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CONSOLE: Game Boy DEVELOPER: Minakuchi Engineering PUBLISHER: Capcom
RELEASE DATE (NA): December 1992 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

The one in the middle.

After the doozy that was Mega Man II on the Game Boy, Capcom made the choice to return to Minakuchi Engineering, the team behind the first Mega Man portable title. You know, the ones who were actual fans of the series, rather than the folks who knew nothing about it? The result is one that feels more closely in line with the NES games, capturing their flavour and transferring them well to the small, small, SMALL screen. Conversely, however, Mega Man III also divulges itself as a by-the-book experience, following the formula to a tee and offering absolutely nothing innovative or genuine.

Unsurprisingly, that old bristly-haired schemer Dr. Wily makes a return appearance and, as expected, is looking toward world domination. This time, Dr. Wily has stationed himself on an abandoned offshore oil platform and is using it to absorb energy straight out of the planet's core, funneling it into his newest mechanical creation. In order to stop Wily from being a total pain again, Mega Man is called back into action, though before he can directly intervene with the mad scientist, he naturally has to skulk through eight stages and face off with their resident Robot Masters, snatching up their powers in the process.

As with the last two games, Mega Man III pulls its inspiration from its console counterparts, in this case Mega Man 3 and Mega Man 4. All your favourites, from the slithery Snake Man to the nightmarish dental assistant Drill Man, make their gray debut (or, from herein, their "gray-but"). As in previous games as well, there's one new character afoot: Punk, a robot who looks exactly like a stereotypical punk from an 80s teen movie. Designed as the next member of the coveted "Mega Man Killers" group, this guy is really into heavy metal — heck, he's MADE of it. Sporting saw blade shoulder pads, he can literally roll up into a blade himself AND even toss some of his own. He's a pain, and he requires E-Tanks to beat, but at least there's someone new to brawl with!

The game is much of the same old, same old, though, and there is a distinct lack of freshness present. Mega Man III is far from a bad game (I'd argue that, at the time of release, this was by far the most competent Mega Man game to take on the go), but I'd also say the feeling of "been there, done that" is painful here. Still, if the classic Mega Man formula is your ticket to happiness, then by all means, this will more than likely tickle your brain's pleasure center.

Hmmm... reminds me of a certain NES game...

Mega Man II introduced a few new elements into the Game Boy sphere, including the ability to slide and the inclusion of Eddie, the flip-top character that occasionally pops up with deliver random power-ups, and Rush, Mega Man's loyal transformative pooch-bot. This time, however, he can only change into Rush Coil (for reaching high plateaus) and Rush Jet (for flight, as needed). Rush Marine is surprisingly absent, given that Dive Man, an underwater robot, is fully present in an underwater STAGE, and Gemini Man's stage on the NES was a primary spot for Rush Marine's use. The only new addition is that Mega Man can now charge up his buster for a more powerful shot.

Mega Man III is notably difficult. Part of the overall frustration didn't come from the bosses but from the stage designs. They do vary from the NES versions but could still use some tweaking. Spark Man and Drill Man's stages were the worst offenders, suffering from having to make jumps across pits while tending to the perils of lower overhang ceilings to bump your head on, leaving you tumbling unto impending doom. The platforming itself is particularly perilous in Mega Man III.

It's a shame that the game itself is suffering from Humdrum Syndrome because its presentation values have significantly improved. The graphics look far better than anything before it, offering not only crisper visuals but also more detailed backgrounds to add a more refined level of visual depth. Likewise, the audio is at far more listenable levels, keeping screeching high notes to a minimum and remaining true to its NES source material.

Being the middle child is tough. You often get left behind or just downright forgotten. Such is the case with Mega Man III. It's possibly the least remembered game in the Game Boy pentalogy, overshadowed by either the boldness of its sequels or possibly the mediocrity of its predecessor. In this cartridge lies a good game, just not one that screams of its own identity. Mega Man III is the fifth character in the clique of Mean Girls. You didn't know there was a fifth girl in there? She must have blended in REALLY well...

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