DISCLAIMER: Not actually the last word on Mega Man 9, because the last, first and only word on Mega Man 9 is of course “HORSEFUCKINGGAME“, emitted in a tone somewhere between outrage and a pathetic orgasm.
So last winter my flatmate made fun of me for playing Mega Man 9. His prosecution was that I was embarrassing myself by being hooked on a NES game as if it was something new and exciting. My defence was that although Mega Man 9 resembles an NES game, the design of it is smarter and more enjoyable than those games ever managed. At thas point I called an indefinite recess in the court which is still in place to this day. UNTIL… TODAY!!
Today I went back and actually played those NES Mega Man games in the name of finding out who was right, me or that sap.
The results…. will astonish you!!
First up, Mega Man 1.
Boy, is this game ever a blowjob from a blender. The levels are so full of chaff. So many brainless rooms and pointless or poorly placed enemies, so many new elements within those levels being introduced thoughtlessly. The game features both way more tiresome, easy sections and rote memorisation of tedious, non-fatal traps than Mega Man 9. No contest. Looks like I’m in the clear. I do like how the bosses recoil back in the same way as Mega Man does when you shoot them, though. Makes boss fights feel more like duels.
Next, Mega Man 6! The final Mega Man game on the NES and therefore potentially the most impressive.
After a troubling start with 6 boasting superior visuals than 9, I begin to relax. The level design is yards better than 1, but still a little awkward and boring compared to 9. It tries way too hard to be clever and zany without having quite so much success at being intelligent. Your collision box is still fucked, too. The most exciting things on offer here are branching paths through the levels and a hip little dash move.
Last in is the popularly-considered best Mega Man game on the NES, Mega Man 2. And. Yeah.
My first warning sign is that the stage select music is the same as Mega Man 9. From there it only gets worse. The level design here is phenomenal. Funny and varied with a consistently challenging difficulty that gleefully punishes you the moment you forget anything. The game seems to take joy in dicking around with you and take even more joy you getting wise to its tricks or out-thinking it. The music is great. The bosses are great. Look at this fucking guy!
If it was Mega Man 2 that appeared on Xbox Live and the PSN instead of the current Mega Man 9 homage thing I’d have been every bit as smitten. So, I mean, shit. I guess I lose. As do most modern level designers, who don’t seem to have perfected their craft any more in 20 years.
The cruel humour in the levels is a thing, though. I can’t get over how much fun the game creates from tripping you over or playing with your preconceptions. You can tell why I Wanna Be The Guy chose to riff off Mega Man 2’s main menu for its own.