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RELEASE DATE (NA): March 14, 2006 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Power Up your PSP.

It's no hidden secret that the original Mega Man on the NES was the catalyst for a rather plenteous video game series which has become easily recognized worldwide as being associated with skill and fun (although the prolific nature of this series has dwindled to the point of nothingness in recent years). Though it was a very difficult game, Mega Man struck a chord with fans and ever since its monumental sequel, he has become synonymous with Capcom. To celebrate this fact, Capcom released Mega Man Powered Up on the PSP in 2006 (not a notable year for the series, mind you), an updated version of the first Mega Man game.

It's something else.

Capcom's new take on Mega Man expands somewhat on the storyline, giving a bit more insight on Dr. Wily's motivations to try and take over the world. We start off with Dr. Light who created a series of robots with artificial intelligence the likes of which had not been yet seen by humanity, earning him the Nobel Prize in Physics. Meanwhile, Dr. Wily, a former scientist associate to Dr. Light, felt rather irked by not being given any credit for his input in these new inventions. As sweet revenge, Dr. Wily steals eight of the robots and reprograms them to serve his bidding in world domination. (Okay, so it DOESN'T explain quite why Dr. Wily doesn't just go and kidnap Dr. Light instead of making the entire world suffer.) Seeing the trouble ahead, Dr. Light converts one of his robots, "Mega", into a full-on fighter and sends him out to stop Dr. Wily and the eight robots from causing further chaos.

Now, if you're knowledgeable about the original Mega Man game at all, you'll easily notice I said "eight robots", whereas there were only six way back in 1987. Alongside series mainstays such as Cut Man and Guts Man, two new Robot Masters enter the ring: Time Man and Oil Man. Though not particularly threatening, it's always nice to see new faces in the franchise. Time Man, obviously, focuses on slowing you down, as Dr. Light had been experimenting with time travel. Oil Man, on the other hand, can use the power of petroleum to shuffle about, as well as in the form of projectile weaponry.

The basic gameplay elements that made Mega Man such a hit are still here in their natural state. He jumps, he shoots out of his Arm Buster, and when he defeats a Robot Master, he is able to absorb and subsequently make use of their power. Being a reflection of his earlier times, Mega Man can't slide, nor does Rush the wonder mech dog make an appearance. All in all, don't expect a lot of pizazz in the gameplay; it's a back-to-basics approach that forces you to focus on your platforming skills.

He's so cute, you just want to pinch his little titaninum cheeks!

Obviously, the game has been given a graphical upgrade. (If they didn't, most players would probably want their money back, and a bonus plushie for their anguish.) But instead of just making all the previous models look more "bad-ass" in a modern 3D style, Capcom opted to make all the characters look chibi, cute, and with oversized heads. I've never thought of this series as "cute", so it may be a little jarring to fans. Okay, VERY jarring. This looks like a game for children, not a testament to hardcore platforming! According to interviews with the game's character designer, Mega Man Powered Up actually WAS designed with kids in mind. That's great for luring in a new generation of Mega Man fans, but did you really have to ostracize the old ones by excessive blobs of cuteness our way instead of the "cool" we have come to expect? Then again, this isn't Mega Man Maverick Hunter X we're talking about.

In addition to the chibi look, the level design of Mega Man has been retooled in what they've dubbed "New Style" mode, featuring remixed levels, voiced cutscenes, funkily updated music compositions, and full use of the widescreen capabilities of the PSP. This is probably the way to go for players not familiar with Mega Man's gameplay, as well as those seeking a different challenge. Those who crave the original feel, music, and design still can enjoy "Old Style" mode (though the big-head models still remain — you can't get rid of those). And yes, Oil Man and Time Man are removed from Old Style; this is about as genuine as you can get. Even the screen resolution reflects the old NES game.

You also have three modes of difficulty to play in New Style mode, and you get to select this before every stage. The Easy mode is great for beginners because, with relatively little skill, a player could easily complete all boss battles using only the Arm Cannon, and extra platforms are added to ensure Mega Man doesn't tumble into any unnecessary pits or spikes. Basically, it holds your hand most of the time. It's only when you get to Normal or Hard modes where the difficulty amps up significantly, and skill becomes your only ally. As an added bonus, by beating a Robot Master with only your Arm Cannon, that's considered being compassionate, as it won't damage the robot too much. By doing so, you can take that Robot Master back to Dr. Light's lab, and then actually play AS that Robot Master in later stages! That's a nice touch.

But wait... are you STILL not satisfied? Why not try Challenge Mode, featuring 100 different challenges to test your meddle/metal (har har)?

...w-wait... you're STILL not satisfied? You're tough to please! Thankfully, there's one more way to play. For the first time, Capcom has included a level editor that lets you basically build your own Mega Man stage! Furthermore, you can upload your stages via the PSN and let others bask in your design glory (or design failure, depending on whether or not you're great at design or a cow plop).

Mega Man Powered Up, though a tad bizarre in the visual arena, is a nice way to lure in new fans, as well as give those who played and adored the original a new and more modern method of enjoying the game they loved from way back when. And on higher difficulty levels, the New Style mode will surely give even seasoned veterans a run for their money. Though it didn't fare well in terms of sales (thus denying us the glory of a Mega Man Powered Up 2), it's still a great entry on the PSP. It's a shame that the PSP's repertoire of the Blue Bomber was limited to remakes while the Nintendo DS received original titles. But grab this while you can from a used game shop (it's not on PSN for technical reasons), as it feels somewhat rare. Then even YOU can be Powered Up, instead of... uh... powered... down... as apparently you are now...

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