Published on October 16th, 2012 | by mitchmurphy0
Mega Man II Retrospective
Summary: Mega Man II is my favourite video game of all time, and it's probably yours too.
Everyone has that one game that they played when they were a kid that just stuck with them. That one game that pops immediately into their head whenever they are asked, “Hey, what’s your favourite video game?” It doesn’t even have to be a great game. It just came along at the right time, you developed some strange affinity to it and played it for hours on end. In the case of my little brother, that game is Fighting Force for the Playstation. Fighting Force won’t be making it onto any ‘Greatest Games of all Time’ lists any time soon but my little brother doesn’t care; he loves that game and I’m sure, as you have been reading this article, you have already thought of that one game you have that connection with. The game that has had that long lasting effect on me is Mega Man II. It’s my favourite video game of all time. Maybe it was all those hours I spent as kid mastering it, learning how to get through the beam challenge on Quickman’s stage or beating levels using only Mega Man’s blaster that created this bond. All I know is that it’s my go-to answer when asked “What is your favourite video game.”
The opening to Mega Man II is legendary. I remember the first time I put the cartridge in my NES and booted it up. The iconic music hits and the story begins to unravel. After the text disappears and the image begins to scroll up, the excitement rises. Then the music’s tempo quickens. Then the excitement rises again. Then the music kicks in, the Blue Bomber’s hair waving back and forward, and it feels like it’s due to the power of his own theme tune. As a kid, I was blown away; as an adult, I still find it to be one of the greatest openings to a video game ever. It sets a pace to the game that is just absurd and the best part is, the pace doesn’t drop. Through out this whole game the soundtrack, level design, weapon mechanics, etc. ensure that the tempo of this game is kept at a high level from the title screen to the end.
After your body and mind recovers from the awesomeness that was the introduction to this game, you are given the opportunity to choose your own path within the game. 8 panels consisting of 8 bosses surrounding a central panel that reads ‘DR WILY’. A seasoned Mega Man player will know that there are specific ways in which you can defeat the stages that helps with your progression. After you defeat a bosses stage you receive his power, in turn each power is super effective against a specific boss. Speaking of boss stages, the level design is off the charts in this game. Bosses weren’t just at the end of each stage to provide a challenge, their levels were a complete theme that built you up to that battle. The stages are artistically designed around the theme of the boss meaning each level is completely different to the next. Bubbleman’s stage has underwater elements which completely changes Mega Man’s jumping mechanics. Airman’s stage, as you would suspect, sets you in the sky, jumping from object to object whilst fighting off enemies. One of the criticisms of the first Mega Man game was that the levels often felt cut and paste, making the game feel repetitive. This cannot be said for its sequel as every time you enter a new stage, it not only feels fresh but it is also offers new challenge.
Another reason why the game was so successful was the controls. The controls felt like an extension of your brain. When you’re playing a side-scroller that sets a quick tempo like Mega Man II does, the controls have to be spot on other wise the player becomes quickly frustrated and unhappy. In Mega Man II, you very rarely blame the game for dying, you blame yourself. Instilling this method of thinking within a gamer is really tough but it’s also invaluable. It makes a player continue to play because they know they can beat a certain stage of the game they’re stuck on. Although they’re repeatedly failing they still feel like they’re in control. Mega Man II gives you that feeling throughout the whole experience whilst at the same time you know you can’t let your guard down or you will be punished . It’s a fine balance but a balance Capcom achieves within the game.
The soundtrack; what can I say about the soundtrack that hasn’t already been said by 100% of the players who have played the game? There is a video on YouTube in which someone has recreated the Dr. Wily Stage 1 music in Mario Paint. The video has close to one million views. That is just one stage, in Mario Paint. The soundtrack is, quite simply, legendary within the gaming community. That feeling I got as a child watching the opening sequence to this game is ingrained within my mind. I remember thinking that nothing in the game would top that moment, and it was at the very start of the game. After beating 8 robots, I was ready to click that central panel and go fight the evil scientist that created them, Dr Wily. It’s as if the game knows you’re mentally exhausted because the song that is played, the track I mentioned before: Dr Wily Stage 1, is the greatest pick-me-up track in gaming history. When that hits, you’re not only ready to go again, you’ve got more energy than ever. Determination drips from every pour as an involuntary war cry cascades from your mouth. Dr. Wily is a dead man. All because of some 8-bit track. In my opinion, it’s the greatest soundtrack of all time and I’m sure there are a lot of gamers out there who would agree with me.
What Capcom has recently done to the Mega Man series is only comparable to what Paul W. Anderson has done to the Resident Evil franchise. Due to fan pressure we have seen the likes of Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 released on XBLA and the Playstation Network which utilise the retro graphics and sound system, but it’s not enough. Fans are losing confidence in Capcom as they have repeatedly cancelled contemporary Mega Man titles, Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe, most recently. So what is to come of the Blue Bomber? Who knows, but, at the very least, we have the classics to hold on to.