A Critical Look at Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge Stages: Cut Man

A note from Glass Knuckle: "I played a little of the first Game Boy game and Mega Man 7 last night, and decided that Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge is going to be more interesting to discuss right now. However, for anyone disappointed by that, I'm going to drop 7 somewhere in the middle, possibly right after Revenge, instead of powering through all the Game Boy games first."

With the Nintendo Entertainment System series complete, it's time to see how Mega Man's formula translated to the handheld with Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge.

The first thing to take note of is the difference in screen size. Mega Man's sprite (along with many of the enemies) uses the same number of pixels as the NES version, but on the Game Boy's resolution, this takes up a much larger percentage of the screen's area. The colored bars in this image show how many character widths/heights Mega Man is standing from the edge of the screen, and the red lines show how much this distance would be reduced if NES Mega Man was subjected to the same limitation. Game Boy Mega Man also moved the energy bar to a HUD area at the bottom of the screen, further reducing the vertical area available for gameplay.

Mega Man on the Game Boy will need to make do with much tighter space restrictions, along with the player's reduced ability to react to things appearing in front of them. Given Cut Man's ease in the first game, let's start there to see how the game deals with this.

Cut Man's Stage and Music

Screw Driver is our first familiar enemy. We'll generally be fighting them in closer proximity this time, though killing them before they start shooting isn't very difficult. The new enemy is Cutting Wheel, which... is complicated.

In this case, it will start rolling forward as we approach the platform, giving us barely enough time to back off if we attempted to jump. It can be jumped over at this point, or shot down from further back without triggering its movement. Shooting them while they're moving is tricky, as they take eight shots to destroy, making them a surprisingly tough enemy for their size.

After experimenting a bit here, we can see that Mega Man can't shoot as rapidly as he used to, with this being the closest I could get two shots together. We also see that the hit box is more generous, as it should be with the smaller area and larger shots. The Screw Drivers continue throughout this hallway in a pattern that should look familiar, though it feels much tighter than we're used to.

The gloves are now officially off, as we find ourselves trapped between a Screw Driver we can't reach, another with a platform in just the place we'd want to jump to attack it, and a Cutting Wheel waiting to drop on our heads or herd us into the lines of fire. The area directly under the extra life is safe, but trying to approach this carefully is a losing battle.

We can instead run straight through, where we find a way to reach the upper platform and take a shot at jumping to the 1UP. The upper platform is just long enough to allow the Wheel to respawn, so we'll need to carefully shoot it while remaining in place on the moving floor, as there's no room to jump it here.

Gabyoall is unchanged, though its placement here is questionable, as we can't see it until making the jump. Avoiding it leads to another panicked moment as we have to allow the Wheel to fall before jumping over it, just as the Gabyoall is catching back up with us.

The lower Wheel will move as soon as we leave this spot, so players can carefully turn around and shoot it, or activate it and jump over. The upper one comes as a nasty surprise, as it moves roughly twice as fast as the others we've seen and will chase down Mega Man, relentlessly smashing into the wall as we leave.

Players will be rightfully wary of Cutting Wheel by now, but the moving floor here will likely cause them to trigger the next Wheel (normal speed) before they can react, and the one beyond that doesn't move at all, potentially catching players who attempt to jump it early. A likely-needed small energy refill lies beyond, but we can't quite reach it from here.

Getting the health item requires dealing with another Screw Driver, but that's hardly a problem. We're safe from its shots when standing on the upper platforms, and we'll want to take it out from there before crossing the room, anyway. However, running across the bottom is also an option, as the Gabyoall is timed well with the Screw Driver to allow players a clear path after it fires once.

After all that excitement, this room gives us a good opportunity to slow down and think about our approach. We can safely shoot the lower Screw Driver from here, and our best options from there are to carefully attack the other enemies from the closest platforms, or run across the room and attempt to jump through the far gap to the ladder.

This is the Sniper Joe from Mega Man 2, and his first appearance gives us an opportunity for the classic ladder shootout. Super Cutter also returns with a new pattern. Moving close triggers it to move forward, then move in a circle around its starting position. We can't damage it, so it's up to the player to trigger it and deal with its movement, which in this case is pretty simple.

The stakes are immediately raised, as the next will come closer to the edge of a hole that the floor is moving toward, and there are two Wheels right behind it. The bottom one doesn't move, but this can again lead to a painful assumption if the player doesn't kill it first.

Big Eye is a problem. As far as I can tell, he no longer jumps when the player does, but has kept the same random movement, and is now invincible when on the ground. At eight hits and with the Game Boy's smaller rooms, there is no way to destroy him with the Mega Buster before he reaches the wall, and he may not give players a high jump to run under. Run through him, take the hit, and curse whoever decided to give this thing such a dramatic upgrade. Following him is another pair of Wheels, with floors moving toward them to help encourage a mistake.

The following jumps aren't that tough, but the Cutter here will move right up to the edge of the platform, almost necessitating a jump over the pit to avoid it. While not strictly unfair, this is pushing the limits a bit.

That dark line of pixels in the previous image was another Joe waiting for us. We've jumped straight from a fight that was essentially handed to us, to one of the toughest positions a Joe could have us in. The following Cutters have a clever setup, as they're close enough together that their overlapping paths can be easier or harder to avoid depending on when we trigger the second one. The player has seen enough by now that they should be able to grasp the problem, and it works well as Cut Man's last line of defense.

That was, in a word, dense. The smaller visible area has forced the designers to cram enemies and platforms into tighter spaces, and with less range of vision, obstacles must come more frequently. Enemies can no longer be flying high overhead or far across a room taking shots at us, so everything feels right up in our face.

For the most part, this stage handles things very well. There is a wide variety of room configurations and enemy placements here, the four basic enemies appear in good combinations with each other, and we're given multiple opportunities to take an optional path to an item or traverse a room in different ways.

The Big Eye is a terrible mistake, but that is the fault of the enemy itself more than the stage. The alternate behaviors for Cutting Wheel are another somewhat unnecessary trap for new players, though those can at least be handled easily with a little extra caution.

While the difficulty is a couple notches above the average NES stage and excessive in a few places, I appreciate the effort to make each encounter interesting. It's a tough stage, but it shows that the designers could produce a good mix of challenges in this new format.