I remember one day way back in 1990, when I arrived home from day care and rushing down stairs to see what my older brothers were playing on their Nintendo. I remember being absolutely amazed at what I saw. A blue robot blasting through a hoard of fantastically designed, mechanical monsters in a vast industrialized landscape. When my brother Johnny handed me the controller, my little 4 or 5 year old eyes just lit up as I played (or attempted to play I can't remember which) and I just fell in love with the game, even if my four brothers had a good laugh at my expense. Ever since then, I have not only fallen in love with this particular franchise but It was also one of the very first experiences I have ever had with video games and a reason why I am the gamer that I am today. That game was Mega Man 3.
The Mega Man franchise, whether it be the classic, X, or one of the other series in the timeline, Mega Man games were a good portion off my gaming experience as child and to this day they still are. I'm not quite sure why such a rather simplistic set of games revolving around humanoid robots fighting each other and stealing each others powers is so appealing? It could be the incredible gameplay, solid music, light-hearted anime style artwork or the pure imaginative level and character designs.
Whatever the reason, these games have challenged my abilities as a gamer and sparked my imagination for the past 20 years. Within this time the franchise has expanded into a vast universe (which unfortunately I have been unable to completely explore) featuring six different series, which are unique in their own right, each featuring a colorful cast of characters and offering their own standalone stories and experiences.
Since an attempt to explain the vastness of the timeline would be longer than my graduate thesis, I have decided to just talk about some of my personal memories of the classic series, since it's the portion of the timeline that I've had the most experience with … and it happens to be my favorite series. I will say one thing about the timeline as a whole, though … At lest it's linear. Yeah I'm looking at you Legend of Zelda.
Like I said before, my first experiences with the Mega Man franchise and the first with video games that I can remember, Mega Man 3 has a special place in my heart for many reasons. There is the memory of playing with my older brothers, which I wouldn't' trade for anything, there is also the fact that it's the first game I've managed to play all the way through. I may have had copies of Ninja Gaiden 2 and Faxanadu, but it was Rob's (he's another brother of mine) copy of Mega Man 3 that I was most enthralled with. Working my way through all eight of Dr. Wily's evil robot masters, from Top Man to Gemini Man, I would take them all out one by one and make sure to write down every password. You can only imagine my surprise when I had to play through four of the levels again and face eight more robot masters. I thought it was fantastic. It was challenging but I braved through it and had a blast. Then fighting that bastard Protoman (or is Break Man? Jazz maybe?) for like the seventh time did seem tiresome at the time but it was pretty satisfying when I finally beat him. I felt like I was on cloud nine when I finally made it to Dr. Wily's castle and worked my way through some pretty neat bosses (especially the Mega Man duplicates) to eventually lay the smacketh down on all of the robot masters candy asses for a second time and then defeat Wily … with a pirouette. This was the first video game I had fallen in love with, the first one I had ever completed, one of the reasons I am the gamer I am today and my favorite game of all time.
Some time passed since I had worked my way through Mega Man 3 when my next door neighbor and best friend at the time, introduced me to Mega Man 2 and I was blown away … again. The music was actually better than the pure awesomeness from the series third entry and it was a Hell of a lot harder. After playing it for awhile and dying several times in Crash Man's level … what? I was eight. As I was saying, I was hooked on the game instantly, which my friend instantly noticed, so we decided to swap games for a few days. I borrowed Mega Man 2 and he borrowed Puss in Boots (Say what you will, I actually enjoyed that game). I would eventually defeat Crash Man and the other robot masters, although I died several times before doing so, especially in Quick Man, Wood Man and Air Man's stages. I would eventually make it to Wily's Castle but I was unable to beat the first level. I only managed to get to the dragon once and it gave me a swift ass kicking. I would have to return the game as a defeated and broken man er child but I had a blast playing it and I really enjoyed the challenge. I would eventually beat it but more on that later.
So I vaguely remember a bright, beautiful Saturday in which I was inside watching Video and Arcade Top Ten (a good Canadian show from the 90's) and I saw a group of kids competing in a game of Mega Man 4 and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The game's villain wasn't Dr. Wily! Not only was I intrigued by the idea of a new main enemy but I was also interested in the new levels in which Mega Man 4 had to offer (especially Dr. Cossack's castle). Unfortunately, I was unable to play the game at the time because I didn't know anyone who had it and it was not in any of the video stores, so I missed out on the game at least until much later.
However, years pass and the 16-bit era is still going on strong. Ours was a Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive for you European readers) household but we still had our NES and when I saw that a neighbor of ours was selling his copy of Mega Man 5, I just had to have it. After popping that sucker in for the first time, I was hooked all over again. The opening cinematic was and still is fantastic and when I saw that Dr. Light was kidnapped by Mega Man's brother and my favorite character Protoman, I was excited to find out what was going to happen. I also loved how Capcom decided to be creative with the robot master designs. Each were unique and had personality and didn't have the standard Mega Man weapons. The levels (playing with the change in gravity in both Gravity Man and Star Man's levels was awesome) and music were once again great and once I made it all the way to Protoman's castle and discovered that it was Wily all along I was blown away at what seemed like a good plot twist ( I was ten and I didn't know about the bullshit in 4 and what I was about to face in 5). Then I realized that there was another frickken castle. "OOOOk then," I thought as I began to fight my way through this second castle. I was a bit disappointed that I had to go through this again and legitimately pissed when there wasn't a new password for this second castle. Anyway, when I finally got the patience to work my way thorough the two castles, I saved Dr. Light, Wily got away and all was right with the world. I still loved the game even with the few gripes and I still love it and feel it's a very underrated title.
It wasn't until my Junior High years that I managed to get my hands on Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 6. I took a break from Crash Bandicoot and Final Fantasy to go back to my gaming roots and play some classic NES. Right off the bat, I thought Mega Man 6 was pretty good but kinda lame at the same time. Some of the robot masters seemed pretty stupid and Mr. X's character design just made it way too obvious that he was Dr. Wily (you'd think that's a spoiler but it's not). The gameplay was solid but since my copy was flawed (well broken actually), I didn't get very far.
Mega Man 4 was and still is a bit of a disappointment to me. Granted it does have the best opening sequence in the series, the gameplay was as solid as ever and Dr. Cossack is a pretty cool character but with some lame robot masters, subpar music, and the beginning of the two castles BS, I feel my disappointment is justified. Does that mean it was a bad game? No. By all means it's a good game, just not on par with the rest of the NES entries in the classic series. I managed to work my way all the way to Wily but couldn't beat him. He was a tough bastard this time around and I had no clue how to beat him. My brother Sandy had no idea how to beat him either, so I had no way of seeing the ending.
I wouldn't play any of the games in the classic series again until my second year of university when I found a copy of the Mega Man Anniversary Collection in the bargain bin of the local Music World. When I saw it there, all of those childhood memories of playing the games on the NES came rushing back and I just had to have. So I picked it along with a copy of ECW One Night Stand. I was on a nostalgia rush what can I say? As soon as I loaded that sucker into my Xbox, I was instantly overwhelmed with that warm, nostalgic feeling. I felt like a kid again and it was great.
The first game I went for was Mega Man 7 because I missed out on the SNES for the most part because (again) mine was a Genesis household. So anyway, I select seven and what can I say, the intro was awesome and it really took advantage of what the Super Nintendo was capable of. The opening level was great from the music, to Wily's escape from prison, to the fight with Bass. Then it kind of went downhill from there. The robot masters were ok. A bit lame but not overly terrible. The music though is an entirely different story. The soundtrack, well sucks balls. There are a few decent tracks but for the most part it sucks balls. The SNES was capable of far better sound quality than that, just look at the X series. I thought the graphical update was good, it kept the Mega Man charm in 16-bit, however I felt the gameplay was much slower. Over all I feel the game is ok but not much to write home about.
Then I tried Mega Man 8. I had a Playstation but I never had the chance to play Mega Man 8 (or any of the Legends games for that matter). The anime cutscenes were excellent I thought. Very nostalgic while at the same time adding something new to the series, even if the voice acting was horrid. Dr. Light sounded like Elmer Fudd. The graphics were pretty decent and I enjoyed some of the levels and character designs and I also liked the robot masters talking some smack before the boss battles. But it suffered from the same problems seven did and I just felt that even though it was a good game, it just wasn't on the same level as the classic Mega Man games.
I played through four and six again and I have to say that they were better than I thought they were the first time I had played them. Even though I'm still a bit disappointed with how four turned out, it's still a pretty good game and yes I did finally beat it. That ending was so lame.
Six I have to say was much better than I thought it was. The music was solid for the most part, the robot masters were unique, a bit lame at times but Capcom tried something different and I respect that. It was a solid addition to the classic Mega Man series and it was so satisfying to see Wily finally put behind bars. Even if I knew he was going to escape in seven.
This was also the very first time I had the chance to play through Mega Man 1. All I have to say is that it was a great game, one that helped revolutionize the industry and set a high standard for all future Mega Man games. This is also without a doubt, the hardest Mega Man game in the classic series. To this day I have only beaten it once and have only made it through the rematch with the robot masters twice.
I also replayed Mega Man 2 & 3 and of course I thought they were awesome. And I actually beat Mega Man 2, although like number one, I have only managed to complete it once.
Mega Man is a franchise that has stood the tests of time and has a great deal of success, making Capcom's mascot one gaming's most legendary characters. He has had countless titles, numerous spin offs and adaptations and he will likely continue to be here as long as fans are still there to pick up a controller.
And to think it all started with a little blue robot.
Thank you Mr. Inafune, from the bottom of my heart.
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