First off, this is worth your time. The stigma attached to most PC-based fan games is one of low quality, and while SFXMM has some issues, it is definitely a game you will want to play if you're a Mega Man fan, as it has some of the most frantic and fun boss fights in the entire series.
The graphics, at least in the first eight levels, resemble more closely the level of detail found in the first three Mega Man games for the NES (with some exceptions), with the final levels noticeably more detailed (Shadaloo 2's background is awesome). The music is interesting, and maybe I just do not have the ear for it but I could only pick out half the tracks that had Mega Man mixed in with the Street Fighter tunes. The game is spot-on with emulating the feel of the original NES games and it is a fairly quick game if you're a big Mega Man nerd. Warning to those who want to be surprised, there will be some minor spoilers below.
The levels themselves are fun, even considering their short length. The quality of level design among the World Warrior levels is a bit all over the place, with some being oddly empty or just plain boring (Ryu, Chun-Li, Blanka) while others are fairly complex and feel much more like any other installment of the series and boast new gimmicks (Urien, Crimson Viper, Rolento). Still others feature lengthy and unique twists that break up some of the monotony (Rose's Rush Jet section and Dhalsim's maze).
The first Shadaloo level is a pretty weird combination of the Advancing Wall of Doom (played by Balrog) and a parade of bad guys. The following level's showdown with Vega is a challenging fight (and the first-ever fight with a usable ladder backdrop). The final levels of the game-- the World Warriors rematch and the final boss-- serve as a pretty awesome coda to this little piece of Mega Man love.
By now, most people are aware of some of the weird design decisions made with this game. SFXMM may be short, but having no way to save progress seems like a huge omission, one that could have been easily avoided with a password system. Only being able to carry one E-Tank is annoying but seems somewhat sensible due to the easy nature of most of the levels, but not having E-Tanks re-spawn when you use one, lose all your lives, and continue seems just cruel (especially when it's during the World Warriors rematch level... not that that happened to me or anything).
Having all weapons energy refill automatically after every death is a nice touch, considering that the boss fights are some of the most fast and furious of any installment. Bringing back the Mega Buster shot from Mega Man 4, while featuring the climbing sprites of Mega Man 5 (with the two vents in the back of the helmet) is sort of weird and interesting in a total Mega Man nerd way, as is having the short boss gates from MM5. Also weird is having to shoot the black and white orbs in the teleporter hatch room to get energy refills.
Finally, it's weird that Mega Man's energy bar also lights up with charging the slower-than-usual Mega Buster, just as it is weird that you cannot slide through boss gates. Oh yeah, and some folks are having some technical difficulties running the game, or shutting the game down (my SFXMM refuses to die unless I use the Task Manager).
All that being said, there is still a lot of good in this game. As I said, the boss battles in this game are some of the fastest and most intense of any of the classic games. Every boss is roughly the same size as Mega Man, and many of them make Shadow Man and Pharaoh Man feel sluggish in comparison.
Unique to the game is how the Super Meters for every World Warrior-- the more damage they take, the closer they get to being able to use a super move, which changes the dynamics of fighting. The decision to retain Mega Man's slide and Mega Buster was a pretty smart move considering the pacing and ferocity of these fights. While I'm not as well-versed in Street Fighter nerdology, I can tell there's an awful lot of awesome shout-outs to fans of the series throughout the game (like using Dan as a punching bag). Facing off against Bison in the grassy field from Street Fighter Alpha 2 is the coolest way to end the game (the secret boss is also incredible-- get 3 perfects throughout the game to see him).
The weapon selection is surprisingly versatile, considering the game's short length. The Yoga Inferno can be aimed and can keep Mega Man temporarily airborne, the Tropical Hazard is a melon version of the Mega Ball, the Aigis Reflector is a better version of Enker's Mirror Buster, and the Soul Satellite is the requisite shield weapon, but is unique in that its use is time-based rather than damage-based. Furthermore, all weapons in this game can be activated with its effects carrying over if you switch weapons. The rest of the World Warrior weapons are interesting and fun to experiment with both inside and out of the boss battles.
Overall, fans who expect a full-fledged game in the vein of Mega Man 9 and 10 will probably be disappointed because of SFXMM's short length, weird design decisions, or any number of other small curios that set this game apart. But at the end of the day, this is a fantastic start to Mega Man's 25th Anniversary and a fun game worthy of the Mega Man name in its own right. The consequences of this game's success will be interesting to witness-- if this sort of venture proves popular, perhaps some of the walls that separate gaming developers and their fans will fall. Perhaps this collaboration will lead to others, just as MM9 helped spark a nostalgic turn in the gaming industry. Time will tell.
Capcom has made some decisions in the past few years that have angered a lot of Mega Man fans, and this will not erase a lot of soreness in many corners, but this game was not meant to do that. And that's fine. Seo Zung Hui and the small set of folks who helped make this game a reality delivered a fun, if simple, free game that is worth any Mega Man fan's time, and that's what is really worth talking about.
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.