A Critical Look at Mega Man Stages: Ice Man

Following our look at Guts Man's Stage from the original NES Mega Man game(which is recommended reading if you're new to what this is all about), we are moving on to Ice Man's Stage (with his music, if you want the full experience).

Most of the ground in this stage has the usual "ice in video games" slipperiness to it. We start off fighting a few Crazy Razys. These guys die in one hit to the face, but shooting their legs three times will destroy them, causing the upper half to effectively act like a Heli. They'll also do this if they touch you or run into a wall. I like these guys. It's an interesting gimmick, and since the legs take three hits it's pretty easy to kill them without setting the upper half loose. Oh, and they'll occasionally shoot at you if you leave them on the ground.

The next section is a series of jumps in water (which just slows Mega Man down a little in this one) with Gabyoalls (?) on the lower parts, which travel across the ground slowly and speed up if you're on the same level as them. They can also be stunned by shooting them, but that isn't always an option. Most special weapons kill them though, which is one of the most useful things weapons do in this game. This section also has Pepe, a penguin that moves in a sine path, making this the first area with multiple enemies on the same screen. Good start so far.

This is Adhering Suzy (HAHAHAhahahaaaa). It moves back and forth between two walls, with a long delay in between. They're rarely dangerous (these two move vertically), so they mostly exist as something to pump bullets into for fun.

The following screens have those dreaded vanishing blocks, and thankfully VGMaps shows all of them. Both of these rooms are designed very well. The first immediately teaches you that you sometimes have to ignore the first block that appears after the one you're on, and instead jump to the next as yours vanishes. You'll have to know where the next one will be of course, but there's no pits here so you can take your time with that. The next room is more of the same, but also teaches you that you sometimes have to jump to a block that will appear immediately above you. Again, no pits here, though both rooms have one Gabyoall in the water, which is a minor punishment for failure, but also greatly rewards having an offensive weapon.

And then...this happens. These are Foot Holders, which move so erratically that they might as well not have a pattern. I just rode one of these for a while and it stayed within a certain horizontal boundary, but made its way across most of the vertical area on the screen. So...you really can't count on them being where you want them once you commit to a jump, and as an extra kick in the sack, they occasionally shoot horizontally and sometimes have shoddy hit detection. There are 8 of these, with a tiny (and slippery) platform breaking them up in the middle. I swear, these things only exist to troll you for not having the Magnet Beam, or for using it on the previous blocks. The energy refill is probably just there because they felt bad about it later.

After some freebie items, there's another Big Eye before the boss door, though this one's on flat ground at least.

There's not a lot else to say about the horizontal hallway between boss doors, but this has Pepes whereas Guts Man's had Metalls.

This was almost a solid level for the first game. The few enemies it had were used well, special weapons were extremely helpful, and the block sections teach you everything you need to know about them for the rest of the series. Unfortunately those Foot Holders are just terrible. They'd be okay if there was only one at a time between solid ground, but jumping from one to another is mostly a crap shoot.

The graphics are nice though. The clouds and ice look fine, and the frozen palm trees make it look like this used to be a tropical place that Ice Man came in and ruined. You don't often get hints and what awful things the bosses are actually up to. The music has a decent melody for half of it but is kind of annoying otherwise.

Join us next time as we ascend to face Elec Man.