Looking Back: Mega Man & Bass

Looking Back: Mega Man & Bass

As part of our celebration of the Mega Man series hitting its 25th anniversary, we are featuring a look back at many of the games of the Classic series. For this entry, I’ll be looking Mega Man & Bass, a game that was the chronological last game in the classic series until the end of the hiatus with 2008's Mega Man 9. Beyond featuring Bass as a playable character, MM&B has a number of innovations and features some of the most difficult levels in the series.  

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Go to PAX's Friday Night Concerts, Get Free Mega Man Stuff

24ea4a7fdfeb62d718e87ce0ee08c469d789088d40b5f514be77d90c6e9c6e3d This weekend at the Penny Arcade Expo, there will be a series of concerts starting at 8:30pm on Friday night featuring Bit Brigade, Mega Ran, and The Protomen. Better still, attending affords you the opportunity to get free Mega Man goodies from the fine folks at Capcom Unity.

Community Manager Brett Elston notes on his blog "I sent the good folks at PAX/Reed Expo a heaping pile of inflatable Mega Busters and Mega Man 25th anniversary pins to be handed out for the mega festivities. Simply be there (probably early!) and you could walk away one or both of these collector's items! Don the Mega Buster and PUMP YER FIST to 'The Will of One!'"

As an aside, we're pretty sure that the Super Mega Man figure shown with the pin above isn't being given away, but is there to simply give an idea of scale. Then again, how many of you reading this actually have that figure to know how big it is to begin with? But we digress.

What's more, a limited few will get to go home with this beautiful blue bad boy in its E Tank packaging:


"With so many folks attending PAX - and the all-Mega-Man concert lineup," Brelston notes, "make sure you get there before show starts at 8:30!"

"And for those who couldn't make it to SDCC or PAX, or buy the statute when it was on the Capcom Store," he adds, "don't worry - I've secured some for Unity too! More on that after PAX..."

Looking Back: Mega Man: The Wily Wars

Mega Man: The Wily WarsAs part of our celebration of the Mega Man series hitting its 25th anniversary, we are featuring a look back at many of the games of the Classic series. For this entry, I’ll be looking at the somewhat obscure Mega Man: The Wily Wars, the "All-Stars" compilation game of the first three installments. Originally released only on the SEGA Channel for the Sega Genesis in North America, it was released elsewhere as a regular Mega Drive console title and finally found a kind of domestic release just last year.

Though it seems odd saying it now, the embryonic gaming culture of the early 1990s tended to equate greater graphics and processing power with greater games. Maybe due to more distinct shifts in processing power between the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles, or because we did not have the time to build our nostalgia for the fading era, but the advent of 16-bit technology was embraced by gamers with abandon. Our old games were left in the past and were generally isolated for play on the older consoles.

Of course, there were some exceptions. The Ninja Gaiden Nintendo Entertainment System games saw a consolidated re-release as Ninja Gaiden Trilogy on the Super NES and the old SEGA Master System Sonic the Hedgehog titles were re-released for the portable Game Gear system. These were generally straight ports with minor enhancements or modifications, nothing like the grand remastering that the original NES Super Mario Bros. games received for their port to the SNES in the form of Super Mario All-Stars. While gamers are used to such efforts these days, after the generations of remakes of every classic game from Final Fantasy IV to Metal Gear Solid to Kirby's Adventure, back in the early 1990s such works were a complete rarity.

Bubble ManFighting the Bubble Man Doc Robot

It was in this context that Mega Man: The Wily Wars was released. Following Super Mario All-Stars' lead, The Wily Wars contains the first three NES outings completely remastered in 16-bit graphics and sound. Unlike its Mario fore bearer, The Wily Wars appeared exclusively on SEGA hardware and included a completely original set of levels in the short extra mode, "Wily Tower." 

Like other spin-off games, The Wily Wars was developed by an outside team that struggled to maintain certain elements that made the original installments some of the best games of the era. While many members of this team at Minakuchi Engineering cut their teeth on the Game Boy Mega Man sub-series, it's clear that those games received more attention than did The Wily Wars, and was most likely a contributing reason for the latter's tortured development.

In the end, the three NES ports are decent recreations. There are only a few glaring problems–- larger bosses such as the Yellow Devil and Mecha Dragon suffer from massive slowdown, and there's a weird delay in MM3's Break Man level–- but overall they are faithful recreations of the 8-bit outings.

The small differences and the imbalances caused by porting the games to a new console that make The Wily Wars a bit more troublesome to play, especially for those well-versed in the original series. Mega Man is drawn a bit taller vis-a-vis his surroundings and other enemies and characters, but for actual gameplay purposes he is still two-blocks tall, making much of the sprite work and graphics in general seem inconsistent.

Cut ManTop Man

There are also strange results in converting the relatively under-detailed NES landscapes to the 16-bit platform, a phenomenon that continued for years. Cut Man's level now occurs inside what seems to be a scissor factory and Top Man's level downplays the greenhouse theme and looks like a generic, spike-filled level. While such porting issues are not unique to The Wily Wars, it is still puzzling.

In some ways, these facelifts channel a feel more akin to the final Skull Castle levels of the final NES installments than they do their source material. However, those are just cosmetic issues, with the most most significant problem is simply that the game runs too slow. Most of Mega Man's weapons–- including his regular shots–- are simply too slow and because of timing differences, rapid-fire is not possible. Mega Man himself moves sluggishly and so do many (but not all) of the Robot Masters and bosses.

More frustrating still is that this lag is not universal; for example, the Big Eyes from Mega Man 1 move much closer to their original speed than do the Mega Man 3's Parasyu. Not all the changes in the ports were for the worse, most notably the numerous gameplay adjustments to MM1 to bring it line with its sequels.

Mecha DragonShadow Man Doc Robot Level

While the graphics and sound are obviously better detailed than the 8-bit originals, neither has their charm. The graphics are clean enough, but at times suffer from the aforementioned issues of putting the wrong emphasis on the ported material and the random oddities of relative sizes. The music is uneven at best, with some tracks sounding like decent remakes of the old tunes and others sounding absolutely terrible, while others still just sound like most SEGA games not composed by Michael Jackson

The sound effects are grating and many sound like they are in some weird echo chamber. The sound chip on the Genesis/Mega Drive might not have been the best, but it is hard to stomach considering there were better amateur MIDI remixes on Geocities fan sites at the time of this game's release. The audio issues in the ports are an interesting case in musical interpretation and hardware limitations, but I will not belabor the point any further, especially since this guy has done a fantastic job at identifying the issues.

Buster Rod G. LevelHyper Storm H.

By now, most folks know about "Wily Tower." An odd, original extra mode/game unlocked after beating the three NES ports, "Wily Tower" features three new robots inspired by Journey to the West (see also: Dragon Ball) and a jaunt through, well, Dr. Wily's tower.

At only seven levels in length, it is one of the shortest Mega Man games, but one of the most unique. Between levels, players can choose any eight weapons and three items from the original three NES games. Each level has certain paths and items that are only accessible based on what inventory you chose, rewarding those players who are more familiar with the series and the patterns in its level design.

The levels themselves are fairly interesting in how they use enemies from all three ported games, as well as utilizing design aspects from later games in the series-throughout many levels there are hidden rooms and some even feature branching paths. Better still are some of the boss fights, with the double energy bar of Hyper Storm H., the tumbling rematch against Buster Rod G., and the Dr. Robotnik-esque Wily fight.

Mega Water S.The Wily Tower Level 3 Buster Rod G. Rematch Dr. Robotnik...er...Dr. Wily

Across the board, there are signs that The Wily Wars suffered from a rushed development cycle, despite the infamously long development process that Keiji Inafune once called "a nightmare." Some larger enemies such as Tama (the large cat from MM3) are lacking in animation, the dramatic entrance of the Guts Dozer was cut, the Mecha Dragon battle is even slower than on the 8-bit NES, and the epic deaths of MM2's Skull Castle bosses have been replaced with generic explosions. Furthermore, some sound tracks such as the MM1 final victory fanfare have been cut in the conversion, and MM3's final victory fanfare was mistakenly left out of the sound test.

Most telling of all, there are substantial amounts of data within The Wily Wars that indicate there was originally a Wily Tower-like option to pull weapons from any game and use them in MM1, 2, and 3. Given Inafune's public dismay about troubleshooting and the amount of leftover data, it is not much of a stretch to think that a lot of work went into that cancelled option before it was finally cut.

Fighting the MM1 Mega Man Clone with the Metal BladeFighting Magnet Man with the Thunder Beam

In the end, The Wily Wars is an interesting experiment that has been made mostly redundant by the waves of virtual re-releases across modern platforms, to say nothing about the prevalence of emulation among fans since the late 1990s. While most fans were clamoring for The Wily Wars' 16-bit rehashes of old NES classics at the time of its release, times have changed substantially and this obscure anthology has not aged well.

In hindsight, Capcom was in some ways blessed to be forced into designing the Classic series to fit within the constraints of the 8-bit Nintendo. As we know now, some of the best modern game design is design by subtraction, the beauty that comes with working with less. Porting issues and a wide embrace of the 8-bit aesthetic has rendered this love letter to SEGA fans unnecessary, especially today.

That being said, The Wily Tower is one of the most unique gaming experiences in the series and any fan of the series should not pass it up. For all of its issues, The Wily Wars was a valiant if uneven effort to expose the Blue Bomber to the most unfortunate folks of that era–- the SEGA enthusiasts who grew up without the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

The CastThe End

James is a features contributor for The Mega Man Network. He is now back in the United States. Sometimes he updates his Tumblr.

The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.

Miss UDON's SDCC Exclusives? Worry Not!

SDCCEXCoverPic We're going to level with you: The San Diego Comic-Con kind of sucks. Don't get us wrong, it's all kinds of awesome, but having all of that awesomeness concentrated into one place is why it sucks; paying to go, paying to stay, paying to attend, and the worst part: Competing with everyone else who is doing the same, only to wind up cut off in the line for a panel or having stock of an exclusive run out. Where does that leave you then? (San Diego, we know; it's just an expression.)

Fortunately, it's not all bad news if you can't afford to even try to get these things. In the case of UDON Entertainment, they've revealed that not only will their SDCC exclusives be available at the Penny Arcade Expo Prime (PAX, where they're expected to sell through quickly), but also through their online store starting at Noon EST on Thursday, August 1st.

Among the goodies are the MM25: Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works Deluxe Blue Laser Foil Hardcover edition (the softcover version will be available in late August/early September), the World of Warcraft Tribute Limited Edition Hard Cover, The Art of Brutal Legend: Heavy Metal Slipcase Edition, and a whopping three different Street Fighter books with comparably long names.

So who needs SDCC? They can keep their panels and their reveals... and their Metroplexes with two guns and mini-figures... and their Dragonzord/Tigerzord Legacy Morphers... and... aw, phooey. At least we can still get the cool books.

Silver Mega Man 25th Anniversary Statue Available for Preorder

silverIf you've got more money to spend on Mega Man commemorative goods, feast your eyes here. While preorders of the previous special edition Mega Man statue have already shipped and gone on sale at SDCC, this additional statue, featuring Mega Man and X in a silver colored finish, is now available for reserve on the Capcom Store. Standing nine and a half inches tall and weighing six pounds, it's a beast of a collector's item. The statue will run you $$99.95, and the expected shipment time frame is this summer. Only 1,000 will be made, so be sure to grab it if it really tickles your fancy!

Thanks for the tip, epyon396!

UDON Reveals Limited Edition MM25 Hardcover

SDCC2013_UDON_MM25For the collector who must have only the best, UDON has officially announced the special edition hardcover version of MM25 Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works. This version comes with a blue laser foil jacket. It will be available at San Diego Comic Con for $100. It's limited edition, however, so be sure to see UDON in a hurry! They will be at booth 4529.

Get a Glimpse of the Expanded Content of MM25: Mega Man and Mega Man X Official Complete Works

08f961ab787ed3ebe1dc3d1136da627a Wow, when it rains, it pours-- especially with Mega Man news. In this case, amidst everything else we've had to say on MM25: Mega Man and Mega Man X Official Complete Works, Brelston at Capcom Unity has posted four images of the book's new expanded contents.

Above is our choice for most interesting, but there's plenty more to see: Designs from Mega Man 9, art from Mega Man 10, and illustrations from newer crossovers such as Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Street Fighter X Tekken, and Project X Zone await; just click here to see the rest!

Feast Your Eyes on MM25: Mega Man and Mega Man X Official Complete Works (Update)

mm25_print_proof_stackUDON Entertainment has just recently posted the picture you see at right (click for full size) on their blog, showing the printing proof version of MM25: Mega Man and Mega Man X Official Complete Works, which is a high-resolution laser color printout of the book for them to look over and check for errors. According to UDON chief Erik Ko, "this is the biggest printing stack ever." "While the final book won’t measure the 3 or 4 inches tall that this print stack does, it does hopefully give you an idea of just how BIG a deal MM25 is going to be! Replacing our Mega Man Official Complete Works and Mega Man X Official Complete Works, this 430+ page MONSTER faithfully reproduces the recently released Japanese edition, R20+5!"

If you're interested in securing a copy (the original versions have been known to be hard to find after a while), you can pre-order on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and on BarnesAndNoble.com. Additionally, it will be featured in the June edition of Diamond Distributors' Previews catalog, which covers items shipping in August, under the code "JUN131309."

Source: Operation Rainfall

Update: We've just received a tip from Dr. Wily that Diamond's Previews catalog has a hardcover version of the book slated for an August 28th release in comic book stores, with a price of $59.99.

TMMN Giveaway - Nab a Mega Man USB Buster!

MMUSBBuster_largescreenshot3 Hey there, it's been a little while, so how about a chance to win something cool? We've got three of Capcom's 25th anniversary Mega Buster styled USB thumb drives to give away! Each has a capacity of 8GB, and comes equipped the latest version of Street Fighter X Mega Man, the game's soundtrack and promotional wallpaper, and digital copies of UDON's Mega Man Tribute, Mega Man X Official Complete Works, and Archie's Mega Man comic issues #1-4. Woah!

Now I'm guessing you probably want to know how to win. It's simple! Just reply to this post with the following: what Mega Man game would you want to see remade, and how would you want to see it remade? Let us know in as much detail as you can muster! Three winners will be chosen randomly after the deadline from these comments. Please be sure to comment with your legitimate e-mail so we can reach you!

The deadline to enter this giveaway is Sunday, May 26th, at midnight PST. Please only one entry/comment per person! Thank you, and good luck!

Mega Man Cases for Nintendo 3DS Coming to the Capcom Store

[gallery columns="2" link="file" ids="21613,21612"] First: Making a "Mega Man on 3DS" joke would have been too easy, and we're pretty sure we did that one already. Besides which, the Virtual Console releases kind of make it moot anyway.

In all seriousness, Capcom Unity has revealed a brand-new case coming to the Capcom Store. Inspired by the success of their similar Monster Hunter cases and with the whole NES Mega Man series coming to the handheld, they figure "why not release a Blue Bomber one, too?" And so they are.

These aren't available yet, as they're still fine-tuning and ordering them, but they will be available in time for the San Diego Comic-Con, and will come in both regular and XL sizes. You can see more pics here, and if you'd rather have a Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate case, more of those are on the way, too. Perhaps if there is sufficient demand, they'll make other Mega Man cases as well!

Sources: Hazard and GoNintendo

Final Images of 25th Anniversary Statue Appear with Pre-Orders Ending Friday Night

mm25thanniversarystatue Over on Capcom Unity, Brelston has posted what are the final images of the 25th anniversary Mega Man statue, and above, we've posted the pic which focuses on the most contentious issue so far: The eyes. So, what do you think?

Whatever it is, you'll need to think fast: Pre-orders for the statue end this Friday; once the weekend officially starts, your only opportunity to get one will be to venture out to the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con and get one there!

Mega Man 25th Anniversary Statue Gets a Revamp

mmfigurecompare Capcom Unity is still underway preparing their limited edition Mega Man figure, and has added some photos of the updated build. Above you can see the changes, with the originally revealed figure on the left and the revamped figure on the right. The changes, and other details, are as follows:

  • Darker blue with more metallic finish
  • Both feet are flat so the figure can stand on its own
  • Revised base now reads Mega Man instead of Capcom
  • Intensified LEDs for buster and helmet
  • On/Off switch for base lights
  • Slightly revised face
  • Finished item will come inside E-Tank packaging

Brelston notes on Unity that the figure is still a work in progress, so there may more changes until the final goes on sale. While I do personally think the figure is looking fantastic, the eyes are a bit off! Hopefully they get fixed up for the final product. Speaking of which, if you want to snag one of these figures, you'll have to pre-order at the Capcom Store by April 21st, Sunday. Otherwise your only way to get one will be going to San Diego Comic Con.

25th Anniversary Mega Man Statue Now Available for Pre-Order in Capcom Store

64dfa7c5de69d19a4c32477047e8181eCapcom Unity has just announced that the limited edition 25th anniversary statue of Mega Man first shown at PAX East is now available for pre-order in the Capcom Store. "This was originally announced as a SDCC 2013 exclusive," notes Community Manager Brett Elston, "but the reaction was so strong we're opening the floodgates early and giving you all access months ahead of time! Take note, however - this pre-order extends only through April 25!"

The $99.95 statue is 10 inches on a 6-inch diameter base, and features USB-powered LED lights on the base, helmet, and Mega Buster. Each one is individually numbered as part of its limited availability as a Capcom Store Exclusive.

"[T]his was a labor of love between community and licensing," Elston said "and we're super happy to see it out in the wild. Along with the MM25 pin (which was a big hit during PAX, about 1000 handed out!) and the other news from the panel, this is how we aim to kick things off for the Blue Bomber's 25th - which, yes, was in December, but we're planning activity all year."

Click here if you would like to pre-order, or just check out some different pics of the statue, including some of it lit up! Do note, however, that "Images shown are not of the final product and are subject to change".

...But At Least We're Getting R20+5

MM25Okay, so that last item sort of blew up in our faces a bit. Feel free to picture a writer covered in black soot with his eyes poking through, blinking in a stunned fashion. This one, however, we're a bit more confident about. At their own PAX East panel, UDON Entertainment has officially announced that yes, you too can own the R20+5 25th anniversary art book, right in the comfort of your own language (provided that language is English). The book boasts the following:

- 432 pages - All the classic artwork from the Mega Man and Mega Man X series - NEW artwork, and rough concepts from Mega Man 9 and 10 - New game developer interviews - New Tribute art from Hitoshi Ariga, Toru Nakayama, Shigeto Ikehara, and more!

There is no release date or price given yet, though if the prices of the two separate editions from before are any indication, it will be a doozy. Also, the cover art shown is taken from the Japanese version, and may not be the final design.

This is just one of many Capcom-themed art books UDON will be bringing over, and you can check out the full lineup here.

Looking Back: Mega Man for Game Gear

Mega Man Title ScreenAs part of our celebration of the Mega Man series hitting its 25th anniversary, we are featuring a look back at many of the games of the Mega Man series. This time, I’m looking at Mega Man for Game Gear, the rare, odd game published by US Gold, developed by Freestyle, and licensed by Capcom for SEGA's bulky black response to the Game Boy.  Growing up, the Game Gear was the only handheld I had. This game made me wish my parents got me a Game Boy. Very badly.

Back in the day, this game was sometimes called "The Best of Mega Man" because of its (absolutely bizarre) complete ripping of levels straight from Mega Man 2Mega Man 4, and Mega Man 5 for the NES. To consider it the "Best of" anything is in the eye of the beholder, but many of the game's problems come not from the ported content but from the odd decisions made by Freestyle, with one of the biggest issues being the bizarre layout of the game.

Select ScreenNavigating Stone Man's levelWhy vertical scrolling is problematic

The game begins like its monochrome brethren on the Game Boy, with a level select screen of four Robot Masters. That is basically where the similarities end, as Mega Man features Stone Man, Napalm Man, Star Man, and... Bright Man. As mentioned earlier, the levels are directly ported from the NES with the only change coming from the weakness chain due to the odd grouping of Robot Masters.

Following the defeat of the first four Robot Masters, the player is taken to a screen showing Dr. Cossack's Castle, which includes... Wave Man and Toad Man's levels, again directly from the NES, except Wave Man's level features Gravity Man's music (while Wave Man's music is used for the Game Over song). Following Toad Man's defeat is Dr. Wily's Castle, which turns out to just be Quick Man's level. Navigating the level is made easier with the nerfing of the laser beams and the inclusion of the slide, as well as the replacement of Quick Man with a teleporter to the one and only showdown with Dr. Wily's saucer from Mega Man 5.

Yes, that's the layout of the game.

As you can tell, Mega Man for Game Gear is one of the weirder games in the Classic series and a good lesson in how the small things go a long way in making games enjoyable or not. Due to hardware limitations, ignorance, or just poor decision-making, a lot of small aspects of the game wind up affecting the gameplay considerably.

For starters, navigating levels designed for the NES and a full television on a small Game Gear screen is made considerably harder because Freestyle opted to just include vertical scrolling rather than change any aspect of the levels. Furthermore, the conversion to a small screen means enemies aren't seen until they are virtually on top of the player (foreshadowing for all the problematic NES-to-GBC ports years later).

Bright Man's levelFighting Star Man...and a giant wall.Hope you memorized the level

The play control in general is just a bit off, with Mega Man seemingly a bit less responsive than in other installments (not that the Game Gear is conducive to use by human hands, let alone playing games that feature careful platforming). Other weird decisions include giving all enemies temporary invincibility after being shot and only allowing Mega Man to have two shots on the screen at a time which, together with the small screen, make the game a lot more frustrating than it needed to be.

Additionally, Mega Man features pre-set power-ups which never regenerate (was Eddie deleted?), the inclusion of the weird Mega Man 5 Rush Coil and M-Tank, giving nondescript names to the weapons (including "Rain Weapon"), the inclusion of a Normal and Hard Mode, and most problematic: The lack of continues. Lose all your lives, and its back to the beginning. Given the plethora of other issues, it really was not a smart move.

Oh yeah, the power-ups bounce, too.

Compared to the efforts mounted by Minakuchi Engineering over on the Game Boy, this game is a sad cash-in on our favorite blue robot. This game could have been playable with small tweaks or more sensible decisions about seemingly marginal issues. At least it would have ended some well-founded speculation about the incompleteness of the game. Besides serving as a collector's item and odd series curio, it stands as a mediocre game whose existence is otherwise hard to justify.

Screenshot credits:

Blog Squirrel (Title Screen, Star Man fight, and Stone Man level)  The Gaming Historian (Select Screen and Bright Man) MobyGames (Star Man level) KamilDowonna's YouTube video (Quick Man level)

James is a feature contributor for The Mega Man Network and a world traveler. He is currently in a faraway land, but he occasionally sends messages in a bottle. If you require more of his love, he left behind a sentient Tumblr account that updates all on its own.

The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.

Mega Man 3 Coming to 3DS in NA March 14th, other MM25 Updates

030b76c0df646f217b02258182f53f6e As part of a congratulations for Street Fighter X Mega Man surpassing one million downloads, Capcom Unity has today announced that Mega Man 3will be hitting the Virtual Console on the Nintendo 3DS next week on the 14th. This is certainly exciting news, and I think only Mega Man 3 can be said to rival in terms of popularity and greatness. The rest of the NES classics will be following month by month.

Additionally other goodies have been announced. A special Mega Man 25th anniversary pin will be available to people attending PAX East later this month, as well as a special photo event in the works, although information there is still cloudy. Should be interesting though!

Check out Capcom Unity to see more!

Looking Back: Mega Man V

Mega Man V Title Screen As part of our celebration of the Mega Man series hitting its 25th anniversary, we are featuring a look back at many of the games of the Mega Man series. This time, I’m reviewing Mega Man V, which perfected much of the groundwork laid down by its predecessor while also breaking new ground in a variety of areas.

Mega Man V is my all-time favorite Mega Man game and one of the best installments of the series, period. Capcom and Minakuchi Engineering put a lot of love into this game, tried a lot of new concepts and perfected the art of level design in this monochrome classic. By now, most fans know that the normal formula for the Game Boy sub-series of utilizing two different NES installment's Robot Masters was replaced with brand-new Stardroid robots and settings. The regular Mega Buster is also dropped for the new Mega Arm, which can be upgraded at Dr. Light's lab. Beat is also replaced with fan favorite and series curio Tango, who serves as an adorable but totally nerfed, land-based version of the blue attack bird. The Power Accelerator from MMIV makes a comeback, as does the half-block kick back from the Mega Buster (during the opening cut-scene).

Introducing TangoThe Second Set of StardroidsMega Arm cinematic

To say I am a little biased toward this game is an understatement. While I have been able to get past the nostalgia I have for Mega Man 4 and 5, I can in no way shake my absolute love for this game. The story and setting is the most original in the Classic series. A number of cut-scenes throughout the game keep the story going, from the first four terrestrial levels to the journey into space to the revelation of Dr. Wily's involvement to the final battle with the ancient Sunstar.

Rushing into spaceWily Star risingBefore the final fight

The process of pushing the Game Boy to new limits continues with MMV. The graphics maintain the same level of detail as Mega Man IV, with Mega Man venturing through locales from Venus' bubble-ridden halls to Saturn's gravity-defying ruins to the mines of Pluto. The brand-new music for the game is as great as it is varied. From Neptune's melancholy tune to Jupiter's bouncy beat to the awesome final battle track, the Game Boy's simple sound chip was pushed harder than anything else in 1994. This is also the only game in the series to utilize the Super Game Boy, a great addition that added a (limited) color variety to the mix, along with allowing players to use the SNES controller and play on their television screens.

The levels themselves are well-designed and are fairly varied. Despite substituting thematic Robot Masters for more vague Stardroids, the levels themselves tend to maintain a clear theme, even if it sometimes is inexplicable. Mars' level takes place in an armory, Jupiter has an ice-covered space fortress and Pluto has a mine. While MMV could have had levels with stronger or more consistent themes and gimmicks, cutting the game some slack seems sensible given the uncharted territory of the bosses and the overall plot. MMV  also carries over the practice of secret rooms that hold power-ups and branching paths-- most curiously in Jupiter's level. Moreover, the levels of MMV are well-designed for the smallscreen and the inclusion of the Mega Arm.

Slip sliding on ice. In space. Genius and sort of scientifically accurate.The mines of PlutoFun times in Venus' level

The Mega Arm is the single most important new gameplay element introduced in Mega Man V. This is no understatement, as it changes the gameplay in three important ways. The first is that its purchasable upgrades makes Dr. Light's Shop relevant in a way that no other upgrade could. Players who know what they're doing will make the purchase of the Clobber Hand and Magnet Hand top priorities as they slug through the levels. The second is that those upgrades allow the player to engage enemies that are all over the screen-- not just those that share the same x-axis as the Mega Buster-- an important change in a game that frequently puts players in tough platforming situations with flying enemies (Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter's levels being chief offenders).

The third is that by having the charged Mega Arm blast meaning a detachment of Mega Man's arm, the player trades power for temporary vulnerability-- not unlike the 1/2 block recoil trade-off from the charged Mega Buster shot in MMIV, but it also has additional implications. The temporary vulnerability that comes with launching the Mega Arm is used against the player in various parts of the game, such as during the fight with Saturn, when time is slowed down by Fooley, or when the Mega Arm launches after the wrong enemy or stays on a foe (or boss) for longer than you wanted.

Navigating Mercury's levelDealing with Fooley in Saturn's levelFighting T. Khamen in Uranus' level

Mega Man's selection of acquired weapons in MMV is just as interesting as the rest of the game. Mercury's Grab Buster is incredibly useful, allowing Mega Man to steal life and weapon energy from enemies as it kills them. Venus' Bubble Bomb travels in a weird arc and floats along ceilings (useful against the multitude of airborne enemies in this game), Mars' Photon Missile is powerful but fires on delay, Neptune's Salt Water is a blob thrown on a downward arc that splashes and hurts enemies (weird). Jupiter's Electric Shock is a short-range weapon that makes the player immovable and Saturn's Black Hole is the requisite full-screen attack that sucks enemies toward the player before killing them. Uranus' Deep Digger is a monochrome version of Guts Man's Super Arm, Pluto's Break Dash is a somewhat cooler version of Charge Man's Charge Kick (both of which can destroy certain blocks, opening up different passages in later levels), and Terra's Spark Chaser is an awesome homing weapon that attacks most enemies until they're all dead.

Fighting Hyoey in Neptune's levelUsing the Grab Buster in Mercury's levelUsing the Break Dash in the Wily Star

Perhaps the best part of Mega Man V is the amount of care put in to making it both an extended shout-out to the fans while being the concluding game in the Game Boy sub-series. Observant folks will notice that the Mega Buster still has its recoil from MMIV when the Blue Bomber tries to fight Terra in the opening cut-scene (and that Sunstar shoots Power Accelerator-enhanced Mega Buster shots from MMIV). Fans of the series finally face-off against a portable version of the Yellow Devil with the mid-game fight against Dark Moon, the series has its first fully SHMUP-style level with the journey in the Rush Space adapter toward the Skull Blazer, and the Mega Man Killers plus Quint make a comeback as mini-bosses during the very, very long Wily Star level. In the end, the player is rewarded with the very first final battle against someone other than Dr. Wily.

Fighting Dark MoonThe Rush Space levelUsing the Salt Water on Punk

Fighting WilyFinal battle against SunstarLooking back on the Wily Star's destruction... and five monochrome adventures. 

As I've said, I am hopelessly biased when it comes to Mega Man V. It was the first Game Boy game I ever owned, and it was pretty much a permanent fixture in my Super Game Boy for the summer of 1995. Over the subsequent eighteen years, a lot has changed–- Pluto isn't a planet anymore, Mario and Sonic are in video games together, dragonfire.net is long gone, I've been to places that resemble other worlds and a thousand other things have happened–- but this game is still just as enjoyable as it was when I considered Calvin & Hobbes fine literature.

Does Mega Man V have problems? Sure. But I will always overlook them. When I play Mega Man V, I am in gaming bliss and it is perpetually summer of 1995. And almost 18 years later, it still feels that way every time I go to save the four-color world from the evil Stardroids.

The End.

James is a feature contributor for The Mega Man Network and a world traveler. He is currently in a faraway land, but he occasionally sends messages in a bottle. If you require more of his love, he left behind a sentient Tumblr account that updates all on its own. James desperately wants a hack of MMV that unlocks the debug menu at least, and if you still questioned his love for this game (or if you need a password for any part of the game), check this out.

The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.

Looking Back: Mega Man IV

MMIV Title Screen As part of our celebration of the Mega Man series hitting its 25th anniversary, we are featuring a look back at many of the games of the Mega Man series. This time, I’m looking at Mega Man IV, one of the best games of not just the Game Boy sub-series, but of the entire Mega Man series.

Regulars to The Mega Man Network may remember that I hold this game as one of the most innovative and influential game in the Classic series. To summarize, MMIV greatly changed the classic series by introducing a true ongoing story, Dr. Light's Shop, a more versatile weapons roster, a great expansion in secret passages and alternate paths, and a fine-tuning of the gameplay to account for Mega Man's greater share of the screen size, a change in gameplay that would carry on with subsequent classic games that featured a far larger Mega Man sprite than the NES installments.

Fighting the Doc TowerJust rightFighting Ballade

But there's more to this game than just these influential innovations. The graphical work is head-and-shoulders above Mega Man III, working in complex sprites and detailed backgrounds without generating slowdown. The developers also finally figured out how best to port over the large enemies from the NES games without making them impossible to defeat. While much of the soundtrack pulls from its source material in Mega Man 4 and 5, the original tracks are also fitting and well-composed considering the hardware limitations. The Robot Master fights are, for the most part, well-calibrated for the Game Boy (with awesome strategies to defeat them shown during the ending) and many of the new bosses are interesting (Doc Tower) and frantic (Ballade, Wily).

The pillars of Crystal Man's level......and the fun platforms of Crystal Man's levelNavigating Ballade's lairToad Man's level

As mentioned above, MMIV featured greater weapon versatility and more branching paths and secret passages. The levels themselves tend to be more complex than anything attempted in the preceding games, be it Toad Man's rain, Crystal Man's moving platforms (and dreaded shifting pillars), Pharaoh Man's falling blocks or Ballade's exploding munition blocks. Even with the Game Boy's limitations, this game has arguably far more interesting levels for the Robot Masters than on their NES outings. Also of note is that MMIV follows MMIII in setting the second four Robot Master levels inside the Wily Fortress, again changing the scenery somewhat while maintaining the theme of the boss (i.e. Napalm Man forgoes the NES jungle for a strictly armory setting).

There are a number of other innovations that turned out to be one-offs. Unique to this game is the kick-back from the Mega Buster that pushes the player back a half-block, changing the dynamic of the gameplay in a small but important way. This marks the only Game Boy game to feature Beat, who becomes available after collecting the BEAT letters in the first four Robot Master levels. The second set of Robot Master levels feature WILY letters throughout the levels that must be collected in order to move on to the final Wily levels.

Finally, the Power Accelerator is introduced in this game. If the player chooses to continue after losing all lives four times in a row on the same level, Dr. Light upgrades the speed of the Mega Buster shots and the shape of the charged shot. Given the relative slowness of the regular Mega Buster, one wishes that this would have been a purchasable upgrade from the store (or at least could be retained in passwords). Though most of these innovations would not be retained beyond this installment or the Game Boy sub-series, they all add something new to the formula and make this game that much more of a unique experience.

Entering the fortress using the WILY lettersUsing the Power Accelerator upgrade to the Mega Buster Fighting Dr. Wily (the only GB game with a saucer fight!)

After all these years, Mega Man IV is still one of the best, if relatively unknown Mega Man games. Not only did it set the Classic series on a new course, it features some of the best level design and greatest graphics possible on the original Game Boy (it also had a great debug menu). The platform which was once considered a gaming backwater reserved for watered-down versions of simple NES games became the home of one of the Blue Bomber's best outings ever, easily outdoing the "source material" of MM4 and MM5. Only a trip to the outer reaches of the solar system could outdo this 1993 classic.

James is a feature contributor for The Mega Man Network and world traveler. He is currently in a faraway land, but he occasionally sends messages in a bottle. If you require more of his love, he left behind a sentient Tumblr account that updates all on its own.

The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.