After the pretty damn good original Mega Man Legacy Collection, and the decent enough Disney Afternoon Collection, there’s no getting round the feeling that Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 is somewhat underwhelming by comparison, for a number of reasons.
The first collection lumped together six slices of retrotastic platforming nostalgia for a reasonable price, and while some aspects of the Mega Man series haven’t aged particularly well, there was enough there to see it be a robust reminder of why they were also quite good games as well. This second collection gives us just the four titles in Mega Man’s 7-10, and boy are they a bunch of largely similar games again.
Mega Man 7 and 8 are perhaps most distinctive here as they are the only 16-bit-looking entries in the first ten core titles. They both maintain the same basic gameplay mechanics of the previous six games, but the 16-bit sprite work looks splendid to this day, with more character detail and animation to make what is essentially the same old, same old, feel a bit new.
There’s a warmth and creativity to the art that was sorely missing when Inafune created spiritual successor Mighty No.9. It speaks to that game’s woes that its progenitors from 1995 and 1996 are more interesting to look at even two decades on. There’s also some neat animated FMV scenes in there, which are decidedly cheesy.
Any other tweaks to these games are superficial, and don’t offer much that hadn’t already been done. There’s voicework in Mega Man 8 for instance, but it’s decidedly awful. In both 7 and 8 the robot masters are now separated into two blocks of four, with the defeat of the initial quartet giving you access to the next. I can’t honestly say what that does to revolutionize the Mega Man format, but it sure is a change of sorts.
Then there’s the curios that are Mega Man 9 and 10. Released over a decade after Mega Man 8, the digital only titles came to the likes of PS3 and reverted back to the 8-bit art style of the original six games, but with a little trick or two installed to ‘freshen up’ the slumbering giant.
Firstly you can switch the titular hero out for the red-hued ‘Proto Man’, who doesn’t once do a chiptune rendition of ‘Light Up the Night’. Ol’ Proto has been skulking about the series since Mega Man 3, but 9 and 10 mark his first properly playable role. He’s supposed to be Megaman’s brother (in a smuch as two robots can be brothers), and was essentially the prototype (hence ‘Proto’ because it has to be near literal in the robot-naming world) of the blue bomber hero, and he’s got a cult following among fans, so it’s a highlight to be able to play as him, even if he is just a pallete swap with small changes. His big advantage is he takes more hits to kill, and has the slide ability that Mega Man inexplicably lost along with his charge shot.
You can pick up special screws now that can be traded for power ups in a special shop. These power ups range from simple health boosts to one-time use aide from Mega Man’s pals. In addition to that, Mega Man 9 introduces a healthy selection of challenges and a time attack mode, which seem less unique now the first six games got given the challenge treatment (and there’s a wonderfully hectic Boss Rush mode thrown into those challenges for good measure). Still, it’s something to fill out the package. Mega Man 9 edges it as the better game, but both suffer from the same key issue.
Again, that key issue comes from the core formula being near-identical every single game. A problem that isn’t terrible in isolation, but with ten Mega Man titles being re-released in quickish succession, it does further emphasize that base similarity.
We know Mega Man has span off into different avenues, but none of them feature in these collections, thus this second, smaller helping of the blue bomber is an underwhelming prospect. There’s little wrong with that formula, it still endears and challenges years later, it’s just that so little about it feels fresh throughout the ten core installments to truly make them stand out from one another when compiled in such a way.
I’m also a tad disappointed that the rewind feature from the Disney Afternoon Collection didn’t find its way over. I naturally assumed it would as it’s a pretty neat feature to have for such challenging titles in that it can bring a new audience to the games in a gentler fashion. There is an option to give Mega Man extra armor to aid the less-skilled, but it doesn’t feel like the right solution.
On the upside, this is a great antidote to the disappointment of Mighty No. 9. All four of these games are streets ahead of that reimagining in terms of design and challenge, and proof that however repetitive the Mega Man formula might get, there’s a reason it gets repeated. There is still a (Dr) Light at the end of the tunnel for Mega Man, even if it has dimmed.