In the My Favorite Game series, get to know us better as staff writers share the game they love most and why.
My mom bought me a subscription to Nintendo Power that I still have to this day. The very first NP I received was Volume 2, Issue 1 (July/August 1989), which featured Mega Man 2 on the cover. I had been interested in the original Mega Man when I first saw it in an unofficial off-the-newsstand NES strategy guide, but the game didn’t sell very well and by the time my brother and I had our NES it was basically impossible to find, as this was aeons before GameStop – not to mention pre-owned games in general – were even a thing. I checked out the coverage on the sequel and could not have wanted it more.
Of course, I wasn’t even twelve at the time, so I had to wait for either my birthday or Christmas, neither of which was happening for several months yet. Still, I made absolutely sure that my mom knew that this, and pretty much nothing else, was what I wanted. The months passed, as did my birthday, and when December rolled around she told me that she wasn’t able to find it. The game had come out that summer (imagine! A game being released in the summer! Ah, the late ’80s…) and was proving to be quite popular. I was crushed, but understood. I was a patient boy. I knew I’d get it eventually.
I’m sure you could imagine my surprise when I then opened it on Christmas morning. My mom tricked me! And I loved her for it.
In the months that followed, I played that game to death. First, religiously following the NP-suggested order of Air Man, Crash Man, Metal Man, Bubble Man, Heat Man, Wood Man, Flash Man and finally Quick Man. Using Item-2 to bypass the insidious disappearing blocks in Heat Man’s stage, relying on the Time Stopper to survive the Quick Beams… you know, rookie stuff. Every missed jump, every spike, every arduous recharging of the Crash Bombs when I would inevitably miss (and thus fail) while taking on the turrets at the end of Wily-4: I loved it all, and I wanted more. I played the game so much that I eventually memorized each stage’s awesome background music; my wife found the soundtrack a few years ago, and I noticed that Crash Man’s stage wasn’t on it on my first listen. As my skills developed, I started finding my own path through the robot masters. To this day, I generally make a point of hitting Quick Man first, both because I can and because the Quick Boomerangs are the second-most useful weapon in the game. I usually leave Metal Man for last, since his Metal Blades are both the most useful and the most horribly, horribly overpowered.
Over the years I’ve owned three different versions of Mega Man 2: the NES original, the version included in the GCN Mega Man Anniversary Collection (which annoyingly inverts the natural functions of the A and B buttons, making the games therein nearly unplayable thanks to muscle memory), and the Virtual Console version that was, unquestionably, a day one purchase/download. I can still navigate the stages like I could 20 years ago… as long as I remember that this game doesn’t give the Blue Bomber the ability to slide.
On that note, those of you who are familiar with my work here on Snackbar Games might be raising one or two questions about my selection of Mega Man 2. When the others on the staff compiled their Ten Best NES Games to Play Now, they rightly put Mega Man 2 on the list but I commented that I actually prefer Mega Man 3, albeit slightly. That’s still true. I really liked the addition of the slide, I vastly prefer Rush to the generic items, there’s an actual storyline (of sorts) including the debut of Proto Man and the addition of the four “doc robot” stages – that coincidentally revisit the robot masters from Mega Man 2 – gives the game a little extra oomph that most of the other classic Mega Man games lack. But those are all nuts and bolts (no pun intended); Mega Man 3 is the better game (in my opinion), but not my favorite. I simply don’t have the emotional attachment to Mega Man 3 that I do to Mega Man 2. I didn’t actually own the NES version until late in the system’s life; I mostly played it via renting. And, perhaps more importantly, I didn’t want the game like I wanted Mega Man 2. Mega Man 3 wasn’t my life for the better part of the 7th grade.
As for the other issue, it’s no secret that I tend not to enjoy platformers. Mario, Kirby, Sonic… whatever. No interest. I don’t even like the spin-off Mega Man series (X, Zero). There’s just something about the classic Mega Man games that appeals to me where other platformers fail, and my connection to Mega Man 2 is probably the root cause. Is it the robot-and-scientists theme? Is it the stage select innovated by the series? Is it the ability to steal your opponents’ weapons and use them against them? Yes. All of it. In a way, the reason I don’t like the other platformers is because none of them are Mega Man… even the ones that sort of are.