Mega Man 9
by FreezingInferno





The saga of the Mega Man series is a true underdog story, if there ever was one. The odds were stacked against the series from the start; Capcom didn't think the game would sell that well to begin with, but it was shipped anyway. Then there was that damned US boxart.. not even going to get started on THAT atrocity. The game sold well, but not well enough for Capcom to consider making a sequel. The people who worked on it begged Capcom to let them make a follow-up, and Capcom came up with a compromise; they could make it, but it would have to be on their own time. So, these little troopers went at it, likely working far longer than most people should legally be allowed to, pouring great ideas into the final product. Why? Because they believed in it. Their hard work and sleepless nights paid off; Mega Man 2 was a breakout hit, and is widely considered the best Mega Man game; hell, one of the Best Games Of All Time. Capcom realized the greatness and potential of Mega Man thanks to the success of the second game, and before long we had Mega Man 3. Hardcore Mega Man fans will debate over 3's place; is it better than 2, or does it miss the mark? Nevertheless, Mega Man was on top... and this is where the decline began. Instead of moving to the grassy greens of the Super Nintendo, Capcom kept Mega Man on the NES and began making it formulaic and expected. Mega Man would eventually reach the SNES... in spinoff form, as "Mega Man X". This would start a whole line of Mega Man spinoffs to keep the franchise afloat, but what about the one that started it all? 3 NES games released in the 90's, followed by it finally hitting the SNES in the twilight of the 16-bit era, when N64 and Playstation were looming. The classic series TRIED moving forward with Mega Man 8, but that was plagued with its own problems. A very-late SNES spinoff (later ported to the GBA for us in North America) was the last thing we saw of the classic series for a good ten years. Capcom would keep milking the spinoff Mega Man series like Battle Network and X, but the original Blue Bomber was a relic of the past.

Then there was Virtual Console. Classic game download services were around before then, sure... but Nintendo made it POPULAR. No longer would you have to scour flea markets and Craigslist for a copy of some old game; just grab a Points card from the game store and go to town. In the 20 years since the NES's era, people were finding themselves nostalgic for that old toaster; just look at Nintendo's own "Classic NES" GBA series, or all those rappers who sample chiptunes in their beats. It was cool to be nostalgia, so the Virtual Console took off and made Nintendo quite a bit of money. Sony and Microsoft were in on the game, too, with the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. Once Nintendo realized that downloadable games were a commodity, they introduced the Wiiware service; games developed specifically for downloadable service; cheap, yet classic. The planets had aligned just right, and the developers of good old Mega Man realized that 8-bit was in style. Somehow, the idea popped in their heads.

"Why don't we make a new NES Mega Man game?"

Whoever said that is a goddamn genius. Welcome to Mega Man 9, where everything old is new again.

Mega Man 9 is a very interesting little specimen. At first glance, it just looks like a lost Mega Man game from 1988, or a ROM hack. MM9 is actually more of a "greatest hits" collection of everything that makes Mega Man iconic, and kind of silly. The graphical style is obviously styled after the first six Mega Man games on the NES.. but only styled. This is not an NES game, it's just made to look like one. The slide and charge shot have been nixed, making the game play a lot like the first two Mega Mans.. but the Rush items (and Proto Man, if you shell out extra points) are in here, which are still ripped from 3. You still have screws to collect as currency that can be used to purchase items, a feature introduced in more recent Mega Man games like 7. Even the plot itself takes that "fake-out boss" mechanic from Mega Mans 4 through 6; a bunch of themed robots go berserk, and Dr. Wily releases some video on TV that shows Dr. Light(!) announcing that he wants to take over the world. It's Mega Man's job to clear the good doctor's name.. and if you haven't guessed who's really behind the plot by now, what kind of Mega Man fan ARE you? So, what sort of themed robots are ruining things THIS time? Let's take a look-see:

CONCRETE MAN

Well gee, this doesn't look like Guts Man at all. We haven't really seen "big Guts Man-esque brute" since Stone Man in good old Mega Man 5. Hell, Concrete Man even shakes the ground at points. His weapon, Concrete Shot, is interesting in that it makes a little block. The shot can block lasers, or freeze flame pillars. Guess what you'll have to use throughout the game.


JEWEL MAN

Jewel Man fulfills two Mega Man staples, the first being "faaaaabulous" Robot Master, akin to Clown Man. His stage is notable for being a big middle finger (more on that in a bit), and his weapon, Jewel Satellite, is a shield weapon. This one breaks the trend by actually being very helpful and not wearing off after taking two hits, so the rehash of a shield weapon can be overlooked this time.


HORNET MAN

Nicholas Cage would be terrified of this stage. Hornet Man is basically just a giant walking beehive that throws bees at you. Nothing overly spectacular there. His weapon, Hornet Chaser, lets you shoot robot bees at stuff. Notably, the robot bees can fly up to 1-ups and other powerups that are out of reach, and get them for you. A VERY HELPFUL ARMY OF BEEEEEES


PLUG MAN

Hey, an electric boss! These fell out of favor after Spark Man, and all we got were differently-themed bosses who happened to use electric weapons. (Cloud Man and Clown Man, again). Do not plug Plug Man into an inappropriate outlet. His weapon is Plug Ball, which is like Bubble Lead if it was electric and moved twice as fast.


SPLASH WOMAN

FSSSSH WHAT? A WOMAN ROBOT MASTER? That's right, Capcom broke the trend and put some feminine representation into MM9. Splash Woman is another water-themed Mega Man boss, but the novelty of a robot mermaid in Mega Man helps to make her not as lame as Bubble Man or Aqua Man. Her weapon is Laser Trident, which is great because it pierces shields and whatnot. Take THAT, Sniper Joe! If Wave Man had a trident he would have been like a robot Poseidon. That would have been badass.


MAGMA MAN

Hey, we haven't had a fire boss in a while! Magma Man looks like Fire Man's anger-prone brother who took too many steroids. His weapon, Magma Bazooka, can be charged up; an obvious homage to Atomic Fire from MM2. Also all the lava in his stage can go to hell.



GALAXY MAN

ROBOT ALIEN UFO OH MY GOD
Galaxy Man is one of the best bits of MM9, for several reasons. His stage music is some of the best in the game, and his weapon, Black Hole Bomb, IS A FUCKING BLACK HOLE! And did I mention that he is a ROBOT ALIEN UFO? It's a shame that he's a joke fight, and the guy you should be going after first. But nevertheless, he is awesome because BLACK HOLE-WIELDING ROBOT ALIEN UFO.


TORNADO MAN

Oh look, a wind-based Robot Master, haven't seen THAT before. Tornado Man somehow pulls off the impossible, and is a wind-based Robot Master that isn't a complete lamewad. His weapon, Tornado Blow (stop your snickering), is one of those screen-clearing moves like Rain Flush or Gravity Hold. It also gives you a little lift in your jumps and is needed in the fortress stages. The fight against Tornado Man also has spikes in the boss room, which reminds me of Burst Man. I fucking hated Burst Man.


All in all, the bosses aren't really that much to complain about; the elemental ones are changed enough to not seem like cheapo rehashes, and the new ones are interesting in their own right. Best of all, the weapons are actually really damn useful to use in the stages, and sometimes required. Grabbing powerups with Hornet Chaser, breaking through shields with Laser Trident, and just sucking everything into the void with Black Hole Bomb are all viable ways to complete a level. The axing of the Mega Buster may have have a hand in making the special weapons more of a neccessity. You'll need them, too. Mega Man 9 is HARD. This isn't coming from a casual gamer type, either; as a reviewer who has bested every classic Mega Man game and runs through Wily's fortress in Mega Man 1 to kill 15 minutes, Mega Man 9 is TOUGH. It's the wrong kind of tough, though; it's that kind of tough that makes you scream at the TV. One visible example of this is Jewel Man's stage; there are spikes all over the place, while you're swinging across platforms. At one point, there were spikes on every surface EXCEPT the one you were meant to jump on, and I actually yelled "OH, COME ON!". This is something I personally have never done with a Mega Man game before; Mega Man was always hard, but it was the FAIR kind of hard, and not this Super Kaizo World/I Wanna Be The Guy unexpected death-trap bullshit that you're nearly guaranteed to fail at your first time through. The minibosses can go to hell as well; specifically the ones in Jewel Man's and Hornet Man's stages. Mega Man 9 is beatable with persistence, sure, but the difficulty from cheapo fuck-you moves brings the experience down a little. It's still good, but you WILL utter foul language at points.

Another fun new aspect added to the game are the challenges. There are certain little goals you can try to meet if you're a sucker for proving that you're God at Mega Man. These range from speedrunning the game, to beating it so many times in one day, to beating the entire game without getting hit once. (Good fucking luck on that one.) They add a little replayability to the game, and an extra incentive to keep at it for bragging rights. For a few extra points from your downloadable service of choice, you can also buy extra modes and things, like the ability to play as Proto Man (who can use moves from later Mega Man games like sliding, but takes double damage as a balance), or an extra stage. If you enjoy the game and have spare points left over from buying something, it's not a bad investment.

So, after 10 years, how is classic Mega Man's return? Pretty damn good. The developers haven't quite forgotten what made Mega Man 2 beloved, and went back to that formula for MM9. Even though the difficulty is kind of flip-floppy at points, it's well worth the ten bucks or so to put it on your current-gen console of choice. And ROBOT ALIEN UFO! Buy it for Robot Alien UFO, you know you want to.






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