An extremely successful mix of old-school values with new little ideas that take the experience one step further
On an era where games that take inspiration on the very roots of the industry are everywhere, pieces of software that thrive exclusively on nostalgic value in order to trick a few players into purchasing them are spreading like a virus. On a far more positive end of that spectrum, fortunately, some titles are turning their old-school gameplay and visuals into just another positive and secondary characteristic on a very solid gaming package whose star is excellent gameplay.
Mega Man 9 was one of those titles and it could possibly be appointed as the effort that triggered the 8 and 16-bit revival the gaming universe has witnessed. Naturally, such a resounding success would eventually generate an equally carefully crafted sequel that, while not as refreshingly unique as its predecessor, is still able to provide many great hours of gameplay by adding a few extra modes, and bringing the same charm and challenge that made the blue bomber one of the industry’s most well-known icons during its 2-D era.
The adventure begins when a disease called Roboenza, which causes many of the bots to misbehave, starts infecting robots all around the world. When Roll, Mega Man’s sister, starts suffering from the disease, Dr. Wily claims that he had created a machine that could produce a cure for the terrible illness; sadly, though, a group of berserk robots destroyed and stole different parts of the equipment. After hearing the news, the blue bomber is quick to act and, as he usually does, jumps into action right away in order to defeat the robot masters who are holding the means to not only save his sibling’s life, but to cure his peers from all over the globe.
As far as gameplay goes, Mega Man 10 holds little to no surprises to those who have already experienced some of the traditional series’ past installments. Eight different robot masters lurk at the end of eight distinctly themed stages, and it is up to the player to choose the order on which the robots will be tackled. Each boss has a specific weakness and by defeating a robot, the hero will acquire the right to use their weapon with limited ammo, which – in turn – can be used to down another evil robot with great efficiency, turning the eight-boss core into a brutal rock-paper-scissors affair.
Figuring out the Achilles heel of all the bosses is a matter of some logic mixed with trial and error, but the reward is a much easier battle than if Mega Man were restricted to his standard weapon of average power. The weapons are quite creative and diverse, and if players take their time with the game it is possible to figure out great smart ways of using them. However, the fact that the adventure is naturally action-based means that all of those clever uses are not mandatory since there are almost no puzzles.
The game plays in pretty much the same way as its predecessors. By using just two buttons players can jump and shoot, with movement being handled by the WiiMote’s extremely precise D-pad. The big addition in this field is that now, instead of having to go through a slow menu to switch weapons, players can simply press either the A or B button in order to quickly make the change to the next weapon of the inventory. Unfortunately, due the B button’s position in the joystick some inadvertent exchanges are bound to happen, a frustrating fact due to the game’s frantic and challenging pace. Had the switch command been implemented exclusively to the A button that problem would have been avoided.
Yet, no odd control behavior could possibly tarnish the fact that Mega Man 10 is delightfully entertaining, and one of the biggest reasons behind that is its amazing level design. Most of the game’s stages are built around one or two nice gimmicks that are brilliantly explored from their most basic level to their toughest possible layout by the developers.
Nitro Man’s stage, for example, has a series of fast moving vehicles that are ready to run over the hero if players do not pay attention to audio and visual signs that warn of their approach. Meanwhile, Commando Man’s level features constant sandstorms that can improve or diminish Mega Man’s ability to jump based on the direction in which they blow, aside from totally blocking players’ view of the nearby platforms. It is this series of amusing trials that keeps the game – and the franchise as a whole – fantastic, refreshing, and inventive even if some of those gimmicks are more fun and original than others.
This time around, Mega Man will not be alone on his quest to overcome evil, as Proto Man will join him on his quest. At the beginning of the adventure, players can choose between both characters. Proto Man can use a shield, a slide attack, and power-up his shots, but so much firepower has a drawback, which is his reduced defense. The addition of another character gives players a bigger push to go through the stages all over again by using different abilities and experiencing ordeals that have been altered by the character’s features.
Mega Man 10 is not all about taking concepts used on the series and dressing them in a new coat of paint. The game offers some new modes that add great value to an adventure that can last about six hours on a first playthrough. First of all, the game has an easy and a hard mode. The former features platforms humorously placed on top of deadly spikes, and enemies with reduced intelligence, while the latter powers up the existing foes, adds new ones, and creates even more traps without altering the design of the levels.
The easy mode will certainly make the title more attractive to more inexperienced players that are unable to tackle a Mega Man game on its standard high difficulty, while the toughest level will offer a nice alternative to those looking for a bigger challenge either from the get go or after going through the regular adventure once. Given Mega Man’s stages are conquered by trial and error, and memorization is slightly removed from the equation when the stages suffer minor tweaks, the replay value receives an important boost due to hard mode.
Secondly, this installment brings back the challenges introduced in Mega Man 9; however, this time around, the structure on which they are presented is slightly different. Instead of working like achievements, the challenges are now set up as small stages, and it is up to the players to unlock most of them during the regular adventure. The way on which those challenges were set up makes up for a much better experience for gamers who attempt to clear them all.
For instance, instead of going through an entire stage just to try and beat a robot master without getting hit, something that would have happened on Mega Man 10; this time around, it is possible to simply press a button and face the robot master again right away. Some may say it excludes part of the difficulty, but the truth is it actually takes frustration away from the title, which can only be a good thing.
Visually, Mega Man 10 is an 8-bit title that takes advantage of its pixels to create charming visuals, enemies, backgrounds, and character models that take players on a big trip down memory lane that begins right as the game’s plot is presented by still frames and text boxes. Needless to say, the menus follow the same old-school presentation.
The series has always been famous for its tunes, and Mega Man 10 absolutely keeps this trend alive by featuring a very good soundtrack that, however, does not feature as many catchy themes as fans of the series are used to. Yet, lack of catchiness by no means implies lack of quality, and even if Mega Man 10’s soundtrack is not as shiny as the one from number 9, it still is a quite remarkable array of compositions based on beeps and noises.
Mega Man 10 ends up being extremely successful in mixing old-school values with new little ideas that take the experience one step further. It is not as hard as Mega Man 9, but that doesn’t make it an easy game, as it keeps throwing challenges at the screen in a borderline merciless manner. Clearing the adventure for the first time might take up to six hours, add the time avid gamers will spend clearing challenges, playing as Proto Man, and beating the game on other difficulties and you have great value for a downloadable software built around addictive gameplay and pure old-school goodness.