Our first enemy is Stegorus, and at 24 hits, he's a tough one. Stegorus begins by walking forward and launching the spikes on his back. It's not too difficult to defeat him by the time he finishes this, but if given the chance, he retreats into his shell and turns around to fire homing missiles. Since we can only hit him in the head, this makes players wait for another chance to finish him.
These logs appear with a splash effect, then move down the waterfall. We need to jump across as they appear to reach the other side, and this is more difficult than it might seem. The logs bob downward if we land on them before they start moving, which isn't dangerous in itself, but can cause a player to hesitate. The logs accelerate as they fall, so any delay, even using one full jump instead of a short hop, is enough to cause a death.
A Tsuranattori group flies toward us before we've even made it to solid ground again, just in case you were starting to relax. As we move to the next area, we're introduced to vegetation that appears in the foreground.
Tsuranattori appears again just as we come to a spot where a player is likely to jump. We have a choice of paths here, moving down to attack Stegorus or attempting to jump across while it throws spikes around.
The designers pulled a nasty trick here with the leaves, as we won't find out until jumping down that this Stegorus is on ground a bit lower than us, so we can't easily attack the head. If we try to retreat, the first Tsuranattori group appears from behind. Junk Shield can take it out, but we're better off just ignoring it.
This Gabyoall can take good timing to jump over, but we're giving a nice opportunity to take it out from the ladder.
Moving up, we find a sleeping Technodon, with a flat platform on its back that we're clearly meant to jump to. I appreciate the Gobots here, warning us that they'll be appearing in this area before we get moving.
Technodon runs forward, jumping at any ledge it reaches. In preparation to deal with Gobots, we prepare a Junk Shield... only to find that Technodon absorbs the damage and breaks it before it can do us much good. Freeze is an acceptable backup, as the larger shot and ability to aim upward make it easier to hit with than the buster.
As always with this sort of sequence, the main attraction is jumping from our current ride onto a new one.
As Technodon moves under a low platform, we have the option of taking a ladder or following it. Continuing to the right brings us to another ladder and an E-Tank, which we can reach by waiting for Technodon to turn around, or simply using a well-placed Rush Coil from the first platform. Either way, we'll find a Sniper Joe above who's rather quick on the draw.
King Gojulus is our main attraction, and as a nod to Mega Man 2's Mecha Dragon, he chases us across a few jumps before we find some platforms to stop and fight at... and immediately take a hit, since he'll keep running forward and ram into us.
Gojulus can use flame breath or a three-way shot, and avoiding both as well as his feet can be tricky. He moves around a lot, but once he backs off and gives us a chance to shoot at his face, we can take him down quickly.
As with other large enemies, the Junk Shield makes this a breeze, destroying him in two uses if they all hit the jaw.
Derusu Bees and Kerone defend the forest area. The hives will occasionally release a bee, so we're encouraged to keep moving. The bees are difficult to predict, and the trees in the foreground give them plenty of space to surprise us from. Junk Shield is once again the weapon of choice in this area, giving us protection from both enemies.
Attacking a hive directly will cause it to release four bees at once, but the hive itself can be destroyed with enough damage, which Junk Shield easily provides.
The last area introduces Tamagodon, which breaks from an egg after a set time, quickly running forward and jumping. Strangely, the eggs appear to take damage, but can't be destroyed any faster, at least not by anything we have now.
The final screens escalate this to putting two of them close together, and we can either try to dodge through them or take them out one at a time. Of course, if you still have Junk Shield equipped (and why wouldn't you, at this point?) you can just stand there and let them run into it.
Our dog-jetpack is useful in various places here, if we found it. That extra jump can lift us over a large enemy and help with some tougher gaps, while the extra damage on the punch will destroy Kerone. Rush Jet can be helpful for the logs as well, but attempting to use it to bypass Technodon is more trouble than it's worth, as touching any of the Gobots will cause Rush to leave while we fall into the spikes (see below).
There's a lot happening here, and every area of this stage is self-contained, with no mechanics explored over the length of it. This often makes a stage feel messy or rushed, but in this case, I think it works.
Each new idea is given a simple progression. Stegorus appears once in a relatively safe area, and is then used in a place where we have trouble attacking him and need to jump through his projectiles. The logs build in difficulty over three pits. Technodon goes from basic jumps, to switching rides, to walking over a platform to catch up with it and grab an E-Tank. King Gojulus is a decent fight, and the following enemies get just enough screen time to be interesting and wind down the action before the boss.
Aside from the logs dropping slightly too fast and Gojulus's movement being a little too random, I think this is a fun one that throws a succession of neat ideas at the player in place of an overarching mechanic or enemy.
Critical Look Outtakes
I'll just jump this platform like a cool guy and catch Rush on the other si... oh