MEGA MAN REMAINS one of Capcom’s biggest franchises, shifting over 30 million units since the first NES game was released in 1987. It’s easily the company’s most prolific franchise too, with over 100 titles, including sequels, spin-offs and remakes, but that also means it’s not really that successful as some of Capcom’s other franchises have smashed Mega Man’s sales with far fewer games.
Despite an often ferocious difficulty level, the Mega Man series has constantly endured. So much so in fact that when Mega Man’s artist, Keiji Inafune announced a spiritual successor called Mighty No. 9 on Kickstarter it hit its target in just two days. Knowing we could never cover every game in detail in just six pages, we’ve instead focused on some of the most important. How many have you played?
MEGA MAN 1987
The original Mega Man introduced many of the key mechanics that would go on to define the series. It allows you to tackle the game’s bosses in any order, rewards you with a unique weapon on defeating the level’s boss, delivers deceptively cute-looking environments and sets up the age old battle between Dr Light (Mega Man’s creator) and the evil Dr Wily. It also introduces you to the brutal difficulty level that would stay with the franchise for the following three decades. Oh and if you’re wondering who created Mega Man’s cute design, that was artist Keiji Inafune, who would go on to become the franchise’s overseer.
MEGA MAN 2 1988
Despite poor sales, Capcom allowed its staff to work on another Mega Man title. The gameplay was subtly tweaked introducing eight bosses to fight instead of the original’s six and also granting the ability to refill Mega Man’s energy at any time (providing you’d found an energy tank). Levels were themed to tie in more with the actual bosses, while two difficulty settings catered for both newcomers and fans of the original. The graphics have been suitably upgraded and feature some particularly big and beefy enemies, while the final showdown with Dr Wily has you facing off against all the bosses again, but in smaller areas. It went on to become the bestselling game in the franchise’s history with over 1.5 million sales.
MEGA MAN 3 1990
Mega Man’s third outing was trickier than its predecessors due to the lack of a normal difficulty level, but it did boast great bosses. It’s also the first game in the series to use the handy slide attack and introduces Rush, Mega Man’s faithful transforming dog, along with new nemesis Proto Man.
MEGA MAN 4 1991
Some hardcore fans feel that instalment four of the Mega Man franchise is where the rot began to set in. This is largely due to the introduction of the Mega Buster, a new arm cannon that allows Mega Man to power up his blasts. We quite like its addition as it makes the game that little bit easier, but it wasn’t received quite as well by fans who felt Mega Man was all about the challenge. Other solid additions include Flip Top Eddie who drops in new items for Mega Man and new support items that enable him to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
MEGA MAN: DR WILY’S REVENGE 1991
Average’ is the best way to describe Mega Man’s first portable debut. It’s effectively a remix of the early games, with four bosses from Mega Man and four from the sequel. It lacks the slide and charge moves and is also surprisingly tough too, making it ill-suited for newcomers to the franchise. The visuals look nice enough and the password system helps with the high difficulty, but that doesn’t stop it from being the first weak game in the series.
MEGA MAN 6 1993
The last Mega Man NES game is a fun one, mainly due to two new adapters for Mega Man. Jet Mega Man can hover and fly for short bursts at the expense of firing his charge canon, while Power Mega Man can’t slide but can bash through rocks, which is rather handy. They’re solid additions to Mega Man’s arsenal and certainly make it a little easier than previous games. Unlike earlier games, the sixth outing is less linear than its predecessors and it’s not as well polished, possibly due to Capcom also concentrating on Mega Man’s first 16-bit outing.
MEGA MAN X 1993
Mega Man’s first 16-bit game is a great one, setting the tone for the many sequels that would follow. In addition to looking glorious, it introduces many new features. Mega Man (or X as this model is known) still can’t jump, but he can cling to walls, dash and upgrade various parts of his body. The extra buttons of the SNES now enable you to switch boss weapons on the fly (you had to annoyingly pause the game on the NES) and it’s even possible to jump into a new mech-like vehicle called the Ride Armor that enables you to punch down incoming enemies. It also continues to use the password system of previous games.
MEGA MAN X2 1994
X2 introduces the “X-Hunters”, three Maverick Hunters, to the fairly convoluted storyline. The gameplay is largely similar to that of Mega Man X, but features a number of new vehicles that are usable on certain stages and slightly enhanced visuals. As with other Mega Man X games it wasn’t a huge seller, meaning the Pal version of this SNES exclusive often goes for silly money.
MEGA MAN: THE WILY WARS 1994
The Mega Drive didn’t receive any original Mega Man games. Instead, it hosted The Wily Wars, an updated version of the first three games. In addition to greatly enhanced visuals, The Wily Wars features remixed music, a new battery save and dispenses with some of the glitches of the previous NES games. It also adds Wily Tower, which adds three unique bosses. Its rarity ensures it now fetches high prices on eBay.
MEGA MAN 7 1995
The seventh Mega Man game is something of a disappointment. While it looks lovely with beautiful cartoon-like sprites, it just feels rather old fashioned after the excellent X games that Capcom had released. There’s a decent range of bosses and some of the tunes are cracking but you can now only select from four bosses at a time, which seriously cuts down on your available path options. It plays fine, but it all feels rather bland, and unwilling to take risks.
MEGA MAN 1995
Like the original Game Boy and Mega Drive games, this is another remix, although this time it’s based on Mega Man 4 and 5. While the visuals are quite nice and it introduces vertical scrolling, the
cramped nature of the Game Gear’s screen makes some jumps difficult to judge. The controls are quite sticky for a Mega Man game too, making it a frustrating experience.
MEGA MAN X3 1995
The most notable change to Mega Man X3 is that it introduces Zero as a new playable character (and rather powerful he is too). To keep him balanced, he’s unable to pick up any of X’s armour or power- ups and is also unable to battle bosses. X3 is also the first Mega Man X game to appear on 32-bit consoles, with versions being available for the PlayStation and Saturn. As with Mega Man X2, X3 uses Capcom’s CX4 chip, which adds some basic 3D effects. It’s also becoming increasingly rare on eBay due to a limited print run, particularly the Pal version.
MEGA MAN 8 1996
Mega Man 8 was the first classic Mega Man game to be released on a 32-bit console. While it obviously benefits massively from a complete graphical overhaul – including full-motion video cutscenes – it largely suffers from many of the issues of Mega Man 7. By far the best new addition to the franchise, however, is the ability to use multiple boss weapons simultaneously, which allows for plenty of strategy. Mega Man also has access to a cool new ball power-up that he can kick at nearby enemies. It’s still a lot of fun, but isn’t as engaging as previous entries.
MEGA MAN LEGENDS 1997
It was never going to be easy translating Mega Man to 3D. Rather than attempt the impossible, Capcom instead created a new sub-series, which takes place in the same universe, but is thousands of years in the future. The new protagonist is Mega Man Volnutt and the game is actually a surprisingly slick arcade adventure with RPG overtones. While the 3D areas are lacking in detail and look fairly basic, the action itself is solid, thanks to a useful targeting system for combat and the ability for Mega Man to continually upgrade his Buster Gun with various upgrades. There’s a large selection of characters to talk to and interact with; switches must be turned off to make progress in some of the mazelike levels; and there’s a mission-like structure to the gameplay. A weak update was released for the N64 three years later.
MEGA MAN XTREME 2000
This is another Capcom remix, taking aspects of the first two Mega Man X games but adding disappointing visuals and a brutally tough difficulty level. There’s a nice little sub-plot that explains why you’re essentially revisiting past games, but the clunky controls and poor collision detection makes it too much of a frustrating experience. The 2001 sequel, Mega Man Xtreme 2 fairs little better and should be equally avoided.
MEGA MAN BATTLE NETWORK 2001
This interesting spin-off cashed in on the Pokémon craze by turning Capcom’s series into a tactical role-playing game. You control a young child called Lan Hikari in the real world and use Mega Man whenever you enter the world’s internet. It’s a fun concept, largely thanks to the excellent and robust combat system, which is deceptively deep when you get into it.