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 Mega Man series. This time, I’m examining Mega Man III, the midway point of the Game Boy sub-series and one of the toughest games in the Classic series.
After the disappointing Mega Man II, Capcom wisely went back to the development team from Minakuchi Engineering to handle Mega Man III. Learning both from their own mistakes with Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge and the missteps of MMII, the team crafted a far better game than both its predecessors. Continuing with the tradition of combining Robot Masters and elements of two NES installments, Mega Man III mixes Mega Man 3 and Mega Man 4, giving players a chance to do things like use the Mega Buster on Shadow Man and use the Gemini Laser on Dust Man.
It's worth noting how much effort Minakuchi made on the graphics and sound fronts. While later entries get much deserved praise for their great spritework and good graphics, MMIII is a bit of an unsung achievement. Compared to the simplicity of earlier games (Clash Man's level in MMII barely had a background, Fire Man's level in MMI was simple patterns), this game features some of the most complicated and elaborate graphics on the platform. The amount of care put in is easy to see, with small details going a long way in levels such as Shadow Man's lava flows, Drill Man's overhead lights and the Wily Base moving background. Also of note is the music-- the NES tunes are replicated fairly accurately, and the original tracks are also catchy and fit nicely within the context of the game.
As mentioned earlier, this is one of the toughest games in the Classic series. MMIII is unforgiving, featuring difficult platforming and some tough boss battles. In particular, Spark Man's seemingly endless parade of spikes and bottomless pits and Dust Man's trash compactors and annoying enemies make for tough and frustrating levels. Furthermore, the game is ridden with numerous wide jumps that lead to certain doom without careful calculation or perfect Game Boy skills. While the team continued Biox's idea of scaling down some of the larger NES enemies for the GB screen, such as Gachappon and Jumpbig, other enemies such as Hammer Joe and Skeleton Joe remain the same size (i.e. huge on the GB screen).
The bosses of MMIII are also just as challenging as their predecessors in Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge. With the right weapon, Robot Masters tend to go down quickly, but fighting Shadow Man, Drill Man, and Punk just never seems to be anything short of a frantic fight to the death. Like most of the weapons in MM:DWR and MMII, the weapons in MMIII are essentially lifted straight from the NES installments. One under-reported curio about MMIII's roster is that half the Robot Masters start with the letter S, and three others start with D, making for a sometimes confusing weapon select screen.
Mega Man III gets the distinction of being the first game that features Robot Master levels taking place inside Skull Castle, and having the only Wily base located on an ocean. The final level of the game occurs on a giant rig, and like MMIII's predecessors, the last level is a long one (though, unlike all other Game Boy games, lacks a set of teleporter hatches). The game throws nearly every enemy and obstacle at the player before the face-off with Dr. Wily. The final battle is surprisingly easy (considering the rest of the game's difficulty), with the Screw Crusher being able to reduce the evil doctor to nothing in a matter of seconds.
Mega Man III is definitely a step up from its predecessors, but its difficulty can make for a frustrating experience. In terms of graphics and sound, Capcom and Minakuchi continued to explore the limits of the Game Boy. Levels were a bit longer and more complicated than in the previous titles, and in hindsight, this is where the Game Boy team started to truly find its feet. The full payoff and show of confidence would come with the next installment.
James is a feature contributor for The Mega Man Network 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.
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