A Critical Look at Mega Man 3 Stages: The Robot Masters

Editor's Note: We have something different going on with the pics now; just click to enlarge. One oddity about Mega Man 3's boss fights is that each one takes four damage from its own weapon. They also have minor (two damage) weaknesses to weapons other than their main weakness, but I'm going to avoid talking about these as none are particularly useful.

Boss Theme

Spark Man

Spark Man hops back and forth across the room, occasionally stopping to attack by firing a spread of eight sparks followed by one large, slow spark aimed at Mega Man. He always jumps in the same pattern, hitting each of the five surfaces. He jumps close to the wall at the bottom two, allowing Mega Man enough room to get by. His room complements his weakness to the Shadow Blade well, as his pattern encourages the player to stay on the lower levels, offering clear diagonal shots as he jumps. His pattern looks more dangerous than it is, as he has a lot of downtime and is easy to gun down with the Mega Buster if the player stays aggressive.

Snake Man

Snake Man has a similar pattern, running back and forth across the stage and jumping when he reaches a wall, the side of middle platform, and from the top of the middle platform. Collision damage is the greatest concern in this fight, though he can trap players with the Search Snakes if they're caught in front of him. The trick here is to follow and jump over him every time you reach the middle platform. I think this fight wasted its potential, as it hinges entirely on whether the player can avoid his movement pattern with the snake projectiles as an afterthought at best. In fact, since the snakes deal less damage, it can be beneficial to purposely hit one to avoid touching Snake Man himself.

Needle Man

This is basically Metal Man 2.0, and is one of my favorites in the series. Needle Man spends most of his time in the air, and every time he lands he has a chance of attacking with the spikes on his head. He moves around with diagonal jumps, but if he goes straight up he'll throw four needles on the way down, stopping in place while firing. He's active and isn't restricted to a specific pattern, yet it's difficult to get into a position that the player can't escape from. This also encourages use of the slide, both for escaping the projectiles and moving under him.

The Gemini Laser kills him in four hits, but a missed shot leaves Mega Man vulnerable for a while.

Hard Man

Hard Man has an unusual projectile, so I thought this would be easier to grasp with a gif. He fires two fists that move toward Mega Man, stop, then home in once more before leaving the screen. He alternates this with jumping almost to the ceiling before crashing down, which stuns Mega Man. The stun works in air as well, so the only way to avoid it is to take damage just before it happens. With a slow jump and no trick to avoiding the stun, the fight hinges on learning the projectiles, though those are at least interesting and difficult on their own.

The Magnet Missile's gimmick is useful here, though he spends most of his time on (or in) the ground. Though it's not bad, this one could have been much better if he jumped around a bit more before committing to the stunning fall, as Stone Man does later in the series.

Top Man

Top Man fires three tops towards the ceiling, which quickly converge on the player after a short pause. These can be jumped over or slid under, and he'll follow by spinning across the room before repeating. Though this is one of the easier fights (and he takes double damage from the Buster), the speed of the tops is a threat until the player figures out where to dodge from, and he's invulnerable during the spin move. He also takes longer than you'd think to start moving after he spins, and jumping early leaves a player open.

This is made even more confusing by the fact that he does move quickly the first time. His invulnerability also forces the player to be careful when timing the Hard Knuckle, given how slow it is. Not bad given how simple the pattern is.

Gemini Man

Gemini Man has two phases. He'll start by splitting in two and moving counter-clockwise around the stage. All Mega Man has to do to avoid damage is jump over him as he passes. However, firing at him will cause him to stop and fire back. He runs almost as fast as his shots, and the fact that he stops makes it difficult to get the timing down for shooting and jumping over him. However, the two sprites aren't exactly opposite one another in the pattern, and there's a point where one will be landing as the other jumps. Shooting them at that moment is safe since neither is ready to shoot back.

Once he's down to half health, one will vanish and the other will walk back and forth on the ground, occasionally stopping to fire a laser. Shooting causes him to jump, and the player can either use this to get under him or simply jump over as he passes. The Snakes work well here, as they can be dropped right in his face during the first half, and he's unlikely to avoid them in the second.

Magnet Man

Magnet man is also weak to the Buster, and is the least threatening of the Robot Masters. He has two attacks, the first of which is to fire three Magnet Missiles from the top of the room. These fall as they pass over Mega Man, so walking away from him is enough to avoid them. The only thing that might trip a player up here is that they leave a small explosion where they hit, which will damage Mega Man if he tries to slide between them.

Magnet Man's other attack is to sit still and pull the player towards him, which can also be thwarted by walking away. He'll jump twice across the room between attacks, and picks one or the other at random. For some reason, he's weak to both the Spark Shock and Shadow Blade.

Shadow Man

Shadow Man is extremely annoying to fight, as avoiding damage requires taking a fifty/fifty guess or having extremely good reaction. He'll slowly hop toward Mega Man, and every time he lands he'll either slide forward or throw two blades. The first requires jumping forward immediately to get over him, while the second requires either sliding or jumping when the blade arrives. Jumping early leads to landing on the blade, but the slide is extremely fast and leaves almost no time to jump on reaction once he reaches the center of the room. Getting under him is also a problem, as his jump heights are random. I'd say the only thing the player can rely on is that he always hops three times between attacks, but he breaks that rule at the start of the fight, hopping only twice.

Even his weakness is problematic. He has to be hit four times with the Top Spin, but doing this also damages Mega Man, and touching him for too long during an attack will drain all of Top Spin's energy.

Despite a few setbacks, this is a decent lineup. Gemini and Needle are particularly fun and complex, while Magnet and Top offer good starting points. Hard and Spark are a decent middle ground of looking tougher than they are. The main drawbacks are that Snake is too similar to Spark and doesn't actually do much with the Snakes, and Shadow crowds the player beyond the point where most people could react to him.