It's supposed to be true to the original, but it really breaks the flow of the game having to pause and change weapon every four seconds when there are several buttons that are unmapped.

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The problem with Mega Man 9 is that it is trying to be too faithful. The difficulty is ramped up to extreme levels, and the control scheme feels completely outdated. Capcom did include a save system, though, which gets rid of the old password system. To be honest, if they were going to update anything, it would have to be that.

The longevity of the game questionable, and depends primarily on the player. The devious difficulty will result in a first playthrough taking a fair time, while subsequent playthroughs will probably see you complete it in an hour. The time attack challenges are great, and getting a satisfactory time will definitely last you a while, but time attack is not for everyone. There is the downloadable content, though, including the endless level which is measured in screens completed, complete with bits from old Mega Man games. Another level, a "bonus stage," is planned, and another Robot Master is on it's way as well. Maybe the extra slot in the weapon list will get inhabited by his power.

All this extra content obviously costs more money, and not everyone will want run through time attacks or endless levels. Luckily, the game -- without any fancy add-ons -- is pretty cheap. At $10 USD/£7 GBP, you can't go too far wrong.

So there you have it. It is a great game that's sure to provide a fanciful trip down Nostalgia Street. But due to the some of the problems outlined above, it won't appeal to everyone.

-The Final Word-

Mega Man 9 is a great game with a huge amount of old-school appeal. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to resonate with everyone, primarily due to its excruciating difficulty.
  • Excellent level design
  • Classic gameplay
  • Old-school music and graphics
  • Excruciating difficulty may turn some off
  • Main game is fairly short
8.0
Platforms reviewed : PSN
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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