Though a little late, Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the Xbox makes an incredible addition to any old-school gamer’s library.
Fifteen years after the first Mega Man was released on the NES, the gameplay still holds up extremely well and presents a formidable challenge to those willing to save the world time and again from the nefarious Dr. Wiley and his gang of evil robots. Gameplay stays pretty consistent from one incarnation to the next, with a few minor changes in the later titles. This isn’t a bad thing at all, it just shows that Capcom’s original formula for the series was well designed and has aged much better than many other franchises from the 8-bit era.
For those who haven’t had the privilege of playing these classics, here’s a basic breakdown of what you can expect in a typical Mega Man game. As Mega Man, it is your duty to stop Dr. Wiley from unleashing havoc all over the world through the use of his usually ridiculously named evil robots. Ridiculous because only in the Mega Man universe could an adversary named Wood Man ever be considered remotely threatening. Each of these robots exists on a different level, which you choose at the beginning of the game in any order you choose. After making your way through the perils of the level and defeating the boss, you gain his power to aid you on your quest to defeat the remaining robots created by Dr. Wiley. What it basically comes down to is an action-packed, platform version of rock – paper – scissors. For example, if you want to make your life much easier when facing Fire Man, it’s best to come equipped with Ice Man’s power for your Mega Buster – the energy cannon attached to Mega Man’s arm. Though it’s not always obvious, many of the bosses follow this pattern of being the polar opposite of another robot. While Mega Man’s buster never runs out of energy, upgrades collected from your fallen enemies have a limited amount of energy, and must be refilled by way of energy capsules that the lesser enemies in a level will drop when defeated.
Anyone apprehensive about controlling Mega Man with the Xbox’s 8-way directional pad can put all those worries to rest. While it would seem the controls would be a bit awkward, Mega Man proves to be quite responsive when using either the analog stick or the d-pad. Another nice addition is the inclusion of a rapid-fire button, which allows you to fire three quick bursts in rapid succession from your buster by hitting the ?Y’ button. While not an option in the original games, it’s a nice crutch for those who might be getting warmed up to Mega Man for the first time.
From a reviewer’s standpoint, it’s always difficult to rate the graphical appeal of an older title. Should the game be judged by the standards of today or objectively rated based on the graphics of comparable titles from yesteryear? Overall, Mega Man’s graphics have always been impressive thanks to each level having its own distinct look and feel that matched its boss robot’s personality. Adding to this is Capcom’s knack for being suitably attentive to detail and adding nice little touches like making Mega Man’s eyes blink. Sure there’s the occasional sprite flicker and you’ll run across some enemies that look bland, but these are completely forgivable as this is a seamless port to the next-generation consoles. These little graphical quirks are more like a fond reminder of the way games used to be, serving more as a testament to how much gaming has changed over the years. Also, it’s an absolute treat to watch Mega Man progress from his humble, pixilated beginnings in Mega Man to the wonderfully drawn and animated character you control in Mega Man 7. Witnessing this evolution in presentation only adds to the feeling that you really have purchased a piece of gaming history.
Just as Super Mario Brothers or Tetris had their own memorable tracks that you just couldn’t get out of your head after all-night play sessions, Mega Man’s audio is perfectly recreated and utterly nostalgic. Those players who’ve enjoyed busting up Wiley’s minions for years will feel right at home when they hear that classic music after selecting which robot to take down first. Initially, newcomers might not see (or hear) what the big deal is, but shouldn’t be surprised when the music starts to grow on them. As an added bonus, there are even some remixes of the old music available. Sound effects aren’t anything spectacular, but they definitely have their own distinctive Mega Man feel distinguishing them from the sounds you’ve heard in other classic platformers.
Ask anyone with experience of playing a Mega Man title, and they’ll tell you it’s no cakewalk. That being said, they aren’t impossible to complete either. Most Mega Man games are very quick to pick up, but deceptively challenging to master. If Mega Man takes damage he really takes damage. Like most platformers, a poorly timed jump will usually land you in one of those pesky bottomless pits, or impale you on a bed of spikes. This, of course, leaves you to restart from a secured midway point, or all the way from the beginning of the level – depending upon how far you’ve progressed. As difficult as it sounds, there’s a lot of memorization involved. Enemies always appear in the same places, and the more you’re forced to restart a level, the easier it becomes to spot the patterns of attacks that you’ll need to circumvent to succeed.
At a mere $19.99USD, Mega Man Anniversary Collection undoubtedly gives you more bang for your buck than any other title in recent memory. Also included are multiple unlockable features like music tracks and production art. What makes this game even easier to recommend is that the Xbox version features a full episode from the Mega Man animated series, which was initially exclusive to the PlayStation 2 version, along with the staff interview videos, which were previously exclusive to the GameCube. Let’s do the math. You’ll get ten Mega Man titles (2 never before released in the U.S.), remixed versions of your favorite Mega Man tunes, unlockable bonus content, a full episode of the animated series, video interviews with some of the creators, and all of this at ten dollars less than the GameCube or PlayStation 2 versions. Simply put, Mega Man Anniversary Collection is exudes astronomical value that should only be passed up if you’ve already purchased one of the earlier versions.
For fans of the Mega Man legacy, this is an absolute must-buy. For those who didn’t grow up on this amazing action-platformer, this presents an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the origins of the heroic blue robot – and at a budget price no less.