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Monday, May 14, 2012

Virtual Console Review: Mega Man 2

System: NES
Genre: Action/Platformer
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Virtual Console Release: Sept 15, 2008 / Dec 14, 2007 EUR / Aug 26, 2008 JPN
Original Release: Jun 1989 USA / Dec 14, 1990 EUR / Dec 24, 1988 JPN / AUS Dec 1990
Players: 1
Cost: 500 points
Controllers Supported: GameCube, Wii Remote, Classic
Rated: E for Everyone

The original Mega Man a good game that sadly, did not set the world on fire when it was originally released. Rather than make any radical alterations, Capcom improved the formula from the Blue Bomber's first outing with Mega Man 2. Packed with more bosses, more stages,  more weapons and even more infectious tunes and you have a plethora of reasons for why Mega Man 2 is widely regarded as one of the finest games in the NES library and for many fans, the best Mega Man game in the classic series.

You know the old saying. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. After Dr. Wily's first defeat, he retreated to another fortress and built his own robot masters, eight to be exact. Can Mega Man destroy these new robots, breach Wily's stronghold and take the mad doctor down a second time? Judging by the existence of the sequels, Legends and X series, I think we all know the answer to that question.

Kill Metal Man first. His Metal Blades make things so
much easier. When you face him again later on, you
can even take him out even faster with his own weapon.
Instant death via laser beams is the price you'll pay for
being too slow in Quick Man's stage. 

As per usual for a classic Mega Man title, you're presented with eight robot masters and in order to face off with them, you must first make it through their stage. The robot masters this time around are Wood Man, Air Man, Crash Man, Metal Man, Bubble Man, Heat Man, Flash Man, and Quick Man. You can dispose of them in any order you like but you can make things easier on yourself by discovering what the bosses weakness are. Defeating a robot master will net you their weapon to play around with. Wood Man being tree-based will drop quickly to a charged up shot from Heat Man's Atomic Fire. Flash Man's Flash Stopper makes the longer section of instant death laser beams in Quick Man's level far more manageable for those that don't have quick reflexes. The Leaf Shield you get from Wood Man is invaluable in Crash Man's stage and makes farming for power-ups in certain areas a breeze. But as good as many of the weapons in Mega Man 2 are, nearly every single one of them pales in comparison to the all-powerful Metal Blades. Not only is the weapon spamable since it uses little energy, it can be fired off in eight different directions. Even better, you can kill up to three robot masters with this weapon, including Metal Man himself! Once you get the Metal Blades, you may not even use your other weapons all that much.

This is one of the best-looking 8-bit forests
you'll ever see.
If only Bubble Man were as cool as
his stage layout.

The stages presented in Mega Man 2 are just as memorable as the bosses and showcase some of best level designs to come out of the 8-bit era. Metal Man's stage is populated by conveyor belts, Quick Man's lair looks like an abandon factory that is home to some treacherous laser beams, Crash Man's domain contains long, zig-zagging elevator platform rides, Bubble Man's underwater hideout is one of the greatest water-themed levels in a video game, even if Bubble Man himself isn't much to speak off. The Dr. Wily stages also deserve mention for the cool bosses they throw at you. The Mecha Dragon in Dr. Wily Stage 1 has you jumping across tiny platforms over a bottomless pit before you can actually face it. The Guts Dozer takes up a large portion of the screen and the battle against Boobeam Trap, which requires all of your ammo from the Crash Bombs has got to be one of the most strategic (and annoying) fights of the whole classic franchise.

Since this is a Mega Man game it does throw a number of challenges at the player. You'll be platforming just as much as you'll be firing shots and the game demands precise jumps in order to clear those gaps. Though some jumps can be easier to clear with the assistant of items 1 and 2. Think of these as Rush adaptions, but without Rush. Item 1 creates rising platforms for Mega Man to jump on while Item 2 is a Rocket that can be ridden to clear long gaps, which is very useful if you don't want to make a long string of jumps across disappearing blocks in Heat Man's stage over a lava pit. If you're playing an English version of Mega Man 2, the game's difficulty can be lessened a bit. This version of the game has two difficulty settings, normal and difficult. Normal lessens the damage Mega Man takes from foes and increases the damage he deals to enemies. Difficult is the regular default setting of the Japanese version, Rockman 2. Some purists make scoff at the inclusion of an easier mode, but it's always nice to have choices.

Survive the short chase with this thing and
you can fight it.
Wily's man-crush on Guts Man becomes highly
apparent in this game.

Mega Man 2 debuted the much loved Energy Tanks, an item that would have made the original Mega Man a bit easier to handle. Energy Tanks come in the form of big, blue cans with an E label. You can store up to four of these and if your life energy is running low, just pause the game, select an Energy Tank and bam, you're back to full health. The password system also showed up for the first time here, though play on the Virtual Console eliminates the need for it since you can pick up right where you left off whenever you stop playing.

Imaginative bosses, genius level designs and tight controls were enough to levitate Mega Man 2 to legendary status. Thankfully, Capcom did not stop there. The music that you'll hear in Mega Man 2 is not just some of the best music on the NES, but some of the best music in video games. Bubble Man's theme is heavenly aquatic goodness. Quick Man's theme perfectly captures the feeling of urgency and dread one gets from seeing and hearing those instant death lasers. No one can forget the title theme and it would go on to become the Blue Bomber's theme music. Even by NES standards, the visuals are still impressive. I don't know if there was such a thing as "high resolution graphics" for NES games like the European box art claimed, but Mega Man 2 is still a sharp title.

Mega Man 2 looks and plays just as brilliantly as it did when it was released over two decades ago and remains one of the best Mega Man games around. Unless you're averse to playing excellent games, there really is no reason not to download this game as it's one of the best games available on the Virtual Console service.


Mega Man 2's USA box art (pictured up at the left) was a huge improvement over the original, even though Mega Man used a handgun and didn't sport his now traditional anime look from Japan. Here's a look at the covers for Mega Man 2 in Japan and Europe.

Mega Man 2's box art for Japan, drawn by Keiji Inafune. Pictured are all the robot masters, a few of the enemies and Dr. Wily's second fortress.

The European box art for Mega Man 2. The Archie Mega Man comic series payed homage to this illustration with Mega Man #12, the final part of the Return of Dr. Wily story arc, which was based off of Mega Man 2.

1 comment:

Tom Badguy said...

Mega Man 2 is the best Mega Man game, good review!