A Critical Look at Mega Man 7 Stages: The Last Four Robot Masters

Spring Man

I love that Spring Man's wobbly head interrupts his attempt at a cool pose.

Spring Man jumps around the room a bit before starting his main attack, leaping into the air and throwing two long-range punches. This is easy to predict thanks to the animation, we just need to make sure we're on the move as he throws them.

This is where it gets tricky. He creates two Wild Coil springs that bounce around the room, take two damage each, and do not vanish on their own. He'll jump around for a while before starting his main attack again, but that's still a lot of objects to avoid.

This is one of the best times to be holding a charge shot against a boss, as we can take one of the springs out immediately and hit him at the same time. While not his weakness, the Junk Shield can destroy the springs easily.

Spring Man's last attack occurs if he gets close while jumping around. He'll grab Mega Man, slam him into the ceiling, and toss him aside, adding yet another thing to worry about after he creates the springs. He's weak to the Slash Claw, but more importantly, hitting him with this causes him to start his first attack, allowing players to avoid the springs entirely.

As bosses go for this game, this is a simple one, feeling more similar to many Nintendo Entertainment System Robot Masters. Once a player is used to sliding away from the punches, they only need to worry about avoiding basic jumps and keeping the Wild Coils off the screen. Since we walk into this with a great tool for that, this is an easier choice to start with for this group.

Slash Man

Slash Man's intro shows us his mobility, but that's only a small part of the trouble he's going to put new players through.

He'll start off by jumping around the room unpredictably, and he's not shy about jumping on our head in the corners, either. Anytime he lands, he can slash forward if we're close, and the Slash Claw has much greater range than one would expect. In addition, this destroys special weapons and can reflect our normal shots.

Given how quickly we need to move to attack safely before the slash is finished, it can be rare to see this happen, and could easily kill Mega Man without the player realizing what happened.

Slash Man eventually hops onto the wall (and blocks incoming shots in the process), then into the ceiling. Projectiles (eggs?) containing a red goop begin to fall. These are tough to dodge, and leave a puddle on the floor that stops our movement. If one lands on Mega Man's head, he'll still be able to walk, but not jump or slide. We can mash to escape this faster, but Slash will be preparing to dash at us from above, and will most likely get a free hit if we've been trapped.

Luckily, Slash Man has two weaknesses, taking four damage from Turbo Man's Scorch Wheel weapon and six from the Freeze Cracker. Turbo's can be hard to hit with, and we're better off using it up close while he's jumping. The downside here is that both weapons cause him to start dropping projectiles, allowing him to avoid damage for a bit and putting us through his hardest pattern again, so it's best to get some hits in while he's jumping around before using a special weapon.

Slash Man is a notoriously hard boss, for good reason. He's fast, defends himself on the walls and during a slash, is often off-screen, restricts our movement in two ways depending on how the projectile hits us, and performs his best attack after getting hit with a weakness.

Even after a player learns how to avoid him while he's jumping, the red goop is very tough to dodge, and his following attack is one we want to bait away from us, which is hard to find an opportunity for when the floor is covered in stuff that will cause us to take the hit. Having a weapon from the first group that deals more damage than other weaknesses feels like a crutch handed to us to tone him down a bit.

Turbo Man

Turbo Man begins by creating a flaming Scorch Wheel around himself, and jumping into the air.

This is a very tough attack to dodge. The wheel will fall in an arc toward Mega Man, roll up the wall, then drop as a spread of individual flames over an area. Getting hit by the wheel causes Mega Man to burn for continuous damage, up to six extra hits or until we mash out of it.

To avoid this, we'll need to bait the wheel and slide under it, watch where it's going to land, and then try to stay in that safe spot while Turbo begins his next attack.

Turbo Man follows by revving his engines to somehow pull us in. He begins this as soon as the flames start to disappear, which can make it awkward to decide when to start running. He then transforms into a car and dashes across the room, and can do this with random timing. We need to listen for the tire squeal sound to end to know when to jump. Hitting him with Shade Man's Noise Crush weapon causes him to dash, making it simple to take him down quickly.

It's neat that sound is an important aspect of this fight. It's something Mega Man rarely uses for gameplay and is presented well here, making an attack that's very hard to react to trivial if we're paying attention to the noise. The flame wheel is difficult enough to learn that it becomes the central aspect of the fight, but I also like that his ability to pull Mega Man forward works well with both other attacks. This normally feels like a waste of time, such as with Magnet Man and Dust Man, but we're dealing with the flames at the beginning, and want to run to the other side to prepare for the dash at the end, so it ties the pattern together.

Shade Man

Shade Man drops from the ceiling to bow to us, then returns and flies around slowly to prepare for his first attack.

Shade will dive multiple times to grab Mega Man, and if he does so, will drain health. This is another attack we can mash out of early, and after a few attempts, he'll drop to the floor.

The second phase is a barrage of projectiles. Shade fires two slow petrifying attacks from his eyes, then two faster Noise Crush shots that bounce from the walls.

When these return to Shade Man, he absorbs them and fires them back at twice the size. There's no variation to this, so we'll always want to jump the first and slide under the second, after which he returns to the ceiling. Spring Man's weapon is useful here for both the damage and ability to hit behind us as Shade dives. Rush Adapter also deals four damage to Shade (more than any other Robot Master), but we'll need an upgrade to make full use of it.

This is another easy pattern once a player understands it, but the variety of projectiles and behaviors can be confusing at first, and being picked up and drained of health is always unsettling. Shade Man often waits for a bit longer than I'd expect before diving, building anticipation and potentially throwing players off their timing for the slide.

Turbo Man and Slash Man are the hard battles here, with Spring Man and Shade Man being fairly easy to learn. After reviewing this set, it seems odd that the designers chose to split the game as they did. They certainly weren't divided by difficulty, as Slash is the only one that feels harder than the first group on average. Spring and Shade's stages aren't any tougher than the first four either. Perhaps the upgrade order was chosen early, but given the rushed development of this one, I'll leave that sort of speculation for those who know more about the story behind it.

Regardless, these are all solid designs, if not quite as complex as some in the first group. The worst decision here was making Slash Man's projectiles a little too hard to avoid, and allowing him to use that attack after being hit by a weakness. Even then, Freeze Man gives us an easy way to out-damage him.