A Critical Look at Mega Man 3 Stages: Hard Man

Hard Man's Stage and Music

Hard Man starts us on flat ground that becomes more complex over the next few screens. We have "Su" Bees flying in from the left during this section, dropping honeycombs that break open to release five Chibees when they land. Chibees then fly toward Mega Man until killed.

As with the Big Eyes and Sniper Armors, players will likely have to back up a bit while killing them, but this time there's plenty of leeway to do so before causing a new one to spawn. An alternative solution is to just walk back a bit when Have "Su" Bee stops until it is off-screen, which instantly removes it. This will work on the hive and Chibees as well.

Those green things on the ground are Wanaan. The bear-trap-like robot pops out a moment after being stepped on, so Mega Man only needs to keep moving to avoid them. Following is another lone Hammer Joe, but this one is actually a threat. The player is forced to use Rush Coil here, must time it to avoid the hammer, and will have to avoid the next couple hammers with little room to work with while killing the Joe. That's the best situation a Hammer Joe can hope to be in, and it's the first time we've used Rush for something other than collecting items.

This room contains two Returning Monkings. This version jumps to the ceiling, then drops after a moment and starts hopping toward you. These take eight hits, so if you can't reach them on the ceiling you'll have to dodge around them as they jump or just run for it. They'll return to the ceiling after taking four hits, breaking up the pattern and surprising players who think they've got the pattern down.

After a couple easier encounters with enemies we've already faced, we enter a corridor containing a few Pickleman Bulls.

This leads to a split path, allowing the player to kill one more Pickleman Bull for an E-Tank and/or take a long slide under the rock for a few small health items in the next room. Climbing down from above to snag the tank works just fine, too.

Now the stage pulls out all the stops, making us fight Chibees on a floor covered with Wanaans. However, the ladder is close enough that you can run back to it for a safe place to shoot without worrying about the bees respawning.

Proto Man returns to fight us again, but this time the terrain is much more to his advantage. He still jumps back and forth, firing two bullets on each jump, but there's little room to get under him on the sides and only a small platform to slide under him in the middle. Collision is still the main danger, though he can at least fire across the middle platform when jumping from the sides. It's a tough fight given what just came before it.

All that's left is a free health refill and Bikky, this game's replacement for the Big Eye. This version is much more sensible, as he takes six hits but is only vulnerable when jumping, turning a button mashing challenge into a timing one. There's no room to walk under him this time, but a slide will do it, and he always jumps at the same height.

Between the bees, monkeys, and Proto Man, this level offers a greater combat challenge than the last few. The new enemies here also are great at being dangerous on their own without resorting to excessive health or unfair tactics. The Monkings are particularly interesting, as they jump high enough that you have to pay attention to the ceiling as well as the floor.

The E-Tank on the split path could have used a little more defense, but the long slide is fun to play with. The section with bees and Wanaans was a great way to cap off the stage's difficulty, but the placement of the bee was unfortunate, as it appears just as the player starts scrolling the screen. Since running back to the ladder is probably going to be their first instinct, players are very likely to kill it with the scroll on their first attempt.

The stage graphics are like a Guts Man 2.0, with beams and ladders helping to visually break up the rock. The open area toward the end also implies that we're climbing into a mountain instead of down into a mineshaft.