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CONSOLE: Neo-Geo Pocket Color DEVELOPER: Capcom PUBLISHER: Capcom
RELEASE DATE (JP): July 6, 2000 GENRE: Fighter
// review by SoyBomb

A one-two Mega-punch for your portable.

In 1995, Capcom released Mega Man: The Power Battle. This arcade game basically removed all the lengthy stages the series was known for and left behind only boss battles with Robot Masters. There were three missions where Mega Man, Proto Man, or Bass (or a combination of two out of the three should a second player be handy) could fight against Robot Masters from Mega Man 1-2, 3-6, or 7. Defeating each would help you acquire their powers, which could work in your favour in future battles. Defeating all six Robot Masters would lead you to a battle against another of Wily's creations, followed by a showdown with Dr. Wily himself. The game must have been fairly popular, at least in Japanese arcades where machines were more abundant (they were apparently far more rare in North America), as it warranted a sequel in Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. The gameplay remained unchanged, but Mega Man & Co. (which now included Duo from Mega Man 8) have very specific missions, from directly defeating Dr. Wily to rescuing Roll, and even recovering some stolen energy machine parts. Each mission had its own fun set of Robot Masters to defeat, just as in Mega Man: The Power Battle.

And then they shrunk the two down into one Neo-Geo Pocket Color cartridge.

As soon as you turn on the game, and the title screen shouts at you in Japanese, you KNOW there's going to be something massive going on here. After the main title screen, you can choose whether to play Rockman: The Power Battle or Rockman 2: The Power Fighters (this is a Japan-only compilation, so the games will use the "Rockman" moniker instead of the Americanized "Mega Man"), and then go on the exact same quests that you would have expected from the arcade versions: a boss battle melee!

It's like Heaven for people who want boss battles only but can't carry two arcade cabinets with them.

With the transition from a buff arcade cabinet to a diminuitive handheld console comes sacrifice. The arcade games offered a robust, colourful journey using quite detailed sprites and somewhat majestic backgrounds. The Neo-Geo Pocket Color obviously could not handle that, so everything has been redrawn in the classic "8-bit" style of early Mega Man games. This wasn't a significant problem for the majority of the characters, as they were already featured in an NES game and upgraded for the arcades. Others, such as Bass, Duo, and any Robot Master from Mega Man 7, needed an old-school remodeling. It is neat to see how characters originating on more powerful systems have been given the retro treatment; was this a foreshadowing of things to come? Some characters, such as the Yellow Devil mini-boss, are surprisingly detailed, given the limited medium. Naturally, audio quality also took a severe hit, but at least very little was cut from the end product and you can take all those Megatunes on the go.

The most important thing, of course, is the controls, and thankfully, the Neo-Geo Pocket Color has got this UNDER CONTROL! (Cue rimshot.) Because the original games possessed simple controls (Mega Man was hardly capable of performing many special moves), such as walking, jumping, and shooting, they didn't need a plethora of buttons. This straightforward battle system transferred well to the Neo-Geo Pocket Color, which only boasted a directional pad and two action buttons. If scaling down of the gameplay is an issue, put your mind at ease that all the zaniness of the arcades is fully intact. To make matters even better, if you fail during a round, Rockman Battle & Fighters offers you infinite continues, so there's really no need to worry about the arcade version's dependency on your beloved tokens. In short, the conversion from the arcade experience to the pocket-sized system was a successful one.

Well, almost. Co-operative play is NOT available, despite the Neo-Geo Pocket Color having linking capabilities. You CAN, however, connect two systems and pass along database information about many characters in the Mega Man universe. Yeah, that's what we wanted...

Mega Maniacs will definitely love having a portable Blue Bomber brawler to cart around, and this one is worth picking up. Because of its gameplay style (limited to boss battles instead of any platforming elements), fans of fighting games in general could also get into this. There aren't any über-fancy 26-button ultra combos or multiplayer action, but there is good to be found in its simplicity. Rockman Battle & Fighters is, above all, a great addition to the NGPC library.

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