When Mega Man 9 came out, it caused quite a stir. As games continually strove to push the boundaries of graphics, story and budget, Mega Man 9 had the nerve to be a simple action game with a retro presentation. It was the first milestone in what we now consider console retro revivals, including New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Konami's ReBirth series, Blaster Master Overdrive, the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and more. After Mega Man 9 released, we could debate its merits and flaws to no end, putting aside its 8-bit appeal. But one thing was certain: if there were ever a Mega Man 10, it wouldn't get the same advantage. The whole "retro shock" angle would be used up, and Mega Man 10 would have to rely on more.
I can say with some certainty now that Mega Man 10 is a game that equals, if not surpasses, Mega Man 9. With Mega Man 9, producers Keiji Inafune and Hironobu Takeshita looked back on what gave Mega Man 2 its popularity and longevity in order to make a Mega Man game that could surpass it. While this was a good idea for research, it's difficult to surpass a game that you're trying to mimic. While I can't argue that all of Mega Man 10 is completely original, it really does feel like a fresher game; that at the very least the developers didn't limit themselves to one game to gain inspiration from. In Mega Man 10, there is definitely a greater attempt to "wow" players, and sometimes it works very well.
In Mega Man 10, a mysterious virus dubbed Roboenza has plagued robots around the world, leaving humans helpless, who had relied on robots so much. Things only get worse when the infected robots go berserk and start attacking humanity. In a twist, Dr. Wily himself pledges his support to Mega Man and company, claiming to have been working on a machine to discover Roboenza's cure before being attacked by the robots. Mega Man is also joined by his enigmatic sibling Proto Man in order to stop the wild robots and get back the parts to Wily's machine. It's your typical Mega Man story, albeit with a couple small twists thrown in. It also has one of the most tender moments I've seen in a Mega Man game for a pretty long time, but compared to game stories it's still pretty basic. Like Mega Man 9, however, this game has quite a few story scenes for what's supposed to be a retro remake, and the game's introduction is easily the longest ever for a Mega Man title. For as simple a story as it is, I get the impression that Inti Creates can't help but lavish with the character scenes.
The gameplay, of course, is your typical Mega Man fare. You get to select the stages in whatever order you please, run and gun your way through them, beat the boss at the end and get his weapon. This time around, however, there are two major new additions: Proto Man and Easy Mode. While Proto Man was available as downloadable content in Mega Man 9, he is now included with the main game and you can play as him right from the get go. Proto Man still has his same abilities: he can charge his buster for a more powerful shot, he can slide, and he can use his shield while jumping. Conversely, he takes more damage and recoil than Mega Man does, and can't have as many shots on the screen. I do think they scaled down the amount of damage and recoil he takes compared to Mega Man 9, which made him nearly unplayable in my opinion. Despite this, I still don't find Proto Man much "better," since I'm so used to playing as Mega Man I hardly remember to charge and slide. But to those who are used to the later Mega Man games, he may be more enjoyable to use.
For those who feel too daunted by the difficulty levels of Mega Man (especially the kind of difficulty Mega Man 9 often pushed), there is now Easy Mode. This mode makes the enemies and bosses a bit tamer, has Mega Man take less damage, and adds support platforms to water down some of the trickier jumps. While I know a good deal of my fellow Mega Man fans have lauded Easy Mode as ridiculous and insulting, I'm really glad they included it, as I think as many people as possible should be able to enjoy and beat the game. As a test to determine if Easy Mode really "worked," I had a good friend try it out who hasn't played a Mega Man game in well over a decade, and pretty much only plays FPS games and Rock Band now. Despite some difficulties, he did manage to beat all eight of the Robot Master stages, and I could even tell he was starting to pick up some skill near the end of his play. I can't exactly say he enjoyed the game, but it definitely proved that Easy Mode works in making the game more accessible to gamers unfamiliar with Mega Man.
Truth be told, though, even Mega Man 10's Normal Mode feels a little more forgiving than Mega Man 9. While there are many awful obstacles, like sand storms that cover the entire screen, huge truck robots that will run at you at wild speeds, and lots and lots of the trademark spikes, it doesn't feel like Mega Man 10 has so many cheap deaths. In fact, so far as I can recall, Strike Man's stage has no instant death traps whatsoever. Conversely, beating the game unlocks Hard Mode, so if you feel even Normal Mode isn't offering enough challenge, Hard Mode will definitely test your mettle. Unlike Mega Man 9's downloadable Hero and Superhero Modes that just made enemy placement even more cheap, Mega Man 10's Hard Mode makes the enemies a lot more aggressive and lets the bosses perform new attacks. So far I've only been able to beat Chill Man!
Another significant change up is Mega Man 10's challenges. In Mega Man 9, there were 50 challenges that could be completed by clearing certain conditions in the main game. Mega Man 10 only has 12 of such challenges, but 88 more that are actual challenges of skill. The first 37 of these are mini-stages, which typically involve getting to the end or destroying all the targets. The other 50 are boss battle challenges. Many of them require you to clear them with no damage to perfectly complete the challenge (i.e. get a gold rank instead of a silver). One of the great things I found about the boss challenges is that they doubled as a means to practice boss battles, letting you get better without having to go through the stages again and again. However, I do wish there were more than just 37 of the mini-stage challenges. Those are a lot of fun.
One of my larger complaints about Mega Man 10 is the weapons. The biggest problem is that they consume so much energy, and not allowing you to get good use out of them. In fact, only three of the weapons just use one unit of energy per shot. Furthermore, while a lot of the weapons are pretty creative, I don't think they're as useful as similar weapons from previous games. Take Water Shield, for example, which is this game's barrier weapon. While a little more unique for the barriers, the shield doesn't deflect shots and it gets broken up as it takes hits. Compare this to Mega Man 9's Jewel Satellite, which deflected shots, never wore out, and used just as much energy. Chill Spike reminds me a little of Mega Man 9's Concrete Shot, except it freezes enemies instead of making platforms. Not entirely useless, but it would have been nice to be able to walk on frozen enemies.
Additionally, three of the weapons need to be used "indirectly" so to speak. The projectiles for Chill Spike, Commando Bomb and Thunder Wool hardly damage enemies, but it's their resulting actions that do (Chill Spike creates a bed of spikes when it touches the floor or wall, Commando Bomb has a wave-like explosion, and Thunder Wool sends a bolt of electricity straight down). If you end up hitting the enemy with the projectile instead, you're pretty much wasting the weapon - and this is rather difficult with Commando Bomb, which will move twice with commands from the directional pad. Better make sure you don't have to move when you use it. But there are still some great weapons, like Wheel Cutter which follows along the floor and walls, and lets you climb up walls speedy fast, and Triple Blade, which has a wide range and hits enemies multiple times up close. Rebound Striker is pretty nice too, but using two units of energy per shot you have to use it a little conservatively. It may seem like I'm being a bit hard, but the weapons in a Mega Man game are one of the most important features, and I do think that Mega Man 9 had better weapons overall.
Next let's take a look at the game's sound and music. Mega Man games generate a lot of high expectations for music, and Mega Man 10 has spawned many diverse reactions to its soundtrack. I've seen comments from people who love it and those who think it's grossly inferior (at least compared to the recent Mega Man 9). But I've been most surprised to see a lot of people share the same sentiment I do: they're a little put off by it, but they find it grows on them. And like its reviews, Mega Man 10's own music is indeed all over the place. Some have even said some songs sound like they belong in other games altogether. This actually isn't so surprising when you take a look at the people who composed for the game. Manami Matsumae (Mega Man, Mega Man 2), Yasuaki "BUNBUN" Fujita (Mega Man 3, Mega Man 4), Minae "OJALIN" Fujii (Mega Man 4), Mari Yamaguchi (Mega Man 5), Yuko Takehara (Mega Man 6, Mega Man 7), Makoto Tomozawa (Mega Man 7), Shusaku Uchiyama (Mega Man 8), Akari Kaida (Mega Man & Bass) and Inti Creates sound team who worked on Mega Man 9 before: Ippo Yamada, Ryo Kawakami, Hiroki Isogai and Yu Shimoda. Pretty much someone from all of the main series games.
With this many people, it's no surprise that the game's soundtrack is so diverse, and I do think it's a bit over-ambitious. Maybe they wanted to make sure that the game's music would represent everyone's favorite game in some regard. But I feel like it's hard to justify thirteen composers for a game like this. It creates a huge canyon of inconsistency, and for the people who aren't grabbed by the music, I think what's really troubling them is how all the themes don't really fit together. Most if not all of Mega Man 10's music is skillfully compose and a pleasure to listen to, but the gulf of disparity is a little jarring when you actually play.
Some final other touches I really enjoyed include the stage layouts, which I think are better than Mega Man 9's, although I didn't take much issue with Mega Man 9's stage designs. A lot of this is due to less cheap stage design, granted, but there are some other cool things, like a few stages which have branching paths that give the game a little more replay value. I also found some of the stages thematically more interesting than 9's. Two that really stand out are the first fortress stage, which has a somber entrance but kicks it up very fast, and the final fortress stage, which is just so weird. I don't think I've felt such a sense of trepidation since Mega Man 2's final stage, where you begin by falling down a huge cavern. I also like that they added the ability to create and send in video replays of your time attack ranks. Admittedly I'm not good enough to be in any of the top lists, but watching other peoples' incredible playing is a lot of fun. However, like Mega Man 9, the online rankings still often time out when you try to load them. I can look at the rankings for maybe one or two stages, and then I constantly get the "connection has timed out" message. This gets pretty frustrating, and I don't know what makes loading a mere list of names and times so demanding on the system.
All in all, I think Mega Man 10 achieves what it sets out to do. While Mega Man 9 was trying to be a literal reproduction of an NES game, Mega Man 10 doesn't even bother with imitating things like sprite clipping and sound channel limitations. Mega Man 10 is not an imitation NES game, but just a game that uses NES-like presentation. It's as fun as Mega Man 9 if not more, a little more forgiving, a bit more interesting and a lot more value up front. It's troubled by an inconsistent soundtrack, weapons that are good but use a little too much energy and are tricky to use, and fairly long (albeit skippable) story scenes that don't contribute much to the game's finale. Fans of Mega Man 9 and action platformers/retro games in general ought to enjoy Mega Man 10 a lot. People who aren't into classic Mega Man games so much will definitely find it accessible with the Easy Mode, but being able to progress in it doesn't necessarily mean being able to enjoy it. By no means perfect, but without argument a strong followup to Mega Man 9, and the series in general.
Game reviewed based on WiiWare version of Mega Man 10. Played game for roughly eight hours over the course of a week and a half.