A Critical Look at Mega Man 7 Stages: Shade Man

Shade Man's Stage and Music (Alternate Music, hold B when selecting the stage to hear the Ghosts 'n Goblins theme!)

As the stage begins, the clouds move away to reveal the moon, brightening the stage. Cyorown sits atop this pillar and fires single, fast shots at us. With eight health, he's usually going to get a chance to attack once.

Next up is Astro Zombieg, a direct nod to the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. These appear randomly, either from the ground in their traditional caskets, or jumping from behind background objects.

They die in four hits (with their heads falling off to show damage), but can walk fast enough to be a problem in groups if you don't destroy them right away. The area ends quickly though (a bit too soon, for how neat this is), and it's possible to run to the ladder with few ever appearing in front of Mega Man.

The last one remains in its casket until we approach, and this is a good place to show their last behavior, sparking and falling apart whenever they reach a wall.

Ragger hides in the helmets (or is it the helmet?) of these armors, and falls when Mega Man approaches. You need to be very close for this to happen, enough that a new player isn't likely to avoid getting hit on the first encounter.

They can't be harmed until they stand up, but are easily taken down before they attack. If allowed, they'll throw their blade as a boomerang, following with a jump to the right.

More Cyorowns. Each of these is placed the same way, and their shot is fast enough to be annoying to dodge at this distance. The next room shows us Batton M48, who's similar to the Mega Man 2 version, but much faster.

This area includes three crushers on chains, which we can safely stand on top of, or for players feeling brave, slide through just before they fall. Junk Shield is particularly useful for this. At the end, we find a door that clearly isn't the type used by bosses, which leads to... a giant robot pumpkin.

Van Pookin has a simple pattern of bouncing three times, with the third being higher so we can easily slide under, then opening to let the small inner pumpkin perform an attack. In this case, it fires projectiles randomly, but won't reach all the way across the room.

Its second attack fires three shots at Mega Man. This is the harder one to dodge, but with one safe attack and a simple bouncing pattern, this thing is easy to take down.

We have a choice of shooting the inner pumpkin or attacking the eyes of the large one, and Thunder Bolt takes it out fast. Destroying the outer pumpkin causes it to smash down the right wall.

After a few more Zombiegs, we encounter Gilliam Knight, which shows surprise when it sees us and charges forward.

Junk Shield protects us once again, easily destroying multiple Knights per use. To the right is an extra life we can't reach with Rush Coil, and to the left are a couple ladders leading to more platforms with Knights.

We can't reach the life from above without the Super Adapter, and a simpler solution is to use Rush Jet from below.

Moving up, we find a wolf pouncing on us. These take over 20 hits, and seem to be a strong enemy...

But after a short time, the clouds cover the moon, and we discover that the Knights were robot werewolves, and are now easily dispatched.

The next area is a simple formation of Shield Attackers, with plenty of space to attack, and an opportunity to slide if we want. This room also includes a nice portrait of Dr. Wily in a vampire cloak.

The stage ends with a cutscene of Bass admitting his failure to defeat Shade Man, and Mega Man suggesting he visit Dr. Light for repairs. We're not done yet, though.

Defeating the smaller pumpkin leads to a second path below, where we're attacked by a Sniper Joe as soon as we land.

After a very simple room of Knights and a health refill, we reach a darkened room.

Our only option to light it for now is to fire Thunder Bolts to make the room flash. The Battons here are placed to show us the floor when we need to see it as we attack them, but with how useful the weapon was earlier and no refill in sight, this has the potential to go badly.

The last section before this path exits to the boss is an elevator ride. Zombiegs jump from the windows one at a time, then together, until we reach a set with a closed shutter. One eventually smashes through this, and is the first to land in the middle, acting as a great surprise for players thinking it was safe. A few more appear from the middle and sides, and the ride ends.

This stage is a visual treat, with plenty of unique animations and behaviors, clever use of the moon for a transforming enemy, Zombiegs jumping from various places, and a split path with interesting things happening on each. However, it's a bit rough as a stage.

Cyorown is a decent enemy that is used lazily, Ragger doesn't give quite enough chance to react, Gilliam Knight is too easy for how much use it gets, too many connecting rooms are empty of enemies, and we have a high chance of using up Thunder Bolt before a room that requires it.

That said, the extra attention to detail on the enemies and interesting setpieces are enough to overcome my gripes with it. The stage aims more to give the player a fun ride than to challenge them, and it's a welcome breather given everything else we've had to deal with.