Mega Man 9 Review: Better Late Than Never

For some reason game companies feel compelled to stay on the cutting edge of technology, mostly because they assume that’s what their consumers want. However, on certain occasions that mentality ends of destroying beloved franchises. For years now, Mega Man has been one of those casualties. A franchise that has been around for 25 years or so Mega Man has “evolved” into something completely different from where it started. Fortunately for long time fans of the series, as well as an entirely new generation, the newest iteration of Mega Man has the potential to become a classic of a new kind – hopefully setting the industry down a new path where they embrace their roots. “Mega Man 9” truly kicks it old school.

The first thing that everyone noticed about “Mega Man 9” was the distinct choice of art style that the developers decided to go with. A true throwback to the 8-bit style of the NES, “Mega Man 9” is pixel perfect, and it continues the style of the original, creating an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for anyone that has ever died repeatedly on a disappearing brick. To complete the experience of playing an old NES cartridge Capcom even included an option to turn on or off flicker that was always present in the originals. Well played Inafune-san, well played.

The gameplay in “Mega Man 9” is virtually no different than any other of the games from the 2D platformers of the original series. You play as Mega Man who, equipped with his trusty Mega Buster as his arm, and his robot pup Rush at his side, must shoot and precision jump his way through eight levels, each of which culminate in a battle against a robot boss who is equipped with a special power (as well as a special weakness). It’s amazing how, in an era where the games industry strives for innovation and advancement between sequels, it’s somehow reassuring to play a game where “more of the same” is exactly what works for this particular title.

For all of its retro touches, “Mega Man 9” does take advantage of newer technology as well. In game achievements across all platforms (in addition to the Xbox 360’s virtually impossible set), downloadable content, and online leader boards all keep The Blue Bomber’s latest adventure on par with most other releases coming out this year.

For all the greatness of this game, there are a couple of faults from it being truly perfect. First of all, Hornet Man? Really? Is this how bad the series has gotten? While I concede that both the boss and the stage are well crafted and play very well, it’s a robot that shoots bees at you. I suppose it is one of the downfalls of being the 9th game in a series, but I miss the greats like Cutman and Air Man. On the other side of the coin, a hearty welcome to Splash Woman, the first lady robot to ever take on Mega Man in the series.

Next is (and you all saw this coming) the difficulty. Personally, this game is exactly on par with it’s predecessors as well as it’s “contemporaries” from the 80’s, however, some of the more spoiled gamers of today might find it too challenging. Repetition used to be a key gameplay component, but nowadays people take extra lives, and infinite respawns for granted. There’s one thing about the Mega Man series that has always remained true – the more you play it the better the gamer you become. Each of the games in the series have pushed your reflexes to their limits, forced you to perfect your jumps, and tested your patience, all of these skills carry over to other games and actually help you play better. “Mega Man 9” is no different, and for that I commend it.

Unlike its predecessors, “Mega Man 9” is being released on multiple platforms, all in downloadable form. As for which console to pick up the game on, it’s really a matter of personal preference, since all are almost identical. Personally, I find it hard to play an “8-bit” Mega Man game on a console that doesn’t being with an “N.”

Times have changed, and so have the ways that gamers game. With great games coming out every week it seems that a typical gamer might not have the time or patience to devote to perfecting one title – especially not a single player title. That’s not how things always were. When you relied on your parents to cover your gaming expenses, and you only able to get one game for your birthday, it had better have been the best. “Mega Man 9” would have been the perfect gift for any 8-year-old boy in 1988. 20 years later, there’s a good chance that same 8-year-old would be happy to give “MM9” a shot.

With the release of “Mega Man 9” It’s almost like Capcom heard the prayers of every gamer over the age of 25. For some reason, releasing a game that looks like something that came out 25 years ago is unheard of in the gaming industry, and yet “MM9” was one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Could Capcom capture lightning in a bottle by updating a classic franchise through regression? The answer is a clear and resounding YES. Battling your way through the game’s punishing levels as the Blue Bomber is like stepping into a time machine and going back to a simpler time in gaming’s history – the 1980’s. Back then, all you needed was a sprite and a dream – and usually a whole lot of time on your hands. “MM9” proves that it’s not just nostalgia that you need to make a game like this – there has to be a good game underneath. Not every franchise could pull something like this off (although I can think of a few that should try), Capcom made a great choice for this title, and it’s deserves a 9.5 out of $10.*

*2.0’s reviews are based on a sliding scale to help you, the gamer, make better purchasing decisions. The review ratings are based on the cost of the game, so, if an Xbox 360 or PS3 game costs $60, they can get a rating of what the game should cost, somewhere in the range of 0-60. So, for this review, “Mega Man 9” received a 9.5 out of $10, meaning the price that seems appropriate is $9.5, and if it is ever priced $9.5 it is a definite purchase. In more traditional terms, 9.5 out of $10 equals a 9.5.

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