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RELEASE DATE (NA): August 31, 1998 GENRE: Action-RPG
// review by SoyBomb

'Sup, my Digga?

Never has a game series taken quite a left turn like Mega Man Legends! Originally given the name of "Mega Man Neo", this game gave our favourite perriwinkle hero his very first opportunity to branch out beyond the left-to-right jump'n'shoot mentality and enter a world featuring a little more depth than was readily available in previous outings. Thankfully, the experiment in Megamanology has been quite the success.

Mega Man Legends follows the trail of a particular group of Diggers, excavators who make their living by seeking out fabulous trasure buried underground from previous civilizations, notably energy-producing refractors. One mythical treasure of large quantity, known by all Diggers, is called the "Mother Lode" and is rumoured to be the ultimate bounty for any Digger. Sounds serious, doesn't it? Our Digger team consists of MegaMan Volnutt, a blue misfit with unusually decent fighting abilities and a far too mechanical body; Barrel Caskett, a renowned Professor who adopted MegaMan and raised him (and whose first name is spelled two different ways in the instruction manual); Roll Caskett, his 14-year-old granddaughter and a mechanical prodigy with the pointest hair on deck; and Data, a perpetually dancing monkey who saves your game, heals your wounds, and occasionally says, "Eee-eee!" After your ship malfunctions during flight, the crew is forced to crash on Kattelox Island, a place that seems innocent enough at first sight, but harbours a dark secret below. The entire game takes place on this island (save the introductory sequence), and your time is divided between exploring the ruins and getting along with townsfolk. Yeah!!!

Mega Man Legends is NOT a straight-up platformer, so if you saw the name "Mega Man" in the title, you may feel misled and disappointed. In the Blue Bomber's very first 3D foray, his adventure is more of an action-RPG than anything else and provides a welcome twist to the somewhat repetitive franchise. Mega Man actively splits his time between conversing with the locals about all the goings on surrounding Kattelox Island (the people there have their own lives, you know) and heading into dungeon-like ruins in search of treasures, Reaverbots to deactivate, and -- most importantly -- answers to the mysteries of the island's history. Both aspects are fun; sneaking around and firing off your weapon frantically will certainly appeal to action fans, but I found the above-ground island exploration to be an equally satisfying focal point.

From the glamour and richesse of the bayside Uptown to the more quaint residential areas of Downtown, everyone has something fairly interesting to say. (Unfortunately, it seems as though once a citizen starts driving on the road, they lose any sense of decency they once possessed. You think drivers in YOUR town are crazy? These guys practically INVENTED the hit 'n run tactic!) My personal favourite area is the Shopping Arcade next to the city and not only for its amazingly catchy music. There are always people wandering about, and checking out the stores, though a mostly useless journey (you can't buy anything from the majority of them), is a charming excursion where you can kick empty soda cans into bakery store windows, jam to some hip fusion CDs, eerily leer at adult magazines, and comment on girls' dresses. That's right: this is clearly not the same Mega Man I grew up with. Also, in the Shopping Arcade toy store, they're showing off a new product: the game Mega Man Legends! Is this release self-aware? (There's also mention of a girl wanting to program Resident Evil elsewhere -- yeah right, GIRL programmers!)

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of city life, you also have to protect the citizens against the onslaught of the Bonnes, who are only interested in digging up the island's treasures for themselves. They already have tons of money (much of which they waste on rather grandiose robots that Mega Man messily destroys), but greed is a powerful herb for a villainous bunch! Most of your quest involves following that bunch around, as they always seem to be one step ahead of you. But that's alright -- you can certainly explore other areas and ruins in the meantime. Plus, this game is filled with a variety of side-quests and mini-games to entertain your blue buddy between bouts of brawling. Various citizens have their own problems that you can help to resolve, and the local television station (KTOX-TV) even has several game shows in which you can be a participant to earn great prizes and cash. Be sure to bring your quick reflexes with you.

Mega Man: Always looking forward.

The action sections are an entirely different matter. Basically, you run around in fairly tight maze-like spaces and seek out specific items, be they keycards to unlock a barrier around a nice refractor to bring in for money. Using primarily your arm buster, you'll have to shoot them down. I'm quite thankful they included an auto-lock system to ensure I actually hit what I'm aiming for, because the control scheme often feels a bit too stiff and tight for accurate aiming. You get used to it over time, but it never provides the full freedom of movement you'd want from a full-fledged action title. You'll also stumble across chests containing items and buster adapters. These are quite useful: the adapters can improve the strength, range, rapidity, and overall energy of your buster, while items can be used to build special weapons and other useful products via Roll's superior development skills. Examples include a neat drilling arm, a grenade launcher, and even (thankfully) jet skates for those who have no patience for pedestrianism. And of course, defeating enemies can earn you lots of sweet, sweet Zenny (the currency for countless Capcom titles); use the money you earn to buy more adapters, items, and upgrades for your special weapons.

As I mentioned earlier, this is Mega Man's very first three-dimensional adventure. And I have to say outright that after returning to this game 13 years later, Mega Man Legends has aged very poorly. Although I admire the colourful style used throughout, the textures are bare basic and too many surfaces and objects are blocky and pixelated. Everything can be clearly identified, but the game lacks strong detail. Changing facial expressions on the main characters is certainly welcome, though -- Mega Man's expressions are cute on occasion. (And Data is always cute, no matter what he's up to. Eee-eee!) I also noticed one unusual thing: there is a battle on a lake where you get to shoot all around you as you move about on a boat. Whenever you shoot the lake, though, you just hear a "clack" noise and your shot stops right at the surface, leading me to believe that the lake is rock solid! What kind of insane lake is this?! It doesn't look like winter at all outside, so what gives? As for music and sound, I have to hand it to the sound crew: they did a nice job here. I love all of the music in this game, especially the Apple Market (Shopping Arcade) song. I could listen to that for days. It's very cheerful and appropriate to the situation, and the fact that, unlike many more recent Mega Man games, I can easily recall the tunes without heavy strain, which is a personal testament to the high quality. Similarly, I like most of the voice acting here. This rendition of Mega Man is (slightly) more manly than in Mega Man 8, a relief to anyone who ever heard the bad acting there. Some voices were a bit too quiet, and certain ones were silly-sounding (such as the Police Officer at the beginning of the game -- could he sound any more effeminate?), but overall, I'm happy with how things turned out.

If there are any other qualms, it's that the difficulty and length of the game may be something to complain about: Mega Man Legends can easily be completed in under 10 hours, but those hours will go by quickly, considering how much fun you'll be having. Heck, it's worth playing just to see Mega Man "accidentally" walk in on Roll in her bedroom... Hilarity ensues. It was later ported to the Nintendo 64 (with few improvements, if any, though I remember preferring the controls of Mega Man 64 more for some reason), the PC, and the PSP (though only in Japan), but it IS technically available elsewhere if you lack a PlayStation on which to try it. So you have no excuse not to find out more about the legend behind Mega Man!

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