A Critical Look at Mega Man 2 Stages: Quick Man

Quick Man's Stage and music.

I've been sitting here wondering what to say about the first screen, and it occurred to me that the life there wasn't only a reward for having one of the items and a warning about the level's difficulty, but it's one of the few spots in the game where the item acquired from Flash Man is useful, making it a subtle hint at the weapon you'll need before the level beats you over the head with it a few screens later. The enemy on the next screen is a Scworm, which constantly produces worm-like things and fires them at you somewhat randomly. Their placement here is pretty good, as it gets the player into the mindset of "keep moving" before...

...this section. Lasers that can kill Mega Man instantly blast out of the walls, leaving only a short time for players to drop as quickly as they can. It's built like a pure memorization test, but the player gets a lot of help from the stage design here. The first screen is slanted downward, and the screen before encouraged them to start moving toward the hole. The Springer there might give them pause, but as long as they make it to the second step they'll be alright.

The next screen is almost nothing but hole, and the last beam comes from the right, so there's plenty of time to drop in either direction. Going left is a straight drop, so it's completely safe. Going right offers two more options. If the player moved far enough to the right for that to be an option, they can keep holding right and make it down. The most dangerous part here is stopping on the upper ledges, since that first beam comes through immediately. The middle shaft is the worst, as it leads to a Springer in a confined area. The only way to avoid it is to press left and jump a few times on the way to the left drop, but at least there won't be a beam blocking your way.

Deadly as this section is, I think it's an interesting use of Mega Man's unique falling mechanics, since the player has a little time to see the screen's layout before starting to fall. One minor drawback to this is that the Springers don't appear until the physics kick in, so that middle one is a nasty surprise for anyone choosing it for its apparent safety. There's a very nice reward for making it all the way to the right.

A few steps beyond the end of the drop, everything goes black.

I like that the background returns with a different color, making it obvious that the Changkey Maker's flame is now the only source of light. He takes ten hits and throws Changkeys at you, which cannot be harmed. Killing him leaves you in the dark again.

The darkness may seem like a cheap shot, but there's nothing here that can harm or confuse the player. All you have to do is jump now and then and hold right to make it through. It's certainly atmospheric, though.

This time the gloves are off, and the only thing the level does to assist is to vaguely guide the player into an alternate pattern of left and right. The first screen is probably the hardest, since it requires a jump. After that, it's just a matter of not accidentally running in the wrong direction. Even the slightest hesitation is deadly. I don't have much else to say on the matter, as it could be seen as an unfair memorization test that greatly departs from what makes the rest of the game good, or an interesting and memorable section that's fun to run through once you learn it. For me, it's pretty much a wash.

The only thing left to deal with is two Sniper Armors. The first leaves plenty of space to kill it, but the second appears right after it on more difficult terrain. That would be okay, but it leaves no retreat for the player since the previous one will appear too if you walk back at all. Any player trapped this way is most likely going to have to run through one to get by. Moving just close enough for the second to appear avoids this and gives you plenty of time to gun it down, but it's a bit much after what the player just went through. The next screen is the boss door.

Like I said, the stage's gimmick is a love it or hate it sort of thing, so I'll let that be. However, I think this one could have benefited from a bunch of quicker enemies at the end, since those Joe mechs don't really fit the theme and are a pretty serious kick in the energy meter for being right between a laser gauntlet and a difficult boss. Really, I would have liked to see a little more non-beam stuff in general, though I suppose most players aren't going to complain about the length of the level after what they just went through. It's an interesting oddball, and I can't fault it too much for that.