Editor's Note: This is incredibly embarrassing... we accidentally posted last week's entry out-of-order! Here is where the Mega Man 3 series was supposed to begin. We'll make sure we get it right from here on out! --LBD
There's no animated intro this time, but the music is one of the best tracks the series has. A cute touch for this one is that Mega Man's eyes follow the cursor around on the stage select.
Let's jump right in to Snake Man, since you're all so eager to talk about it.
The majority of Snake Man's stage is a mess of scaly pipes with a subdued, brick-like background. While I can't say this is particularly impressive given the range of artwork we saw in the last game, the pipes are very pleasing to the eye.
The first enemies we see here are Dada and Petit Snakey. Dada moves in a pattern of two small bounces followed by one very high one. An interesting quirk of his movement is that he can only change direction on the large bounce. He moves in quick, but is easily avoided if the player backs off a bit and dies in one hit.
Snakey is an interesting idea, since by being the end of a pipe he makes it seem as though the terrain itself is hostile. He periodically fires shots that move fast enough to be very difficult to dodge if you haven't learned to anticipate them. I was going to make a comment that this wasn't the best terrain to start with since many of the others are easier to reach with the Buster, but I think the high placement helps encourage first-timers to hang back and learn the timing before approaching it.
I love the area in these first two shots, as the next Dada can be jumped over or you can just keep walking and fall under it, and the stump of the second Snakey offers a perfect spot to hit the third from. It just has a nice rhythm to it.
Now this room is a nasty surprise. It's easily the most difficult fight we're going to have with the Petite Snakey, yet it's placed pretty early in the stage. The climb up the ladder leaves you with only a fraction of a second to move before they shoot, and you're placed right next to one with little room to move.
This here is Big Snakey. It fires two to four shots aimed at the player, resulting in a fight similar to Metal Man, where you'll need to guide it into shooting in a way that gives you room to get between them.
The floor below it wiggles, but unfortunately the player is probably never going to have to deal with this as there's no reason to stray from the solid ground by the ladder. That might be for the best anyway, since like the falling platforms in Bubble Man's stage, Mega Man can't jump when the floor beneath him drops, making this very awkward to fight from.
These screens introduce ceiling Snakeys and Potton, which drops out of the hollow shell it's flying in as you pass under it. Shooting through walls is something the games always seem to encourage just infrequently enough that the player may have forgotten about it, and the first Snakey here allows the player to take advantage of it. The pit there is a nice way to make them more dangerous after that last encounter. The last shot is a nice place for health refills, but two large ones is overdoing it a bit.
This section introduces Bubukan, who vaults from his plunger, leaving it in your way, then chases you after he lands. The plunger can be destroyed in one shot, but Bubukan takes four, so it's often easier to jump over him as he passes. He's a complex enemy to deal with alongside Potton.
Hammer Joe here swings his hammer around for a while before throwing it, and can only be harmed when his eye is open, which only happens just before he attacks and while the hammer is in the air. This is as good a place as any to introduce Mega Man 3's new gameplay feature; the slide.
Pressing down and jump will send Mega Man into a slide that allows him to get underneath certain obstacles, and it can be cancelled by pressing the opposite direction or jumping. It's useful in combat sometimes, but the downside is that it's easy to be pressing down and forward on an NES controller and accidentally slide into the thing you were going to jump over.
This new item reveals a random useful item after being shot.
Next up is a Big Snakey identical to the first and a few more Bubukans. The only thing worth noting here is that large jump, which is very easy to mess up since the curved pipe sprite makes it look like there's less room to stand than you actually have. Luckily, the stage's midpoint is just before this.
Jamacy here just climbs up and down his ladder, though he can be more active in other stages.
The gimmick for this section is that clouds rise out of the smokestacks, and we have to jump from them once they're high enough for us to reach the next platform. However, an unfortunate glitch here causes Mega Man to be pushed off if he's standing too far to the right when one appears. They're perfectly safe if you jump as they leave the stack though.
The final section is more of the same with small platforms included as well as our last new enemy, Bomb Flier. This disguises itself as a slow-moving cloud moving in a sine pattern until shot, after which it accelerates quickly but moves straight, leaving the player to decide which would be easier to deal with. The bullet form takes three hits, so while it can be killed, dodging is usually the better option.
This stage offers a much greater variety of enemies than we usually see along with some interesting configurations of them, but the downside is that some seem out of order in terms of difficulty. The small room full of Snakeys happens very early, Bubukan is introduced alongside another enemy yet appears alone later, and both Joes offer no threat unless a player jumps into their shots.
Also, unlike the previous game, both fights with the large miniboss-like enemies are identical. Still, it has good momentum for a combat stage and the glitch involving the clouds can be avoided easily. It also has one of the best music tracks in the series, but I'm going to be saying that a lot for this game.