The PAL cover... still far superior to Pops Lumpy on the American cover.
RELEASE DATE: December 1987
Instead of Mega Man's typical eight bosses, there are only six here: Bomb Man, Guts Man, Cut Man, Elec Man, Ice Man, and Fire Man. You can tackle them in any order, but true to form, it's better to find out each bosses' weakness first. Unlike other Mega Man games, however, the bosses aren't nearly as difficult. They're all easily beatable with a few shots of whatever weapon they're weak against, and if you have to use your Plasma Cannon (your main weapon), you could still probably take them down if you have full life. Nevertheless, these are the first six, the ones that Wily used to begin his Robot Rebellion against the world, and particularly, his rival, Dr. Light.
By the by, I've included links below in each bosses' name to videos of run-throughs for each stage (what a strange convoluted sentence). Read and then watch, watch and then read, watch and don't read, etc, but I believe the videos complement the writing.
One thing I've always appreciated about the Mega Man series is the excellent balance between both "light" and "dark" stages, and Bomb Man's stage, Orb City, with its bright blue backgrounds and sunny music, really eases the player into the game. Upon first glance, the enemies seem like non-descript, standard robotic creatures. The Fleas are obnoxious little things that jump and attack in groups, while the Beaks are cylindrical protusions that shoot at you. But then you have strange enemies, like the Bullet Bill rip-off, Killer Bullet and even stranger ones, like Sniper Joe, who looks like a green ninja or assassin of some kind. An assassin robot? OUTRAGEOUS! There's no real platforming finesse required on this stage, no intimidating life-or-death leaps. Just get through the stage and to Bomb Man. Now, despite his intimidating mohawk and slight paunch, it's quite easy to take him down with your Plasma Cannon. Once you do that, he explodes into oblivion and leaves you with his weapon, the Hyper Bomb. Conglaturations, you have defeated your first Mega Man boss.
GUTS MAN – First, you all need to watch this. It's about as random and hilarious as it gets...
Now that your lives have all been changed, let's discuss the inner workings of Guts Man's stage. You are in the Mountain Mines, it's dusk, and the music has intensified. There's a palpable heaviness in the air, and it's time to put on your determined game face. The green platforms start you off with a jolt of Good Morning America – jump at the right time or Mega Man's done. Then there's the Bladers, who look like little green beanie hats with disturbing demon smiles. They'll divebomb and follow you until you shoot them all. Next comes the Picket Men, little construction worker robots who throw pick-axes at you. They're more adorable than annoying, but they still need to be "picked" off. Mind the spikes and enjoy your descent into the quarry. If you're lucky, you can land on tricky platforms and nab some energy or an extra life (even in the beginning, Mega Man's smiling face represents a 1-Up – perhaps the best 1-Up logo of all time). All the above is nothing compared to the Big Eye, a crushing stomper of a machine with one large, laughing eye. It seeks both to intimidate and destroy, and it takes off about a third of your life if it touches you. Destroy it or run under it if you can, but don't be shocked if you get hit. Then, suddenly, you're at Guts Man. He's a bulky mother, so when he jumps, he can freeze you temporarily if you're on the ground. He can also call down boulders from the heavens and chuck them at you, but they're fairly easy to avoid. Chuck a couple of bombs at him and claim your prize, the Super Arm. Mind the guts.
He's got scissors for a head! In the "Mega Man" cartoon series, his voice sounded like Peter Lorre. Not a wise choice on the voice actor's part, as Cut Man is not a very creepy figure. He's a violent sociopath, sure, but creepy implies subtle and there's nothing subtle about scissors on your head. Thankfully, his stage is relatively light-hearted, despite the propulsive music that seems to suggest a coming darkness. It takes place in the daytime, in an abandoned warehouse (what's with the sickly green hue?). Most of the enemies in this stage you should be used to by now, save the machines that spit out random blades at you, but they're easily avoidable. There's another Big Eye at the end of the stage, but thankfully, you have your Super Arm. Equip it, turn around, and take him down with one of the gigantic bricks that just happen to be placed there. Then comes your duel with Cut Man, who finds it amusing to throw his scissor-blades at you, boomerang-style. You can equip your Super Arm and throw the two bricks in the level at him, or just take him down, Plasma-Cannon style. Either way, he's dead and you're the proud owner of a Rolling Cutter.
Elec Man is where the game decides to say "Forget Mother Earth and all its inhabitants: we're crankin' the juice on this game." Elec Man's a true boss, both literally and figuratively. Just look at his fantastic lightning mask and his stylish suit of red, black, and yellow. He's the hippest boss in the game (he even asked Journey if he could borrow one of their songs for his stage – listen!) but unfortunately, he too must perish. First off, equip that Cutter of yours. It's key to destroying the Spines, which are the most annoying enemy in the game; your Plasma Cannon only stuns them. If you're on the same platform as the Spines, they speed up to take you out. Jump up and they slow down. Elec Man's stage is the Electrical Tower, and all you do is climb up and up, avoiding lightning bolts and Spines and Watchers which throw more lightning bolts at you. Do NOT exit this stage without acquiring the Magnet Beam. It is essential to your progress throughout the rest of the game. Once you've ascended the tower, your friend the Big Eye waits to greet you. Run under him and get to that snappy dresser. Elec Man is the first boss where you need the special weapon to defeat him. His lightning attacks can kill you (stylish and strong? Unfair) in three hits, but an eye for an eye: the Rolling Cutter takes him out in three hits too and you acquire the Thunder Beam.
I recommend a breather at this point, unless you want to go all H.P. Lovecraft and descend up the mountains of madness. Don't let that dandy winter coat and disarming doofus expression fool you: Ice Man, and his stage, the aptly named Arctic Jungle, are the hardest of the initial six stages. The music is appropriate, though unwelcome. The first twenty-five seconds or so has this obnoxious, dizzying melody, which fuses into a more standard, but less suggestive piece. It's my least favorite music of all the stages (of course I could be biased because I absolutely abhor this level, and tastes are subjective, blather and ramble). First, you're blessed with waves of re-generating Flying Penguins (Pengs!) and Spines on the ground. Then you're plunged into ice water with a Spine (nowhere to stand away from it at first) and what appears to be no way up. Suddenly blocks appear and quickly disappear. Make your way up, then plunge downward and perform the whole mess over again. Finally, as if that wasn't enough to rend your loins, there is a section with enemies called Foot Holders. The Foot Holders can fly above the sky and the goal is to jump from one to the other across a large chasm. However, they are constantly moving in a circular motion, both towards and away from each other. Once you're on one, you have to be very careful before jumping to another, as they spit out projectiles from their sides. If the Holder you're on is above the one you're jumping towards, a projectile could potentially hit you, knocking you away from the other Holder and plumetting you to your doom. Or you could just miss your jump entirely and die. Or you could use the Magnet Beam and just make a path over the entire chasm. I recommend the latter for less heartburn and better quality of life. After crossing the chasm, you're in the home stretch. The Iceman Cometh indeed, and his three-way ice-spike attack is nearly unavoidable. Thankfully, you can zap the crap out of him with your Thunder Beam. He drops the Ice Slasher, you stamp his robot parts in the snow, curse this stage, and call it a day.
Fire Man is your final foe, and as your final foe, you'd think he'd look a touch more intimidating. As it is, he has a squatty body and the Olympic torch for a head. When I look at him, I don't know whether to shed a tear for my country's hard-working, over-paid athletes or douse his fire with some good ol' fashioned American sludge water. At anywho, Fire Man's stage, The Steel Mill, is an industrial hellhole, thanks to the non-stop explosions of fire and the descending fiery heads, mysteriously called Tackle Fire. The sharp, shrill robotic noises mesh wonderfully with the stage's cautionary melody. There's nothing here you haven't seen before, though. The stage is quite simple to get through, especially after surviving the Arctic Jungle. Fire Man takes quite a few hits with the Ice Slasher – more than any other robot – but keep icing him, and eventually, his fire will no longer burn (yes, I'm aware I've made several bad puns along the course of this review/overview, and there are many more to come). You latch on to the Fire Storm and to sweet, sweet victory.
Thanks to vgmaps.com for this sweet pic of Dr. Wily!
The man who started it all leads you on a wily doctor chase across four stages, while resurrecting the bosses just because he can. HEY, HE TRIED TO WARN YOU THAT HE WAS WILY! LOOK AT HIS INSANE EYEBROWS!
The first stage is brutal, and the music says as much. It begins as a haunting elegy, preparing Mega Man for his potential failure, before shifting to a more curious, hopeful sound. It's the best piece in the entire game and it paves the way for even greater tracks to come in the later games. If three Big Eyes in a row and narrowly avoidable flames weren't bad enough, there's spikes, Foot Holders, and perhaps one of the worst mini-bosses of all time, the Yellow Devil. This obnoxious rock monster takes himself apart and throws his pieces at you until they regenerate and make his full form again. After he's in his full form, you have a second to hit his eye with your Thunder Beam, but it barely takes off any damage, unless... you bust out the 'Select' Trick. It's cheap, but incredibly effective. Essentially, you pause and unpause the game as the Thunder Beam hits the rock monster, and by doing this, the game glitches, the beam continues to hit the monster, and eventually, destroys him completely.
The second and third stages are pretty short and sweet. You'll fight Cut Man and Elec Man in stage two, before fighting a clone of yourself. He's not as tough as, say, Dark Link in Zelda II, though he does copy everything you do, including when you change weapons. The third stage has you fighting a weird seven-part Bubble Generator called CWU-01P (Capcom apparently wasn't aiming for a memorable name with this one). Destroy seven increasingly speedy bubbles and it's on to the last stage and Wily's end.
This last stage reunites you with the other four robots, Bomb, Guts, Ice, and Fire. They're pushovers, natch, and then comes Wily. He's surprisingly not that difficult. If you engulf him in the Fire Storm, his ship will start to break down. After his first lifebar is gone, blast him with the Thunder Beam and his vessel explodes, leaving him begging for mercy. Because you're Mega Man and Harbinger of all that is Blue and Good, you spare his life and he presumably wiles away.
While the credits roll, Mega Man runs through mountains, fields, and a city to get back home to Roll and Dr. Light. About halfway through, he takes off his suit, allowing his robot body to feel the sun's rays and let the wind blow through his black pompadour (perhaps he'll ponder why he resembles Astro Boy...). Eventually, he makes it home and jumps in triumph. Capcom of America congratulates you for beating one of the hardest games ever.
To sum up Mega Man, it's a solid game and a good start to a great series. Because this is the first game, it does feel a little rough around the edges. The graphics aren't as vibrant or colorful, the music not as epic or eclectic. Mega Man seems to slide when he lands, which isn't something I remember from later games, and is a severe detriment. The difficulty balance is off, as well. Parts of the game are easy to breeze through, while other parts are insane. No passwords, either. Gamers were expected to beat this entire thing in one sitting, which is crazy. Thank goodness for save states nowadays. These might not seem like little complaints, but strangely, they don't bring the game down. I really enjoyed playing through Mega Man again, and after twenty-five years of gaming "advancements," that's saying a lot. Well done, Capcom.
I'd love some feedback. This is my first time tackling a game in this manner, so if, like Mega Man, it feels a little rough around the edges, that's to be expected. Let me know if you'd like less details or (please God, no) more details. I'd also like to thank Nintendoage.com for their manual scans and megaman.wikia.com for an insane wealth of information about Mega Man.