I'm not sure how much praise I've given Tatebo before, but it's a very good shield enemy. It may not be end game material, but from a flat position, the first shot's arc gets in the player's way right when it's vulnerable. Walking forward and shooting will take it out, but moving back is a more natural reaction and will give Tatebo time to get the second shot off. The Yamato Spear will hit through the shield, and that first floating platform makes it look like these can be flown over as well.
This seems to be an intentional trap, as attempting to fly over the next set of spikes is deadly, and it would be difficult to fall on them from above. It's possible to squeeze through anyway, and these little opportunities to show off with Jet Mega Man really help give the game some replayability that the overall difficulty hasn't.
Now we're being forced to use Rush armor for the first time, but while the vertical design and Gabyoalls encourage leaving Jet on for a while, the weapons can be a safer alternative. There's a very suspicious cracked window halfway up, but we'll leave that alone for now.
This is getting a bit redundant. I would have liked to see Cannopeller paired with a few different things, or for other flying enemies to be used. However, each screen is adding something to the theme, and the final three Cannopellers just bombard the ladder in a sprite-flickering display of aggression not often seen from normal enemies.
The next area might have seemed cool on paper, with lots of high platforms for Skull Walker to jump around on and Hotchkiss'n dumping bombs on us, but it's both dull and annoying in practice. We've already seen this in Tomahawk Man's stage (with spikes, even), the toughest encounter is the first screen with an out-of-reach Hotchkiss'n attacking at the same time as a walker, and the two pillars that can't be crossed without armor are discouraging weapon use in favor of leaving Jet active, which makes Hotchkiss'n even less of a threat.
The E Tank is nice, but the block it's in stands out enough that we haven't really done anything to earn it.
With a nasty "gotcha" spike pit and a couple Wall Blasters, we've already reached the boss door. However, there's a ladder leading further down, and investigating it leads to a breakable block we can't reach from here.
Breaking into this window is a fantastic moment. Most players are going to assume they need to jump at the window and punch it, and while this is certainly possible, I'm sure it's led to a lot of pointless deaths.
A much safer option is to walk off the second platform and punch, then climb back up and use Jet to avoid the spikes. The first platform can also be flipped, and the underside of the second used as a ceiling to safely press yourself against while flying over.
Inside is a bunch of power-ups, a couple of blocks we can break to make jumping through the room easier, and four extra lives, which for many first-time players will probably go toward replacing the ones lost on the way in.
This route requires either a very precise jump or smart use of two items, adding back some of the puzzle aspect we haven't seen much of since Mega Man 2, with the added bonus of being optional.
Rounder II (yes, this is somehow related to those little flying enemies that circled Mega Man and blocked your shots at the end of the last game) follows the track and drops tiny projectiles. There's little warning for these, and the first is dropped on Mega Man immediately after the fight starts, which is kind of a cheap move. Avoiding the Rounders themselves is tough as well, as they change direction now and then. It's a fast, interesting fight that would benefit from giving the player a little more time to react, but there's a few other neat things about it.
First, they take at least three damage from four different weapons, which is rare for the series but a good choice for a boss that can dish out damage this quickly. It also gives us a rare chance to make use of the Flame Blast, but best of all, punching it forces it to change direction, allowing one caught in the left corner to be comboed to death in seconds. As with Curlinger, this is a fun bit of physicality that makes the Power armor feel great to use.
Not only is this a short stage, but it feels even more so from the lack of any serious threats in the latter half, with the exception of a somewhat mean spike pit. Still, the first half did build on the Cannopeller/Gabyoall idea with each screen, and I particularly liked the first screen down from the top, with a Cannopeller against the right wall that's difficult to attack without destroying the Gabyoall first, or makes the screen a challenge to fly through if you leave it alone.
The alternate route has a lot going on for just two platforms and a wall. I'm torn between wishing the E Tank was in there too, or praising it as-is for at least offering a reason to go the other way sometimes.
Rounder II is good fight, only slightly flawed by that immediate projectile drop and lack of warning when changing directions, but being able to trap it in a corner with punches completely makes up for that.