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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 the black sheep of the Game Boy sub-series, Mega Man II.
Unlike all the other Game Boy games, Mega Man II was developed by a team from Biox, rather than Minakuchi Engineering. Who knows what was in the water at Biox, as Mega Man II is probably one of the weirder installments of the Mega Man series. Given that the games are about a boy robot who runs around in his underwear and fights an evil scientist with his pet robot dog, that's saying something.
The plot of MMII is bizarre-- Dr. Wily invents a time machine and skips to the future, somehow defeats Mega Man there and brings him back to the past after modifying him, calling him "Quint." This brings up a number of questions, like why wouldn't Dr. Wily just go back into the past when Mega Man was just sitting around and tweeting and then just do him in there? Or how did Dr. Wily capture Mega Man in the future but cannot seem to defeat him in the present? The Japanese version has Dr. Wily simply creating Quint with futuristic technology, but that's still sort of problematic. I would not harp on the subject as much, but it directly led to another, even more bizarre game (or did it?), so there you go.
Beyond the story, MMII is still pretty odd. This is the only installment of the first four sub-series games to feature unique music throughout the game, and while the remixes make it sound a bit better, the originals tend to be grating.
On the plus side, this is also the only installment that seems to scale down many of the enemy sprites (including bosses) to account for the transition to the smaller Game Boy screen. The sprite work itself is a bit lacking, but it does make the game a bit less frustrating. The frustration level is also lowered a bit by giving the player the ability to slide and all three (redrawn) Rush Adapters. Overall, Mega Man seems far stronger than most of the enemies, and the level design is far more forgiving than its predecessor. These changes make this the easiest of the five monochrome installments by far.
The levels themselves tend to follow their NES counterparts with some notable exceptions. Crash Man (or is it Clash Man?) has a level that somewhat resembles his NES pipe tower, but features a backdrop of... mountains. Top Man's level gets an odd water section around the half-way mark, and Wood Man's level features a bottomless watery pit alongside the needle pillars from Needle Man's level.
One other observation-- gate weirdness carries on from Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge. The player can see into the gate room before a Robot Master before entering, and entering the gate causes a slow pan of the screen.
The end of the game is also sort of out there. Wily's underground base is a teleporter hatch room that leads to four of the MM3 Robot Masters, followed by a fight with Quint, the pathetically easy version of Mega Man from the future. Oddly enough, Quint is unique among the Game Boy bosses for having 32 hit points.
After obtaining Quint's pogo stick Sakugarne, the player is whisked away to the requisite Wily Space Base (featuring the first appearance of the Rush Space Adapter!), which apparently happens to also have a time distortion occurring inside of it. The backdrop features numerous Dalí's Clocks, and the obstacles themselves are sort of nonsensical, with random water segments and ladders going everywhere (perhaps a reference to this artwork).
The final battle with Dr. Wily is just as bizarre as the rest of the game, with the mad doctor in walking skull and dragon tank things. Unlike in the previous game, these final battles are fairly easy and the small size of the Wily Machines makes maneuvering far easier, even if using the Sakugarne.
In the end, Capcom dropped Biox from its future Mega Man projects after determining that they really didn't understand the series quite as well as the previous team. While across the board most folks hold this game in contempt, it is worth noting that this team attempted to address some of the issues brought on by transitioning the series to the Game Boy and with including a second set of Robot Master levels and greater graphical detail, pushing the platform even further than its predecessor.
Biox also made the right call by having Rush Coil being rewarded for defeating a Robot Master rather than beginning the game with it, given that the Coil's main purpose to reach power-ups out of reach (and thus usually becoming a question of if the player has the patience to pause and choose to use the item or not, rather than being rewarded with the ability to get the power-ups). The future games in the series would continue to refine the formula just as MMII attempted, eventually perfecting it and changing the series as a whole. While this game gets a lot of understandable hate, many still find it hard to deny the weird, inexplicable charm that comes with nostalgia-the persistence of memories, long ago.
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.