Mega Man: A Middle-Aged Man's Legacy
Though it boasts quite possibly the worst box art of not only any Mega Man game, but any NES game, how much do we owe to this classic? Well, let's find out as I attempt to rekindle those lost childhood memories, taking you through the original Mega Man, overviewing the Story, Graphics, Sound, and Gameplay, and as a little bonus, I'll be scoring each of the six Robot Masters. Hope you're ready!
Upon flicking your NES on, you are greeted by a default blue screen spouting "Mega Man" - okay, straight to the point - I like that. We enter the game, greeted by our six baddies (in alphabetical order as I really don't see enough overall challenge to execute a pattern): Bomb Man, Cut Man, Elec Man (hereafter Electric Man), Fire Man, Guts Man, and Ice Man. Originally created by Dr. Light for industrial use, they were hijacked by an angry Dr. Wily who felt useless and unappreciated, who consequently re-programmed them into killing machines (aka Robot Masters). (And on a bit of a side note here, what self-respecting doctor who works for the cause of good would align themselves to an individual who goes by the name of "Wily"?) That's about it for the story, though, so let the madness begin!
Kicking things off we have Bomb Man. One can only assume this bot's original function was to clear out buildings or scrap blocks, as his name implies. Quite possibly the easiest of the six, one must only avoid him landing on Mega Man when he comes down from his jumps, and avoid his bombs (pff, child's play...). Not much else can be said about this big baddie, as if you steer clear of his bombs and landings, he'll be gone in no time. Demolish him quickly to inherit the Hyper Bomb.
Overall, Bomb Man warrents a weak 2/5
Next up we have Cut Man. Originally designed to chop down trees for construction purposes (if I remember correctly), Cut Man now detaches his razor-sharp sheers for a new purpose: to destroy Mega Man. Upon doing so, he will chuck his shears at you, which shortly thereafter return to their master. Couple this with his impressive jumping abilities (which can prove awfully inconvienant to those unfamiliar with any form of a "pattern" he possesses), and you could have a problem on your hands. Probably not, though. Upon his destruction you inherit the razor-sharp Rolling Cutter.
A classic foe for sure, Cuts Man earns himself a healthy 3/5
Third in line is Electric Man. Quite possibly the toughest of all the original Robot Masters, he was obviously the 'bot created with the most care and devotion. He will run around chucking electrically charged wire at you, so look out: he deals out mondo damage to the Blue Bomber through both contact and his wires, making him a formidable opponent to our hero. Best bet here is to eliminate him quickly with the Rolling Cutter, at which point you will inherit his Thunder Beam. Shocking!
Being the paralyzing boss he is, Electric Man gets a respectable 4/5
Our next challenge is Guts man. Being designed for easy transportation of large, heavy objects, his name implies exactly what he is capable of: mercilessly beating you into a pile of useless robotic parts. Just let me say, this guy is more annoying than challenging. His pattern mainly consists of jumping around, causing the ground to quake and concequently Mega Man to lie there stunned for a second or two, while he tosses big blocks of death at you. Dispatch this "man" to inherit the mighty Super Arm.
Out of sheer strength and annoyance alone, Guts Man proves worthy of a hefty 3.5/5
Next is the (literally) hot-headed Fire Man. The most, erm... eccentrially designed of our six opponents, Fire Man has a device on his head which sprays fire (as per design only, however: no attacks here!), and he can withstand even the hottest of hot. My battles never really lasted long enough to find a "pattern" per se; from what I can tell, he'll just stand there and mindlessly lob huge, scorcing flames of firey destruction at you. Blast away with your mighty pellet gun (or Ice Slasher for the perfectionists out there) and you'll be rewarded with the hottest weapon of all: Fire Storm.
In all his bland glory, Fire Man is down in the dumps with a 2.5/5
Last, but certainly not least, we have Ice Man. Originally designed for arctic exploration, he now lives in an empire of ice (imagine that). Boasting what is, in my opinion, the hardest level in the game, this kid (or man, rather), does not F around. After cursing at your screen seemingly forever while fighting your way through a barrage of flying penguins, disappearing blocks, and mid-air transportation bots, one is not greeted with a nice cup of hot cocoa after completing this stage; instead, sharp lances of ice capable of cutting straight through our hero. Figure a way to navigate through his unholy ice cubes of death (or just stand there and rapidly shoot until he's destroyed), and you're rewarded with the bone-chilling Ice Slasher.
Based more on his level than his challenge, Ice Man gets my respect with a nice 4/5
After completion of the six Robot Masters you are taken to Dr. Wily's hideout (yes, I called it a hideout, as there is no real "castle" to speak of), all with their own challenges (Damn you, Yellow Devil!), eventually taking you straight through the six Robot Masters, yet again, before the "final" showdown. Joy!
GRAPHICS / DESIGN 4/5
The graphics in this one are simple and basic. Why they designed Mega Man as a middle-aged weirdo in blue and yellow holding a gun in the original box art is beyond me, but what matters is the Mega Man in the game is the Blue Bomber we would come to know and love for many, many years to come.
The simple design of enemies works on the level they should work on, and who can argue with that? Aside from our hero himself, we are treated to several crazily-designed bosses: from Bomb Man's mohawk to Fire Man's torch-head, all of these baddies are instantly recognizable today, and in that, I feel the designers have accomplished their goal.
The level scheme is also a very nice feature: while most platformers work well in the themes they have, traveling from landscape to landscape, Mega Man seemingly one-ups it and puts on a great showing in the themes of each Robot Master's level. For example, Guts Man is hidden deep within a wild construction site, while Electric Man hangs out atop what one can assume to be some sort of ascending electrical tower; so on and so forth, all up until the wild hideout of Dr. Wily himself.
Nothing memorable here; just some different tunes for each level. While they can be a bit obnoxious at times, the themes somehow fit the levels they're placed in, which is enough to warrent a decent 3 out of 5. Nothing too bad, but nothing that will keep you humming for hours after playing.
Originally, I stuck gameplay / control with an "okay" 3.5 out of 5, but I mean come on. You run, you jump, you shoot. While strategy may come into play (utilizing different weaponry to easily take out different bosses), overall it's just brutal, straightforward shooting. Aside from the somewhat "sticky" controls that can be a bit distracting and somewhat sketchy at times (travelling from platform to platform, avoiding holes in the tracks in the beginning of Guts Man's stage comes to mind), there's nothing to really complain about here. Overall the controls are pretty solid for what they're worth, and venturing from one bosses lair to the next set the path for basically every Mega Man game that followed. Groovy!
In all, the first installment of the Mega Man series wasn't a terrible way to kick things off with the ever-popular franchise; it's just... different. In and between the point system, item designs, Mega Man's odd attire during the ending sequence, and the not-so-memorable tunes, the game may seem lackluster by today's standards, but one must admit that without it, we may have an entirely different Mega Man today. You may want to bust this one out every now and again on your NES for those nice "old school" memories, or even on a more current system (MM Anniversary Collection / any of today's respective online stores) to being those old nostalgic feelings.
Overall, Mega Man earns a mediocre 3.5/5. Fire away!