A Critical Look at Mega Man 2 Stages: Flash Man

Flash Man's Stage and music.

This stage takes the split paths idea and cranks it to 11. The first two screens have nothing going on in them, but that's actually a good move, since the entire level is slippery and it gives the player a chance to realize that before running into something dangerous. I also like the transition from an open room to a tangle of walls that then opens up into a maze.

The first section is filled with Shotmen. Taking the upper path here leads to a dangerous loop, though there's an energy refill available for players who don't have Crash Bombs to escape through the wall. This immediately establishes the tone for the rest of the level.

The extra life on the upper path can only be reached with one of the items, and getting to the end of it also requires Crash Bombs.

The hassle is well worth it, as this Joe offers no retreat and tends to jump right into you. The stage often rewards taking the harder path, and I could see this being a fitting punishment for players taking an obviously easy one, but it's a bit excessive to throw at someone just for not having the right equipment.

Taking the left path drops you in front of a Shotman, though you'll most likely miss the shots on the way down. After that, things get complicated. There are two general paths to take that split and intersect in places, and both have enemies and rewards. The Scworms were a bad choice for the left path though, as they force damage on anyone without certain special weapons or maybe a great deal of luck.

Avoiding the worms is the better choice anyway, as it makes landing on the top path here easier. Going down for the health isn't a bad idea though, since the Sniper Armor can't get in there and the hole is a good place to take the Joe out from. There's also a minor glitch here that allows the Joe to jump into part of the wall and hit players on the platforms above. Though the stage seems to be encouraging players toward the left, you'll want to take the hole the Joe is guarding because...

...the bottom path is filled with more of them. Successfully jumping across the small platforms leads to an E-Tank and avoids all that mess. A Crash Bomb will let you out to the boss door, but even without it, players are shown that they can avoid the last Joe by going under it.

The stage design here is very interesting and the flashing blocks are a nice touch, along with another of my favorite pieces of music in the series. Unfortunately, the enemy placement wasn't particularly well thought out. Switching the first Joe with the Blocky and getting rid of the worms would have been a significant improvement, though there are still far too many Joes for one stage.