Mega Man is 15 years old. It’s hard to believe that the Blue Bomber has been around so long. I started playing video games about the same time our little robotic buddy hit the scene; so for me and many others, this compilation is like a glimpse into the past – a trip back to a simpler time. It was a time of 2D sprites and two-button controllers. It was a glorious time which anyone can now get a taste of.
For Anniversary Collection, the fine folks at Capcom have taken all eight games from the original Mega Man series and put them all together. The games are basically the same as their previous incarnations, though some have been fixed up a little. It’s nothing drastic enough to enrage purists, only enough to make everyone happy. Throw in two more games that have never seen an American release before and various other unlockable goodies, and you have one hell of a game for Mega Man fanatics.
For all you young’uns out there that have never played any of the traditional Mega Man games, the formula is simple. You’re given a set of evil robotic bosses and have to choose which one to pursue. You run, jump and blast your way through the level, and at the end, you face off against the selected boss and try (many times futilely) to destroy it. It’s pretty standard fare for a 2D action game, but there’s one twist which sets these games apart from the pack. When you defeat a boss, you acquire its weapon which will be extremely effective against one of the other bosses. This adds a layer of strategy that games of this time just normally didn’t have. You’ll quickly realize the importance of finding the right order to take on the bosses.
Most of the bosses are very creative and interesting designs, though there’s at least one stinker in pretty much every game (Charge Man and Bright Man spring to mind). Each stage reflects the boss’s nature also. Magnet Man’s stage is filled with various magnetic enemies and obstacles, while Air Man’s stage is set high in the clouds. The way the levels are set up is really amusing, but you can tell that in a couple games they could have really used a little more thought and effort.
All the games are similar. The biggest changes have to be the addition of the slide ability in Mega Man 3 and the advent of the Mega Buster in Mega Man 4. Otherwise any changes made to the established system were either minor or merely cosmetic.
The first six entries in the series all appeared on the NES and look basically identical to each other. Mega Man 7 brought the Blue Bomber to the SNES, and he jumped to the 32-bit systems for Mega Man 8. Given the extra horsepower provided by the jump in technology, the last two games in the series look far better than their predecessors – with the last game easily being the best looking.
In some ways it would have been nice if Capcom had updated the graphics on all the games in the series; but personally, I’m happy they left them the way they were initially produced. It just wouldn’t have felt right otherwise. One odd change that Capcom did make was cleaning up most but not all of the games. The first two games in the series still have the same sprite flicker and slowdown that the original cartridges had, but Mega Man 3-8 all run perfectly. I don’t know exactly how much they cleaned up each game, but I played the third one enough back in the day that I know there are definitely parts that have been fixed. I fully endorse their effort; I’m just confused about their decision to leave the first two games untouched.
The audio in each game stayed untouched and features all the familiar bleeps, bloops, and background music. While none of the games feature anything that’s really going to push the GameCube’s audio hardware, there are some really catchy songs for many of the stages. Mega Man 2 and 3 had especially excellent soundtracks. Unfortunately, the GameCube version doesn’t have the remixed soundtrack option that’s present in the PS2 release. It’s not a major letdown, but a notable omission.
While PS2 owners got the remixed soundtracks and an unlockable episode of the Mega Man anime; GameCube owners can unlock a G4 interview with Mega Man producer Keiji Inafune. It’s a great interview and retrospective on the Mega Man games. The only other real difference between the different versions of this game is the fact that the button assignment on the GameCube controller is inverted from the original setup (now B jumps and A shoots). It’s not a huge problem, but will probably cost you a few lives at first if you’re used to the original setup.
Anniversary Collection is really a great old-school compilation that is perfect not just for Mega Man fans, but for anyone that can enjoy a good 2D action game (2 and 3 are two of the best action games of the 2D era). With 10 games, a bunch of unlockable goodies, and a price tag of $30; you definitely get your money’s worth. While some people may complain about the fact that the games are basically untouched, I think it’s a great nostalgia trip. If you love Mega Man, then this is gaming nirvana, and if you’ve never played a Mega Man game, then this is a great title to get you into the series.