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CONSOLE: NES DEVELOPER: Capcom PUBLISHER: Capcom
RELEASE DATE (NA): December 1987 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

A perriwinkle star is born!

In the beginning, there was a little gray box called the Nintendo Entertainment System. Sure, it had a few hits on its metaphorical hands -- Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Metroid, just to name a few -- but there was something absent from its gaming library that even Milon's Secret Castle couldn't compensate for. That is when Keiji Inafune stepped in with an idea for a brand-new video game character that could potentially blow the toupées off fans the world over. The blue bomber first arrived on Japanese shelves as "Rockman" in December of 1987, and on North American shelves that same month: "Mega Man" was born!

Capcom obviously wanted more emphasis on the action than on the storyline behind the action; as a result, the basic plot is quite laughable. There isn't even a introductory story sequence in this game, but what can you expect from a 1987 NES game? Not as much as a 1988 one, that's for sure. Anyway, Mega Man is the joint result of the work of Dr. Wright (changed to Dr. Light in later games to correct a crazy Japanese L/R consonant mix-up) and his assistant Dr. Wily. Wily betrayed his master and reprogrammed six Robot Masters, initially meant to perform specific human-assisting tasks, to wreak havoc and take over the world. The story told in the manual tells that Mega Man alone must fight off all six themed Robot Masters in the city of (groan...) Monsteropolis. That has to be the WORST city name the localization team could possibly concoct. Even something like "Wang City" would have been an improvement. Whoever created the name "Monsteropolis" should be thrown off a bridge into a fjord.


The Robot Master Lineup: Guts Man, Ice Man, Bomb Man, Fire Man, Elec Man, Cut Man

Mega Man performs his primary functions: he can run, he can jump, and he can shoot his special plasma bullets, all with the decent responsive controls one might expect from an 8-bit Mega Man title. Yet perhaps most importantly, he can take the powers of the Robot Masters he defeats! In this instance, there are six Robot Masters (as opposed to eight in all other Mega Man games), each with their own specially-themed stages that Mega Man must traverse through in order to reach the mechanical nemesis that awaits at the end. Brave the frigid weather as you make your way to Ice Man! Ground yourself as you tackle Elec Man! Prepare for some explosive action as you face Bomb Man! Stay cool when you follow the path of Fire Man's inferno! Slice and dice your way to Cut Man! Swallow your pride and snatch up some courage when Guts Man comes for ya! ...yes, those were all pitiful phrases. Oddly enough, in this game only, instead of absorbing the abilities of his foes, the Robot Masters drop discs when they are defeated and Mega Man picks up the disc instead. Starting in this game's sequel, discs are replaced with absorption which is cooler by comparison.

The first game of any series is obviously primitive compared to later iterations in the series' lifespan, and so many of the conveniences that I take for granted clearly can be excused for being absent in this game. Numerous staples are indeed missing from Mega Man. Energy tanks, something I always rely on in my journeys, are nowhere to be found, creating quite a difficulty increase that makes my eyebrows lower themselves in anger. Mega Man's ability to slide has not yet been implemented, nor is the introduction of his trusty canine steed Rush; both of these features will not be available until the third game of the series. At least in Mega Man 2, alternate methods of transportation were given to you after defeated certain bosses, but that's not the case here. You get nothing. Life will be much more arduous for our little robot buddy, eh?

The box cover art is (as you could probably tell by looking at the nasty image above) beyond hideously ridiculous and ridiculously hideous, and has been ranked among the worst game covers in video game history. Obviously, American gamers followed the popular mantra of not judging a book by its cover or else this game would have sold perhaps three copies nationwide. The Japanese Rockman more closely resembled the original anime style Inafune had envisioned. Those lucky ducks in the land of the rising sun get all the cool artwork! The English speakers were toasted this time around. It wasn't until around Mega Man 4's western release that the cover artwork was more synchronized with the look of his Japanese counterpart. (Mega Man 3 came close... but no cigar!) Also featured on this Mega Man box only is the notice that the game is "state-of-the-art" and boasts "high resolution graphics". Well, to be honest, there doesn't seem to be anything particularly revolutionary about them. The game is nice to look at, sure... although the backgrounds could use some clouds or a bird on fire or something funky to liven up the monochroma skies. On a similar aesthetic trip, the character model for Mega Man which would be used five times more on the NES, and later in black and white fashion on the Game Boy, is introduced here! Isn't he cute? A very simple character, Mega Man is also the first video game persona to blink in a video game. Sweet!

Another high point in this game is its music. Every Robot Master has its own stage theme song, and each one is worthy of a good breakdance. While some later games have an easily-forgotten soundtrack, this one is amazingly upbeat and will cause a dance party to form in your living room, reminiscent of a 1980s shindig held by Cyndi Lauper in an unnamed music video. I can hear, rattling around in my head, the theme for Cutman's stage; it sounds like a western desperado theme. I guess that's for the best, since it is in somewhat of a desert-like dusty terrain. Hmmm.

The original Mega Man game, the one that started all the hype and all the praise, actually ranks among the few that I just can't finish; this brings me to my primary gripe of the game: it's just too damn hard. In particular, I don't understand how any human could finish the last fortress stage, where you must take down four Robot Masters and still have enough mojo left in you to take down Dr. Wily's robotic carrier. Obviously, Capcom saw their own folly and created a much easier sequel, implementing energy tanks in the process; as a result, Mega Man 2 is, in my opinion, much more FUN than this game. Take that, insane difficulty! The only thing that keeps me from bashing my head into the wall sometimes is what I've dubbed the "Capcom Coding Technique": whenever an enemy goes off-screen, it is forever lost and will not return to harm you. Isn't that something? It is also much easier with the Thunder Beam trick intact, where you can repeatedly press Select to pause/unpause at your whim while one of your weapons, the Thunder Beam, causes new damage after each unpause. Isn't that something too?

Nevertheless, Mega Man serves as an important stepping-stone for the franchise... in fact, it's the FIRST step to a wonderful series. The classic Mega Man formula was revised and revisited many times over, finding improvements at every turn, but we must all remember that the series had to start somewhere: right here! If you're new to the Mega Man saga, or if you have less than perfect reflexes, it might be best to use either Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3 as your starting point. For gamers who like a rough challenge, this one would be good to pick up and try out. Although finding a copy for the original NES might pose an availability problem, it is readily available in the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, and Xbox consoles, and if you are European or Australian and have a Wii, you can download the original Mega Man via Nintendo's Virtual Console system. Either way, this game is playable to modern gamers, and should be used as a historical reference to where the innovation and the frenzy began.

On a sidenote, I'd like to also personally commend Captain Commando for thanking me for purchasing the product in the instruction manual. Kudos, Captain Commando, kudos.


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