Mega Man: The name most Capcom fanatics moan wishfully in their sleep before awakening to realize it was only just a dream and Capcom really isn't going to ever make a new game in the series. Ever. But way back when, especially around the early 1990s, Mega Man was quite the hit character, as both Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 on the NES were both million-sellers, a feat not as easily achieved by third-parties (although for some reason, that terrible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game sold 4 million copies) as by Nintendo itself, pretty much the head honcho of the home gaming industry at that point. Also quickly rising in popularity at the time was the Game Boy, the brick-shaped portable system capable of swapping games on the go while still injecting the player with that ol' Nintendo charm.
Wait a minute... new hip gaming system... popular gaming franchise... now this may just be the sudden influx of chocolate and caramel talking here, but what if... and this might be a longshot... but what if we combined those two somehow?
And thus, Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge was born!
Unlike the regular console iterations, the first Game Boy Mega Man title was outsourced to Minakuchi Engineering, who would also take on the reigns for the final three Game Boy titles as well. And for a company's first shot at a new IP, they did a decent job. Mega Man, though a little stiffer on the really small screen, acts just as he would on any other console, hopping and firing away to his heart's content. If you've played any other Mega Man games, you'll feel right at home here. Little has changed story-wise (as if there was ever much of a story to begin with): Dr. Wily still wants control over the world and sends out his Robot Masters to take care of business. Mega Man has to travel through various stages to contend with the Robot Masters, defeat them, and absorb their powers to use on others in a sort of rock, paper, scissors style of cycle.
This week's lineup...
The Robot Masters are culled from the first two NES games, with the ones from Mega Man 2 not even receiving their own stages (they're simply fought in Dr. Wily's fortress as a bit of a surprise). The only new major enemy here is Enker, named after the Japanese musical genre of "enka", meant to duplicate the more traditional style of Japanese musical history. Designed by Mega Man co-create Keiji Inafune himself, Enker is a swift spear wielder and the first of the "Mega Man Killers", bonus boss characters featured in Game Boy titles up to Mega Man IV.
But make no mistake: even though the bosses are recycled, the stages certainly aren't. The designs are all new, and they can be quite taxing, especially because of the small Either that, or he just got fat. The game feels more cramped, and in a series where maneuverability is a key factor, that can be quite troublesome. Plus, health is dropped at an absolute minimum, so he has no help there. With a lack of E-Tanks to refill your life meter or a slide to zip by enemies, Mega Man must survive on quick wit and even quicker reflexes because some of the stage design is downright dastardly. And they've even gone above and beyond to make you curse Mega Man's name. Spike placement has been carefully plotted to ensure maximum irritation, and I can't remember Mega Man ever being this inept and slippery on ice. And the one Wily's Castle stage is so long and arduous, it could practically be its own treacherous game.
Also, if you were a fan of Rush Coil and all the other canine-based transformations, you will be sorely disappointed. Rush makes no appearance here, and even the three transportation Items from Mega Man 2 are nowhere to be found. Instead, once you defeat the first four Robot Masters, you automatically learn how to use Carry, a platform that, when activated, will magically appear underneath your feet and prevent you from descending to your doom. It's admittedly handy in tough situations, particularly when you're about to become chop suey over sharp spike patches.
Forget the frills: this is Mega Man purely shooting and getting punctured frequently.
Thankfully, Mega Man hasn't lost much of his presentation style in the transition to the Game Boy. Okay, so he's not blue anymore — monochrome becomes his new fall look — and doesn't change appearance when he uses different weapons, but there's very little that could be done about that. All of the stages and surroundings accurately reflect the art style of the NES counterparts, and the foreground/background contrast is very well-defined. The music, however, is a little tinnier than those counterparts and could contribute to occasional migraines. Ummm, a few more lower notes wouldn't hurt... or would hurt less... But overall, the stage tunes are mainly remixes from the NES games, and an admirable job has been done to keep them intact, even if my cochlea has split a tad.
For challenging Mega Man on the go, there's no reason not to start at the beginning of the pentalogy of Game Boy Mega Man titles. Just be aware that if you're used to all the conveniences of later games (Rush, E-Tanks, sliding, having space to move around), this game will prove to make you think twice about your strategy and deliver a challenge you may not have anticipated.
And I might have enjoyed this game a bit more if my Game Boy Player hadn't frozen twice near the ends of stages...