|Publisher & Designer:||Capcom|
|Release Date:||December 1990|
After being completely and utterly blown away by Mega Man 2, I was simply beside myself with excitement when Capcom announced that a third installment was in the works. I even remember going to the Nintendo "Powerfest" back in 1990 and seeing an incredibly long line of gamers anxiously awaiting a chance to play the Mega Man 3 prototype! I never did get the chance to play the third Mega Man game that day but I can say in retrospect that all of the endless waiting and gut-wrenching anticipation was worth every moment because Mega Man 3 was simply awesome! Right from the beginning, I could tell that this game was going to be something special. And with its beautiful graphics, sensational music, and near-perfect controls and gameplay, it just might be better than the already world class second Mega Man game! That particular debate will probably never be fully settled (and rightfully so since both MM2 and MM3 are so phenomenal) and that is okay. Both games are among the all-time greats in this gamer's opinion...even if I do feel that the third Mega Man game was indeed Mega Man's finest hour.
Overview: Although the debate remains as fierce and fiery as ever, the third Mega Man game might very well be the most complete game in the classic series. Mega Man 3, in a nutshell, feels a lot like a souped-up version of Mega Man 2. Not a whole lot has changed in regards to the gameplay but there were definitely a few tweaks that enhanced an already satisfying gaming experience. The two additions that come to mind right away are the new slide feature along with the initial appearance of Mega Man's pet dog Rush! The slide added a whole new element to the already fantastic gameplay found in earlier Mega Man hits while Rush basically replaced the three Items that were obtained in Mega Man 2. Rush is very useful for sure and added a nice touch of personality to this game. After all, how can you beat having your faithful robot dog companion tagging along during an epic quest?
Regarding the game setup, the third Mega Man game begins exactly like Mega Man 2. You get to choose between eight robot master stages and, like always, you can play the stages in whichever order you choose. The funny thing is that, like MM2, you cannot replay any stage once you have beaten the robot master. What makes this odd and somewhat ironic is that only the second and third Mega Man games are like this (literally every other game in the classic series allows you to replay any stage even after defeating the boss) and yet MM2 & 3 are arguably the two best games in the series! That's just a funny little observation from a die-hard Mega Man fan. Anyway, like in MM1 and 2, you'll receive a really cool special weapon from each robot master you defeat and you can also earn the valuable Rush Jet and Rush Marine upgrades from certain bosses. This does give the game a small strategy/tactical element since both of these upgrades can really come in handy in a few particular stages in this game.
One aspect of Mega Man 3 that I found absolutely enthralling (albeit maddening due to the insane difficulty) was the retro factor. Once you defeat the eight main robots, you won't go directly to Dr. Wily's Skull Castle like before. This time, you'll be taken back to the main stage selection screen where four pictures of a mysterious robot appear in four stages that you have previously played (the other four squares essentially become empty shells). Not only have the four stages gone through some major changes (e.g. the "water tanks" found in Shadow Man's stage appear to have blown open during the second playthrough) but the mysterious robot I mentioned conceals an incredible secret. Doc Robot as he is called appears twice in every level and essentially takes on the abilities of the robot masters found in Mega Man 2! Metal Man, Quick Man, Wood Man...you'll fight all of them again in MM3! Although this is very, very cool, the retro factor doesn't end there. As you near the end of the game, you will find that even the Rock Monster and the dreaded Clones make a return appearance in this game!
This respectful nod to both Mega Man 1 and 2 is one of many reasons why Mega Man 3 just feels like the complete Mega Man experience. MM3 really felt like a Mega Man game because of its inclusion of past enemies and bosses in addition to the classic gameplay elements being unaltered for the most part. It was also the largest Mega Man game at the time of its release because if you include the Doc Robot levels, the Break Man "level," and the Wily stages, you end up with 19 stages...in a Mega Man game! Thankfully, this game included a password feature!
Graphics: Just like its predecessor, the visuals found throughout the vast world of Mega Man 3 were nothing short of magnificent! For a 1990 game pak, especially an NES game pak, the graphics were truly state-of-the-art. Mega Man 3 was the first Mega Man game to utilize the MMC3 chip (a chip that would allow developers to push the limits of the 8-bit NES even farther) and Capcom really went to town too. I know that I probably write this in every Mega Man review but the graphics just have an extremely crisp feel to them. Everything is bold and colorful and diverse but not overdone. In other words, the graphics enhance the whole experience and complement the other areas of the game nicely (notably the music) without dominating the game...if that makes any sense. Everything seems to move very smoothly as well. There's even some hidden parallax-scrolling in the first section of Gemini Man's stage which was simply incredible for an 8-bit game. I also enjoyed watching Mega Man move behind certain objects such as crystal webs in Gemini Man's mysterious domain or pipes located in one of the final stages of the game. You could tell that Capcom really had fun experimenting with the new MMC3 chip.
Some of the background graphics are amazing as well. Magnet Man's level is a perfect example with its multi-colored sky and Shadow Man's stage displays some nifty effects as well ("firefalls" in the background). What amazes me is the general lack of slowdown in this game; even with the background animation, the game moves at a nice pace...for the most part anyway. While there can admittedly be some noticeable slowdown at times (when a ton of enemies/weapons/mini-bosses are in motion at once), it can actually be more of a help than a hindrance.
And lastly, the enemy/boss graphics also stood out in Mega Man 3, although nothing in this game can top the Dragon and Gutsdozer battles found in Mega Man 2. While some of the big bosses near the end of the game are very impressive (notably the Rock Monster), the mini-bosses look great as well! The giant snake that you fight in Snake Man's stage was very cool because of its sheer size along with the fact that its "tail" even moved. This effect could even hamper your jumping abilities if you ventured too close! The cats in Top Man's garden (at least, I think it's just an innocent garden...lol), the giant mets, and the alien ships found in Gemini Man's level were pretty cool enemies as well.
Music: As the much-anticipated release of Mega Man 3 slowly came into view, one of the main "x-factors" in my mind regarding this game had to be the quality of its soundtrack. After being spoiled to death and beyond by Mega Man 2's scintillating score, I wanted to see if Capcom could somehow conjure up another masterpiece. I don't know how they did it, but good golly; Capcom outdid themselves yet again! When I fired up the game for the very first time, I was greeted with what would become one of my all-time favorite video games themes: The MM3 Intro Theme. Right from the start, I knew that I had stumbled into something very, very special.
Who could forget Magnet Man's brilliant music, the unforgettable Snake Man theme (widely regarded as one of the best tracks to grace any Mega Man game), or the oh-so-mysterious Gemini Man tune? The Hard Man, Spark Man, and Shadow Man tracks are all very memorable as well. I vividly remember the Spark Man music being my favorite track during my initial play-through of the game. Even the "Weapon Acquired," Stage Select, and password themes are surprisingly good (particularly the first tune...I always loved hearing it right after defeating a boss). Just like Mega Man 2, every song just seems to fit its respective level like a glove. Although the music isn't earth-shattering in terms of sound quality (after all, this is the NES) the substance itself was great! And I should note that for an NES game, the sound quality was exceptional.
Other tunes that are worth mentioning are definitely the Wily tracks as well as the second boss theme that was used for these particular stages. Although I still prefer the Wily Stage 1 theme from Mega Man 2, I thought that Capcom really came through with a couple of superb themes for Wily Stages 1 & 2 and Wily Stages 3 & 4. Both tracks created a nice atmosphere and gave MM3 an epic feel towards the end of the game. And the second boss theme was fantastic as well! Upbeat and adrenaline-pumping, it was definitely an improvement on the initial boss music used in this game. The epic Ending and Credits tunes were very nice as well and sent this game off on a high note for sure.
The sound effects are very good as well. Many are directly ripped from Mega Man 2 which is not a bad thing since I thought that MM2 already featured fantastic sound effects! I really like the improved "clanking" sound that you hear when Mega Man lands though. Very good stuff (and wayyyyy better than the jello sound found much later in Mega Man 8). The sound of blasting an enemy was very cool as it usually is in a classic Mega Man game. :)
Play Control: The play control in the Mega Man series really seemed to peak in the third game. Even though the controls were already superb in Mega Man 2, Capcom went the extra mile and tweaked things just a tad. Mega Man doesn't slide anymore when he stops (I briefly mentioned this in my reviews of the first two Mega Man games.) and the jumping controls seem more smooth than ever. As I mentioned earlier, Mega Man 3 was also the first game in the series to feature the new slide feature! You could now fit into small areas and dodge attacks more easily. The controls just felt much more smooth with this added feature.
The special weapons that you acquire throughout Mega Man 3 are a lot of fun to use as well! Magnet Man's weapon acts like a heat-seeking missile and will find its target whether or not your aim is true. The Shadow Blades can be shot in five directions and function like a poor man's Metal Blade while the Gemini Laser is a more technical weapon that will bounce off walls until it locates its prey. The Search Snakes were pretty cool too as little snakes would slitter literally everywhere on the screen (even scaling walls!) in an attempt to find some enemy to defeat. And while they weren't my favorites, the Hard Knuckle and Top Spin weapons were at least intuitive. Although I still prefer the master class weapons found in Mega Man 2, the MM3 weapon set isn't too shabby either.
Utilizing the various Rush modules was simple as well. This was the only Mega Man game where I really enjoyed using the Rush Jet to be honest. I liked the fact that you could move in every direction and that Rush would catch you if you fell from a ledge (in future MM games, it was much easier to fall off and you could only move forward to boot). The Rush Marine was a lot of fun to use as well; the only problem was that water areas were somewhat sparse in Mega Man 3 (although the Gemini Man stages did their best to keep Rush Mariners happy). As far as I'm concerned, the play control in MM3 is as close to perfection as you can get in an action game.
Challenge: As far as challenge goes, Mega Man 3 is definitely a mixed bag. It might even be the epitome of the term "mixed bag." It can be somewhat easy or insanely difficult depending on the circumstances. If you know the weakness of each robot master, you can beat them without breaking a sweat. However, the game can be a real challenge the first time through. Some of the robots are very tough to beat without using any special weapons. Try defeating Shadow Man or Needle Man with the regular blaster and you'll see what I mean. The Doc Robot stages are where the difficulty really spikes...severely at times. If you don't know which weapon(s) to use against Doc Robot and whichever form he assumes (e.g. Crash Man, Air Man, etc...), you'll have an extremely difficult time beating him...even with energy tanks! It's not so much his weapons that cause damage though; it's direct contact. Two or three solid hits can easily wipe you out! And since Doc Robot moves at the speed of light at times, avoiding him can be even more difficult than avoiding his projectile attacks. Just make sure you stock up on as many energy tanks as possible before reaching this point in the game (at least you can carry up to nine energy tanks in MM3 versus only four in MM2).
Another aspect of the game that is a little annoying is that there is one particular area where getting stuck is a distinct possibility (a minor flaw that MM3 shares with MM2 ironically). I'm sure that veterans of the series will be nodding their heads in agreement as I mention the second leg of Needle Man's Doc Robot stage. With an endless chasm impeding your progress, you have no choice but to use the Rush Jet to attempt to cross this long stretch without your Rush Jet gauge zeroing out or Mega Man dying in the process. It almost feels like a one-shot deal because if you die, you'll probably have no Rush Jet left and the few weapon capsules there are might be gone since you might have collected them during your first attempt to cross the mammoth crevasse. If you know what you are doing, this flaw pretty much goes away on its own. But if you die and get stuck...
Ironically, I felt that Wily's Castle was much easier than the Doc Robot levels. Compared to the tough-as-nails Skull Castle in Mega Man 2, this one's a cinch! The stages seem very short compared to the ones in MM2 although the Rock Monster boss along with the killer Clones are certainly a worthy challenge. Overall, Mega Man 3 is definitely no cakewalk. It does seem somewhat out-of-whack or unbalanced at times though.
Storyline: Back when Mega Man 3 was first released, I vividly remember enjoying the game's story. Being the naive nine-year-old that I was at the time, I truly believed that Dr. Wily had turned over a new leaf and had decided to work with Dr. Light instead of against him for once. And seeing him work with Dr. Light in one of the manual's illustrations was so cool! It really made me wonder who was behind all of the ruckus in MM3. However, the truth was pre-maturely revealed to me when...I saw the box art! In the background, one can clearly see Dr. Wily's Skull Castle! Arrrggghhh!! :)
It wasn't that crushing of a blow though. Mega Man 3 was such a great game that an epic plot wasn't really necessary. Besides, the game's side story more than made up for it. Throughout the game, Mega Man would randomly encounter a mysterious red robot (who would strangely whistle before entering the fray). While the mystery robot would attack you most of the time, there would actually be instances when he would assist Mega Man in some way (e.g. unlocking the gate in Gemini Man's stage). The battles just felt different than the robot master battles as well. It was almost as if this robot was trying to test Mega Man for some reason. It was not until the very end of the game that you discovered this robot's true identity as well as his intentions.
For a Mega Man game (and an NES game in general), this side story was so cool that it pretty much overshadowed the main story! By the time the game actually showed a cinema scene of sorts, all I can say was "Who in the heck is Gamma?!" In any case, the ending to Mega Man 3 was very, very memorable and has to rank among the best endings for a Mega Man game. The loose ends get tied up nicely and you even discover Dr. Wily's fate if you pay very close attention to the ending (Hint: Focus on the tree!) Overall, the storyline in this game has to rank among the best in the series.
Funfactor: Without a doubt, Mega Man 3 has to be one of the most enjoyable games that I have ever played. It isn't perfect by any stretch but it does toy with the concept in several areas. It simply has that "it" factor and seemed to be the Mega Man game where numerous elements peaked simultaneously such as the graphics, music, play control, and even the game's story to a certain extent. Speaking of which, although I love the game's graphics and music very much, they would feel incomplete without the impeccable gameplay and wondrous atmosphere surrounding them. For some reason, I've always loved the magical feel of this game. Perhaps it is that deep, rich, wonderful feeling of nostalgia that sometimes comes from playing a classic game during your younger years. I know that Mega Man 2 affects me much in the same way (and even more-so since that was my first Mega Man game). Whatever the reason, Mega Man 3 is the genuine article.
Which brings us to the all-important question of where Mega Man 3 stacks up in any discussion of the all-time greats. Just how good of a game is the third Mega Man classic? Well, it's all a matter of personal taste and opinion obviously but the general consensus seems to be that the second and third Mega Man games are the top two games in the classic series (although three or four other Mega Man greats might have something to say about that) and place somewhere in the Top 5-10 NES games ever made. And I feel that I probably fit squarely in this particular mindset because both of these games, aside from being fantastic video games in their own right, have the "nostalgia" factor going for them. With all things being created equal, nostalgia sometimes plays the role of the deciding factor and that might very well be the case here. And although Super Mario Bros. 3 is without a doubt one of the greatest games ever made and is probably the overwhelming choice as the all-time greatest NES game, I think that Mega Man 3 is the more complete game when you really sit down and critique both games in all six areas. The gameplay in both SMB3 and MM3 is equally outstanding for sure but I honestly feel that the graphics and music are noticeably better in Mega Man 3. Who would have known? A console that thrives on the whole "gameplay over graphics" mantra comes down to the aesthetics in regards to my choice as the NES Crown Jewel. If it's any consolation, I still adore Super Mario Bros. 3 and that game, along with Mega Man 2 & 3, are three of the greatest games to ever grace the good old NES. In any case, let the debating begin!
Negatives: While the graphics are exceptional in Mega Man 3, there can be quite a bit of slowdown during some of the mini-boss battles in particular. And like I mentioned before, the challenge level seems...odd in this game. The toughest section of the game is probably about halfway through when you encounter the ? stages while the Dr. Wily stages are noticeably easier (in my personal opinion of course). This isn't a terrible thing necessarily but it is rather strange when you think about it.
On a related note, I consider the game somewhat easy at times due to the fact that you can carry up to nine energy tanks at once. However, some of the battles against Doc Robot can be simply brutal! I hate the fact that direct contact causes so much damage; you almost want to get hit by his weapons instead.
And lastly, while the side story involving a certain mysterious robot was very intriguing, the main storyline could have been fleshed out better. Additional cinema scenes would have been nice and I was honestly a bit disappointed that there was no intro movie in this game (only MM3 and the original Mega Man game feature no intro movie). In any case, at least the title theme was incredibly epic!
Ratings: Graphics: 4.9 Music: 4.9 Play Control: 5.0* Challenge: 3.8 Storyline: 4.3 Funfactor: 4.9 Overall Score: 27.8 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: *Crown Jewel!!*
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: March 2, 2011