Here we can finally see our full weapon inventory for the game, and with only one stage left, we'll have to get all the use we can out of them.
Welcome to Wily's Space Fortress. Enjoy your stay.
This Sniper Joe hides just off-screen, and is a good enemy to test Enker's weapon on. Holding the button keeps this barrier up, and turns projectiles that contact it into this arrow-like shot at the cost of one energy.
While useful as a shield, we have better options for attacking Joes. The steps here are a nice touch, both giving Joe a way to retreat out of Mega Man's range, and getting in the player's way as they try to follow.
Quick Boomerangs fire more rapidly than the Rolling Cutter, but don't return to Mega Man and deal less damage. While we can reach these Mets with normal shots, Boomerangs are a bit easier to hit higher enemies with.
This area can get messy if we try to run for it, but the Mets' platforms give us a safe place to shoot from. Following that are two ledges we need Carry to reach. The last stage gave us much better ways to use Carry, and this serves only to waste our energy.
The next corridor is a great place for Bubble Lead, as we can hit three enemies in one shot if we follow it. It's good to see Gabyoall show up again now that we have a ground weapon to fight with.
This electric trap is timed to allow Mega Man through at a run. We've seen much worse from these traps by now. The next screen is interesting, as we have two different enemies that are activated by proximity, so we have a moment to think about this one. The Met is easy to shoot, but the terrain gives us an opportunity to dodge both.
This is a nasty fall, even by this game's standards. The fan and electric trap don't appear until after the screen moves, so in the short moment we have to pick a landing spot, there's a good chance a player will try for the ledge closer to the way down. Even if they aren't immediately hit, the fan can easily dump Mega Man in a pit before the player realizes what happened.
This is a nice, easy vanishing block segment. It helps to have Carry equipped, but the only trick this one pulls is to make the player jump backward once at the end. Even then, we could wait for the last platform to appear and skip that one.
After using Thunder Beam so it doesn't feel left out, we drop in front of a Big Eye. This time we're packing Heat (Man's Atomic Fire, that is), and if there was ever a time to use it, it's now. We can have a charge ready when it's halfway across the screen, firing causes it to flicker...
...and it's still there. It takes two of these to kill a Big Eye, and there is no practical reason to ever do so. Our old method of freezing them works fine, and it turns out that Bubble is our strongest option, killing them a little faster than Cutter with two shots.
Bubble is also effective against Cutting Wheels, but since these are the fast type and the first will fall immediately unless we're pressed against the wall as we enter, it can be hard to hit them in time, making this a good place for Flash Man's Time Stopper.
The most infamous trick vanishing blocks ever pull is to have one appear above Mega Man. This is acceptable when we can try multiple times, or can watch the pattern from a safe place, but this one is over spikes and we're coming in blind.
That said, it's extremely satisfying to be able to save yourself here. This isn't easy, as we have to be in the air to put Carry below us, which means making the notoriously difficult jump to get out, or using the few pixels of headroom. Walking off the side won't cut it, as the spikes will be in the way.
I'm not giving this one the gif treatment, as it is just three (yes, three!) instances of the same trick, followed by one where we can drop instead.
This Joe has the same active artificial intelligence as a few others we've seen, but this one is running towards us. This is a really neat idea, using only the movement as a threat instead of its shots. It starts moving as soon as the screen loads, and we barely have time to freeze it or toss a ton of bubbles at it before it reaches us. The next room opens with an ominous hint of Wheels and pits.
And with that, we have reached roughly the halfway point of this stage. Yes, this is a long one, so long that I need to split this into two parts. We'll see the end of this game next week, but for now, let's review what we've seen.
This stage switches difficulty dramatically between rooms, going from that starting Sniper Joe's cheap shots and favorable terrain, to a handful of basic enemies and a simple electric trap, to the blind fall in the fan room, and so on. I enjoy the creative use of Joe here, the Cutting Wheels in a sloping room where we can't easily dodge, and getting dumped in front of a Big Eye.
Even the fan room would have been fine if we had been forced to fall or climb down the side rather than having the option to move toward the middle. That second vanishing block area had no business being here, even with Carry available, and the fact that the stage wastes two uses of it in the beginning makes this even worse. Also, we have five new weapons to play with, and these long platforming segments don't offer any way to use them.
Speaking of weapons, Bubble Lead is now our most powerful and gives us a new attack angle, Quick Boomerangs are a slight variation on the Rolling Cutter, and Time Stopper is situationally useful. Enker's Mirror Buster barrier is interesting and we have a few opportunities to use it near the beginning, but it's more trouble than it's worth against Mets, since they attack slowly enough to be easily killed with the Mega Buster or other weapons. A room with more Screw Drivers or Joes that stand still would have been a better way to introduce this item.
However, Atomic Fire is the biggest problem here. For a shot we need to spend a lot of time charging and lose if we get hit, this isn't able to kill a single thing we might want it for. The only reason to have a charge ready is to prepare for something tough and wipe it out in one shot, but Big Eyes, Joes, and Wheels are all killed faster with other weapons. Hopefully this one will get a chance to shine in the second half.