Fresh off the heels of completing the development of the original Mega Man, Keiji Inafune and the rest of the team are given the green light to create a sequel, even though the first entry sold poorly. As I continue my journey into the series I’ll discover why the sequel made Mega Man a household name. Before writing this column, I had no prior experience with Mega Man 2, but I’ve always heard that this is the quintessential point in the series. Maybe it is, but I want to see if the development team learned from the mistakes of the original and if Mega Man 2 is truly one of the best games in the series.
Now, my experience with the first Mega Man was far from spectacular. I found it to be a mediocre experience and it definitely wasn’t memorable enough to catapult it to classic status. When I look back at it all, the only things that I can remember are its slippery controls, questionable gameplay mechanics, and its bland art design; so my hopes for a better experience with Mega Man 2 were pretty high. I hate to sound cliche, but seeing Mega Man standing atop of that skyrise in the intro instantly felt like a breath of fresh air and it filled me with joy.
The majority of the original team completed Mega Man 2 in their spare time between projects, but they inserted a healthy dose of tender love and care into its development. Right from the beginning I quickly noticed that the art design received a huge upgrade. Mega Man might have looked the same, but the environment, user interface, and enemy designs were vastly improved. Simple changes turned out to be some of the best additions to the series. For example, the robot master selection screen was dull in the original, but the inclusion of the character portraits instead of the sprites was an excellent touch. It added a sense of exhilaration to the adventure, especially with the portraits where the robot masters glared back at the player. It built the hype for the adventure in the most straightforward way possible.
Another thing that I greatly appreciated was the improved level design. With Mega Man, I found myself in plenty of strenuous situations that left me livid. I dealt with dodging fire while navigating over lengthy open pits, difficult platforming sections that required precise timing, and sections where you had to involuntarily take damage. Now if you read my previous entry in this series, you’ll know that the last example is one that I loathed. In short, during Fire Man’s stage, there is a segment where the player has to take damage multiple times to advance to the next section. The only way to bypass this part without damage is to have pin-point accuracy to pass the stream of fire or by using the Magnet Beam weapon. A lot of these inconveniences were fixed in Mega Man 2 and I was provided with a ton of stages that were filled with both excitement and frustration, but in the end, I was always having fun. Although, there was a point in Mega Man 2 that returned to the negative roots of the original that brought this fun to an instant halt.
While playing Mega Man 2, I texted my good friend Chris about how I was enjoying the game compared to the original. Then he texted me back saying, “I can’t wait for you to get to the Wily boss that I can not stand.” I honestly thought it was the dragon, which was a piece of cake, but I instantly knew which boss he was referring to as soon as I entered the section. Dr. Wily’s fortress boss for level four isn’t really a boss, it’s more of a trap room built to enrage the player. You’re in a small room with wall-mounted guns that all simultaneously shoot projectiles at you and you must defeat each one before they kill you. Not only that, but you have to use the Crash Bomber to destroy the guns and pass through certain walls to reach them. You have to approach this section with a solid plan on preserving your optional weapon energy and destroying all the guns. This was the only section of the game that truly infuriated me and had me drawing up various solutions on how to solve the problem.
In the end, Mega Man 2 provided me with a better experience in comparison to the original. I thoroughly enjoyed the intense platforming levels, tighter controls, the stellar soundtrack, and, of course, the Metal Blade. I am in no way surprised that this game launched Mega Man into stardom. The game is without its faults, but it shows how a team should learn from their mistakes truly and how a sequel should be made. At this point, I can only wonder how Mega Man 2 will hold up to my personal favorite in the series, Mega Man 3. It has been an interesting experience to complete these games before the entry that I began with when I was younger. So I can not wait to venture into a game that I am familiar with and see how far the next game pushes the series ahead.