I know these games love to hand out E-Tanks like candy in the final stages, but they really should have gone easier on the M-Tanks. It's not necessary to have weapon refills here like it was for stuff like Boobeam, and they could have taken the opportunity to make the player work for them. Instead, we get this.
The following spike drop gives us a choice of two routes, one of which leads to certain death. To nip a lengthy rant in the bud, I'll just say that this was disappointing to see. The only bit of praise I can find for it is that it at least followed the convention of making the slightly more difficult path the correct one.
The rest of the drop is handled well, with the wall giving us a nudge toward the middle where we'd be able to survive the spikes at the bottom on reaction. The immediate appearance of Giree was a good move, making the end of the spike drop dangerous even after we've landed. They also mix well with Toss Machine by slowing the player down or blocking shots, though the third Toss Machine is left to fend for itself. The following room does a fine job of making the most of B Bitter, as one is waiting for us as we enter and the Taban immediately above encourages us to move forward and jump into the range of the others, though Gyro can also take care of him easily.
In this segment the player has to carefully control their jumps, staying below the spikes and avoiding the urge to jump when shot at. Meanwhile, the round parts of the floor are spinning to push us back, giving Toss Machine more time to shoot at us. The highlight here is the Toss Machine in the third image which has to be destroyed before jumping up or taken out with weapons.
Pukapelly is always a great enemy, but this arrangement also gives us one of the rare moments where breaking a crystal against the wall is useful, and their numbers make them fun to screen wipe. Also, we're reminded that Rush still exists.
Look at this mess. We've got a bunch of single platforms covered with Girees moving at different speeds and directions, with the platforms themselves also moving. We can jump to the upper path to avoid the worst of it, but there's a Foojeen aiming for us at the critical moment and a Giree making it difficult to simply wait for the shot to pass. When the paths converge, we have to carefully time jumps across two platforms with Girees.
The final upper platforms just seem to be there for bragging rights, as the ceiling makes it very difficult to reach the last one. I love moments like this, but for those that don't it's easy enough to Jet or Arrow over the whole area.
Oh hey, it's the crushers from Dust Man's stage, and this time it looks like they put some effort into it. The Metall Cannons are all easier than normal Metalls would be, but the crushers themselves are more varied and reach the floor much more often.
In the second and third image, we need to shoot through a group of blocks while the ceiling above leaves us just enough room to slide away as it comes down. Later on we see a very similar area, but this one gives us enough headroom. However, there's a cannon waiting to fire at us if we panic and slide away. There's plenty of tight spaces in between, and at the end we have to race by a long low ceiling to reach the edge of the screen. It's good to see this idea revisited well.
Cucco gets a good height advantage and we meet some more Pukapellys, but the main thing I want to call attention to here is that third image. If we don't rush the first Lyric immediately, we'll be left with very little headroom for dodging Tattepakkan's shots. The ladder gives us a place to hide, but waiting too long can give the Lyrics enough time to close in. It's not difficult, but it creates a good claustrophobic feeling.
Big Pets cannot be damaged until we shoot his lower segments. Doing so causes them to fly forward, after which we can use them as platforms to shoot at the eyes. Meanwhile Big Pets is constantly firing smaller robots out of his head that float down in a wavy pattern, getting in our way while we climb the platforms and potentially distracting players into shooting the segments at the wrong time. Big Pets otherwise leaves us alone, so this fight is all about picking the right moments to fire. We get enough time for one charge shot and a normal shot each time we reach the top segment, and he's weak to Crystal Eye.
This stage keeps up the quality we've had from Proto Man's stage with a mix of good ideas and new challenges. Naturally, the tiny spinning platforms and return of Dust's Crushers were the highlights, but there was a lot of good placement for normal enemies here as well, and Big Pets is a welcome change from the mostly awful Dark Man fights.
I also couldn't resist playing around with the Super Arrow again since I've had so much fun with it on this run.
And with that, as of this writing, we've come to the regretful point where "A Critical Look at Mega Man Stages" goes on an indefinite hiatus. This was the last piece written by Glass Knuckle, who had hoped to at least get through all the NES games. Unfortunately, we have not heard anything back from him since earlier this year, despite attempts to reach him, and so the future of this feature remains uncertain for now.
Suffice to say, we hope that everything is okay with Glass Knuckle, wherever he is, and if you'd like to say something to show your support for him or his feature, you may do so in the comments below (and hopefully, maybe he'll see them). In the meantime, Glass Knuckle, you know where to reach me if you ever decide to pop in again. Until then, thanks for everything! --LBD