Monday, August 29, 2011

A Fighting Robot And An Institution: A Look Back At Mega Man

I looked through past blog posts and realized that I never did a post on what may be the best pure series of action games to ever be released. That series not only helped define a genre, but it put a publisher on its back for years. That series is Mega Man, and while every game in the series wasn't perfect, they were better than most of the games being released in the market and the earlier games in the series still hold up today.

Mega Man (or Rockman as it's known in Japan), was first given life on the Famicom and Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. The first game in the series was revolutionary in that it allowed players to select the order in which they attacked the games levels. It was also pretty interesting in that if a player was able to beat a "Robot Master", Mega Man would adopt that character's powers. For example: if you take out Bombman and beat him, then you can throw really big bombs. There was also a particular order that would make beating each "Robot Master" a lot easier than normal. The first game was known for it's difficult, yet well crafted gameplay, and it spawned a sequel.

Mega Man 2 was released the following year, and for all intents and purposes, it may be the best video game to be released in the 1980s. I know that says a lot, but it took everything from its predecessor, made the difficulty more balanced, and added an incredible soundtrack on top of that. to put it bluntly, Mega Man 2 was f&#@ing amazing. it still ranks very high on favorite games lists. After the greatness of the second game, Capcom threw more goodness into Mega Man 3. Capcom added a midboss angle to the game in the form of Protoman and expanded the final level in the game with a series of boss fights representing some of Mega Man 2's most memorable boss.

The series continued with Mega Man 4, 5, and 6. While these weren't bad games, and still better than most of the platformers hitting the NES in the early 90s, they didn't live up to the first trilogy. With a spinoff series called Mega Man X hitting the SNES, many though the original series was done, but Capcom released Mega Man 7 for the Super NES in 1995. While the seventh game in the series felt like no more than a rehash of Mega Man X, it introduced two new characters that became vital parts of the Mega Man mythos, Bass and his dog Treble(Forte and Gospel in Japan). A year later, Mega Man celebrated it's 10th Anniversary with the release of Mega Man 8. While this one felt a bit better than 7, it paled in comparison to the 8 bit efforts. Many figured the original series was done with the release of Mega Man and Bass, but assumptions are never a great thing to have when talking video games.

Ten years passed between that last game's original release and the next new game, which hit gamers with the greatest rush old brutal nostalgia some of us have ever felt. Mega Man hit major console download services in all of it's 8 bit glory in 2008 and was a huge hit. It also spawned a followup in Mega Man 10. Both games featured extra playable characters, a variety of difficulty modes and several challenge levels. The series has witnessed a strong revival among old school gamers as a result, and who knows how many more games will probably hit the series as a result.

The Mega Man series faced a few hiccups over it's long history, but no one should doubt that it may well be the best game for game series of action games ever created.

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