I have already reviewed the original Mega Man game, as well as its sequel, but now is the time to take a closer look at the third game in the now legendary series. Mega Man 3 is the game which I consider to be the pinnacle of the series, demonstrating exactly why Mega Man games are so beloved by the masses. It seems to go without saying, but this is also my personal favourite of the classic series. Therefore, it may appear as though I am heavily biased towards this game, but even a bias-free perspective could see this as the best of the bunch!
The basic premise of this game is that Dr. Light and Dr. Wily have seemingly mended their ways and are working together on a project known only as "Gamma", though it is believed that this new robot will be beneficial to humanity. Yet all is not well here: with recently discovered energy crystals, eight new robots that the two scientists had designed have gone haywire and need to be strongly disciplined. In walks Mega Man, who is recruited to kick some robo-butt! Also being somewhat prominently featured for the first time is Proto Man, the prototype robot for Mega Man, who has returned from... uh... someplace where we weren't able to see him before. Every once in a while, Proto Man will pop up and challenge Mega Man to fight and prove himself worthy. Proto Man has never truly been appreciated in any specific game (except for maybe the future Mega Man: The Power Battle, a 2D fighter for the arcades), but his cult followers can thank this game for his very existence.
The Robot Master Lineup: Top Man, Needle Man, Magnet Man, Shadow Man, Hard Man, Snake Man, Spark Man, Gemini Man
As with Mega Man 2, there are notable additions and improvements to the already established gameplay. Two of the biggest innovations in the series can be found here. First and foremost is the introduction of a new robotic canine buddy, Rush! He takes the place of the transportation "items" from the previous game; defeating certain Robot Masters earns you one of Rush's special adaptors. You start out with Rush Coil (acting as a springboard to get you to higher platforms), but can later gain the Rush Jet (letting you fly on the fly) and Rush Marine (for underwater exploration) abilities. This will be a staple of future classic Mega Man games to come. Secondly, Mega Man has gained the new-found ability to slide, creating an environment for even more platforming puzzles. Pressing Down + B to do so may be a tad cumbersome at times, but that's the price you pay for swift movement such as this! Also new (and very much appreciated) is an increase in the total number of Energy Tanks (for refilling the life meter) you can possess, from four to nine. This makes the game even easier for those who have a crazy obsession with taking injury. There is also a hidden secret super-jump ability which allows Mega Man to achieve a height not normally possible; you can perform this super-jump by holding Up on the second controller. Other second-controller phenomenon are also available at your disposal, including slow-motion and the ability to freeze enemies in their tracks. Nifty? I think so.
In keeping with tradition, Mega Man 3 does not stray from the already proven formula of pitting Mega Man against eight Robot Masters. Ideas keep flowing out of Capcom... er, by way of a robot design contest held in Japan that allows children of all ages to submit their propositions for possible Robot Masters in the next Mega Man game. Thanks to those children, there are numerous oddities that you must face, including the double-sided attacks of Gemini Man, the pointy pummelings of Needle Man, and the magnetic personality of Magnet Man. (My zany descriptions of Robot Masters will not cease until I finish all eight reviews of the classic Mega Man series; keep an eye out for worse descriptions in my upcoming review of Mega Man 4!) And upon defeating these foes, you will gain the powers they so desperately protected and utilized against you. Some weapons are useful, such as the Gemini Laser or the Magnet Missile, but others are simply downright awful. For those who have already played this game before and have some experience with it, you probably already know and fully comprehend what I'm about to discuss. I'd like to give special mention to one of the worst possible weapon choices in the entire series: the Top Spin ability. No, it has nothing to do with a tennis game by Microsoft. It basically requires to you to jump directly at the enemy, and as you do so, activate your weapon by pressing Up + B, causing Mega Man to do a mid-air pirouette in an attempt to do some serious ballet damage. It's often frustrating to perform effectively, as you end up not twirling early enough (or at all) and you only take damage instead. Frankly, you'll likely take damage even if the Top Spin DOES connect. Plus, Mega Man looks downright wussy when he spins. I didn't fall madly in love with Ballet Man. Yet perhaps the most interesting aspect of Robot Master presence is the arrival of the Doc Robot who, during the course of the game, inherits the abilities of the eight Robot Masters of Mega Man 2 during four pre-Wily Fortress levels set in terrains which you decimated earlier. The difficulty comes with the fact that you no longer possess the weapons that had killed those old Robot Masters anymore, so you must adapt your new weapons to their weaknesses. A fun time had by all, especially when dealing with pain-in-the-neck characters such as Quick Man.
The cover art for Mega Man 3 seems to present an evolution in design. Gone is the figure of Mega Man holding a frickin' pistol, and DEFINITELY gone is Mega Man wearing golden armor in Bizarro World. At least some proper elements of the Mega Man universe are drawn in, including Dr. Wily's fortress and Spark Man (one of the aforementioned Robot Masters), not to mention Mega Man and Rush, each looking more cartoonish, just as they should be. Still, it's the in-game graphics that mean the most to gamers, and in the case of Mega Man 3 (at the time of its release), they were definitely up to par with Capcom's best at the time. They were slightly more detailed than those of Mega Man 2, and bear much of the charm that was eventually wiped out in post-NES releases. Furthermore, the musical soundtrack is perhaps the best (if not one of THE best) scores to date for a Mega Man game. Each song is easily recognizable and memorable, an attribute which is unfortunately absent from later games. Of particular note by this author is the theme music behind the third and fourth stages of Wily's Fortress, and the calming extended theme of Proto Man at the end (oops, did I spoil something?). There's not a bad tune to be found though, so keep that volume cranked to the max! The sound effects are typical Mega Man fare, mostly carried over from the previous iteration, a touch of tinge to indicate the metallicism of things.
What else can I say about this, my favourite of the classic eight-part Mega Man saga? When I think of a game that embodies the full spirit of what Mega Man games are supposed to be about -- pure fun without excess clutter and strategy, just a go-get-em experience -- this one immediately comes to mind. As a hearty Mega Man fan, I am actually pained with how the series is being treated nowadays, but such is the way when it comes to such a simple but successful series. I will talk more about this when I finish reviewing the last of the original eight Mega Man games. In any case, Mega Man 3 is without a doubt the finest Mega Man game you may ever get to play. You may be able to find this in a bargain bin at a liquidation zone if you're downright lucky, but for the rest of us gamers, the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for PS2, GameCube, or Xbox, will provide the same experience. Overall, Mega Man 3 is a simple but engulfing quest, but that is precisely what Mega Man games are all about.