Our readers should recall the article last week wherein I discussed at some length four of the worst Sonic games ever made. This week, I would like to discuss something much happier, and I have decided therefore to talk about one of my favorite non-FF game series: The Mega Man series. With over a hundred releases between 1987 and today, Mega Man is easily one of the biggest franchises in gaming, or at least it was. While the series appears now to be dead, it certainly had a long run, and there are a number of reasons the classic games in particular were so popular. In this post, I will be discussing what I believe are some of the reasons why the original, classic Mega Man games were so effective.
The classic Mega Man games are simple. The controls are simple, though admittedly this is mostly because the NES controller only had a few buttons. The games themselves are also fairly simple and some might argue even to formulaic; eight Robot Masters (six in the first game), and some Dr. Wily stages are all there really is to Mega Man, with an inevitable boss re-fight gauntlet somewhere near the end. The formula, basically unchanged from game-to-game, is extremely effective. Additionally, the classic games also put players right into the action with nothing weighing the gameplay down. While some games work well because of their complexity, Mega Man works because it is easy to pick up and simple to learn.
Compared to the average NES action platformer, the Mega Man games are easy. This does not mean, however, that the games are a cakewalk, just that they are relatively easy considering the time they were made. Outside of boss fights, there is little randomness, and even the bosses are simply a matter of learning patterns. Because of the extremely well-balanced difficulty curves of most of the classic games, gamers can spend time learning how the game works and how to proceed without feeling bogged down by the games’ extreme difficulty. I personally feel the difficulty of the old-school Mega Man games is at a balanced level few games ever attain.
Tight, Consistent Controls and Physics
In ten games, the controls and physics of the Mega Man games have stayed extremely consistent across several generations of gaming consoles. Capcom got the controls and the jump physics right the first time, so there was no need to fix something that was never broken. The jump arcs may take some getting used to for new players, but the consistency of the jumping across the games means that a player playing through the whole series will never have to learn more than one jump arc, unlike some other NES platformers.
Okay, I know in the past I have said that music is not something I weigh heavily in a game, but the music in the classic Mega Man game is really worth mentioning. Some of gaming’s best musical pieces come from the old-school Mega Man games; I personally am very fond of pretty much every single track from Mega Man 2. This is a fairly minor point, but still one worth bringing up.
What do these four aspects mean for Mega Man? Well, they all come together to create a series of platformers that are simply wonderful. Tweaking the original formula a bit led to the Mega Man X games, another successful part of the franchise that was sadly crushed under the weight of some real turds. It is really unfortunate to see the Mega Man franchise die out as it apparently has, since some of gaming’s finest moments came from the super fighting robot that is Mega Man.