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RELEASE DATE (NA): September 2008 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

It's 12 years later and Dr. Wily still hasn't learned his lesson.

NOTE: I am reviewing the PlayStation Network version of this game.

Dr. Wily had been punished for his crimes on eight several occasions (not to mention numerous instances in portable form, if you can explain that), but that certainly didn't stop him from wanting to try and take over the world a ninth time with his berserk robots. But after Mega Man 8 for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn, there was... nothing. In the world of the original Mega Man series, you could hear crickets chirping forever. And certainly, the series should not have concluded with a game featuring awful voice acting and a protagonist that sounds squishy when he jumps. So Mega Man fans waited... and waited... and then, waited some more. (And no, Mega Man & Bass doesn't quite count as the new Mega Man game we were looking for.) But there is usually a light at the end of every tunnel. After a seemingly horrendous 12-year hiatus, Capcom finally listened to the fans and announced the existence and development of Mega Man 9. In September 2008, every gamer was finally able to relive the majesty of the its 8-bit glory.

That's right. Mega Man 9 is an 8-bit game, an homage to the classic NES days if you will. This iteration in the series is actually modeled around the mechanics of Mega Man 2; although I am thankful they did not use the original Mega Man as their inspiration, I feel that the series has actually stepped backwards in terms of all the cool features Mega Man could use. For example, he's been able to charge up his Mega Buster since Mega Man 4... but now he can't! I miss that, and I feel a bit weakened without it. He has also been able to slide since Mega Man 3... but now he can't! So what's left is sort of a stripped-down Blue Bomber. At least certain elements remain intact, especially the ability to hold up to nine E-Tanks for extra health refills. Thank goodness for that! But there are numerous other things you can add to your back-up arsenal (aside from the typical weapons attained by defeating Robot Masters). The M-Tank from Mega Man 5 makes a return, allowing you to fill up all your weapons and your own energy at once. Mainstays Beat and Eddie make another appearance; you can summon both of them. There is also a one-time use item that allows you to land on spikes safely without taking injury. Niftier still is the Energy Balancer (taken nicely from the Game Boy counterparts), which allots any energy pellets to the weapon with the lowest amount of charge. Now that should become a permanent item in all future Mega Man games. But here's the difference: you won't find these items just sitting around in the stages. Nope, you have to buy them with Screws that are dropped by enemies. Sadly, the frequency of when Screws are dropped is not quite as high as I would have hoped. It took me a while to build up a solid supply to go on a shopping spree. Then I spent 200 of them on a nice dress for Roll. I'm a sucker for female-based robots.

The Robot Master Lineup: Concrete Man, Splash Woman, Magma Man, Jewel Man, Hornet Man, Plug Man, Tornado Man, Galaxy Man

As is the case with many of the more recent Mega Man games, the storyline is both predictable and transparent. This time around, Dr. Wily has tried to convince the world that he has left behind his evil ways, while at the same time framing Dr. Light for setting eight more robots loose on the world. Dr. Wily takes to the television to plead to the world that he can stop Dr. Light's rampage, but only if they send money to his Swiss Bank account so he can build counteractive robots of his own. He even has a sign on the TV screen telling us what the account number is, 19-871-217, which is actually the date the original Mega Man game was released for the NES (December 17, 1987). Interesting. So it's up to Mega Man to tackle the vagabond bots, such as the blustery Tornado Man, the buggin' Hornet Man, or the stuck Plug Man? Yeah, don't know where that came from. And let's not forget Splash Woman, the first female Robot Master ever! Figures she had to be a mermaid-type character. Oh, the fantasies! I should point out that although the Robot Masters pose significant challenges, it's the actual STAGES that will be your greatest obstacle. Some stages, such as those of Splash Woman and Galaxy Man, are pretty easy, some stages have certain points where the difficulty rises out of nowhere and will cost you many a life trying to overcome it. I cursed at the game many times (or at least bottled up some nasty anger). All the tricks that had been stored within the twisted minds of the designers have all been released here. Expect trouble, though this is no fault of the controls, which are pretty spot-on as they always were. On the plus side, the cutscenes in between certain stages do add a bit of levity to the nasty difficulty level, so I'll applaud Capcom for that.

What sets Mega Man 9 apart from the other games is the fact that there are (at least in the PlayStation 3 version) numerous challenges that you can tackle and get little crowns for, such as defeating Robot Masters within 10 seconds, collecting 999 screws, and completing the game within a set time limit. It's good for people who want to challenge themselves, but it'll probably end up being pointless for some. I don't benefit from completing the game within one hour, but for others, who knows? As well, there are also several downloadable content packs to add to the experience. You can download extra packs that can amp up the difficulty, give you a new time attack trial with a bonus new boss at the end (the policebot from the beginning, also known as Fake Man), or even play as Proto Man (complete with sliding ability)! They cost much less than the original game, so if you're looking for something a bit rougher and tougher to gnaw on, this could be it.

Now let's talk about the graphics. For a game that was developed and released in 2008, this game looks downright pitiful and bland. However, that's just the point. This game wasn't meant to be a technological marvel or graphics powerhouse. It was designed to harken back to a simpler time -- 1989 -- when Mega Man was sitting upon his rightful throne on the NES. So this game has 8-bit graphics. Most of them look very much like their NES counterparts, although there are too many black backgrounds. All the enemies and other characters animate just as they would on a typical NES. Even the opening cinematic looks very well done (and a bit comical, even) with old-school graphics. Even the box art reeks of the past, mimicking the horrible box art of the first game in the series. The music, on the other hand, is passable at best. None of the songs really stick out, although Tornado Man's theme could win the award for Most Ear-Piercing Video Game Song of the Year. Geez, didn't anyone LISTEN to it first?

Capcom has delivered some fine fan-service overall, both to those who have clamored for a new REAL Mega Man game for over ten years and those who thought the original bunch were a tad too easy. This game, although quite entertaining, also delivers some of the cheapest gaming kills I've encountered in a while. I think the folks at Capcom must have been storing some cruel ideas all this time and were just waiting to put them to use. Here they are. I can indeed recommend this as a worthwhile download from WiiWare, XBox Live Arcade, or the PlayStation Network, all of them for about $10. It's a notable title that was worth the wait, sort of. It isn't quite the revolution that games like Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3 were, but it's definitely of the same quality. I hope more games in a similar vein are released in the near future (not remakes, new games). While I wait for those dreams to become realities, I shall say, "Fight, Mega Man, for everlasting peace!"

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