Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Piffman2 gets his ass kicked by Megaman 9
posted by JMinor
Megaman 9 Review
Where do I get started on my new favorite WiiWare game, Megaman 9? First let’s look at the Megaman series so far and how we got this point. Megaman 1 on the NES was a successful and beloved game. It’s only natural that publisher Capcom wanted to further the series. The rest of the original series was described pretty well by Youtube user Brentalfloss in this video “MM2 was tight, MM7’s shite. For real. See 3 was good and 4 was pretty good and 5 and 6 were, but 7 sucked big dinosaur balls.” Also, Megaman 8 on the PS1 was pretty bad as well. Someone in the middle of all this, presumably AFTER Megaman soccer, there was game released on the SNES called Megaman X. It kept many of the classic Megaman gameplay but enhanced and graphics and apparantely made things a little more adult and futuristic. While Megaman 7 on the SNES was panned, Megaman X flourished and went on to have many sequels as well, some of which are on the PS2. Keep in mind that I haven’t played the majority of these games but it is my understanding that it was Megaman X and that begat the numerous spinoffs like ZX and Star Force. While certain games in those series may be good and they definitely made money for Capcom, old-school Megaman fans did notice the “quantity over quality” direction their favorite franchise was going in. So, with the cheap and risk-free medium known as “downloadable games” Capcom stripped all of the subtitles and took players back to the beginning with Megaman 9.
And boy did they take things back to the beginning. The most noticeable aspect of Megaman 9 is that, for all intensive purposes, it is an NES game like Megaman 2. 2 is arguably the best in the series and 9 is most comparable to 2 in terms of design. So after playing 9 I went back and downloaded 2, which was recently made available on the Virtual Console along with 1. This may be controversial but I think 9 is noticeably better than 2 in almost every way. I never played 2 before this so I don’t have the nostalgic connection to it that others might have. Also, being new to the franchise may make my love of a retro game like 9 all the more genuine. This game fascinates and I can’t stop thinking about it in the same way that a modern day film student might analyze a silent film (Note: I am both a film student I just finished writing an analytical essay for Advanced Placement English. That might explain the style of this review). This game does so many things well and when I ask “why” it all boils down to one design philosophy.
Megaman creator Keiji Inafune and developed Inti Creates all have contemporary game developing skills and game design understanding that they didn’t have back in the 1980’s. So when you take that skill and apply it to game which such harsh and artificial limits imposed on it, every element can be meticulously well-designed and polished to its maximum potential. They knew everything they could pull off on the NES which is something they didn’t know in the 1980’s. Every facet of this game is so well though-out and it creates an incredibly cohesive and satisfying experience. It’s the experience you have when playing a game that matters. I think the argument that games are easier nowadays and are therefore worse is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. A game that offers a fun experience like Super Mario Galaxy could very well be tarnished by an arbitrary increase in difficulty. On the other hand we have the very challenging 9 which I was only able to complete with the help of some items and a walkthrough. Megaman 9 is a combination of shooting and platforming and while the platforming isn’t as hard as Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels and the shooting is as hard as Contra it’s the combination of vulnerability and such a low tolerance for imprecision that make for a very tough game. However, the difficulty is crucial to the experience. The old-school game design philosophy comes in here. When there are only 3 actions (move, jump and shoot) one of the only ways to make it engaging for the player is to make the game hard. Simple controls allow you to be faster and play based off of reflexes which is both very fun to play as well as fun to watch someone else pull it off. Everything you need to do is laid out in front of you and every time you die know that it was you fault, not the game’s. The challenge and the satisfaction come from successful execution. Finally, like Ninja Gaiden, as you play the game you definitely feel yourself getting better.
Obviously gameplay is the most important part of a game and Megaman 9 fares pretty well in that category. However, it’s no slouch when it comes to others areas too. First of the all, the music is spectacular. The songs are limited by NES technology and they share a very similar structure but despite that, (or maybe because of it) Megaman 9 has created some very memorable tracks that are just begging to be remixed. In fact, the Japan-only soundtrack was the first and maybe last thing I have every torrented. The pixel artwork used for cutscenes was pretty impressive too, escpeically the ending featuring the fate of the eight robot masters that serve as bosses for each level. Speaking of the robot masters, I think as a whole Megaman 9 has the best robot masters of any Megaman game. The best individual robot masters are still classics like Cut Man and Guts Man. However, previously Megaman games have heard their fair share of boring bosses lacking any sort of theme. The name and character design of each Megaman 9 boss reflects their simple but unique theme. I know what to expect when fighting Magma Man, Jewel Man or even the deliciously weird Hornet Man. I was also right in assuming that first women robot master, Splash Woman, would be a big pushover (smirk). Compare this to robot masters like Crash Man, Flash Man and Gemini Man. WTF? The actual boss fights are nothing to write home about but the weapons you acquire from previous bosses do create an interesting rock-paper-scissors system. One aspect that wasn’t improved was the story. However, much like Mario, the characters of Megaman may be cool but the story is totally useless. Many fans want Megaman 10 to be the story link to Megaman X which takes place in the future. I say, who cares? Finally, thanks to the internet, Megaman 9 offers downloadable content. In addition to getting the game first, Wii users are also the first to see what new things are available for purchase. Currently there is endless attack mode and Megaman’s rival Protoman available as a playable character. While he is weaker, unlike Megaman he brings in some gameplay mechanics like the slide and charge shot from later games like 3 and 4. You also have 360-style achievements built into the game. Some of those might actually be impossible. It’s nice to see that the developers didn’t limit themselves in every way.
Megaman 9 didn’t reach its full potential in every way though. The graphics aren’t as good as Megaman 5 and 6 on the NES and certainly not a good as 8 on the PS1. However, it looks better than 2 and the levels look more distinct from each other and have a wider variety of colors. That combined with a stellar 8-bit character design create a game that looks good artistically but not technologically. Once again though, that may have been done to preserve the experience. Much like a fighting game, Megaman games require precision to the point of counting the number of frames per animation. So when you add too much animation and visual fluff (like in Megaman 8) you end up with a lot of lag which ruins the quick and responsive gameplay.
I’m really glad that this is a WiiWare game because I cannot stop playing it and fumbling with a disc would have been very annoying. This is another way Megaman 9 benefits from its difficulty, you will be playing it a lot and a game that could technically be beaten in 30 minutes suddenly becomes a lot longer. I was afraid that ten dollars would be a little much for this 66 block game but no. It is completely worth it. It’s beatable but very hardcore and that may turn off a lot of people. But if you like games like this buy and support it because it was a bold move. I do have one fear though. If this game succeeds it might inspire other “retro” games that are really just lazy cash-ins on the “8-bit revival”. I’m looking at you “Eternity’s Child 2: Retro Child.” This was perfect for Megaman but not for everyone else. Also, I don’t really want a sequel. This game is fine as a single, incredibly fun anachronism. I don’t like to score games but I will break my rule for this one.
Megaman 9 gets a 9.9 out of 9