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// article by Meow

Disclaimer: Lives are still limited!

When Mega Man 9 hit the market back in 2008, the world was shown just how much people didn't actually understand what made retro games good. Digressing before I even start, Mega Man 9 was received with general praise for being "hard like a good old game from meh childhood" and for being made in an 8-bit art style that is rather iconic of the series. Naturally, that meant that the world had to be flooded with even more Mega Man fan games than ever before. Thankfully, by this time, fans started having actual talent and, starting out as an unofficial "Mega Man 10", Mega Man Unlimited was unleashed onto the scene with some rather high praise itself.

Mega Man Unlimited is a standalone game program for PC made in a style similar to that of Mega Man 9, having 8-bit art and cutscenes that look like they were made by official Capcom artists. It features the usual stuff of a Mega Man game with a few twists, such as collecting the letters "Y", "O", "K", and "U" to unlock a 9th Robot Master stage to play. The game also features the delusions of the age, where hard gameplay = good regardless of where the difficulty comes from. In this game, in "original difficulty" mode, the game is mind-numbingly frustrating. Bosses take off about 1/4 to 1/3 of your max hit points per hit, and they have AI patterns that specifically bait you into eating a sucker punch unless you know it's coming, such as Tankman charging from one end of the room to the other, but later will stop mid-charge and pull back so that if you unknowingly jump over him you get smacked with a killer blow. In addition to this, the Wily Fortress bosses seem super keen on instant death abuse, making what are already frustrating bosses all the more of a bother. And let's not even talk about that mess of a fight against Dr. Wily himself. Honestly, the best fight in the game is against Bass because it's the only fight where the boss actually does damage that feels appropriate, and he plays in a way where if you get hit, it's entirely your fault and not because you weren't psychic and could see that if you try to slide out of the way that the boss will slap a landmine in the way. Thankfully, the devs put in an easy mode in the game that I like to call "actually enjoyable mode" where foes do more reasonable amounts of damage, and platforms are placed all over. Oh, and they add more checkpoints in because apparently having to replay half the level in original mode was fun but they knew that some people were, you know, not masochists and didn't enjoy having to replay everything after they get sucker-punched into a death pit.

All this complaining aside, the game looks like it could be passed off as an official title. The game looks good, and plays... mostly okay, though there are a lot of little things that make it not feel as 100% polished as it could have been, such as the inability to aim your buster on a ladder ahead of time by pressing a direction; you have to actively press a direction and shoot for Mega Man to actually look and shoot that way. The game also felt weird on keyboard, like Mega Man would take a brief moment to "warm up" before he actually starts walking. Using a gamepad, this problem isn't as present. Music-wise, this game can be passed off as official, too, practically, it's that good. Though the only tracks that really stick in my mind are the Vs. Bass fight because of the beat to it makes me wanna sing "banana fo fana" to it and Yoku Man's stage theme.

Now, I've whined about stages a smidge before, though I mostly whined about bosses and the serious lack of checkpoints, but I'd like to point out a few other things specifically about the level layout. By itself, the levels are actually pretty great. Rainbow Man's stage is probably the only one I expressly don't think of fondly due to it being a "do your homework" session of memorizing what to do in a room before you get to it so that instant-death lasers don't fry you, but all the other levels can be completed pretty well depending on your level of skill. My personal favorite would probably be Trinitro Man, though I couldn't say why. Probably how slightly puzzle-like the level is. Throughout all these stages, though, you won't find E-Tanks anywhere but in one secret path in Trinitro Man's stage that requires a lot of effort to get to. Instead, you'll find min-E-tanks as seen in Mega Man V for Game Boy placed where you would expect an E-Tank to be in these games, which is sometimes... insulting. 4 min-E-tanks make 1 E-Tank and can't be used until then, and when you have to have a specific boss power and solve a puzzle to get just one, it gets bothersome. I suppose they may have done this to encourage players to spend their mostly worthless bolts on full E-tanks in the game's shop, but why bother doing that when you can just get 2 min-E-tanks at once with no effort in Jet Man's stage? Yeah, another reason I find these min-E-tank prizes insulting. You start finding full E-Tanks in the Wily Castle stages, though, so by that point you don't need to sweat buying them at all. Another weird thing I noticed is that all throughout the game you will find items out of reach, such as being entirely surrounded by walls, and the only way you can obtain them is to use Yoku Man's special weapon which sends out a little Mega Minion to loot them. However, Yoku Man pretty much requires you to play a large portion of these stages first, so... you're not going to be returning to that stage to pick up a weapon energy or health. There's no point. Granted, I suppose it IS theoretically possible that you could just suck it up fighting most bosses and somehow reign victorious over Glue Man and one other Robot Master, somehow stopping sucking long enough to beat Yoku Man in the process, but that isn't going to happen for anyone their first time. You know, the playthrough where those extra pick-ups would help.

To wrap this whole thing up, this is a fine game, but it's rough. Not just around the edges, just in general. It's so almost-good, it's painful. But... man, just how much damage everything does to you and just how much the game could have used more checkpoints make this a more frustrating experience than I can care to recommend. I only suggest playing this if you can handle failure. Your failure, that is. The game only failed on me once.


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