Two years ago, fans of the “classic” Mega Man series were knocked off their sofas with the announcement of Mega Man 9, a retro-revival of the franchise that dominated the NES like no other third party offering could. We downloaded it from the Wii Shop Channel, fired it up, and loved every spike-riddled jumping minute of it. Heck, I personally named it my Game of the Year for 2008, and I didn’t even bother with any of the additional downloadable content like Proto Man and Endless Mode.
Now imagine my reaction late last year when I heard that Mega Man 10 was going to hit in early 2010.
Mega Man 10 does very little to stray from the formula that has been tried and tested for over 20 years. Eight new robot masters wait for you at the end of thematic stages filled with tricky jumps, dangerous traps, and annoying enemies. Beating one of these renegade robots allows you to claim his weapon as one of your own, giving you more options as you progress through the game. Even after ten iterations (not to mention the X and Zero spinoff series) the Mega Man team still manages to come up with some insidious new tortures, like the see-saw platforms in Blade Man’s stage or the sandstorms that periodically sweep through portions of Commando Man’s lair (and threaten to sweep you into spikes and/or pits). Just about every one of the stages has something new, in fact; the initial segment of the final stage might just be the crowning achievement of the entire franchise.
While the platforming action is still as devious as ever, where MM10 loses a little steam is with your new toys. Like MM3 following MM2‘s broken Metal Blades and other solid weapons with clunkers like the Search Snake, Top Spin, Needle Cannon, and Spark Shock (that’s half of the weapons available for those counting along), the arsenal in MM10 isn’t nearly as fun as the offerings in MM9 (which were all fairly awesome — or at least useful). Several of the weapons are actually more effective when you miss with the initial projectile, and a few are just awkward to use in general (the Thunder Wool you get from Sheep Man sadly belongs to both of those categories). Other than experimenting to figure out which weapons cause the most damage to bosses, I spent a good deal of my time in MM10 mostly using the Arm Cannon, and I didn’t even have the excuse of a powerful charged shot like with the later (non-9) games.
Of course, that’s me speaking as a series veteran whose formative years were spent perfecting runs through Quick Beams and disappearing blocks. The more recent gaming generation(s) didn’t have dormant muscle memory to help them out when MM9 flung them into beds of instant-death spikes, nor were they protected by the hard-wired paranoia of nasty enemies leaping out of pits and slamming into you mid-jump. To put it simply, MM9 handed them their faces and never apologized — until now. In addition to having Proto Man available from the start (although his runs will not count for certain online scorekeeping), MM10 offers an “Easy” mode specifically designed for newcomers. The enemies are weaker, your weapons are stronger, stages are littered with pickups that restore ALL of your energy (making a surprising return from the original MM title) and many of the trickier jumps feature additional platforms that will catch you where only sudden death awaits you on the normal difficulty. Don’t be fooled: there are still PLENTY of ways to die, even with the “kid gloves” on, but it is still a vastly easier experience compared to the norm — or, heavens forbid, the unlockable “hard” setting (which even I won’t touch). My run through normal officially finished after 3.5 hours, although in reality my multiple “learning” trips through the final stage probably brought my total to nearly 6; by contrast, my post-victory run through Easy (using Proto Man, who is a little weaker than Mega Man in several aspects) came in at just under an hour with no continues (and only a handful of lives lost). Granted, it helped that I already knew what to expect, but that’s still a striking difference.
Ultimately, MM10 is still the same rock-hard old-school platforming that fans of the Blue Bomber have come to love and expect, but somewhere along the way it lost a little of the nostalgic charm. That said, the easy mode makes MM10 a better option for new fans just getting into the series before they “graduate” to normal mode or MM9 (not to mention the classic games available on the Virtual Console), and series veterans will still love what MM10 has to offer (especially some of the achievements/challenges). It just isn’t quite the must-have that I felt MM9 was.
Plays like: Guess. Go on, guess. Here’s a hint — it’s the tenth game called “Mega Man”.
Pros: Easy mode is a great option for those who need/want it; platforming insanity is still there for those who love it
Cons: Most of the weapons are outright useless except to exploit boss weaknesses