Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review: Mega Man 9

Mega Man 9
Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360


Overall score: 8.9
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Quick fix:
+++ Quite possibly the best musical score for any 8-bit game
+++ Nostalgic yet fresh level design
++ Challenging achievements and online leaderboards add replay value
++ Pinpoint control
++ Only $10 off Wiiware, PSN or Xbox Live Arcade
+ Downloadable content to come soon
+ Punishing difficulty feels reminiscent of old Megaman games

--Short
- Punishing difficulty will be off-putting to new players
- Downloadable content will nickel and dime the player for things that should be free
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Mega Man 9 is not just a game with a retro-feel, it actually is a new retro game, if that makes any sense. Upon opening Mega Man 9 on my Wii, I felt as though this game was made in the late 80’s for the NES. The art, graphics, sound, control and gameplay all feel and look 8-bit.

Mega Man 9 is a 2D platformer and a shooter, just like the classic Mega Man games on the NES. One button makes Mega Man jump; the other makes him fire his weapon. Using these simple controls, Mega Man jumps over dangerous pits, shoots enemy robots and eventually reaches a boss at the end of the stage. Upon beating that boss, Mega Man absorbs the ability of that boss and can use that ability in other stages. Each boss also has a weakness to another boss’ ability; so once you beat one boss, you have a powerful weapon that can destroy another boss pretty quickly.

The set-up is pretty simple. Run through a stage; kill a bad guy, repeat. The gameplay doesn’t sound that impressive but the game really shines with the level design. Almost everything that can be done with 2D platformers has been done (excluding the upcoming LittleBigPlanet) so coming in, Mega Man 9 was going to have a hard time making 2D levels feel fresh. However, Capcom accomplished this feat wonderfully.

Mega Man 9’s level design is both genius and frustrating. In Tornado Man’s stage, there are rotating battery-like things that will carry Mega Man from one side of the level to another. Standing on top of one of the batteries causes Mega Man to rotate endlessly and if you jump off the battery when you are under it, Mega Man will just fall, most likely to his death. The trick is to jump off the top of the battery to land on another battery, all the meanwhile avoiding spikes and making very tight jumps. You have to near-perfect just to survive the level, which really appeals to hardcore players like myself.


The difficulty is both a pro and con of the game. Since Mega Man 9 is a 2D platformer, a player can see and understand the goal pretty simply, since the player knows which direction he or she has to travel. So even in the most difficult parts where you keep falling into the same death pit over and over again, you’ll keep trying because the goal is so clear. You know you’re failing not because of poor design, but because of poor execution. So when you do succeed, you will feel a sense of accomplishment, only to die at another point in the level.

The constant dieing can be enormously frustrating, mostly because when you die, if you didn’t make the checkpoint in the level, you have to start from the beginning of the stage. However, this is the nature of Mega Man games, and it always has been. The game is unforgiving and only rewards you if you play well. The only problem is that your version of playing well probably isn’t good enough for Mega Man 9. So if you enjoy difficult games, Mega Man 9 is a good choice. If not, you may throw your controller. That being said, if you play with it long enough, you will eventually beat it. It may be harder than most of the NES Mega Man titles, but with persistence, and a lot of continues, you will eventually get on top.

There are other things to enjoy with Mega Man 9 though. The soundtrack is quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard in an 8-bit game, only rivaled by other Mega Man games and the Castlevania series. All of the songs, even the stage select song, are incredibly well composed, catchy, complicated and groovy. I even have the soundtrack on my iTunes. The music blends well with the environments and often times, especially in the final stages of the game; you may stop and just listen to the awesome soundtrack.


Unfortunately, many people will probably not download this game because of the graphics. The graphics are made to look like something made on an NES, so you won’t get HD quality stuff. Don’t be discouraged by the graphics; the retro-look is what makes the level design possible and it’s colorful and pleasing to the eye. The gameplay will draw you in so much that even if you are a graphics orientated person, you’ll forgot about the graphics since you’ll be having so much fun.

Another plus of Mega Man 9 is its price. It’s only $10 off WiiWare, PSN or Xbox Live. Thankfully it doesn’t cost much more than that though, because the game is unbelievably short (45 mins-1 hour), even by old NES Mega Man standards. Having only eight bosses and four Wily stages was what Mega Man 2 had, but Mega Man 3, 4, 5, and 6 were all longer games and made over fifteen years ago.

This is made up for the fact that Mega Man 9 has downloadable content and online leaderboards. Once you finish the main campaign, you will probably dabble in the time attack mode, trying to beat any stage as fast as possible. Your time is recorded and you can compare your time with others on the leaderboard. It’s a small addition, but this addition adds a ton of replay value as you’ll play each level differently trying to shave off a couple of seconds on each run.


Mega Man 9’s downloadable content will include (as of this writing) a playable Protoman who can slide and charge his main weapon, two more difficulty modes, and endless attack mode, and a bonus stage with another final boss. DLC is always nice but some of these sting a little bit in terms of money. The difficulty modes cost an extra dollar each, and it feels like Capcom is nickel and diming you. Mega Man 2 had a harder difficulty mode in for free. I understand paying for things like Protoman but everything else feels unfair to the consumer.

Lastly, one more perk of Mega Man 9 is the achievement section embedded in all versions of the game. By doing certain feats in the game, you’ll get a message saying you completed an achievement. Some achievements include beating a boss only with your Mega Buster (very easy) or beating the entire game without taking damage (WTF!?). Again, you’ll play the game very differently just trying to get all of these achievements which adds more to the overall gameplay.

Mega Man 9 both appeals to the hardcore/Mega Man fanatic crowd and is accessible enough to newer players due to its simplistic controls. Mega Man 9 is proof that good gameplay and good level design still reigns supreme when making a fun game. Graphics simply do not matter when you are having so much fun. If you have $10 dollars to spare, pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

Overall Score: 8.9

6 comments:

Shawn R. said...

I'm with ya - loving this game, and losing my mind with the difficulty. I officially hate the sound of the disappearing blocks - "fooooooooom" - but only because I keep falling from them or jumping a half step off and falling to my death. And those little rotating jumpie dealies on the Tornado stage, yeah, not cool.

The music on the other hand: completely awesome!!! You picked right with the Magma Man clip. I'll be practicin' that one.

Richard R. said...

Ah, I forgot to mention the "fooooom" blocks. F*** those blocks.

But yeah MEGA F*** tornado man's stage. Those batteries of doom drive me insane. Rush Jet to the rescue!

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