There's certainly less impact with this than the previous ones, but it's still great.
This is the entry which Capcom went “all out” when it comes to Mega Man. Whatever it was that could be fixed from the second iteration you can be sure that they managed to do something about it. After the first two we could be certain that this formula was what Capcom had in store anyway, so it turns into a love/hate situation from now on. If you enjoyed the series thus far, there’s not much to dislike here, if you didn’t, nothing had really changed so your opinion probably won’t as well.
You know the drill, start only with your Mega Buster — an all around decent weapon with infinite ammunition –, face each of the 8 courses, fight a Robot Master at the end, steal his special weapon, form your arsenal and head for the showdown against the evildoer Dr. Wily. This would continue on for quite a while. If you think that this third chapter was released in 1990, which is the year that the Super Famicon hit stores in Japan and they would go on and still release three more for the original Nintendo/Famicon, you would know pretty well they didn’t intend to let this go easily.
Mega Man still plays much like it did in Mega Man 2, with the addition of a slide maneuver by pressing down and the jump button. It has since become standard in the series so it’s a pretty nice add. You can also carry more recovery tanks, up to 9 at one time. They will come in handy since this is probably the hardest game in the series.
The difficulty is set to 10, from the Robot Masters, to the stages themselves. After beating all 8 stages you get to unlock 4 extra stages where you need to re-fight the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2. Each stage features a harder version of the same ones you had previously beaten — the stages themselves are not from Mega Man 2, they’re harder versions of the ones found in this one —, along with two bosses from the previous game, one in the middle and one at the end. Some stages go far as adding sub-bosses in-between, just to spice things up a bit.
They probably did this because when you finally have your arsenal complete and ready for action, you have beaten all stages anyway, so they could only let loose their worst in Dr. Wily’s stage. This time, you get to use the upgrades installed on Mega Man’s Robot Dog, named Rush, in a more meaningful manner during these extra stages.
The three Rush upgrades offer great possibilites in level design. The first turns him into a flying machine, this time controllable in the 2-dimensional space and able to shoot down enemies. The second makes him become a submarine of some sort, again fully controllable and equipped with weaponry. The last one is the slingshot that lets you get catapulted to normally unreachable high places when you jump on his back.
After beating the 8 original plus the 4 extra courses you get to invade Dr. Wily’s Castle once again. And as you probably had figured out already, it’s hard. Sure, some of the stages here are among the most memorable in Mega Man’s history, like Snake Man’s stage and Gemini Man’s one. The soundtrack is just as incredible as you could possibly think of, it follows the second game’s treatment for creating an absolutely catchy mood for each of the themes, and it does exactly that in wonderful fashion.
Graphically the game stands out mostly because the developers had reached state-of-the-art technique with the NES/Famicon hardware. Unfortunately many slowdowns will occur when there’s too much going on at a given moment, but it happened in past games as well and doesn’t really break gameplay. I’m just not sure about the new HUD for changing weapons, when you still haven’t got all gun upgrades it doesn’t work like it should, often not selecting a weapon because it’s all grouped in two rows, and when the rows aren’t filled they tend to skip.
They managed to keep the weapon upgrades interesting. Stuff like a laser beam and a spin attack share place with more traditional stuff. It’s important to notice that each Robot Master is unique, so their weapon must be too. At least at this point they hadn’t refurbished ideas into later games. Thematic stages seem much less predictable, they have already used their fire and ice scenarios, so they keep getting cleverer and cleverer when designing new stages and robots wielding unique special weapons.
Yes, Mega Man 3 is probably the most polished game yet. It comes at a price, it’s also the least impacting. So little is actually new here that you start to wonder how much they can keep going with this. It’s a successful formula, they’re managing to keep it interesting, but even good things must come to an eventual end. So far, Capcom has pulled enough tricks from their sleeve to maintain Mega Man as one of the most important brands in the industry. The third game succeeds at what it tries to convey.