Reviews: You can take the Blue Bomber out of the 8-bit, but you can't take the 8-bit out of the Blue Bomber.
In this day and age, buzzwords like "high definition, bump mapped 3D graphics (with enhanced lighting and water effects!)" have become more and more prevalent to describe a game. So something like Mega Man 9
is a godsend. Mega Man 9 is a WiiWare title that uses the classic 8-bit style of the NES Mega Man games as an "art style" in a brand new game. And that just makes a retro gamer like me... well... giddy.
I've long thought that the download services like WiiWare, the Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Store would be the perfect opportunity for developers to stretch the bounds of what they considered a "new" game and make one that looked like an old game. Now that Capcom has taken up this idea with Mega Man 9 and completely knocked it out of the park, I really can't wait to see what other companies have up their sleeves.
But getting back to Mega Man 9, the game follows the very traditional trappings of the series right down to the tiniest detail. Dr. Wily has unleashed eight Robot Masters on the world in an attempt to take it over and Mega Man must stop the mad scientist with his trusty Arm Cannon and Rush, his robotic canine companion. They run, they shoot Hard Hats and robotic birds, they jump from platform to platform and they fight the Robot Masters using weapons stolen from defeated Robot Masters. All to the tune of a classic 8-bit soundtrack and 2D graphics.
Not only does it look the same, but since the Wii Remote can be turned sideways, it even feels like a game played with an NES controller. What's not the same, however, is that Capcom took away the slide and Mega Buster moves as they wanted the game to feel more like Mega Man 2. I don't know, to me, it just seems like a step back.
While it's sad to see the slide excluded, everything that Inti Creates did right is amazing. There's the long freefall with spikes on the side. There's the water level where Mega Man can jump extra high. There's the the level that features disappearing/reappearing blocks over a bottomless pit. You could go on like for hours. Mega Man 9 is a veritable greatest hits of Mega Man's best moments. And yet, it never feels stale and oftentimes the game feels fresh. Which it should seeing as how there hasn't been a new game in the "Mega Man Classic" series in over a decade.
The best part though is that the game brings back the feelings of "Nintendo Hard
" that made the original NES offerings stand out. This is a tough game, not for the faint of heart, and advancement requires enemy placements to be memorized and the timing of jumps from platform to platform to be perfect. Some might groan, but I (and other NES fans) wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, in my first hour of play I was only able to defeat one of the eight Robot Masters. Actually, that was the only Robot Master I was even able to reach. That's how hard the levels themselves are. It might even be the hardest Mega Man game ever.
The game even manages to throw in some new stuff like the Challenges. Challenges are a bit like Achievements on the Xbox 360 that are unlocked as you play through. And some of them are just brutal. Sure, there's the gimmes like "kill 200 enemies" (which you have to do to complete the game), but then there are also the impossible ones like "finish the game without being hit". My hat is off to anyone that can complete that Challenge.
Also new is the addition of a store where Mega Man can bring Screws that he finds in the game to buy items like extra lives and Energy Tanks. The store has appeared in most of the newer Mega Man games, but never in one released for the NES. So it still managed to feel new without feeling out of place.
Finally, what can I say about the graphics that can't already be seen from the game's screenshots and video? Mega Man 9 is pure 8-bit goodness on that front and the soundtrack isn't bad either.