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Game Over Online ~ Mega Man 9

GameOver Game Reviews - Mega Man 9 (c) Capcom, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Mega Man 9 (c) Capcom
System Requirements PlayStation 3
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Thursday, October 30th, 2008 at 04:15 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

It's weird how this one turned out. Back in the NES's heyday, there were a lot of series that were notoriously hard: Castlevania III springs to mind, for example, as well as most of the Konami shooters like Life Force or Contra.

Mega Man wasn't one of them, though. The original game is difficult, yeah, especially Iceman's stage and a couple of the boss fights in Dr. Wily's level. Mega Man 2 was laughably easy, though, and the rest of the games in the original series came in somewhere between those two extremes.

Mega Man 9 is unapologetically, unforgivingly difficult. Even the supposedly easy stages are full of quick "gotcha" moments that leave you admiring the game design and screaming at the television simultaneously. Every boss has a fairly vicious attack pattern that requires fast reactions and careful examination; even if you have the right weapon for the job, none of them are "gimme" fights.

As such, Mega Man 9 doesn't feel like a new Mega Man game, so much as a sort of celebration of the NES's catalogue as a whole. It's far more elaborately designed than the kinds of things we used to play, like the designers had been keeping notes on this for the last twenty years, but the sheer challenge level is uncharacteristic of the Mega Man series.

The story's fairly irrelevant; as with all the old Mega Man games, regardless of what you're told before you press Start, Dr. Wily's up to something and Mega Man must stop him. First, eight robot bosses must be taken out, each of which rewards Mega Man with a new subweapon; then, you must invade Dr. Wily's enormous lair and drag him out by the ear.

Of course, this being Mega Man 9, things aren't quite so simple. The design team's been playing a lot of I Wanna Be The Guy or something, because every stage is a veiled hell of hundreds of instant-kill spikes, platforming challenges, temporary platforms, teleporters, spinning lifts, minibosses, and bottomless pits.

The easiest stage, Galaxy Man's, still requires split-second timing; you must adjust falls in mid-air to get past the teleporters, and there's one particularly nasty trap that involves spike traps and robots that suddenly fall from the sky and grab you. This is not a game for the impatient, unskilled, or weak of heart. Instead, it's for the people who grew up on this kind of thing, who complain on forums about games nowadays being too easy, and who are looking for a real challenge.

Like a lot of the old 8-bit games, Mega Man 9 gets much easier once you sort of force your way into it. Each of the subweapons has a variety of uses above and beyond simple destruction. Galaxy Man's Black Hole Bomb sucks up projectiles and can be steered up and down with the control pad; Jewel Man's shield weapon reflects bullets; the Concrete Shot creates short-lived stepping stones as well as freezing certain environmental hazards; Hornet Man gives you the ability to fire bee robots that can pick up power-ups for you; and so on. Much as with games like the original Legend of Zelda, the hardest part of Mega Man 9 is early on, when you have so little to work with.

You can also buy your way past some challenges. You can find Screws in various robot stages, or by destroying normal enemies. These can in turn be redeemed at the shop Mega Man's sister Roll runs for extra lives, energy tanks, and other items. You can also revisit robot master stages that you've already cleared, which means you can farm Screws, stock up on lives and energy tanks, and make your way through most of the challenges of the game with a little patience. It's just clearing that first stage that can be the trick.

I can't imagine any casual gamers getting much out of Mega Man 9. It requires and tests a skill set that you only tend to have these days if you've been playing games for the last twenty years. If you happen to have that, though, it's a flashback to an entire era of gaming, and is definitely worth checking out. It's a testament to the talented game design of a previous decade. Mega Man 9 is a chunk of playable history, and it'll keep you guessing right up until you beat it.


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