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Mega Man 2 Review Rewind


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On 06/04/2021 at 02:30 PM by Jamie Alston

The “Blue Bomber” hits his stride.
RECOMMENDATION:

If you love NES-era platformers and have never played this one, you really should.

Mega Man 2 started as a side project that Capcom allowed artist Keiji Inafune’s team to work on during their downtime between higher priority projects. Much of the game's design included leftover ideas that didn’t make it into the inaugural entry. However, a few gameplay refinements and an incredible soundtrack combined to bring forth a classic that still attracts new fans despite being released over 30 years ago. Not bad for a side project.

The story is your standard sequel fodder. After a crushing defeat, an enraged Dr. Wily returns with revenge on his mind. This time, he builds his own unique Robot Masters to destroy Mega Man. Dr. Light- Mega Man’s creator- sends the blue armored hero to counter each Robot Master and face the incredible dangers awaiting him in Wily’s newly constructed fortress to put a stop to his nemesis.

The design team kept what worked about the first game- selecting stages in any order, absorbing Robot Masters' powers, and the oddly satisfying freeze-frame when Mega Man picks up energy pellets for health or weapon ammo. Also scrapped are the scoring system and the enemy gauntlet in the penultimate room before each boss encounter- both of which simply weren't necessary from this point forward. But particularly essential were the new gameplay elements that would influence the franchise well into the Mega Man X saga. For starters, the number of Robot Masters increased from six to eight.

The rock-paper-scissors method of each Robot Master having a vulnerability to another’s weapon remains intact. And maybe it's just me, but this game appears to have the most generous allotment of weapon ammo. In particular, Metal Man’s Metal Blade is the MVP with its long-lasting energy bar and the ability to chuck it in eight directions. It's great for making short work of smaller enemies that attack in groups. The only power-ups that are frustrating to use are the Crash Bomb and Time Stopper.

While the Crash Bombs are a great weapon, the ammo quickly depletes after only a few shots. The Time Stopper- as the name suggests- stops the action around Mega Man. But unlike Flash Man, however, you cannot interrupt its function until the weapon’s ammo is completely spent. It’s a bit of a disappointment since there are specific areas in Quick Man’s stage where the ability to stop time makes traversal much easier. But doing so will leave you without enough energy to use it during the boss battle.

Energy reserve tanks were first introduced in this game. It was a welcome addition since it gave you great incentive to finish the game, knowing that you can refill your energy during a boss fight as long as you have enough tanks to spare. The only bummer is that the game doesn’t allow you to re-enter a Robot Master's stage after destroying him, which prevents you from collecting any tanks you might have missed.

The game also included a password feature to keep track of your progress between stages- a welcome hallmark in light of the increase of Robot Masters over the previous game. While learning the correct boss order in each Mega Man game, it's always been essential for me to take a break if I keep dying in certain sections or discover that I selected the wrong weapon for a Robot Master. Several frustrating moments like the ever-present block platforming puzzles and other architectural “gotchas” to look out for near the end are present here as well. It's good to know that you can return to the game later with a password instead of being forced to start from scratch like in the first game.

Mega Man can now receive special upgrades every so often from Dr. Light after destroying certain Robot Masters. Each item assists Mega Man in reaching higher platforms or crossing significant gaps that would otherwise be impossible to traverse. They are the precursor to the Rush adaptors that would become a mainstay in the series. These enhancements will all be necessary at least once during the game. It is also interesting to note that Mega Man's health and weapon energy pellets had a different look from the previous game, which became the NES Mega Man series standard.

The visual presentation is an improvement over the first game. You can tell that Capcom was aiming to spruce up the game's overall style and presentation. The game begins with a nice intro summarizing events leading up to the current happenings. Each Robot Master's stage is well designed and fun to play through. Areas like Metal Man's stage show the NES’s ability to have animated backgrounds without slowing down the action. The beginning section of Bubble Man’s stage shows a waterfall flowing behind Mega Man. Flash Man's domain has crystal-like flooring and walls that shimmer as you walk across them.

After defeating each Robot Master, you transition to a screen showing you the upgrade(s) you acquired, and Mega Man's color changes accordingly. Additionally, there are a few now-familiar enemies that debuted in this game. My favorite is Telly- the cylindrical spinning drone that homes in on your position. I have a soft spot for them because they were the first enemies I saw when I played Mega Man II on the Game Boy (my formal introduction to the series).

While the first game established the unique audio design, Mega Man 2 solidified the series’ place in the pantheon of NES soundtracks. The music was born of the combined efforts of Takashi Tateishi, Manami Matsumae, and Yoshihiro Sakaguchi. While there’s nary a tune I don’t like here, the standouts for me are the compositions for Air Man, Metal Man, and Quick Man- the latter includes a callback to the rhythmic “buzz” of Fire Man's stage in the previous game. Each selection pairs well with the area it accompanies. The entire musical suite feels alive with infectious beats that have kept many a head bopping from the title screen to the final note of the end credits.

Mega Man 2 is a game that is hard not to love, or at least like. Fortunately, it’s easy to find these days thanks to the Mega Man Legacy Collection available for most major gaming platforms, including PS4, Switch, and Steam. Of course, if you’re the purist that insists on playing the original cartridge, that’s always an option too. But, no matter how you chose to own this game, it is a fine addition for the retro platforming connoisseur.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Cary Woodham

06/05/2021 at 08:11 AM

I would consider Mega Man 2 one of the top five best NES games.  Even though I like MM3 just a little more, I can TOTALLY understand why someone would like 2 better.  MM2 was the game that really got me into the franchise.  I had rented the first game before, but I also rented Legacy of the Wizard alongside it so that won out at the time.  But after I rented and beat MM2, I gave the original Mega Man another chance and beat it as well and I've been a fan ever since.  Mega Man 2 also has one of my favorite video game songs of all time: Dr. Wily's Stage 1 theme.  I actually have better memories playing Mega Man games on the NES over Mario ones.  In fact, I'd have to say that I like Mega Man better than Mario, which is weird of me to say since I tend to gripe at super hard games.  But regardless, that's how I feel in that case.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

06/09/2021 at 12:58 AM

I'm with you Cary- Mega Man 3 is my favorite above MM2 too. But yeah, MM2 really brings it in just about every aspect. Its status as an NES classic is well-deserved.

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