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Monday, June 4, 2012

Virtual Console Review: Mega Man 3

System: NES
Genre: Action/Platformer
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Virtual Console Release: Nov 10, 2008 USA / Nov 14, 2008 EUR / Nov 4, 2008 JPN
Original Release: Nov 1990 USA / Feb 20, 1992 EUR / Sept 28, 1990 JPN
Players: 1
Cost: 500 points
Controllers Supported: GameCube, Wii Remote, Classic
Rated: E for Everyone

Mega Man was the the Blue Bomber's first, rocky steps into the world. Mega Man 2 greatly improved upon the first game so much that many consider it to be the finest game in the classic series and in name of Mega Man games all together. So how could Capcom improve upon what so many see as Mega Man perfection? As the old saying goes, nowhere to go now but up. And up they went. You see, as splendid a game as Mega Man 2 is, it's not unusual to talk to gamers that will tell you it isn't their favorite. While Mega Man head honcho Keiji Inafune firmly believes that Mega Man 3 could be improved upon, a large number of fans love Mega Man 3 just the way it is. For it's introduction of new skills, new characters, large number of levels and crafty stage designs, Mega Man 3 is a superb NES game and for lots of Mega Man fans, it is the pinnacle of the Mega Man series.

After having his butt handed to him two times in attempts for world domination, Dr. Wily has reformed. He's working with Dr. Light to help construct Gamma, a large peace-keeping robot. In order to finish Gamma, the two doctors need energy crystals that are located on different worlds. These crystals were supposed to be obtained by a new set of robot masters but they went berserk. Mega Man is sent into action to take down the renegade robots and bring back the energy crystals.

Looking at this screen makes you want to hum Magnet
Man's glorious theme. Go on, hum it. Hum it, I say!
If you hear a whistle, a fight with this guy isn't far behind.

The general gameplay for Mega Man 3 remains unchanged from the previous two games. When you start, you're presented with a stage select screen of eight robot masters to choose from. They can be destroyed in any order you desire but they'll fall a lot quicker to their weakness. But if you're looking to really test your mettle, you can try defeating all of them with just your Mega Buster. Mega Man 3 is one of the toughest Mega Man games to do a Buster-only run on because most of the robot masters sustain little damage from Mega Man's default weapon. You need the reflexes and agility of Spider-Man to take down Needle Man without getting hit.

Just getting to the robot masters can be a feat in and of itself. Penguins, springs, grenades, snakes and all other manner of creatures of the robotic kind are out to kill you and the level designs aren't a walk in the park either. Twice in Spark Man's stage you'll be required to make jumps over bottomless pits on tiny platforms that send you up to a ceiling of spikes if you stay on them for too long. There's a disappearing block section that makes up the second half of Magnet Man's level. It starts out simple enough but then magnets get throw into the mix and eventually magnets mixed with disappearing blocks and a bottomless pit. Mega Man games are hard by nature but most seem to agree that Mega Man 3 is one of the toughest games in the series. Seasoned Mega Man players shouldn't have much difficulty but if you're new, expect to see that game over screen again and again. But as hard as the game can be, it's never unfair. Every time you die, you won't feel as if the game somehow cheated you and bettering yourself at the game is highly satisfying. As brutal as the levels can be, they are an absolute joy to go through and represent some of the best, creative levels the series has ever seen.

Mega Man 3's story is a bit more involving than the
previous two entries.
Guess who's back? E-Tanks and being able to slide
make this guy far easier to deal with.

Once you finish off the eight robot masters, you'd think you'd move on to the Dr. Wily stages (come now, you didn't really think he gave up being a mad scientist, did you?) but you'd be wrong. After the new batch of robot masters are scrap metal, you move on to the Doc Robot stages. Doc Robot stages are four remixed levels of Spark Man, Shadow Man, Gemini Man, and Needle Man stages and each one holds two robot masters from Mega Man 2. That's right, your old sparing partners have returned for some payback and in Doc Robot form, these guys can be pretty difficult.

Mega Man 3 introduced not one but two new characters that would go on to be be fan favorites. Rush, Mega Man's robotic canine stands in as Mega Man's support items. Rush Coil gives Mega Man a boost to propel him to higher platforms. Rush Marine makes navigating underwater sections easier, though the final Rush adaptor arguably makes Rush Coil and Rush Marine obsolete. Rush Jet functions as an insanely broken Item 2 for Mega Man in that you have complete control over where it goes. Forward, backwards, up, down, or perfectly still, Rush Jet can do it all. Better still, Rush Jet only consumes energy when Mega Man is standing on it. Because Rush Jet follows Mega Man wherever he goes and will catch him after he jumps, you can use jumping to conserve energy. Small wonder why this easily viewed as one of the best forms of Rush. The second new character is Proto Man, though he's first known as Break Man. Playing off of the friend or foe trope, Break Man shows up in a few levels to test Mega Man's skills. Fill him up with enough lead and he'll let you be on your way. Proto Man always makes his entrance at the sound of his trademark whistle so when you hear it, you'll know what's up.

Wait, didn't I kill you and your buddies one game ago?
Tricky sections like this one are all over the place in
Mega Man 3.

Along with his faithful robot dog, Mega Man gained the handy ability to slide in this game. Pressing down and the jump button allows Mega Man to execute the slide maneuver, which helps you squeeze through narrow passageways, avoid enemies and all around, travel a lot quicker. Sliding is an invaluable ability and is great for putting distance between you and a robot master, something you'll need to do frequently.

Weapons you get from robot masters are aren't quite as good as the set seen from Mega Man 2, but they aren't terrible by any means. Well, except the Top Spin, which when used on Shadow Man or any boss, makes you take damage. Magnet Missile as an excellent homing weapon so long as you have one target to hit. Shadow Blade is a more balanced version of the Metal Blade and only goes so far before it comes back to you. Hard Knuckle can be steered slightly after you fire it. Gemini Laser is unique in that it bounces off walls but it can be painfully slow. Spark Shock can freeze enemies in place but you can't switch weapons once you use it to freeze something. So other than killing Magnet Man and Bubble Man, you probably won't use Spark Shock much. Again, not terrible weapon set but Mega Man 3's weapon mostly suffer from being too projectile based. But then, once you got the Metal Blade in Mega Man 2, how often did you use those other weapons anyway outside of killing bosses? Yeah, I thought so.

Two Hard Knuckles will kill these giant snakes faster
than the Mega Buster.
If you're looking to farm for power ups, the tadpole eggs
in Gemini Man's stage have you covered.
Believe it or not, that thing is Gamma, the peace-keeping
robot. Because nothing screams "peace" like instant death
spikes. Yeah. 

The first two Mega Man games delivered some of the most notable music to come out of the NES hardware. Mega Man 2 has been praised for having some of the best music from a video game. The same can be said for Mega Man 3. The majority of Mega Man 3's music was scored by Yasuki Fujita, also known as Bunbun. Bunbun gaves us such catchy themes as Magnet Man Stage, Shadow Man Stage, and Spark Man Stage. Those are just a few of the robot master tracks. Mega Man 3's Title theme has gone down in history as one of the most well-composed title songs from a video game and as excellent as Mega Man 2's title music is, Mega Man 3's just outclasses it every single way. Bunbun also gave as the classic series best version of Stage Select and Mega Man 3's version of Get a Weapon is still the reigning champion. And then there's that ultra happy Password/Game Over music. Failure has never sounded so delightful. Then there's Proto Man's immortal whistle, which despite being done on the NES sound board, still sounds different enough from the other tunes that it can be recognized as a whistle. Harumi Fujita is responsoble for giving us Gemini Man Stage and Needle Man Stage as well as working with Bunbun on Mega Man 3's Staff Roll, one of my favorite Staff Roll themes from the series. There's not a single bad track in Mega Man 3. Not a one. The music from Mega Man 3 is just one more reason the game is so good. The game is a slight step up in the visuals from Mega Man 2 with even more detailed backgrounds. Gemini Man's stage has some nice, flashing colors that put Flash Man's level to shame. Each robot master is easily recognizable and looks menacing. Even for an 8-bit game, those Doc Robots look creepy as ever.

Capcom did the impossible and surpassed Mega Man 2 with Mega Man 3. It presents a good challenge without being impossible, it has memorable robot masters and characters, gives us some of the best designed levels of the series and to top it all off, we got some of the sickest 8-bit tunes ever. Yeah, the robot master weapons could be better, but they aren't a deal breaker and in the end, they don't hold Mega Man 3 back from greatness. The emulation is spot on and unlike the Mega Man Anniversary Collection, the beloved high jump trick (hold down right on a second controller) works in this version of the game. From the amazing title screen music all the way to the mind-blowing bomb-shell ending, Mega Man 3 is an unforgettable adventure.


Mega Man 3 marked the first time Mega Man started to resemble his in-game sprite on the box art in America and Europe. Capcom still didn't go with the Japanese artwork, but it's still leagues better than some middle aged buffoon with a hand blaster. Here's a look at the Japanese and Europen covers for Mega Man 3.

This is the Japanese box art for Rockman 3. In Japan, the Rockman games usually carry some sort of subtitle. The subtitle for Rockman 3 was Dokutā Wairī no Saigo!? Translated to English, that means "The End of Dr. Wily?!" Even in the 1990s, they weren't trying to hide the fact that Wily was really the bad guy all along. Heck, you can see his frickin' ship on the cover!

The European cover for Mega Man 3. It's closer to the original Japanese version with the robot master faces and the poses Mega Man and Rush are in. Though Mega Man's armor kinda makes him look a bit like X.

Cover for the 1991 PlayStation release of Rockman 3, part of the Rockman Complete Works series. Rockman 1-4 of the Complete Works line can be downloaded on the PlayStation Network.

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