As part of our celebration of the Mega Man series hitting its 25th anniversary, we are featuring a look back at many of the games of the Classic series. For this entry, I’ll be looking Mega Man 10, a great game that came after a really great game. It is hard to define what elements guarantee a universally loved Mega Man game, but I tend to argue that it usually revolves the interaction between two important elements. The first element is each game’s earned weapons that make the player go from weak and feeble to strong and powerful. The second element is level design. The real genius of the best installments comes when these two elements are synthesized to create a really great game.
Obviously, some folks will differ from this analysis, but keeping to this framework can explain why Mega Man 10 was great, why its new elements help alleviate some of its shortcomings, but in the end comes up feeling a bit less accomplished than its predecessor.
The weapon selection in Mega Man 10 is sort of bizarre; many of the weapons are difficult to use for precise hits (Commando Bomb, Chill Spike, Thunder Wool), while others are hard to completely control in a predictable manner (Rebound Striker, Water Shield). The Triple Blade is pretty good and the Wheel Cutter is a great upgrade to Item-3 and is halfway decent in attacking ground and wall-bound enemies. To round it off, the three Mega Man Killer weapons are fun but are far more useful and powerful than anything else available to the Blue Bomber, and due to their DLC Time Attack-exclusive nature, their presence disrupts the usual process of making the player stronger over the course of the game. While the weapon rosters tread around average across the original series, it unfortunately came after Mega Man 9 and its arsenal of versatile and multi-purpose weapons.
Despite the missteps of the weapon roster, Mega Man 10 is still a joy to play because of its remarkable level design. The various gimmicks utilized in each level follow the dogma set by its best predecessors, introducing new concepts in a low-threat environment (like Blade Man’s see-saws) before reintroducing it with flying enemies, spiked floors, and bottomless pits. Additionally, gimmicks like the flying fire orbs in Solar Man’s level, sandstorms in Commando Man's base, and speeding trucks in Nitro Man’s highway are some of the most well thought-out design innovations in the series.
The pacing of many levels is also tends to be geared toward more substantial mini-boss fights (carrying over a concept originating in Mega Man 8 and followed to some degree in MM9), leading to an absolutely fantastic showdown with the Wily Archive bosses at the beginning of Skull Castle. These bosses are made even more enjoyable by the inclusion of fighting them again on various difficulty levels in the challenges mode, the new inclusion that gave players another way to experience Mega Man.
Great bosses aside, MM10 gets around the weapon roster shortcomings by giving players opportunity to play through the game with Proto Man and Bass. While Mega Man’s brother and nemesis are not exactly radically different in gameplay, they are each distinct enough to make going through the levels and their ingenious design feel new and different enough.
While the typical formula for a good Mega Man game is proper synergy between weapons and level design, Mega Man 10 turns that idea on its head at least in part. Despite a kind of bizarre and less-than-helpful weapon roster, the level designs and more complicated bosses make MM10 a fantastic experience that is enriched by additional characters and the new challenges mode, respectively.
This is the last in my series of looking back on the main installments of the Mega Man Classic series. While it has been my absolute pleasure to review some of my favorite games and it has been a lot of fun working as the occasional news editor-turned-editorialist, I am unfortunately going to be taking a leave of absence until next Fall due to professional obligations that has me taking some substantial time away from regular internet (among other things). Thank you for reading!
Screenshot Credits: GameFAQs/Gamespot
James is TMMN's Features Contributor and world traveler. He is currently in a faraway land, but he occasionally sends messages in a bottle. If you require more of his love, he left behind a sentient Tumblr account that updates all on its own.
The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.