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Hey there guys and gals and welcome to yet another review. After playing Thor: Bring the Thunder, I began to crave some retro platforming action and I thought what better way to satisfy that craving by playing a game that it so subtly and dare I say lovingly, referenced in that Thor game. A game that happens to be one of the best entries in my all time favorite franchise. What game am I talking about? Well if you have read the Thor review (or have been following my reviews up to this point), you probably already know what game I’m talking about or at the very least know the series.

I could tell you all which game it is but I would much rather let this piece of video inform you:

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After the success of Capcom’s 1987 NES title Mega Man in Japan and the game’s cult status among Western gamers, the company once again called upon the talented young game designer (Keiji Inafune) to create a sequel, within a three/four month time frame (boy how times have changed).

Inafune and his development team really had to put their noses to the grindstone to pull off the graphical, musical and gameplay improvements they had in mind, as well as design some interesting new enemies for Mega Man (the Japanese gaming community even sent in some of their design ideas to help out) to face. Needless to say, it was a huge collaborative effort.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what the man himself had to say about the Mega Man 2 development process during a 2004 interview (hurrah for Wikipedia! Woo!):   

“So we, of our own accord, got together, spent our own time, we worked really, really hard, you know, just 20-hour days to complete this, because we were making something we wanted to make. Probably in all my years of actually being in a video game company, that was the best time of my working at Capcom, because we were actually working toward a goal, we were laying it all on the line, we were doing what we wanted to do. And it really showed in the game, because it’s a game, once again, that we put all our time and effort and love, so to speak, into it, designing it.”  

Inafune’s hard work would pay off in a big way after the game was released in December of 1988. Not only did it take Japan by storm but it also became a huge best seller in the Western markets as well and has since then been regarded as not only on the best titles to ever be released on the NES but possibly one of the best video games of all time.

I know that Mega Man 2 has been reviewed to death (and by some who are much more talented than myself) but I figured that I would take a crack at it. Well that and I promised during my Mega Man review that I would review all of the games in the classic Mega Man series (something I want to accomplish by the end of the year, along with two other fairly big retro projects). Anyway, without any further stalling for time here are my thoughts on Mega Man 2. Do I agree with the rest of the Internet about this being the greatest Rock Man EVAR?  

(Damn! I've always hated this part. Pretty though)

In the year 200X, the evil Dr. Albert Wily took control of the six Robot Masters that were created by his former mentor Dr. Thomas Light (again, that’s Right if you’re Japanese) and used their power to destroy the City of Monstropolis in his attempt to take over the world. During the chaos, Light’s robot lab assistant (Rock) selflessly volunteered to be converted into the ultimate fighting robot Mega Man! Mega Man went on to the defeat the Robots Masters and Wily (although he managed to escape capture) and all was well.

Or was it?

Cut to the year 200X (wait what?), Dr. Wily re-emerges to disrupt the peace by sending eight new Robot Masters (this time of his own designing) out to destroy Mega Man. Can Mega Man defeat the demented doctor once again?

Sure, this plot is a good example of 8-bit era minimalism (remember kids, cartridges back then couldn’t hold a lot of memory) but it is still a solid story because it tells us all of the basic plot points from the original and expands upon via a continuation of the story:

-Wily betrays Light
-Wily uses Light’s robots to try and take over Earth
-Light upgrades Rock to Mega Man
– Mega Man defeats the robots and kicks Wily in the ass
-Wily is pissed
-Wily creates his own robots and sends them after Mega Man
-Mega Man sets out to defeat these robots and kick Wily’s ass some more

and let’s the gameplay and the kick ass soundtrack do the rest of the work when it comes to setting the tone. For an old school NES platformer, it’s hard not to appreciate that amount of effort in story telling.

(What an odd yet awesome looking bunch)

Oh wait. Did I just say that the music kick ass? Damn it! Well, I guess I spoiled my thoughts on the audio presentation. You know what? Rather than going off about have amazing each song is and how they perfectly represent the motif of each level and Robot Master, I think I’ll just spread out some of my favorite tracks from the game throughout the rest of the review and it let them speak for themselves.

Like this one:

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The sound effects are really cool to. Except for that damn noise coming out of Wily’s spaceship. Damn that shit is annoying. In fact the sound clip used for it in Mega Man 2 is probably the most annoying version of it. I know it only last a few seconds but it makes a lasting impression and not a good one. Unlike this next track that makes an awesome one!:

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("Let me stop this moment in time. You'll be mine forever! One last moment together.")

Graphically, Mega Man 2 is definitely better than the first one. Now, some of you might not think there is much of difference between the two games in this regard but when you observe the graphics of both games more carefully, you will see that the appearance and animation of the sprites is better and the levels are more well defined and diverse in the sequel than the original. Let’s take talk about a few levels, so you’ll know where I’m coming from. Metal Man’s level while having a black, industrialized backdrop still has plenty of color and movement thanks to the red, grinding gears and bright green platforms and gray conveyor belts. You’ve also got some cool enemies like a clown riding on a gear log roller style and a rather cool obstacle in the form of drills that come out of the ceiling and the floor. Air Man’s level has the beautiful blue sky background complete with white clouds that you can even hide behind at some points. Enemies include the fat blue robot with a built in fan that pushes you off of platforms, birds that drop eggs filled with little birds and robots who throw lightning bolts from moving platforms. I also like those giant heads that literally appear out of thin air and how you have to use them as platforms, while avoiding their horns and the little heads that shoot out of their ears. Wood Man’s level is just a rather impressive forest with brown platforms and trees that cover the backdrop with plenty of green. I also like the unique (robot) animals that attack you like the bouncing apes, the bats that fly out of the trees, the scary ass giant fire-breathing timber wolf (although the mecha dragon in Wily’s Castle is still scarier), those damn birds again, rabbits that shoot carrots at you and the surprisingly hilarious leaping ostriches. There is even a very clever day to night transition, which is also used in Crash Man’s stage. Things from other levels I like are the bright lasers that shoot out of the walls and the cauldron guys that tip fireballs out of their heads in Quick Man’s level, the spinning cylinder things with googly eyes from Heat Man’s level, the long leg robots with the Sniper Joe inside from Flash Man’s level and how the level itself (water fall and underwater portion) is an obstacle in Bubble Man’s level (as well as its use of color and the lantern fish that shots out the robo shrimps).

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I guess what I am trying to say is that Inafune really took advantage of using the slightly better tech he had at his command for making this sequel. He was able use brighter colors, characters that weren’t as blocky and were better animated than what was seen in the original games. Not too mention that the enemy characters were also a little more “out there” this time around but not so much so that they didn’t belong in their respective levels. This just goes to show what a creative mind can really do when given the right opportunity. Even the power ups have been given a solid re-design (which would stick through to the rest of the NES entries in the series).

(Oh my God, Oh my God! Scary dragon! Oh my God!)

Gameplay is pretty much exactly like the first one. You run around blasting enemies with your Mega Buster, jumping/climbing on platforms, defeating the Robot Masters to earn powers to use against other Robot Masters (rock/paper/scissors style) and storm Dr. Wily’s castle to kick his ass. However, this time around after defeating a certain three Robot Masters, Dr. Light will equip Mega Man with a special item (Items 1, 2 and 3, or as I like to call them, the prototypes for Rush the Dog) that will help Mega Man get to hard to reach places. I should also say that Mega Man 2 was the very first entry in the series to use a password system. It’s basically a grid in which you put Red spheres (sorry no blue ones here) in certain spots (rows and columns). I should also say that the difficulty has also been ramped up a little bit and will hand your own ass on several occasions. Luckily, Inafune decide to give the player a most wonderful God send in the form of E Tanks, which can be used at anytime of your choosing to completely re-fill your life bar, so be sure to stock up on them and only use them in the most sticky of situations. But sadly, once you loose all of your lives, you also lose any E Tanks you have collected, which is a total bummer.

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In short, the gameplay is the same as it was in the first game but with a few twists added in. However, due to these clever twists and the unique level and enemy designs, as well as bleeps and bloops that really get the blood pumping, Inafune was able to stretch the limitations of the NES to its limit and really produce something great. Not too mention with the additions of the E Tanks, Items and Password System, the player is given more of a fair chance to battle the growing difficulty of the game, which makes for an overall better experience. It doesn’t hurt that the boss powers are really diverse and kick ass as well. Like being able to freeze time, shoot out a stream of boomerangs or saw blades or bombs or mini tornadoes. Oh….. and you can also protect yourself with leaves….and shoot bubbles. Woo!  

But (as I have already said) you will get your ass kicked a few times and I really do mean that because after all of my years of playing this game, I have only managed to beat it once. I either run out of E Tanks midway through the castle or I run out of Crash Bombs each time I fight those damn cannons (those who have played the game know what I’m talking about). But the game is so damn awesome that I always come back for more.

(I'm coming to get you, you German bastard!)

OK, I don’t think I can further explain why I think Mega Man 2 is a great game, so we’ll just leave it at that. Did the Mega Man franchise continue this hot streak or did it run out of steam? You’ll find out soon enough.

Final Score: 9/10

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Gotta run gotta run now…..