Today, I’ve gone through another game in preparation for part 2 of my NES Retrospective. Without further adieu, Mega Man 2!
Mega Man 2 is another game that any self-respecting NES enthusiast would call a classic. Actually, that really stands for the entirety of the 8-bit Mega Man series, which comprises 6 main games on NES, so why choose number 2 specifically? There’s little question that it’s the most popular of the bunch, but that’s completely unrelated. You see, while it doesn’t have the privilege of being the first in the series and lacks the technical advances present in the later games like Mega Man 6, I personally believe that it is the one that made the series what it is.
The original Mega Man set the basic gameplay elements, but it also had several features which are pretty much unique to it; for instance, a point counter that rewards you for defeating enemies, simple collectibles and tools that can be acquired within stages. Mega Man 2, on the other hand, dispensed with all of those while adding Energy Tanks and 8 Robot Masters, both of which then became common throughout the series. Simply said, it streamlined the original concept and became the standard.
As far as gameplay goes, Mega Man 2 is a simple platformer at its core, not unlike Super Mario Bros.; you make your way through themed levels, going from point A to point B and making use of precise jumping skills. However, the titular character is equipped with an arm cannon, throwing in a shoot ‘em up element and allowing you to deal with enemies instead of avoiding them. Another feature that was pretty unique at the time was the ability to select which stage you wanted to play next through a menu that shows up after starting a new game.
Far from a simple cosmetic feature, the level selection menu allows players to make strategic choices in how they want to tackle the game. Some people are just better at certain stages or at dealing with some Robot Masters, and since Mega Man starts out ill-equipped, it makes sense to start with whatever stage you feel you can go through more easily. Speaking of the Robot Masters, they also add another major element of strategy.
Arguably the highlight of Mega Man 2 are duels with bosses, called Robot Masters, and its weapon acquisition system. Bosses can be pretty challenging and each one has patterns that it follows, however, each one also rewards you with a new weapon when they are defeated. Said weapons can then be used to fight enemies or to access secret areas, but more importantly, they are the keys to defeating Robot Masters more easily; just as they give you their powers, they are also each weak to at least one weapon. In essence, while a player can certainly play through the game and battle bosses with their Mega Buster arm cannon, it’s also possible to abuse their weaknesses by plotting a playing order for the stages. For example, obtaining Metal-Blades from Metal Man (pictured above) allows players to make short work of the projectile spamming Wood Man (pictured below).
Graphically speaking, Mega Man 2 looks gorgeous for an NES game; Capcom has made great use of tricks to allow more colors per character and create larger bosses than the NES hardware would normally allow. Levels, including their backgrounds, are detailed and rotating palettes are used expertly to give Mega Man a different costume for each weapon equipped and to create the illusion of flowing lava and water jets among other things. As nice as the game looks though, its music really steals the show; the soundtrack is incredibly catchy and features some of the most recognizable songs to ever be put into a video game, like the excellent Wily’s Castle 1.
Admittedly, there isn’t much for story, or at least for a real story; it’s pretty much on the same level as the Super Mario series on that field. Bowser kidnaps the princess and Mario must save her, while in this series, the nefarious Dr. Wily sends his robots to attack the world and Mega Man must defeat them. I will mention however that I feel deceived by Capcom… Mega Man 2′s introduction states that the game takes place in 200X, which I assume means some time between 2000 and 2009, but we’re now in late 2010 and none of that cool stuff has happened! I want an arm cannon!
Mega Man 2 is an excellent game in every sense of the word and one of the best additions to the NES’s library. You simply must check it out if you like platformers at all, and should you like it, give the other Mega Man games on NES a try!