Megaman & Bass

August 13, 2004

[floatleft][/floatleft]It seems the Megaman series has been with us forever. With 8 games in the main series, 5 on the Gameboy, 7 X-series games, and numerous spin-offs into other genres and one shots, it is a huge franchise. Often it seems like many of the spin-offs or sequels have lost what I really loved about the original games. Megaman and Bass, being based in the original series, seemed to have the potential to bring back the good old magic of the Megaman 2 and 3 days. Does it succeed? Yes and no.

Megaman and Bass is a traditional Megaman game, but it allows you to choose between Megaman and Bass as your main character. Each has slightly different abilities which change the game experience a fair bit. Megaman has his traditional charge shot and slide, and can shoot through walls. Bass, however has a neat double jump, and aimable turbo shot, and a dash move. This gives the game some replay value, but I found the game a bit too difficult with Megaman, as I’ll discuss later. I have played through the game with Bass, and have only started to delve into Megman’s side.

Ever since Megaman 6 on the SNES, the traditional access to all 8 bosses from the get go has been broken up. In this game you can pick from any of 3 bosses after you beat the intro level, and from there you can earn paths to more bosses by beating individuals out of the first set. Although I miss the more open and traditional method, I won’t complain about the new layout. As usual, beating a boss gives you access to his weapon, which has a gimmick that might make it especially useful in certain parts of the game.

For the most part the levels are challenging, but not too difficult. Because this game was ported from the SNES, it was originally designed for a larger screen. I haven’t played the original version (it was Japan only), but I noticed there were very few “leaps of faith” (where the screen was too small for you to see where you were going) and I was happy about that. Once you get in a good groove with Bass, you can clean through most of the levels pretty easily, especially if you have some upgrades. The only thing that disappointed me was that Bass’ aimable automatic shot made boss weapons unnecessary almost all of the time.

The bosses are a bit trickier. Many of them have a weakness to another bosses specific weapon, but if you don’t have the right weapon equipped they can be almost impossible. Your normal shot does minimal damage to them, and their shots or other special attacks can take off a lot of your health bar. Ground man was the worst offender, and was quite difficult even when I found his weakness. I eventually managed to overcome them all. Curiously, I had an easier time with Dynamo Man using my normal blaster than his “Achilles’ Heel” weapon.

Now I may make it seem like the game is a walk in the park, but actually it resembles the early Megaman games quite a bit. At first, levels and bosses seem impossible, but as you learn the tricks and patterns you can breeze through them. Also, as the game gets more difficult, Auto (another of Doctor Light’s creations) offers you more and more permanent powerups that you can purchase with the many bolts you find lying around. You can also replay earlier levels to get more bolts if you need them. Many of these powerups are only active when you equip them, and you can only equip one at a time, but with some fast switching you can easily make use of all of them effectively during a level.

This game also seems to have some decent replay value. Not only can you play through again after having beaten it with one hero, but the game also has CDs scattered throughout each of the levels. These CDs unlock all of the Megaman characters and robot masters from the previous games (even the three special bosses from the Wily Wars!). They are often only accessible after you have beaten other levels, and some are only available to one of the two characters. I usually dislike item hunts like these, but many of the CDs are in plain sight and they bring back the old Megaman nostalgia.

Now I get to the one thing I don’t like: playing as Megaman. I played through the game with Bass, and had a great time. Megaman was much more difficult to get through the game with. His lack of a double jump and his slower shot make many of the levels harder, and the bosses are nearly impossible to dodge in some cases. Although I like using him as a harder “difficulty level,” he is just too frustrating. I haven’t been able to get far with him at all. I would have preferred a more balanced approach here.

Don’t expect Megaman and Bass to capture the level of perfection that was Megaman 2 and 3, but it is really a great game. I honestly think it’s one of the best entries in the series for quite some time. If you are a GBA-toting Megaman fan (and I mean the real deal, none of this Battle Transmission stuff), you really owe it to yourself to take this for a spin.