Developer(s) – Capcom
Publisher(s) – Capcom
Director – Akira Kitamura
Designer – Akira Kitamura
Before I played Mega Man for the first time, I had a pretty decent ideas of what I would be getting, but I wasn’t prepared for was it’s relentless level of difficulty. For how innovative and groundbreaking it was for the time, I couldn’t help but think that like the original Castlevania, it would’ve done better if it had appealed to the more casual gamer as well as gamers looking for the challenge. But regardless, this game had become a cult classic, and I decided to judge for myself.
Graphics – 9/10
The visuals not only hold up in comparison to indie 8-bit games developed today, but for the time, they were revolutionary. The most notable technique Capcom used was to give the character sprites black outlines, which was something rarely seen on the NES prior. A problem with the original Nintendo was that it had a limited colour palette, and game developers had to compromise accordingly; but with Mega Man, Capcom simply realized that colours could be made much more distinctive from one another by merely separating them with thin lines of black between the scenery and the character sprites, and it worked flawlessly. Not only that, but the diversity in level design was also top notch, with the game taking place in locations like futuristic laboratories and vast, rocky canyons.
Gameplay – 5/10
This aspect is where the game posthumously fell short on in my opinion. My feelings towards it are too mixed. On one hand, this game incorporates so many innovations that would go on to become industry standards, such as non-linearity, giving players the choice of which order they complete levels in, and variety in the array of different abilities that the player can acquire throughout the course of the game. But on the other hand, the game is notoriously hard, and for the most, I just felt marred down by its level of difficulty. It’s because of that, I found it too hard to enjoy, and in turn, hurts its replayability overall. I think part of the problem has to do with that back in the time of it’s release, video gaming was a much more casual interest in America and Europe than it was in Japan, and the Western world wasn’t used to such challenges in video games. But there were a few of these games, like Mega Man and Castlevania, that were met with a decent reception, and so they worked for many players, but not for all. This is part of the reason why Nintendo were apprehensive about release the original Super Mario Bros 2 in the Western world, so they took another game they previously developed called Doki Doki Panic, and re-imagined that game as our version of Super Mario Bros 2, and the original Japanese take was re-released as part of Super Mario All-Stars, where it was called Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. Although there is much more to the story than that, the fact of the matter remains that Mega Man was just far too hard for me to enjoy overall.
Controls – 9/10
Like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, I did sometimes find the controls to be somewhat unresponsive, which made it hard to time jumps properly and not fall from platforms and lose lives. However, for the most part, it is down to player’s own individual skill, and my advice to anyone looking to try this game out is to be prepared and to be patient, because players will inevitable die over and over again.
Lifespan – 5/10
As I alluded to before, past linear 2D side scrollers don’t tend to last for overly long periods of time, and Mega Man is no exception. I think experienced players are able to complete this game in about four hours, but for inexperienced players, most time will be spent dying. And as I said before, the game’s level of difficult will inevitable hinder its replayability for many players. Also, as Mega Man is not exactly a linear 2D side scroller, giving players the choice of what path to take, I think the game’s short lifespan is made that little more intolerable as a result.
Storyline – 7/10
For a time when there was considerably less emphasis put on story in video games, Mega Man’s storyline is actually fairly well done. What made it different is that there is a little bit more back-story in Mega Man than there was in other games at the time. It follows a humanoid robot called Mega Man, who is deployed by his co-creator, Dr. Light, to stop his former assistant Dr. Wily. The two scientists created Mega Man and six other humanoid robots for industrial labour, but Dr. Wily chose to use the other six humanoid robots in a bid to take over the world, and Mega Man must prevent this from happening. An interesting fact about the story is that Mega Man was originally going to be called Rock Man to fit in with the other six humanoid robots, but also as a reference to rock music. But the problem was that the developers were afraid of the name Rock Man being mistaken for a reference to drugs, and so it was changed. This is also why Mega Man’s sister is called Roll, as it would have been Rock and Roll if the name change hadn’t happened.
Originality – 7/10
Although I found the game too difficult to enjoy playing, the fact of the matter is that a lot of innovations were made in this game that would become stable elements of video games to this very day, and I have to at least respect it for that. For me, it loses marks for the fact that the more difficult games back in the time appealed to a lesser demographic overall, and therefore the game was different, but in a more negative way. I can’t help but feel that if they’d toned down the difficulty for the Western release of the game, then it would have done better at the time.
In summation, whilst it’s not a terrible game, it is only open to specific kinds of gamers; the kind who don’t mind the challenge of playing through such a hard game. But for a lot of other people, it will just become nothing but frustrating to play. But with its outstanding visuals for the time, and groundbreaking gameplay features, it most definitely earned its place in video gaming history.