Mega Man Powered Up

July 2, 2006

Doing a remake of a classic game on a modern system requires walking a thin line between adding fresh technology and innovation and keeping the original feel of the game. Capcom has managed to keep on track and delivered a stellar example of how to do it right with [i]Mega Man Powered Up[/i]. The game should feel right for all you [i]Mega Man[/i] fans, without making you feel like the technology in your PSP is going to rust in the process.

[i]Mega Man[/i] fans will know the formula behind this game pretty well, even if they never played the first game in the series: Mega Man plays through the levels of the robot masters, defeats each one, and acquires their special weapon. You can pick which order you beat each of the six original robot masters, and then you must face off against the endgame Wily levels.

[i]Powered Up[/i] contains a version of the original game which, for the most part emulates the game as it appeared on the NES. In this mode you don’t get any widescreen, although the graphics are still 3d. All six of the original robot masters are here, along with the Wiley levels and their bosses. But the meat of the game is really the “new style” mode.

When you play the revised game, you’ll notice the levels have been tweaked to work well with widescreen, and they’ve added 2 new robot masters in order to bring the roster up to the now-traditional 8. They’ve also switched up some of the patterns and weaknesses to throw off anyone who has mastered the original game, and even given the masters some new attacks. I’m a particular fan of the new bosses, since they bring in weapons that function more like tools, something that was lacking in the original game.

The gameplay should be thoroughly familiar to [i]Mega Man[/i] veterans, and at least initially comprises the ability to jump and shoot (actually, in the brief intro level, you can’t even shoot). Timing is a key element in the game, with plenty of (occasionally frustrating) platforming and precision shooting. There are occasional places where a certain boss weapon will be of particular use, but it is certainly less often than in the later [i]Mega Man[/i] games. There are three difficulty levels in new style, ranging from the painfully hand-holding easy to the dizzying speeds of hard. Normal, of course, feels just like the original game.

Although I was originally skeptical about the new graphics style, it fits the game perfectly. Mega man always was a fairly catroony and lighthearted series. The models are smooth and colorful, and probably thanks to the low polygon count and lack of textures, look a lot sharper than what you’d expect. The game manages to keep the cute feel of the series and still pump out graphics worthy of the PSP.

Once you’ve beaten the game, there are a lot of options to spend your time on. Each of the robot masters can be captured and made playable to give you a slightly different feel to the game and allow you access to previously hidden parts of the levels. Without playing through the levels as some of the other robots, you won’t be able to get all of the parts for the level editor. There is also a challenge mode, with 100 preset scenarios for you to try your hand at. The game is also packed with other unlockables, giving you ample reason to replay the game at different difficulty levels, attempt the challenges, or even just go online to “Mega Man web.” There are a few alternate takes on [i]Mega Man[/i], and even a new character or two.

Even if you somehow tire of all this, you can build your own levels, or even download other levels from the internet. The level editor is very simple to use, and if you don’t trust the teeming masses, Capcom has a few specially designed levels for those seeking a new level of challenge. There are new downloads coming (as I write, a new official level has just hit), so don’t think Capcom’s leaving the content for this one hanging. They clearly know how to support a game on a modern system with downloadable content.

Capcom really pulled out all the stops on this one, but there are a few sticking points that keep it from perfection. For one thing, the robot masters are often not well designed for playing out the full game. I think non-expert players may find attempting the game as anyone but [i]Mega Man[/i] to be fairly trying, and there’s no real warning of how difficult the boss fights are with them. Secondly, there is no auto save. I’ve come to expect this feature in games, and when it’s not there I always end up losing a few hours of work after my first shutdown. Oddly enough, achievements and rewards are saved, just not your progress in the actual game. The challenges are another sticking point. They are fairly boring and repetitive, and often difficult enough that I just can’t get into them. My final bone to pick is with the painful jumping puzzles in a few stages, but that’s just more a complaint with my own clumsiness.

Capcom had an opportunity to mail this one in and still make a few bucks, but they delivered on every front. There are some minor issues as there are with any game, and Capcom obviously can’t please everyone, but the good far outweighs the bad in this game. Not only did they manage to completely revamp the game while keeping the original feel and spirit intact, but they put enough content into the game to make you keep coming back for more. [i]Mega Man[/i] and classic gaming enthusiasts should not pass this up, no matter how much they’ve played the original. Here’s hoping for a [i]Mega Man 2 Powered Up[/i]!

Score: 5/5

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