Do ‘ya wanna know what I hate the most about Mega Man 7? The opening cutscene. Not the one that precedes the title screen. Mind you, that series of flat-coloured still images is very uninspiring, and the revelation of four hidden robots designed in the event of Dr Wily’s capture is about as basic a plot as a Mega Man game can get (and should get…) but that Title Screen cutscene has one very, very, very important advantage that I appreciate ever so much; I can press the Start button at any time and end the toil.
No, it’s the initial cutscene, after you start a new game in Mega Man 7 that mega-irates me. A helmet-less Rock (I guess he needs the helmet to truly become Mega Man), Roll and (introducing) Auto the big green mechanic-bot are having a joy-ride while enjoying a conversation with AGONIZINGLY PAINSTAKINGLY BURDENSOME slow-scrolling text when Wily’s robots begin their brouhaha on the city. The three stooge-bots take a gander in the distance to witness a UFO blast out of a jail, for in this city, the largest and most noteworthy skyscraper is the prison. Wily’s free, and only one big blue bot can deal with it. So Auto gives Mega Man a yellow construction hat, a pause ensues, we’re supposed to laugh, we don’t, so Auto gives him the blue helmet and Mega Man is reborn! After about 3 minutes of liquefied annoyance, we’re finally allowed to play as Mega Man in the Mega Man game we have bought. For about 3 minutes, we do some rudimentary platform jumping, smoke a few basic robots, smash a liberty-spiked cyperpunk steamroller-bot and then…watch another cutscene. So we get even more ARDOUSLY GRUELINGLY WRETCHED text introducing us to yet another ancillary mysterious character, Bass. Now, there’s only room for one ancillary mysterious character in any Japanese franchise and Proto Man is filling that spot comfortably, so we can all safely assume Bass is going to double-cross you.
I don’t know if I should praise Mega Man 7 for having a light storyline or trash it for even having a storyline. On one hand, the story is very basic and pointless, wasting my time with the DISTRESSFULLY EXCRUCIATING DEATH-RIDDEN slow-moving text. People play Mega Man to destroy charismatic bosses, steal their powers and write down elaborate grid-passwords on many, many sheets of paper, not for storyline. (And speaking of, the password system in Mega Man 7 is a hefty beast.) But on the other hand, other Mega Man games, like the Zeros and ZXs that try to create their own universes with fleshed out characters and even more mountains of GOD-AWFUL TOILSOMELY WON’T GO TO HELL FAST ENOUGH text and fail so spectacularly that “Dr Wily escapes from jail” isn’t really that such a crime after all.
On a positive note, time may prove to be Mega Man 7’s best friend. Back in 1995, every other game was a bland side-scroller that needed to wear a silver-lined glove to be worthy of changing the roll of toilet paper Donkey Kong Country used to clean itself. And it seemed odd for Capcom to revisit the original, long-since fossilized Mega Man franchise after having already reimagining it to the more chiq and semi-interesting Mega Man X. But in 2009, where a good 2D platformer is a sparse thing to find and with the context of Mega Man X long gone, the beacon of Mega Man 7 shines more brightly. And unlike most SNES games, there’s no Mode 7-induced wrinkles, just really bad music and DAMNED…well text.
And I used to hate the art style of Mega Man 7 as a youngin. The brighter colours of the SNES made the anime influence shine more thoroughly and, more than any of the low-tech NES games, reminded me that Mega Man is a ripoff of Astro Boy. But in hindsight, the more fruitful design lends the game to its more unique sense of character, the kind of character we rarely see in games today. Mega Man will fight robotic stegosauruses, robotic T-rexes with big yellow jaws, a robot driving a bulldozer, a cuddly-yet-vicious polar bear and other strange machinations that are indefinitely more unorthodox and amusing than fighting evil ugly aliens for the umpteenth time.
And Mega Man 7 is even greater when you play it right after playing the first six Mega Mans. The levels are bigger, longer, more open, have branching paths and filled with more unique obstacles. A stage where the walls and floors are all covered in bouncy springs? Why not? Concepts like the Ice level, the Air level and the Haunted House are old hat in 2D platformers, but seeing unique twists like the robotic zombie make it all worth the while. And even the robot masters, while still pattern-driven, have more elaborate combat routines. Fighting any of them with the regular Mega-Handgun provides a hefty challenge, but on the same token, these guys become one legged robots in an ass-kicking contest when faced with their weakness-weapon.
Along the way, you’ll search the levels and look for hidden powerups. Beat makes a return if you can find him. But Beat can go fly into a skyscraper at night for all I care. Maybe that prison skyscraper. You start the game with the Rush Coil (not the boring “leaping platform” Rush Coil of Mega Man 5, but the Johnny Knoxville-style cannon-like Rush Coil of old) and you can ultimately dig up the Rush Jet and Rush…Search. The Rush Search is a dumb powerup where Rush appears, wastes a minute sniffing around and digs up either a minor power-up or gibberish. Also, in a throwback to Mega Man 6’s one good idea, you can collect the letters “RUSH” early on to unlock the ability to sexually fuse with Rush into jetpacking, fisting-powered
There’s a few other nice little trinkets to dig up. You could try to be all resourceful and seek them out yourself. Or you can just get the answers off the internet. At any point at the “next victim select screen”, you can press Select and access Auto’s shop. Here, you’ll be able to spend bolts and wasted time watching more damned dialogue to purchase a number of powerups. Going back to my “don’t be a sucka, just use the internet” idea, there’s a hidden, really big screw in the game. By giving this to Auto, he will drill this screw into his brain all suicidal-like, only to enter a very Japaneesey pose and become inspired to reduce the prices on all his items from the brain damage.
So who has Wily banked on in the case of Emergency? Why, the same old designs he always sticks to, of course. Lord knows, building a “Minigun Man” or an “Atomic Bomb Man” is well outside his box of thinking.
Burst Man: Dr Wily has some kind of very serious, very twisted Bubble fetish. Burst Man rises from the ashes of Bubble Man to challenge the world with suds of savagery, even going so far as to launch some bubbles from a blower on the top of his skull. He’s both vicious and kind of adorable. At least this time around, Wily had the common sense to outfit his bubbles with mini-bombs, so maybe Burst Man can truly cause some urban destruction with his soap.
Freeze Man: Meet Ice Man’s daddy. Freeze Man is some kind of guru of water solidification, capable of freezing surfaces and generating large ice picks from between his thighs. Freeze Man strikes me as the artiste of the four jailbreakers; he carries with him a certain mystique, an aura of creativity, that perhaps he bares with him a painter’s spirit waiting to be explored. If only Mega Man didn’t destroy him so easily, prompting his exile from all of gaming.
Cloud Man: Dr Wily is so powerful of a mad scientist that he has successfully weaponized the Taj Mahal! In fact, Wily’s programming prowess is such that his Taj Mahalbot is only good enough to be his emergency rescue robot. Cloud Man floats around, has mastery over lightning and rain, and is a bit chunky. I guess obesity is a side of having no legs to hit the treadmill with. Being non-pedal, Mega Man is capable of evading damage by using his trademark baseball slide to dive beneath Cloud Man. Speaking of, the sexy pose Mega Man enters during a slide is steamier than ever, and Rock looks ready to rock as he’s sliding under and checking out Cloud Man’s junk. Speaking of junk…
Junk Man: On second thought, maybe Dr Wily was more of a fringe-kind of programmer. But still, the existence of Junk Man proves that sometimes you can indeed create something from nothing. Junk Man challenges the world’s might by throwing his…crap at the enemy. When you consider how large landfills have been growing, perhaps Junk Man’s power could very well equal that of an Atomic Bomb Man. Don’t litter, kids.
At first glance, it may come off as a bit odd that there would only be four robots. You have to cut Wily some slack, one can only design so many death machines in secret. It’s fortunate that the cunning mad scientist is a quick builder and the time taken to defeat the above is enough for Wily to construct a more Frightful Four.
Spring Man: And this time around, Dr Wily is looking to children’s fads for his inspiration. Keeping mind that this game was made in 1995-ish, though Capcom may have thought that the Slinky would still be en vogue in 20XX. Battling adversaries with lethal springs and jabs that boast the kind of reach that can win a boxing match two rooms down the hall, Spring Man is a goofy-looking threat not to be taken lightly.
Turbo Man: I’m not going to say “inspired by Formula 1 racing” because Formula 1 race cars are designed to fall apart at the slightest tap. Inspired by Micro Machines, Crash Test Dummies and Transformers, Turbo Man threatens the Mega Man universe merely by being a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Shade Man: Inspired by Count Chocola, Shade Man is an honest to god vampire capable of latching on to Mega Man, biting his neck, drinking his…oil, and regaining health. And he’s pretty damned good at being the stereotypical 90s vampire, too. All you Twilight freaks take note; here’s the visage of a 90s children’s vampire. Or at least the ripoff of a ripoff of one.
Slash Man: Isn’t it obvious?
Okay, this long-haired, big-clawed fiend is perhaps more blatantly imitating a famous comic book hero whom recently starred in a film who’s ATROCIOUS DISPICABLE MINDROT dialogue puts Mega Man 7 to shame. As for Slash Man, he also throws giant red eggs as a projectile, prematurely ending many dinosaurs’ lives just to defeat you. Vegans beware.
The time it takes to defeat these wretched fools is just enough for Dr Wily to construct a brand-spanking new Skull Fortress Mega Fortress, with four new stages of platforming peril. To my surprise, these stages were challenging, kind of fun and…a bit too short. Before you know it, you’re at the gates of hell, challenging Wily to a battle of Heaven versus Hell. The final battle with Wily (in that damned UFO that he has to use in every damned game) is so annoying that you’ll need a full suite of energy tanks to just barely eek out a win. I know someone out there is going to take offense and say “well you just suck at this game, fool” and my response will be a raised middle finger or two. Sorry, but I don’t care to memorize nine different defense patterns for his nine possible projectile attacks. He’s just a great, great pain, and if you screw up once, you’ll have to find yourself revisiting an earlier level to harvest more bolts so you can buy more energy tanks from Crazy Auto’s Crazy Item Emporium.
On the upside, Mega Man himself shares my frustration at having to deal with another UFO battle and decides that arrest is not good enough. He threatens to murder(!!) Dr Wily before Bass’s mutt comes to the rescue. As you can see, I’ve got no issues spoiling this whole danged game.
So I’m a bit torn on where I stand on Mega Man 7. Just like with the Mega Man Zeros and ZXs of the world, the game is great when asked to be just another Mega Man game. Good stages, good bosses, good, challenging fun. But on the other hand, the annoying story sequences bogged the experience down, and the final boss left me feeling a bit angered walking away. I would suggest that certain Mega Man X games and even a few of the NES games provide a more exciting experience, but if you’re playing this on the Mega Man Anniversary Collection (HINT! HINT!) then 7 is a game at least worthy of your time.
3 ½ stars