A primordial event.
This is the very first release for the Mega Man series and the first of the original hexalogy released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)/Famicon. It features many aspects that would later become standard for the Mega Man series, but most of them are still in a very archaic state and would get severely improved in subsequent games.
The basic rules are simple, start a stage, fight a hoard of mechanical enemies carrying your unlimited Mega Buster — in this release simply called P –, try to reach the end of the level to fight a Robot Master. Robot Masters are stronger foes than regular ones and wield a special weapon that has to do with the robot’s build. Cutman for example has a weapon that unleashed scissors, Ice Man has a weapon that throws ice. You get the idea.
If you manage to defeat said Robot Masters you get to keep their original weapon. This helps both during levels since some enemies are actually immune to regular Buster blasts and on the remaining Robot Masters you have yet to defeat. This creates a kind of linearity that’s pretty peculiar to the Mega Man series. You generally try the Robots to see which one you can defeat more easily without any upgrades, get his upgrade and from then on try to find who’s the weakest target for your newly upgraded arsenal.
If you have the information about which one is weak to which weapons it’s simply a matter of picking the best order. If you somehow don’t have that information, you will have to grind your way through, trying levels and weapons. This kind of hardcore difficulty setting was pretty standard in the 80’s. Games were meant to rob you blind for coins in the arcades and provide challenge in home systems. Mega Man does exactly that on the original Nintendo console.
The levels seem stripped to basics, like a wild and still unfathomable wilderness. They are hard, even more cruel if you take in consideration that you didn’t even had passwords at the time, let alone save files. You also didn’t have other items that made the quest a little more tolerable in later games, like life canteens. To make things worse some enemies move in weird patterns and some are unreachable by shooting from ground height, meaning you need to either find your way around, shoot by small jumps from lower levels or using special weapons.
You need to be careful about using the special weapons though, you will need one of them close to full for the last fight, so in the first levels your best bet is to resort to using your good old Buster anyway. Especially since special replenishers seem harder to come by than in later games.
Not all is a complete nightmare. The Robot Master are fairly easy in this first installment than they would become in later games. Sometimes, when using the right weapon of course, 3 blasts might defeat your opponent. You don’t even have to dodge anything, simply grind away whatever special gun is most effective and you’re done.
This is actually the only Mega Man to feature less Robot Masters, it has a total of 6, along with 6 main stages and the last showdown in the domains of Dr. Wily’s himself. There’s a total of 4 stages in Dr. Wily’s Factory along with a final boss for each segment. In later games you reach a certain point where you re-fight all the Robot Masters in the final stage, this first game did not feature such a system yet; instead, you only need to make the rematch with 4 of the Robot Masters.
Graphically this resembles a lot later games in the NES/Famicon, now part of the classic 6 original games, though in a more primordial form. Later games would use the engine in more varied, more clever ways. The sound effects are also pretty rudimentary, already in the second game Capcom would get much better at creating better sound tracks and effects. The sound doesn’t exactly create an atmosphere around the stage itself, but instead seems to just constantly remind you that you’re playing an 8-bit game. Different generation of gamers would have differing views on that matter, that’s for sure. It might sound old-schooll today, but at the time it simply sounded like gaming.
The core of this game is pretty solid, this is meant for gamers that won’t be scared off by a challenge. It’s not pretty and it doesn’t seem to care about your feelings, it will make you twist in anger if you’re not prepared. Mega Man games are grindy and hard, but this one is a notch above the rest. It hails from an age where games could provide little more than that. Sadly, even if you enjoyed later games in the classic series you might be a little underwhelmed by this release. It definitely should be on the radar of anyone who enjoys the series to a certain point, just don’t expect the same level of polish because this is where everything started, and we should be glad it did.