A Critical Look at Mega Man Stages: Shield Attacker

This week, I'll return to discussing ideas found throughout the Nintendo Entertainment System games, this time covering Shield Attacker. There was a wide variety of shielded enemies throughout the games, but this one seemed to make a strong impression, returning for multiple titles with little change.

Its introduction in Mega Man 4's Dust Man stage is simple. It stays on the ground, rushing toward players the moment they move from the first screen and getting in the way while jumping the gaps. Its ability to trap us near the Metall is a good setup, showing their potential to be dangerous from behind if they're not destroyed.

Skull Man's stage shows us a wider variety of uses. This one gives us less room to jump over it, but we also have space underneath to watch its pattern from. The decision to make it move two blocks out from the platform has a couple neat effects, catching players who attack under the assumption that it will stay on the platform, and allowing us a small gap to jump through as a fun alternate solution.

Next we have one raised up a block to allow Mega Man to slide under it. The first screen here also shows how far out the first Attacker will move if allowed to spawn from the other side. The next images show one that will move all the way to the wall, catching players coming from above or below. Walking underneath it to collect the item gives us a chance to see the terrain, which is more confining on the other side.

The last one also gives us the opportunity to slide, but without a ceiling, we can discover that it's possible to jump over Attackers at this height as well. The occasional Battontons in the area serve to push the player forward, increasing the chance that they'll make a mistake.

Naturally, Attackers had to be put in a small corridor at some point. I like this idea the least, as it removes all options except running and shooting, but at least the area gives us a chance to jump over those at the top, and this defensive position gives players more incentive to try other weapons on them.

Their use in the Cossack stages had nothing new to offer...

... and Wily includes an unfortunate moment where one can be fallen onto from above without warning. The one below it presents a more fair and interesting threat, in that its area can't be jumped out of without help from Rush.

Disappointingly, Mega Man 5 only uses them once, as a basic threat to be jumped over.

Now this is more like it. By being placed slightly higher than the platform to the right, the first Attacker can get in the way if we try to back off from the second. The next few are combined with enemies that can move under them and get in the way of our slide, and their placement above Mega Man on the upward jumps makes them dangerous to leave alive, but harder to kill.

By making them a greater threat, the ability to kill them with the Power Armor is all the more satisfying, though they make for a particularly fun group to attempt to dodge through as well.

I mentioned before that I like this simple jump in Tomahawk Man's stage, as the need to fall through the corner of the Attacker's range makes the distance feel a little more dangerous than it is, while the hole itself is too small to comfortably fight in. The rest work well with Jet Mega Man, making the player dodge and fight above pits with projectiles raining down from above.

Not much to see here; these just act as good punching targets.

Their final appearance is an encore of Blizzard Man's setup, and wraps up the enemy neatly. We have one more instance of a Curlinger moving under one, a low ceiling for the third to make jumping difficult, and a higher one with another Curlinger for a more complex encounter. The last two give a good visual effect, and act as a nasty surprise for anyone trying to Jet through here.

Overall, this is a great progression of enemy placement. Despite being used as filler in a couple cases, Shield Attackers got the chance to move from a simple blocking enemy to a serious threat, and their clever use with other enemies and Rush's armors was one of Mega Man 6's better contributions to the series.