With each cover, Capcom's American artists slowly begin to understand how Mega Man really looks.
Of course, the Japanese covers are always great.
Mit Passwort? Das ist wunderbar!
RELEASE DATE: November 1990
Compared to the ambitious intro of Mega Man II, Mega Man III's intro is sparse. There is no telling of the game's story, no slow ascension up a building, no Mega Man hair flapping in the breeze. Instead, there are some brief credits, the title screen, and some of the most haunting, memorable music in all of gaming. Like any great Mega Man piece, the Mega Man III intro music conjures up aching loss before turning into an anthem of renewal. As the theme begins, one can imagine Mega Man sighing deeply while staring at his helmet. Like his two previous missions, this journey will be fraught with lonely nights, non-stop brutality, and the chilling sense that death is all around him. But as Mega Man puts his helmet on, the tempo speeds up. He feels revitalized. These missions burn inside him. They are his calling, his reason for being. No one else, man or robot, can take down cold-hearted, mechanical evil like Mega Man.
Mega Man III proved that Mega Man II was no fluke masterpiece. Mega Man III retains everything that made II great – colorful stages, masterful music, top-notch gameplay – and builds upon it for an even fuller experience. Save for a few details here and there, the first two Mega Mans practically had the same story: Wily's gone off the deep end and needs to be stopped. Mega Man III's story begins with Wily claiming he's a changed mad scientist (for the first time, but certainly not the last). Wily begins to work with Dr. Light on a supposedly "peaceful" robot named Gamma and eight new Robot Masters. Surprising no one (other than, perhaps, Dr. Light), the Robot Masters "suddenly turn evil" and steal eight Energy Elements needed for Gamma's creation. Of course, once Mega Man retrieves the Elements, Dr. Wily turns evil again, steals Gamma, and hopes to use Gamma to rule the world. The story also introduces "Break Man" a.k.a. Protoman, Mega Man's brother. The introduction of Protoman is one of the most interesting turning points in the often repetitive Mega Man storyline. Protoman's ambiguous nature and his excellent design lend him an air of mystery, while his incredible power makes him both a worthy adversary and a valuable ally to Mega Man. Besides the better story, Mega Man also marks the beginning of Rush's long and storied career as Mega Man's most loyal and faithful friend. His Coil, Jet, and Marine abilities are all incredibly useful, but in my opinion, that's not why Capcom created him. "It is not good for man to be alone," indeed, and while Mega Man doesn't really need a partner in his games, Rush's presence really lends an air of playfulness and humor (tell me the Rush Marine design isn't funny) that the series often lacks. Also, Mega Man can officially slide. The slide makes it easier to avoid enemy projectiles, enter narrow passage ways, and just look cool (like he's busting a move). Finally, Mega Man III returns to the higher difficulty of the first game. Less energy power-ups are given from enemies (unless fighting hordes of bees or penguins) and are placed at specific points in a stage, while E-tanks and lives are slightly less plentiful. Mega Man III is still not near the challenge of the first one, but it's no slouch.
Interestingly, these Robot Masters that you'll fight were worked on by both Dr. Wily and Dr. Light. This would be the first and last time Dr. Light would assist in these horrible creations, but as far as Mega Man III is concerned, the damage was already done. Charge your Plasma Cannon and get ready for Spark Man, Magnet Man, HARD MAN, Top Man, Shadow Man, Gemini Man, Needle Man, and Snake Man. Once again, this is not the most common approach to the bosses, but I like trying new and frightening methods of play.
Spark Man most definitely has a light for you, but not for your cigarette addiction. His stage is a mish-mash of blinking lights, machinery, trash, and electricity. In other words, it's a lot like Metal Man's stage except it SPARKS! The music kicks off Mega Man's journey right. The first half is a club banger, while the second half sounds like a descent into regret, perhaps at the end of a bottle. Yasuaki Fajita, the game's composer, is a complete boss (perhaps there should have been a Fajita Man, not to be confused with his Mexican equivalent, Fajita Man). My personal favorite enemies in this level are the green shot put guys. Do they fling those suckers with reckless abandon or what? Plus they look great. The eyes with suction cups for feet are a close second. It's fair to say that the creative enemy design rivals or surpasses that of Mega Man II. But what of the insanely hard part where Mega Man jumps on the platforms that propel him up towards the spiked ceiling, and there's enemies materializing out of thin air? Yeah, that can be tough, but stick with it. Don't be a hero and try to plow through it or you'll fall. Take your time and shoot the blue screw thingies. Finally, you reach Spark Man and he's sparking both little and big projectiles. He also likes to jump jump, much like Kris Kross. Aim your cannon straight and true, and his Spark Shock shall be yours for the plundering.
Many of the bosses have little time for subtlety. Take Magnet Man, for example. He has a magnet on his head, and his weapon happens to be little magnets. This is why he is Magnet Man. The first enemies you'll encounter are Helicopter Magnet creatures that try to lift you off the ground. Ignore their natural magnetism and just listen to the jaunty tune. It is quite the happy shuffle, perfect for being swept off of your feet by angry magnet robots. Soon, though, it's time for Protoman's first appearance. He has a scarf! And a red helmet! And he likes to jump a lot! Just stay in the corner and shoot the crap out of him and eventually he'll fly away and make the floor explode. Jump down and say goodbye to sanity: it's time to jump on disappearing/re-appearing blocks, while fans (MAGNETIC FANS) try to suck you off the blocks and to your death. My favorite enemy in this stage has to be the humongous slinky head who shoots blue missiles at you and goes crazy when you get near him. He'll be waiting for you to kill him in the middle of the level and before the entrance to Magnet Man's lair. Magnet Man himself is incredibly agile, and will jump on you, when he's not throwing magnets or pulling you near himself with his incredible anger shield. Bust out your spark cannon and let electricity do its thang, and he'll be fried. Ingest the Magnet Missile and peace out, ya'll.
Hard Man is built very much like a sumo wrestler with a blue plated shield and an incredibly dense helmet. He's big and hard and any other potential innuendo you can think of. His stage is the Rocky Plateau. I guess because rocks are hard? I'm not sure how Capcom put two and two together there, but it's not like it doesn't make sense... kinda. The music's very standard – driving beat, nice melody. Nothing too evocative, but then Hard Man's stage is quite the anomaly. Wasps? Monkeys? Random clap-trap things? Helpful tip: when the wasps are about to drop their brood, quickly run to the left so they disappear off screen, and when you turn right again, they will no longer be there. Otherwise you'll have to fight swarms of little wasps and they're quite the buttholes. Favorite enemy in this stage (and several other stages): the little hard helmet guys in bulldozers. They're SO CUTE and they only take three shots to kill. Protoman makes another appearance, presumably because he didn't take enough of a plasma thrashing before. Finally, there's a large stomper enemy in front of Hard Man's door. Just take the hit and go through the door, who cares. Hard Man shows up, growling like he means it. He hits you with little presumably hard fists and does a head-butt to the ground and PAUSES TIME ITSELF. He's pretty incredible, which is why it's pretty depressing to see a few measly magnets take him down. But take him down they do, and you're equipped with a Hard Knuckle, for good measure.
Another less-than-subtle Robot Master for Mega Man to crush, like so many unused tops. Like Magnet Man, Top Man can't hide his true nature: his head is literally a top, he has top-spewing underlings, and his stage is a... Spinning Greenhouse? It's nice to see some plant life in a mostly mechanical game, but nowhere did it feel as if the level was spinning. As for the stage itself, there's a reason why Top Man is the recommended starter robot to fight: his stage is, to quote Prince, "nuthin but a muffin." The only parts that might give you trouble are the Flea/Furball Spewing Cat confrontations, and the chasm where you have to jump across constantly ascending/descending rows of spinning tops. Top Man's music didn't hit me right at first, but after repeated listenings, I like how different it is from the other stages. It feels less like a dance song, and more of a straight-forward rock number (check out that wah-wah solo in the middle!). Once you reach Top Man, he fails to intimidate. His moves include spinning toward you and throwing three tops at you, both of which are extremely easy to maneuver around. A few Hard Knuckles to the face ought to blow his top out of commission. You'll gain his Top Spin, and who knows, you might even use it at some point.
A waterfall of lava greets you as you begin Shadow Man's stage. A driving jungle beat and piercing synths shatter the silence. You're a long way from the calming atmosphere of Top Man's Greenhouse. The Sewer System takes you down, down, down to face Protoman yet again. Stand in the corner, pierce his skull with plasma, and he'll get the hint. From there, it's a long trek through walking grenades and brain caps (they're not really brain caps, but they look like them and that's good enough for me) that make the entire room dark. Equip your Magnet Missile, shatter the brains and get those lights on. Keep going down until you've reached the room with overflowing lava. Equip the Magnet Missile again and destroy the floating creatures that come from the ceiling. Jump across the platforms until you face Shadow Man. His game is throwing shurikens, two at a time, and jumping just to piss you off. Equip the Top Spin (it turns your whole body into a top -THANKS TOP MAN) and twist on him a few times. It's a really silly way to kill an awesome boss, but it works. Claim the Shadow Blade as your own.
Gemini Man's stage is called the Mirror Cavern, and while most of the stage does take place in a shimmering cave, you start off at night atop a path of crystals. Penguins and flying flame-throwing eyes frustrate, while the dark uncertainty of the music keeps you on your toes. Before you descend into the Cavern, Protoman swoops down to stare into your soul before swooping back up and paving a way to the cavern. In the cavern, you'll be shooting lots of eggs and tadpoles, just to clear a path for you. It's disgusting, but necessary. You'll also run into Penguin Machines, which spew penguin robots at you. Jump over them and shoot the eyes of the machine. Going deeper into the cavern will reveal an underground lake, which means it's time for Rush Marine to come out and play. Equip him and dive into the dark waters, collecting energy for him as you go (and a little extra life and E-tank for yourself, why not). After a brief encounter with a Stomping Robot, you'll meet Gemini Man. He's a jerk, and a double-minded one at that. He'll split into two versions of himself. Luckily, it doesn't matter which version you hit with your Shadow Blade. He'll eventually explode into more than two pieces, blessing you with the Gemini Laser.
Until you descend underground, Needle Man's stage presents itself as a pseudo-futuristic cityscape, amongst the tattered remains of a sail. It's actually a Construction Site, but my description seems more accurate, or at least, interesting. Needle Man's stage is incredibly straightforward, especially if you're rockin' the Shadow Blade. That sucker is awesome and takes out many of the enemies in one hit. The second part of the stage brings with it needles that emerge from the ceiling. They're NOT one-hit kills, but they are obnoxious. Slide past 'em to fresh air. Needle Man himself is a bulbousy sort, not unlike Air Man. He can and should be taken out with the Gemini Laser, a weapon that's best used up in his grill. Pull the Needle Cannon from his charred robot corpse and jump in the air for the cameras.
Scaly green exteriors that wrap and weave their way throughout the stage; large snake heads with constantly gyrating bodies; and some of the most transcendent, blood-pumping music of the entire game. Snake Man's stage is fantastic, and best of all, it's a delicious light lunch: not too fattening, but filling enough, so that when you're done, you feel satisfied. Shooting your way through the stage is a cinch, until the final section before Snake Man. You have to jump from cloud to cloud (atop certain death? Capcom doesn't mind if they do!), whilst avoiding clouded bullets that move faster if you shoot them. Slick platforming finesse will get you through to Snake Man. His Snake Suit resembles more of a home-made costume than anything else, but his stage rocks, so cut him some slack. A few Needles should poison him up and make him explode real good. Collect his Search Snake and begone!
DOC ROBOT STAGES
It's normally eight robots, than some Wily action, but not this time. Four mysterious robot images take shape in Spark Man, Needle Man, Shadow Man, and Gemini Man (I love how the other boss borders crumble). This is Doc Robot, and he is a tremendous buttface. Not only does he takes each aforementioned boss stage and make them harder, but you also have to fight him twice in every level. In each fight, he'll replicate a different boss power from Mega Man II. In Spark Man's stage, it's Metal Man and Quick Man; with Needle Man, it's Air Man and Crash Man; with Shadow Man, it's Flash Man and Bubble Man; with Gemini Man, it's Wood Man and Heat Man. Oh, oh, oh, it's magic. While each stage is slightly changed, it's not worth delving deep into them. You'll know what to expect if you've gotten this far. Check out the videos if you're interested in seeing some Mega Man II bosses back to life.
"Break Man" is just an alias for Protoman, presumably to hide his true identity from Dr. Light (thanks Mega Man Wiki!). Whatever the reason, this is just another battle with Protoman. Defeat him and a cutscene will take you to Dr. Light's lab. He'll inform you that Wily has run off with Gamma, and you'll be off to Wily's Castle. Watch the fight below on the "Stage 1" link.
This might be the easiest Stage 1 of any Castle trip thus far. There's enemies from previous stages (Top Spewer!), new enemies (dive-bombing penguins!), and all sorts of extra lives and weapon energy, if you're willing to shell out some Hard Knuckles. Like other Wily Stage 1's, the music feels like a culmination of all that came before, but it doesn't get one as motivated as it should. It's solid, but not as timeless as the themes from the previous two games. The boss is the Kamegoro Maker, a giant turtle-spewing machine. It also spits out wind funnels at you from all sides, so be aware of those. Equip the Shadow Blades to destroy all nefarious turtle doings, and you're done.
The Rush Jet will be your best friend in this incredibly short stage. After your initial ascent up a few ladders (collecting a life and weapon energy if need be), you'll hop on the Rush Jet and never look back. Being able to shoot the wasps before the unleash their swarm really makes this area easier. Re-charging the Rush Jet is never an issue, as there's plenty of energy on your trek – along with an E-tank. The boss is the Yellow Devil Mk II, resurrected from Mega Man. He's not nearly as obnoxious as before, though. He's slower, his pieces are easier to avoid, and sometimes you can get two hits in with your Hard Knuckle. The battle's over before you know it.
Once again, the first part of this stage is all about loading up Mega Man with goodies. Grab what you can and move on. The theme is different in this stage, more resolved, if not more melancholy. The Brain Caps and the Grenade Jerks make their triumphant return, although it's much easier to destroy them. Are we noticing a pattern? This has to be the easiest set of stages Wily's ever thrown at Mega Man. Perhaps because he had to hastily reassemble his castle? After the annoying Doc Robot battles, I'll take a brief respite. Slide under the pair of Stompers, and jump up the platforms, while avoiding the spikes on the wall. The boss battle is a triumvirate of holographic Mega Mans, but only one of them can be harmed. Use the Search Snake to take them down, while avoiding their shots.
Stage 4 leads you to the Robot Chamber, the place where you have to fight all of Mega Man III's eight Robot Masters again. Do it quickly, so I can finish up this review. Fun Fact: each of the bosses' weapons works against them.
It's about damn time. Wily comes out in a Giant Spider Robot. He doesn't really do all that much besides spew his trademark balls of light, but those are easy to maneuver around. Give him a fistful of Hard Knuckle to take down his first form. His protective bubble will come down, which gives you the perfect opportunity to use the Rush Jet. Fly up and shoot the final protective layer and his spider will come crashing down. At first, it looks like he's begging you for forgiveness. BUT OH WAIT HE'S JUST A ROBOT AND THE REAL FIGHT IS YET TO COME.
Wily has gotten Gamma up and running and he's about to give Mega Man a nonstop-express ticket to pain... or not. Gamma does look really imposing and terrifying, taking up half the screen and all, but all it takes to get him down to half life is Hard Knuckle his head (Hard Man really knew how to craft a weapon). Once that's accomplished, Wily appears. He's controlling Gamma from the inside, and the only way to stop him is... to Top Spin his head. Once you've achieved that, Wily's on the ground, asking for forgiveness. This time, though, Mega Man's looking away, implying that he's not willing to grant it this go-round. Pieces of Gamma begin to fall from the sky. One crushes Wily, the other Mega Man. Protoman rescues Mega Man, but Wiley's fate, according to the game, is negative.
Dr. Light informs you that you were unceremoniously deposited in the laboratory by none other than Protoman! A whistle is heard in the distance and Protoman's entire theme is heard for the first time. Excited to be alive, Mega Man leaves Dr. Light and his maniacal arm-waving to go on a run through the grass. After being covered in oil and robot scraps and trash, the fresh, spring breeze is cleansing to a young robot's circuits. As Mega Man runs, a list of Robots that Dr. Light (er, Right) has made appears. In it are the Original Six (Guts Man, Cut Man, etc.) and their original purposes. I've beaten III before, but I completely forgot about this part. Really cool info. Finally, the game explains Roll (of course she's a housekeeper – they should have also made her a maker of sandwiches), Mega Man (former assistant to Dr. Light???), and Proto Man. Mega Man stares at an image of his cooler brother, Protoman, in the sky, while a bird derps happily onto a tree. Cue staff credits (BUNBUN! KERO KERO!). Thank you, Capcom, for another solid Mega Man production.
Mega Man III is another great addition to the Mega Man lineup. Capcom really tightened up Mega Man's control in this one, to the point of zero slipperiness. The graphics are even better than Mega Man II. There are unique blends of beautiful colors, especially in the later Wily stages; it almost doesn't matter that they're using recycled backgrounds. The music is great, as always, though I would rate it slightly under the timelessness of Mega Man II's. My one complaint would probably be the difficulty. The game strangely got easier as it went on, especially in Wily's Castle. Still, it's great to see the beginnings of Rush and Protoman, and it's always fun to fight a fresh batch of bosses. Mega Man IV awaits!