|Publisher & Designer:||Capcom|
|Release Date:||December 1987|
Now this is the stuff that legends are made of! Deep in the quiet of a wintry December night way back in 1987, a relatively obscure Capcom title dubbed "Mega Man" hit the shelves of various electronic and toy stores throughout the country. And what a game it was! With its perfect blend of sensational graphics and music, rock-solid play control, and fantastically unique gameplay, Mega Man introduced us to what would become one of the most popular and beloved series of video games ever! And it all goes back to the original game being the timeless classic that it is.
Overview: First of all, I want to dedicate this review to those of you who have been clamoring for me to write a review of the first Mega Man game. Your persistence has paid off! ;) It's not that I dislike the original Mega Man classic; perhaps it is because I played Mega Man 2 first and didn't get around to trying out the original game until after playing Mega Man 4 that I somehow missed posting a review of the original classic. But no more! I am going to complete the NES set of reviews before all of the loyal MM1 fans string me up! Now, if I could only write a review for the original Super Mario Bros. game as well...
But I digress. On to the review! The original Mega Man game was actually released during a slight lull in the NES' life. It wasn't really until early-to-mid 1988 that the NES began to really hit its stride. Finding a truly great NES game during 1986 and 1987 was truly a hit-or-miss endeavor. For every gem like a Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda, there would be way too many horrific games Hydlide or Deadly Towers waiting to torture poor gamers. This uncertainty is probably the main reason why Mega Man wasn't an instant success. Capcom did have a good reputation with classics such as Ghosts 'n Goblins, Section Z, Trojan, and a plethora of other games gracing the NES and/or arcades keeping gamers pleased. However, it wasn't really until Mega Man 2 came out during the summer of 1989 that the Blue Bomber started to become a household name.
So with that in mind, what exactly was it that caused Mega Man to blossom into one of the all-time greats while steering clear of the obscurity tag that haunted so many other NES games that came out around this time? (I'm looking at you, Sqoon.) Well, it's probably a combination of things. Being a Capcom game certainly helped and fitting neatly into the action genre wasn't a bad thing either. Most action games at the time were pretty clunky and none of them seemed to offer much in terms of originality. But the main reason for Mega Man's success is pretty universal for all great games. Mega Man was outstanding in virtually every area and separated itself from the pack with exceptional play control, intuitive gameplay, and graphics and music that blew away the rest of the competition. When you do those things, you give yourself a chance to win over the gaming community. And this game definitely won me over! The great Mario finally had some worthy competition! And that is saying something when you consider that just a few years earlier, Super Mario Bros. not only saved the video game industry, but utterly thrashed the competition while he was at it.
Back to Mega Man, what really leapt out at me regarding the first installment was the ability to choose which level you wanted to play first. This was completely unheard of at the time and gave gamers a sense of freedom you just didn't have back then. In a linear, straight-forward world, Mega Man offered the gamer a plethora of choices right from the get-go. Not only that, but once you defeated a boss, you gained his power and could use that power throughout the rest of the game! Not only was using a variety of weapons with different functions fun (e.g. the Elec Beam fires in three directions, the Ice Slasher freezes enemies and objects like fire, etc...), but you eventually discovered that each boss had an inherent weakness to one particular weapon! This added a unique puzzle element to an action game which was quite the oxymoron in 1987. Not only for the boss battles, but the game in general. Certain enemies would be susceptible to particular weapons and it was your job to find out what those weaknesses were! Gameplay elements like these really made Mega Man a unique, enjoyable gameplay experience.
Graphics: Mega Man games and high-quality graphics have always been synonymous with each other and it all began here! While the colors, sprites, and backgrounds look very nice in Mega Man, the sheer variety is what really blew me away! You just didn't come across games where Stage 1 looked all that much different from Stage 6 and Mega Man did a great job of coming through in the visual department. From the wacky bomb-like buildings in Bomb Man's domain to Ice Man's frigid world with snow, ice, and palm trees everywhere (...palm trees?!), the graphics really brought Mega Man to life!
The animation was equally impressive throughout the game. It gave the game personality and from Mega Man's swift movements to memorable enemies such as Bladers, Sniper Joes, and fire fiends being brought to life, Capcom did themselves proud. The Fire Man stage in particular was outstanding! Menacing pillars of fire rise from the floors and walls, currents of fire flash intermittently, and waves of fire sweep through various rooms. I remember being impressed way back then and I still am today. Not to beat a dead horse but you just didn't come across many games like this back in the early days of the NES era.
Music: While the graphics and sensational play control/gameplay certainly make Mega Man a special game, the music is what truly clinches the Blue Bomber's place in history. I have always felt that the music is what truly gives this legendary series its "it" factor. With all things being created equal, the soundtracks of the Mega Man series are what really separate it from other great games. For example, while I have always loved the Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda series of games (Mario in particular), I honestly thought that the Mega Man series blew those games out of the water in the music department! (particularly when Mega Man 2 and 3 enter the equation) The main themes found in Mario and Zelda might be the greatest of all-time. I don't think that anyone would argue about that. But once you start to delve a bit deeper and look at the soundtracks as a whole, the Mega Man series has a very real advantage in this area. And that's not disrespecting Mario, Link, or any other games out there. It is just a testament to how impressive the Mega Man series really is when it comes to music.
The initial Mega Man game certainly did not disappoint, either. It may not have a soundtrack even close to touching the legendary MM2 and MM3 soundtracks but there are still a lot of memorable, catchy tracks that fans of the series adore even today. The Elec Man theme has a nice, melancholy feel to it while Ice Man's friendly tune fits his frigid stage like a glove. And Fire Man's superb, somewhat intense diddy might be my personal favorite (although the ending theme was exceptional as well).
Now granted, there were a few tunes that bordered on the average side (the two Wily tracks come to mind) and honestly, I'd still give the Mario and Zelda soundtracks an edge over the first Mega Man game despite what I said two paragraphs ago (just think about my statements applying more to the Mega Man series as a whole). But still, I thought that Capcom really did a nice job overall. The fact that several tunes from the first Mega Man game have been remixed in several direct Mega Man sequels (Guts Man's theme for one) should be an adequate testimony to the importance (and nostalgic factor) of this game's soundtrack
Play Control: One of the most important aspects of a video game, especially an action game with a heavy emphasis on narrowly avoiding enemy bullets and direct attacks while jumping from block to block (sometimes having to teether on the edge of the smallest of blocks in order to advance) is the reliability of the game's controls. Of the NES games released before or around the same time as Mega Man, I would estimate that about 50% or so of them were completely ruined because the play control wasn't very good or responsive. Well, I am so happy to say that the controls have never been an area of concern in Mega Man or any subsequent games in the series because they are nearly flawless! Jumping from platform to platform, shooting, and utilizing special weapons couldn't be any easier! I was amazed at how responsive and smooth the controls felt back when I first started playing Mega Man...especially when you look at the competition. Other than classics like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, can you even think of games pre-1988 that had controls that even rivaled Mega Man? I sure can't.
Challenge: I've said it many times before and I'll say it again. In my personal opinion, the first Mega Man game is without a doubt the most difficult game in the original series. I have heard many fellow gamers label Mega Man 9 as the most difficult video game ever made let alone the toughest Mega Man game and I can't help but wonder whether or not they have even played the first game!
Seriously, this game is really, really, REALLY tough! Mega Man features nightmarish stages that contain moving ledges, flying enemies, and endless chasms...all at once!! The Guts Man, Ice Man, and Wily Stage 1 areas come to mind for sure as well as one of the more challenging vertically-scrolling levels (Elec Man). In addition to having to navigate some pretty brutal levels, there are a few bosses that are nearly impossible to defeat without using the appropriate weapons (try beating Elec Man or Ice Man straight up with Mega Man's normal gun if you doubt me). Not only that, but Mega Man cannot use energy tanks and extra lives are severely limited in the initial installment. As a matter of fact, I can count the number of extra lives available throughout the game on one hand...it's that crazy!
Although the difficulty level of this game is through the roof (as most games were back around that time honestly...it was a time when only the truly great game players could succeed), I respect the fact that Mega Man is a really challenging game. You feel so satisfied and relieved after beating each and every stage and it's one of those games that is incredibly rewarding if you're able to get to the very end. It has a great ending for a 1987 game! My only concern is that a lot of novice gamers back in the day probably strayed away from the Mega Man series after getting totally owned by the immense (and intimidating) challenge level.
Storyline: This is where the legend began folks! Unlike many of the sequels, I thought that the original Mega Man game actually had an intriguing, original story. The setting is in the near future (the year 200X to be in-exact...lol) and involves robots, two brilliant scientists, and the fate of the world. It doesn't get much more simple than that now does it?
Basically, Mega Man and six other robots that include Bomb Man, Guts Man, Cut Man, Elec Man, Ice Man, and Fire Man were all created by the venerable Dr. Thomas Light for the good of mankind. Bomb Man could clear large spaces with his bombs, Cut Man could easily chop down trees, and Guts Man's strength enabled him to lift boulders impossible to heave-ho by human standards.
However, Dr. Light's assistant, Dr. Albert Wily, had other ideas for the robots. Like many villains before him, Dr. Wily saw an opportunity to gain a unique source of power that could enable him to pretty much seize the city and eventually the world with little-to-no resistance. He promptly re-programmed all of Dr. Light's robots with the exception of Mega Man (a basic working robot) and the Blue Bomber's sister Roll (a simple, house-keeping robot). Possessing a strong sense of justice, Mega Man volunteered to be converted into a fighting robot so that he could stand a chance at defeating Dr. Wily along with his intimidating army of twisted robots.
And thus the legend of Mega Man begins! Granted, it may not seem like a great story now, but for 1987, it was fantastic! A futuristic setting with robots and brilliant scientists was a unique concept back in an age when the "save the princess" story dominated the gaming industry.
Funfactor: Despite the insanely high challenge level and a few minor quirks, the first Mega Man game is still a very enjoyable, classic gameplay experience. The controls were outstanding for the time, the gameplay was varied enough in each stage to keep things interesting, and the graphics and music were definitely a feast for us visual/auditory types! If you enjoy classic, 2-D side-scrolling action platformers, you simply must play the game that started the Mega Man craze! It really is a fun, enjoyable game. Just good luck trying to beat it!
Negatives: Like with most original games in a legendary series such as Mega Man, the fantastic sequels have actually caused us to see more clearly what issues the initial game had. The one that really sticks out to me has to be the somewhat frustrating challenge level. Honestly, I couldn't help but wonder the other night when a friend and I started our Mega Man Marathon (with this game kicking things off of course!) whether or not this first game lost potential fans due to the sharp difficulty. I mean...how many gamers probably played Guts Man's level for 10-15 minutes before simply moving on to another game after losing on one of the toughest sections of any Mega Man game...in the very first part of the stage? Or how many gamers threw their first controller or yelled their first swear word after painstakingly getting to the end of the mind-numbing Elec Man stage...only to get annihilated within five seconds from Elec Man's electricity attack (which causes one-third of your life to disappear after each hit? And I haven't even mentioned the disappearing blocks and endless chasms of Ice Man's stage, the fact that Fire Man is virtually unbeatable without having at least 1/2 of your life meter full, and the first Dr. Wily stage with unreal obstacles and probably the toughest boss of the game (the first appearance of the yellow devil).
I don't want to sound whiney about this because, believe me, I love a great challenge! I actually didn't have a real problem with Mega Man in this area. But I could see a decent portion of the video game community having a real beef with the first Mega Man game. I just thought that the game was somewhat unfair in this regard. There are no energy tanks, extremely limited extra lives, and the game shows very little mercy. But then again, there's always Battletoads to consider (probably the toughest game I have ever played).
Regarding gameplay mechanics, Mega Man seems to have "slippage" problems when trying to manuever slightly on a platform in order to jump on another platform. It isn't anything major but it's probably worth noting (Thankfully, this problem was completely fixed in Mega Man 3).
And lastly, while the music in Mega Man was very good overall, it might be one of my least favorite soundtracks compared to the nine sequels (as of this review). I still don't like the Dr. Wily Stage 1 & 2 track. It just wasn't exciting or adrenaline-pumping enough for my tastes. Thankfully, Mega Man 2 completely fixed this problem with one of the most memorable tunes of the entire series.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.1 Music: 4.0 Play Control: 4.4 Challenge: 4.1 Storyline: 4.3 Funfactor: 4.4 Overall Score: 25.3 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: February 3, 2011