Dr. Wily returns for more platforming PAIN!!!
Now I present to you the game that really jumpstarted the famous Mega Man series. If the first game was a timid calf, the second game would be the raging bull. When we last left our blue-suited handsome hero, he had taken down Dr. Wily and his metallic Robot Master cronies and saved the world from imminent technoconquest. Mega Man, his creator Dr. Light, his robotic sister Roll, and the citizens of Earth could finally rest their heads upon soft pillows, knowing that peace had returned to the planet (and to Monsteropolis, a town whose name had thankfully changed since). Or so they thought... It appears as though Wily cannot be held down; instead of being sentenced to prison time (which forces me to question their judicial system), Dr. Wily has returned to some hidden laboratory of his and has been working tirelessly and vigorously on new robots to help him try and take over the world in a second coup. I don't support his motives but I certainly applaud his persistence! In any case, he must be stopped, and there's only one man -- a Mega Man -- who can save us! Kyaaaaa! This storyline is presented with a short montage at the beginning of the game.
"Mega Man 2" is a huge leap over its predecessor, and is much more accessible to the casual masses. Many of the features sorely needed before are implemented here. First and foremost (and perhaps the addition that has brought me the most relief) is the introduction of Energy Tanks (or E-Tanks for short), which refill your health meter at the press of a button! Now Mega Man can collect and hold up to four E-Tanks at once, automatically reducing the manic difficulty level set by the previous game. Of course the difficulty level is still lofty for the inexperienced, but you get to select just how tough your quest will be -- the difficulty options of "NORMAL" and "DIFFICULT" are ready at the title screen. But even the "DIFFICULT" setting isn't too taxing, unless you play with your feet, are blind, or are repeatedly interrupted by the family cat. One more element that brings down the difficulty is a minor one but perhaps a great improvement for the clumsy-footed: if you take injury, you flash invincibly for a couple of seconds, during which time you actually CAN step on spiked surfaces without perishing. This was not the case in "Mega Man", where it didn't matter when you touched a spike -- you died. Thank goodness Mega Man is wearing better shoes, even though you can still fall prey to them anyhow. These are just a few of the new additions to the world of the blue bomber!
The Robot Master Lineup: Quick Man, Bubble Man, Metal Man, Air Man, Wood Man, Heat Man, Flash Man, Crash Man
There are also a total of eight Robot Masters this time around as opposed to six the last time. You'll be at your wit's end with the speedy skills of Quick Man, the scorching sensations of Heat Man, and the truly bubblicious battling of Bubble Man! (I know, these descriptions are heinous -- may they improve in my review of Mega Man 3!) And just as in the last title, you absorb the special powers of your foes after you defeat them, and I say ABSORB, not pick up a disc like before. In "Mega Man 2", the powers go beyond mere weaponry: Flash Man, for example, gives you the charming ability to stop time temporary, and Wood Man (please let the nasty penis-related puns cease here) offers a Leaf Shield that won't help you out too much on your travels, but is still nice to have in case you are attacked by rampaging seeds. Also, after defeating certain Robot Masters, Dr. Light's head (puffy beard and all) will appear and deliver to you special items suitable to help you reach formerly unassailable parts of some stages, such as a jet that Mega Man can stand on and ride, or a bouncing object that can grip on and climb walls, giving Mega Man a much-needed boost. All good, I say.
The tight control scheme remains strong; you should have no trouble getting Mega Man to follow your command, lest your controller remain unsticky of chocolatey treats. You will find yourself quite at home had you also enjoyed the first game. Slippery surfaces are still just as slippery, and jumping really high underwater for some reason is now the norm. However, the classic Thunder Beam trick (where you press Select repeatedly for multiple bouts of damage upon thy enemy) that players took full advantage of is not present here. No slo-mo Crash Bomb action for you! Hmph!
Graphics are another issue where this game shines, and it can be partially attributed to character design. Where the first game was frigid in presentation, this one shows the more fun side of the Mega Man universe (which has since become grave and serious with recent iterations, or should I say, re-iterations). There's now giant fire-breathing dogs and shrimp-spouting whales with big bright eyes and expressions that contradict that smaller, more simplistic but equally deadly enemies of Mega Man's previous quest. The final bosses in Wily's fortress stages are also bigger and quite inspired! Furthermore, you can tell there is more detail here: each Robot Master gets their own facial portrait on the stage selection screen (as opposed to their miniature entirety)! That's cool, and it will be a staple for the remainder of the series. Still, as long as I'm on the topic of graphics, check out the box art above, and ask yourself why Mega Man is holding a pistol. Once again, North American gamers are subject to box art from artists who have never played or likely heard of Mega Man at all. He wouldn't use a gun. That's not the Mega Man way. It's still an improvement over the vomit-inducing box art of the previous game. Alongside the graphics, the music has remained up to par, perhaps even orbiting the first game a little bit. Jamming to the background music is just as easy this time around. The sound effects are pretty much the same as well, if not a little more metallic-sounding (which is good, considering they are ROBOTS).
I would declare that anywhere that the original Mega Man game failed, this one compensated for it. This may have been the first Mega Man game I ever played (or at least the first one I recall playing), and it changed my gaming life forever. Now I've become a Mega Man fanatic, as anyone who knows me will attest to. So do I recommend this game? Absolutely! It may be tough to find an NES cartridge though, so run down to your local video game vendor and get the Mega Man Anniversary Collection in order to experience the nostalgia goodness of this sapphire-tinged platformer. The only Mega Man game that does it better would be the sequel to this, actually...