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CONSOLE: Game Gear DEVELOPER: Freestyle PUBLISHER: U.S. Gold
RELEASE DATE (NA): 1995 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Sega Man!

Everybody was doin' the Mega Man back in the day! ...well, except for the lowly Game Gear. At least, that was the case until 1995 when, out of the blue, Capcom licensed the franchise to U.S. Gold to make a North America-exclusive Mega Man title. With developer Freestyle covering the hard labour, portable Sega fans were finally able to enjoy what Game Boy enthusiasts had been experiencing for years: Mega Man on the go!

Before we can discuss the game, we must ask ourselves the all-important question: who exactly IS Mega Man? Well, according to the manual...

How often is he saving the entire UNIVERSE?! Despite Mega Man clearly being awesome, that doesn't mean he's some intergalactic space warrior saving planets from impending doom by a warmongering cosmic overlord. No, he just keeps Dr. Wily from taking over the world with a maximum of eight manly robots at a time. This is evidence that nobody at either Freestyle or U.S. Gold had ever played a Mega Man game before and simply wanted to capitalize on the character's success. Unfortunately, the game's excellence only goes downhill from here.

But let's start with what's good with this Game Gear adaptation.

With the added hardware capabilities of the Game Gear, Mega Man on the go looks pretty darn good. Finally, he's in full colour, and both the sprites and environments have a sharp sheen, proving a little bit of shading makes a big difference. Freestyle also culled most of the game's soundtrack from the NES games, and the renditions don't sound...terrible? The intro cutscene's tune could probably use a little less caffeine, but the songs are at least...listenable? Sort of?

...Actually, that actually pretty much covers it. Mega Man for Game Gear is, shall we say, "less than ideal". Or, in other words, it's a soiled diaper of a game.

Mega Man on Game Gear serves as a sort of "Best Of compilation", but they didn't quite realize the "best" parts of each game they were pulling from, in this case, Mega Man 2, 4, and 5. There are six Robot Masters to defeat; you start out with the option of taking on Napalm Man, Stone Man, Bright Man, or Star Man first, four choices that probably would not have topped many Man Fans' lists of favourites. In a typical Mega Man game, each Robot Master is weak to another's special weapon, gained by defeating them. Because they omitted the other Robot Masters from the respective titles, their weaknesses from past titles have had to shift somewhat. Napalm Man is weak to Bright Man's flash, which certainly wasn't the case before. Once these four robots are downed, Mega Man automatically moves on to Wave Man's stage (he's weak to...well, absolutely nothing, frankly), followed by Toad Man, a Robot Master nobody ever wanted back (but he's easy to program, so that's probably why).


Exit, stage right! ...Oh, there were spikes there.

You gain their weapons when you defeat them, but unlike the NES iterations, Freestyle didn't even bother putting the weapons' full names in! Instead of gaining the Rain Flush from Toad Man, you get the "Rain Weapon". Napalm Bomb? Nope, it's a "Bomb Weapon". Stop getting design tips from the Encyclopedia Generica, guys!

The biggest problem with the game is the screen size issue. Instead of modifying the sprites and levels to suit the Game Gear's diminutive display, the developer simply kept the sizes of everything and forced the screen to scroll around with you. This leads to far too many leaps of faith because you can't see what terrors or platforms lay below you. With auto-kill spikes and treacherous pits all around, you'll never know if you're about to jump into either until it's too late. This makes each level far more dangerous and frustrating than necessary, and quite frankly, it practically murders and buries any enjoyment you may expect to receive. And, with giant sprites comes additional danger, especially in boss fights when you feel like you're in closer quarters than preferred.

Mega Man is also incredibly short. There are only seven stages in all, making this perhaps one of the briefest excursions for the Blue Bomber yet, save for the DOS games, neither of which are even worth traversing. The only way this game is elongated is by its aforementioned difficulty due to the screen size. Once you finish it, however, that's pretty much it. Back in the bin it does with the discarded copies of Cheese Cat-astrophe and Surf Ninjas.

There are also smaller, more negligible changes that affect gameplay, such as having few shots on screen or having no continues, but really, it comes down to being such a technical and creative hodgepodge that it ends up being artificially more difficult and less enjoyable as a final product than necessary. I love Mega Man — it's my favourite series of all time — but the Game Gear adaptation biffed it in all the wrong places, making this one of the titles worth forgetting.


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