Looking Back: Mega Man for Game Gear

Mega Man Title ScreenAs 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 looking at Mega Man for Game Gear, the rare, odd game published by US Gold, developed by Freestyle, and licensed by Capcom for SEGA's bulky black response to the Game Boy.  Growing up, the Game Gear was the only handheld I had. This game made me wish my parents got me a Game Boy. Very badly.

Back in the day, this game was sometimes called "The Best of Mega Man" because of its (absolutely bizarre) complete ripping of levels straight from Mega Man 2Mega Man 4, and Mega Man 5 for the NES. To consider it the "Best of" anything is in the eye of the beholder, but many of the game's problems come not from the ported content but from the odd decisions made by Freestyle, with one of the biggest issues being the bizarre layout of the game.

Select ScreenNavigating Stone Man's levelWhy vertical scrolling is problematic

The game begins like its monochrome brethren on the Game Boy, with a level select screen of four Robot Masters. That is basically where the similarities end, as Mega Man features Stone Man, Napalm Man, Star Man, and... Bright Man. As mentioned earlier, the levels are directly ported from the NES with the only change coming from the weakness chain due to the odd grouping of Robot Masters.

Following the defeat of the first four Robot Masters, the player is taken to a screen showing Dr. Cossack's Castle, which includes... Wave Man and Toad Man's levels, again directly from the NES, except Wave Man's level features Gravity Man's music (while Wave Man's music is used for the Game Over song). Following Toad Man's defeat is Dr. Wily's Castle, which turns out to just be Quick Man's level. Navigating the level is made easier with the nerfing of the laser beams and the inclusion of the slide, as well as the replacement of Quick Man with a teleporter to the one and only showdown with Dr. Wily's saucer from Mega Man 5.

Yes, that's the layout of the game.

As you can tell, Mega Man for Game Gear is one of the weirder games in the Classic series and a good lesson in how the small things go a long way in making games enjoyable or not. Due to hardware limitations, ignorance, or just poor decision-making, a lot of small aspects of the game wind up affecting the gameplay considerably.

For starters, navigating levels designed for the NES and a full television on a small Game Gear screen is made considerably harder because Freestyle opted to just include vertical scrolling rather than change any aspect of the levels. Furthermore, the conversion to a small screen means enemies aren't seen until they are virtually on top of the player (foreshadowing for all the problematic NES-to-GBC ports years later).

Bright Man's levelFighting Star Man...and a giant wall.Hope you memorized the level

The play control in general is just a bit off, with Mega Man seemingly a bit less responsive than in other installments (not that the Game Gear is conducive to use by human hands, let alone playing games that feature careful platforming). Other weird decisions include giving all enemies temporary invincibility after being shot and only allowing Mega Man to have two shots on the screen at a time which, together with the small screen, make the game a lot more frustrating than it needed to be.

Additionally, Mega Man features pre-set power-ups which never regenerate (was Eddie deleted?), the inclusion of the weird Mega Man 5 Rush Coil and M-Tank, giving nondescript names to the weapons (including "Rain Weapon"), the inclusion of a Normal and Hard Mode, and most problematic: The lack of continues. Lose all your lives, and its back to the beginning. Given the plethora of other issues, it really was not a smart move.

Oh yeah, the power-ups bounce, too.

Compared to the efforts mounted by Minakuchi Engineering over on the Game Boy, this game is a sad cash-in on our favorite blue robot. This game could have been playable with small tweaks or more sensible decisions about seemingly marginal issues. At least it would have ended some well-founded speculation about the incompleteness of the game. Besides serving as a collector's item and odd series curio, it stands as a mediocre game whose existence is otherwise hard to justify.

Screenshot credits:

Blog Squirrel (Title Screen, Star Man fight, and Stone Man level)  The Gaming Historian (Select Screen and Bright Man) MobyGames (Star Man level) KamilDowonna's YouTube video (Quick Man level)

James is a feature contributor for The Mega Man Network and a 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.