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climbthehill

return of the nonsensical weakness order

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Sep. 25th, 2008 | 05:47 pm

First non-RPG review, lol. For me, anyway. I dunno if you could consider Okami an RPG or not.

An 8-bit game on modern consoles?! IntiCreates says "damn straight, bitches." Mega Man 9 has sparked plenty of debate since its announcement earlier this year. People are wondering whether or not this is good for the franchise, or games in general for that matter - if it sells well, it could prompt developers to throw together NES rehashes in a week and toss them in the downloadable bin hoping for similar success. This train of thought, of course, begs the question: is Mega Man 9 exactly that kind of cash-in in the first place?

Story/Characters
DR. LIGHT GETS FRAMED AND DR. WILY IS REALLY THE BAD GUY

What did you expect?

Gameplay
Mega Man is, of course, all about gameplay, and the genius lies in its simplicity. If you've ever played the first two games in the series, you'll know exactly what to expect here: run, jump, shoot. You play through eight levels and acquire special weapons from the bosses at the end of each, then you infiltrate Dr. Wily's Castle. There's no buster charging or sliding this time around; the game is meant to play more or less exactly like MM1&2, and that's exactly how it plays. Lurking beneath, however, is a game unlike any Mega Man you've ever played.

The star of the show is the level design. If you were expecting a slightly harder Mega Man 2 with different music, you're in for a surprise. There's not just well-designed stages, there's innovative stages. Yeah, innovation, in a game that was created to look and play like an NES game. Galaxy Man's stage, for instance: you'll be suddenly clamped by a falling robot and dragged across the room in the opposite direction, often into the path of spikes and bottomless pits. There's relatively unpredictable warp box-type things you jump into that shoot you out somewhere else. In Jewel Man's stage, you actually have to manipulate swinging platforms using a simple physics mechanic, making for some very tricky jumps. The enemies in your path in every stage are also surprising: I believe (and correct me if I'm wrong) the only standard enemies in the entire game that have been re-used are Mets and Sniper Joes (and the latter behaves differently than it ever has, so it's practically a new enemy). It's things like this that make MM9 feel so fresh, regardless of the fact that it looks and plays like a 20-year old game.

Returning from a number of past games are sub-bosses, which, I believe, were first seen in Mega Man 3 with the likes of Break Man and the cats in Top Man's stage. Here, you have a fire dragon in Magma Man's stage, a menacing boulder-thing in Jewel Man's stage, a series of ball-wielding elephants in Concrete Man's stage, and a rather annoying flower in Hornet Man's stage. These are some of the more difficult sub-bosses in the entire series, especially the elephants (well, just the last one) and the dragon. They can really put a damper on your speed run if you don't get their patterns down.

Also returning from Mega Man 7&8 is the shop system, where you can buy various power-ups for bolts (or screws, as they're called here) which are dropped off enemies and found within stages. Aside from the standard E-tanks and 1-ups, there's things like Beat, who will drag you out of a pit if you fall, and the ability to survive one collision with spikes. Then, there's some fun and goofy stuff: you can buy a "hairstyle book" which allows you to play with Mega Man's helmet off, and another item that changes Roll's outfit.

Aside from the core gameplay mechanics, there's also some extras with the download: a time attack mode, which I'm sure speed runners will appreciate, that allows you to do a run-through of any stage in the game with all weapons unlocked. There's also a series of achievement-like challenges, which range from automatic to completely insane (beat the game without getting hit!). There will also be DLC released that adds a couple of extra stages to the game, as well as the ability to play as Proto Man, who can charge and slide.

It all adds up to a very fun, difficult and replayable game that's well worth the $10 download. Oh, yeah, the game is hard. Very hard. Harder than every other classic series game, except maybe Mega Man & Bass... maybe. Replay it enough, though, and you'll get through it.

Visuals
This is a very difficult category to score, because technically, they didn't do a "bad" job with the graphics; in fact, they succeeded at exactly what they set out for. Whether or not it looks good to you is, well, up to you. It certainly looks dated, but that's the whole concept of the game: it's a throwback to the late 80's. I feel that giving this a 1-10 rating would be an insult to the game, so I'm just slapping an "N/A" on it. However, if you ask me, I wouldn't have it any other way, at least for the first return to the original series.

Audio
In all its 8-bit glory, MM9's soundtrack is, honestly, one of the best in the entire series, nearly knocking MM2 off its pedestal. Composed by IntiCreates' in-house studio, simply dubbed "III," there's a certain sense of over-the-top drama in the soundtrack that borders on self-parody, but in a good way: it's like a tribute to the progrock-gone-8-bit soundtracks of MM2 and 3. There's even songs that sound emotional (Splash Woman Stage) which is almost unheard of in this series outside of MM2 (see: Bubble Man Stage, Dr. Wily 1).

Most people will probably consider Tornado Man's stage music to be the best on the soundtrack, but I love Hornet Man, Splash Woman and Galaxy Man just for the fact that they don't instantly subscribe to the "rock" sound that you hear throughout lots of the other tracks. Hornet Man sounds appropriately light, and invokes Crash Man and Top Man somewhat. Splash Woman is clearly a throwback to Bubble Man, but is much more moody and dark. Galaxy Man sounds appropriately technical and eccentric, sounding vaguely similar to Bright Man or Gravity Man, but more spastic.

Also of note are the Wily Stage themes, which for the first time ever, are consistently good. All of them sound great, especially Castle of Evil/Wily 4, which is insanely catchy, and, well, evil-sounding. Flash in the Dark/Wily 1 is clearly inspired by Wily 1 from MM2, and it shows, sharing the same sense of drama and urgency.

Overall, the soundtrack is fantastic across the board and belongs among the top soundtracks in a series that's known for historically great music.

The sound effects are what you'd expect: mostly ported over from MM2, with some new effects thrown in (there's two tracks on the soundtrack called "Old SE" and "New SE" that show you which is which). They sound as charming as ever, helping to enhance the 8-bit feel of the game.

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Is Mega Man 9 better than Mega Man 2? Honestly? Throwing away my nostalgia goggles and speaking 100% objectively, I'm inclined to say yes. However, its high difficulty ensures that you can still go back and play the older games if you want something a bit lighter on the challenge. IntiCreates succeeded in doing exactly what they set out for: to create the best 8-bit Mega Man they possibly could, while giving series veterans something new to cringe their teeth about. It has successfully captured the spirit of a franchise that seemed to have lost its stride, and with this, hopefully it will find it again. As someone whose first gaming memories are of Mega Man 2, this is the most cleverly-designed and satisfying Mega Man in the entire classic series. You don't even have to hunt it down on Ebay and drop $100 on it.

Story/Characters: MEGAMAN/10 (no seriously, 3.0.)
Gameplay: 9.5/10
Visuals: N/A
Audio: 10/10

Overall: 9.5/10

-Reza
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