Discovering the Blue Bomber: Mega Man (NES)

When I was a kid, one of my very first games that I got for my Nintendo Entertainment System was Mega Man 3. I spent countless hours jumping and shooting through Dr. Wily’s evil robot masters and it was actually the very first game I ever completed. A couple of years later, my mother and I were at K-Mart, and there was a used copy of the original Mega Man for a couple of bucks — it was cheap, so that meant my mom wouldn’t mind buying it for me. I remember getting the cartridge home, rushing to my room, and sliding the game into the system then being greatly disappointment. I discovered this game lacked two Robot Masters, Rush was nowhere to be found, and this iteration of Mega Man couldn’t slide. My young mind wouldn’t accept and couldn’t understand that Mega Man had to start from square one somewhere and grow into the Mega Man that I had become familiar with. So that younger version of Travis quickly abandoned the game and probably traded it at school a couple weeks later. Now I’m clocking in at 30 years old and surprisingly I’ve found myself wanting to persevere through the first entry of this iconic series to see if I’ll enjoy it as much as the games after it.

If you’re not familiar with the story of the original Mega Man, here’s a quick rundown of the plot. Dr. Thomas Light developed two robots with artificial intelligence (there was actually another before, but I’m saving that for another column), hence Rock and Roll were created. Rock severed as Dr. Light’s lab assistant, while Roll performed the daily house duties. Since his two projects were deemed a success, he decides to create six more robots for industrial purposes — Ice Man, Guts Man, Elec Man, Cuts Man, Bomb Man, and Fire Man. However, Dr. Light’s former colleague, Dr. Albert Wily, isn’t too cheerful about his achievements. So he takes it upon himself to steal Dr. Light’s six industrial robots and reprogram them to perform all of his evil deeds. Although, Rock’s sense of justice pushes him to step up to the plate and volunteer to be converted into a super fighting robot, but Dr. Light is apprehensive about performing the conversion. However, he knows that there is no one else who could possibly handle this new threat and reluctantly equips Rock with the Mega Buster transforming into a fighting machine — thus Mega Man was born.

As you can see, the early Mega Man plots were simple, as were the gameplay and mechanics and because of that, I went into this experience with more of an open mind. I figured that the Mega Man formula is pretty straightforward and there can’t be any way you can mess that up. Just move the little guy forward or back, jump and shoot your way through an onslaught of enemies, destroy a robot master then take their weapon — rinse and repeat. Yet, upon playing through the game, I quickly realized that this formula isn’t as polished as the later games mostly due to small nuisances that I’ll address.

First, the level design decisions can frustrate and annoy the player to no end. I know, Mega Man games have been known to do this, but in this particular game, there are parts where I had to just take damage in order to progress and this happened way too often. For instance, during Fire Man’s stage, there is an area where fireballs constantly flow through several tubes from the top of the screen to the lower part. The player has to pass through this constant barrage of fire not once, but twice. The only ways to cross this obstacle is to run through with pixel perfect timing; use the Magnet Beam (which can only be obtained via Elec Man’s stage with the Super Arm weapon), or just eat the damage two times. As a result, I realized that this constant inconvenience could have been the reason why my younger self-raged quit and never returned to this game.

Secondly, Mega Man has numerous complications with the mechanics and gameplay. The game obviously feels a bit slippery in comparison to the sequels, where the movement is tighter in contrast to their predecessor. Mega Man feels as if he slides forward a bit when coming to a stop, which can cause problems when racing through a level. But there is one thing that I never expected and in this next case, it actually happened to me twice. You see, my first encounter with this hurdle happened during my fight with Ice Man. I started the battle with barely enough health, I equipped the Thunder Beam, and easily obliterated the cold bastard. I dropped the controller then threw my hands in the air with a sigh of relief — only to realize that a robot master’s projectile can still cause damage if it is on-screen at the time of death. Yup, you heard me correctly. The enemy projectile is still active if it is on screen after they’re defeated to cause further damage, or in my case, kill Mega Man.

However, these hiccups don’t stop the original Mega Man from being a solid platformer. It has just shown me how far the series has come and how the developers have learned from their mistakes. In the end, I still enjoyed this game, but I’d have to classify it as a notoriously hard Nintendo game that unfamiliar players will never be able to conquer. In all seriousness, my playthrough has made me realize just how revolutionary the game truly was for its time. It gave the player freedom to select their path and gave them the ability to acquire the Robot Master’s weapons, then use it against their foes. Not only that, but it took that concept and added the complexity of rock, paper, scissors to create an even deeper experience. I could go on and on about what I dislike about the first entry, but honestly, I am glad I finally pushed myself to complete Mega Man. This game has made me realize that the developers wanted the player to experience the game multiple times, experiment with the tools they’ve acquired, and try different paths for reaching Dr. Wily. This journey was both an infuriating and enlightening experience that I probably won’t do again. Nevertheless, it has built my anticipation for the next game in the series and another game that I’ve never owned personally — Mega Man 2.


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