Hello again everyone. Life hit me hard, and the past year has been a mess. A bunch of small (and a few serious) problems built on each other and left me in a depression for much of the last year. Things are okay now, and I'm excited to jump back into the things I used to like doing, so this series is back in action for good.
Wily Stage 2
Hirarian gets a few screens to itself here. I'd expect something more dangerous this late into the game, but it makes decent use of the space for what it is. We've got some out of reach, some in tight spaces, and some with spikes nearby. The last jump is rough, but the player has plenty of tools available to skip it if they want to.
After a quick transitional screen and a freebie, we're presented with a Metall and more of the spinning platforms from the previous stage, now underwater. While not that difficult yet, what caught my attention on these screens is that the timing on the Girees allows both to reach the top of their platforms at the same time, leaving the player with almost no leg room if they hesitate or allow them to move first.
Now this particular setup is taken to its conclusion, with every platform in motion, Girees around most of them, ceiling spikes, and a Met to deal with at the end. I like that the spikes are staggered, giving the player a chance to use the ceiling as a crutch for a few jumps before bringing them back right when a shorter hop is needed. The Met is in a good spot to offer options, as the space in front of it gives us room to jump next to it instead of trying to fight from the platform. Given the danger here, it may also be worthwhile to just jump into it and take the hit rather than risk a fall death. Of course, the arrow once again offers a more stylish solution for those that know what's coming.
I like the reversal here. One would naturally go for the upper route, and it even has an item on it, but in this case it leaves us in a bad position against the Met. It's far simpler to take the lower path and just jump to the health. The next Met can be handled with the usual half-jump to get its attention, but I like that its platform is just close enough to slide to. The Met could be easily killed with normal shots at that point, but I took the chance to play with special weapons some more. The next couple screens give us some breathing room and a few more easy kills.
More water Mets are unnecessary at this point, and they missed the chance to do something more interesting with the partial water screens. Metall Mommy doesn't add much, with all three encounters at roughly the same angle of approach.
Things pick up again with a Mousubeil appearing just as we're jumping into a narrow space. Having to jump over two more in a row is neat, but the Tabans are too far away to bother us unless the player decides to stop and fight here.
Cocco and the Musclers are in advantageous positions and add some enemy variety, though we saw Cocco in this exact spot in the last stage. The game once again gives Rush something to do, as if we haven't had enough good places to use Rush Jet by now. Both Musclers are very difficult to handle with normal shots, and the second gives us a rare chance to fight it from beneath. I also discover at this point just how much Napalm I've been wasting by being twitchy (it should only take four to kill it).
Like the previous boss, Circring Q9 is another that rewards players who take a moment to stop and figure it out. It's scary at first, moving in a wave pattern left and right across the screen, followed by diving to the bottom right, then left corners and repeating. It shoots arcing projectiles while at the top of the screen, and smaller shots aimed at Mega Man when it hits the bottom corners. Meanwhile, it is only vulnerable when the side hatches are open, and we have unique floor platforms that raise when touched, which can be either helpful or deadly depending on how they're used. There's a lot going on here, but the player is relatively safe at the middle of the screen. Circring never goes there and his corner shots fly over Mega Man's head, so most of the danger comes from the player putting themselves in a bad position while trying to hit it.
The whole fight is designed to encourage that, with the platforms and attack opportunity during the wave portion of its movement encouraging the player toward the sides. An experienced player can use this, but the hatches are always open when it moves down, and it can be hit safely at that point. When using its weakness against it, one doesn't even need to jump and risk the smaller shots. This is another great fight that tests the player's ability to keep calm under pressure, with one major flaw. The arcing shots are fired from the top of Circring's sprite, which is off-screen most of the time they're being fired, making it more difficult to track and dodge them (or even to tell what's going on in the first place) than it needed to be.
I love the water section here, but the rest is only mildly engaging. There was a great mix of enemies in the previous stage, and the water section here is strong enough that it only needed a little more effort in the following screens to be great. Unfortunately, the high number of easy enemies left to themselves gives it a somewhat empty feeling. The stage used what it had effectively in places, but there are plenty of stronger enemies that could have used some more screen time.