God, just fucking imagine turning on your NES and seeing this for the first time in 1989. This was decades before games started to get budgeted and structured like movies, but Mega Man 2 had its very own opening cutscene. It filled us in on what happened in the original Mega Man and let us know what was going to happen in this one. And, of course, the music was incredible. As soon as you select your difficulty (where “Normal” means “Impossible” and “Difficult” means “What”) good old Mega Man puts on his helmet and beams away to fight the eight new Robot Masters.
July 11th will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of MM2’s North American release. You don’t need me to tell you the importance of its place in not only the history of Mega Man and CAPCOM but the history of video games as a whole. It’s also one of my personal favorite games of all time. So for this event we here at GL are breaking out a two-week feature that will basically serve as a very, very in-depth review of Mega Man 2. Part I will be this week and Part II will come next week.
Here’s how it’s going to be structured: this week I’ll tackle the opening four of the Robot Masters. For each one of them I’ll review their stage, their music, and their design (which includes the weapon attained from defeating them). Each of those will be graded on a scale of one to ten and they’ll all be added together. By the end we’ll have a definitive ranking of these guys, which is something we really absolutely need in 2014. Next week I’ll review the other four and the final dungeon/boss.
One final thing before we get too into this: for what it’s worth, a lot of what I’ll talk about here is heavily influenced by the excellent webcomic MS Paint Masterpieces. It is, yes, a sprite comic, but it’s an excellent one, and I recommend it to everyone–especially people who already enjoy the Mega Man universe. I’ll be using a few snippets of comics to lend these Robot Masters some personality that was near-impossible to give to them back in 1989. All that said, let’s get started!
I already posted the opening which is, by this point, too iconic for me to bother reviewing. It’s worth noting that the main menu theme, along with one of the themes from Dr. Wily’s castle at the end, was featured in the trailer announcing Mega Man’s presence in the new Super Smash Bros. game. But my review for the opening is pretty much already up there. It was incredible then and it’s still pretty incredible now.
DWN-009 METAL MAN
DESIGN: I never noticed that the part where his arm and shoulder meet is also a Metal Blade. Neat. I think he was sort of a half-hearted attempt at a ninja before they decided to be straight up with a ninja robot with Shadow Man in MM3. (INTERLUDE: Yes, I know they accepted submissions for these designs in MM2 and MM3. But for simplicity’s sake I’m using “they.”) In a comic he refers to himself as the “robot Cut Man should’ve been” which is fair, for better and for worse. Cut Man’s clumpy design is charming in a way, and Metal Man certainly does look like if Dr. Light didn’t have to pull an all-nighter to finish his homework. But there’s nothing too interesting about Metal Man. Plus, he’s weak against his own weapon, a weapon pretty much universally recognized as supremely overpowered anyway. 5/10
STAGE: Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Metal Man’s stage is simple but challenging, with both it and the eventual boss battle using conveyor belts as a mechanic. It has a very factory-like feel to it, aided by the music (which I’ll get to later). The enemies (a jester-type robot rolling around on a giant metal blade and Pokey-from-Mario-like towered robots) are fairly easy to dispose of but fun to fight. Even with the difficulty of the original NES version, it’s still a pretty easy stage to complete, which isn’t always a bad thing. Still, though, nothing stands out aside from the belts. 7/10
MUSIC: I fully acknowledge that it will be supremely difficult for me to not award a perfect ten to every song from the Mega Man 2 soundtrack. But God fucking help me, I’ll try. This is a tough one to start with. I don’t know shit about music so maybe I shouldn’t even be reviewing this but I know this: I like the way this sounds. What I can say about technically isn’t music and if I try I’ll sound stupid. So I’ll try. One of the strength of every NES Mega Man soundtrack is its use of arpeggios and harmonies. This one nails it and even accurately replicates the feeling of fighting in a cold, hard, steel factory. And now to ask ourselves some important questions. Would Lil B sample it? Well, yes. He’d rap over anything. But would Kanye sample it? Maybe. That’s good enough for me. I know I made a promise and I will fulfill it later, but I’m sorry. I have to do what I have to do. 10/10
DWN-010 AIR MAN
DESIGN: I get the feeling Wily is trying to have his cake and eat it too, here. Not only is Air Man equipped with a big-ass fan on his torso, he also has a blaster on his left arm which serves as his weapon, the Air Shooter. The way Air Man uses it and the way Mega Man uses it differ, and it’s a much less useful weapon in Mega Man’s employ. Air Man knows exactly what to do with it, though, to the point where his boss battle is one of the toughest in the game. But his Achilles heel is right there on his chest. The Leaf Shield is his main weakness, due to the fact that the leaves will jam his fan. Though we might be led to believe the fan is his weapon, I’d wager that it’s his heart. A wind-powered robot is ingenious but it’s a woefully glaring weakness right there on his chest. Points off for that, Wily. 3/10
STAGE: Air Man’s stage is tough as hell but I like it a lot. It’s, ostensibly, high up in the sky–so high that at times the clouds obscure your view, which is a very nice touch. It also makes sense that for Air Man to be at maximum power, he should be high up so that he can get as much wind power as possible. It also provides a lot of opportunities for Mega Man to frustratingly fall to his death, especially with these…weird fucking things. The challenge is fair and makes sense. If you want to battle Air Man, you have to get on his level. Just make sure you have that Leaf Shield. 8/10
MUSIC: …Ugh. This song is really fucking good, too. Why am I even trying to rate this music? It’s like trying to go to the Louvre and judge which paintings are the bad ones. That’s probably a shitty analogy but I don’t care. Air Man’s music feels super Sky Battle which is great because that’s what you’re doing while it plays. You’re having a battle, in the sky, and Kanye would probably sample it. 10/10
DWN-011 BUBBLE MAN
DESIGN: God, he looks so fucking unfortunate. That two-tone pattern on his limbs and torso makes it look like he’s wearing a despicably ill-fitting swimsuit. Though that makes sense since he’s an underwater robot, it still looks really bad. And his weapon is bubbles. Not just regular bubbles, too. Bubble Lead. That’s the goddamn name of the weapon he uses. This either means that the bubbles lead you or that they’re made of lead. Buh? Either way, this weapon is the only one that can damage the very final boss of the game, so you get one extra point for that, Bubble Man. You needed it. 3/10
STAGE: I’m going to post a comic that accurately sums up Bubble Man’s stage.
That last panel pretty much sums it up. Bonus points for sticking to the underwater gimmick the whole way through. 7/10
MUSIC: Okay, I don’t think I have to give this one a perfect ten. It starts off a bit slow but the latter half is really good. It doesn’t match the stage it plays during like Metal Man’s or Air Man’s, though. There’s no real underwater feel to it, but then again I say this as someone who plays a lot of Mario games which have a very specific type of music that plays during underwater stages. I’ll go ahead and discount myself on that one but it’s not as good as the rest of the stuff MM2 has to offer. 8/10.
DWN-012 QUICK MAN
DESIGN: A lot of what I love about Quick Man comes from his characterization and design in MSPM (you can see it in that last panel above) so I’ll try to keep this strictly 1989 Mega Man 2. He does very much look like a revamp of Elec Man’s design, which makes sense because that’s exactly what he is. But as someone who also likes Elec Man very much, I hesitate to call it an upgrade. Rather, it’s more of a different take, with a heavier focus on speed. His weapon, the Quick Boomerang, looks like toenails. Points off for that. But—and I love this—his weakness is the Time Stopper, implying that he needs to move in order to live. It’s sort of like Crank, but in robot form. That’s a good design in my book. 8/10
STAGE: You might know Quick Man’s stage as the one with those giant fucking beams that kill you to pieces if you don’t move fast enough. It’s frustrating but, like Air Man, it’s a challenge that makes sense given the Robot Master. If you want to fight Quick Man, you have to move as fast as he does. It’s a rare source of characterization in that original video game. His massive speed and massive ego mean that the only people he deems worthy of a challenge are those who can conquer something only he can best. All that said, it is really fucking frustrating at times. A point off for that. 8/10
MUSIC: I want to again emphasize I know approximately jack shit about music in a technical sense. But it sounds like there’s a bit too much going on here, actually. It could do without that one melody that sounds scratching noises. Everything else is pretty good even if it does sound sort of similar to the opening theme (but what’s wrong with copying a good thing?). You’d think that the tempo would be faster, but that’s probably due to console limitations so I won’t hold it against them. Maybe that’s why they made it busier than the other songs. 7/10
So, as of right now, the ranking is as follows: Quick Man, Metal Man, Air Man, and Bubble Man. We still have Flash Man, Crash Man, Wood Man, and Heat Man left to go. So far on this journey I personally have discovered that it’s really hard to be critical of Mega Man 2 music and that the weird-looking platform enemies in Air Man’s level are called Goblins. You learn something new every day. Be sure to tune in next week for the rest of the game and some more life lessons!