Mega Man 9
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Inti Creates
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    Wii
    • US 09/22/2008
    • JP 09/24/2008
    • UK 09/26/2008
    PS3
    • US 09/25/2008
    • UK 09/25/2008
    • JP 06/24/2009
    360
    • US 10/01/2008
    • UK 10/01/2008
    • JP 06/24/2009
Score: 80%

This review was published on 06/28/2013.

Mega Man 9 is a side-scrolling platform game released for the Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. It's a digital release that could be purchased on each system's respective online stores. The game was co-developed by Capcom, the company that originally created Mega Man, and Inti Creates, the company that developed the Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX games for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, respectively. Mega Man 9 is a modern game that eschews modern graphics and sound to go back to the 8-bit visuals of the Nintendo Entertainment System, where Mega Man was born. Previous to Mega Man 9, the Mega Man series was all but dead, not having a single release for over a decade. Sure, there were plenty of spin-offs between this and Mega Man 8, but many thought that we would never get another traditional game in the main series again. That is, until Mega Man 9 showed up. Mega Man 9 is a love letter to all those who thoroughly enjoyed the 8-bit Mega Man games, particularly Mega Man 2. It goes back to the basics in more ways than one, providing the challenging game play you'd come to expect out of an old NES game. Mega Man 9 is an excellently crafted game that does justice to the classic series.

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Mega Man is a blue, heroic robot designed and created by the jolly Dr. Light. The blue bomber has stopped the evil Dr. Wily from taking over the world many, many times in the past, and the world lived in peace ever since. That peace comes to an end when robots start attacking the city for the umpteenth time. You'd think that it'd be obvious who the culprit is by now, but things are not so simple. The robots causing the trouble were all created by Dr. Light, casting suspicions to fall onto the good doctor. Dr. Wily comes on public television to inform the world that this is not his doing. If I were the world, I wouldn't believe a word this man said, considering he has tried to conquer the world over eight times in a row. Somehow, Wily plays a video recording showing Light declaring his true intentions for world conquest. Wily is shown in the video as rejecting Light's ambition. Then Wily actually asks people to donate money to his bank account, so that he can build robots to stop Dr. Light. You'd have to be a moron to believe this guy. Sure enough, everyone believes him. The drama escalates when society decides to imprison Dr. Light for his alleged crimes. It's now up to Mega Man to uncover the truth and prove who the real culprit is. It's pretty obvious that Mega Man 9's story isn't meant to be taken seriously, although it does have a cool idea behind it.

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In the last few Mega Man games, Mega Man had the ability to jump, shoot, slide, and charge up his shots with the Mega Buster. In Mega Man 9, however, you can only do two of those things; jump and shoot. I'm not sure why Mega Man suddenly forgot how to slide and charge his shot, but I'm sure there's a convenient plot device to explain it. The developers decided to get rid of the slide and charge shot to give the game a more basic feel, like that of Mega Man 2. This is one of the most divisive aspects of the game, as fans are totally split on whether it's a good thing or bad thing. Those who hated the slide and charge shot of the newer Mega Man games will welcome this change, but fans that actually liked that stuff will be disappointed. The level design has been adjusted account for the lack of a slide and charge shot, so the omission of those abilities doesn't ruin the game. It does, however, decrease the amount of depth that the game could potentially have had. I get that this game is supposed to be a return to the basics, but the slide and charge shot were great additions to the series that made the games more sophisticated. There's no reason to abandon perfectly good design choices for the sake of nostalgia. The problem can be slightly alleviated if you choose to pay for the Proto Man DLC, which allows you to play as Mega Man's robotic brother. Proto Man can slide and use the charge shot, but there's a significant catch; he takes twice the damage Mega Man does. That trades one problem for an even bigger problem, so it's not really worth it unless you want a challenge. Plus, the DLC costs extra money. While the lack of a slide and charge shot doesn't totally ruin the experience, it does dumb it down by a lot. Mega Man 9 sacrifices a little too much in the name of nostalgia.

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With no intro stage in sight, you are immediately presented with the stage select screen, where you can choose one of eight Robot Masters to take down. This time the cast of Robot Masters are Concrete Man, Galaxy Man, Jewel Man, Plug Man, Tornado Man, Magma Man, Hornet Man, and Splash Woman. Yep, this is the first female Robot Master in the whole series. For as much as this game regresses, it makes major progress. She looks a little bit like a certain robot from the Mega Man Zero series. Most of the Robot Masters are designed similarly to how they were back in the 8-bit games, many of them with similar body types. An example would be Magma Man; he looks just like Needle Man from Mega Man 3, but with fire instead of needles. Concrete Man looks pretty similar to Guts Man from the very first Mega Man. Perhaps they're brothers? Not all the Robot Masters resemble older ones, though. You still have a couple off-the-wall designs like Galaxy Man, who basically looks like a flying saucer. Plug Man has kind of a suggestive name, perhaps harkening back to the Wood Man and Hard Man of old. I bet those three get together on a regular basis. As for Jewel Man, well, I can't see the point to him. Maybe he's an interior decorator of some sort. He certainly looks it. Mega Man 9 has some strong, memorable Robot Master designs, and that's an important factor in any Mega Man game.

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Every time Mega Man beats up a Robot Master, he gets its weapon. It's been like that for pretty much every Mega Man game ever released, and it's still like that in Mega Man 9. The Robot Masters are all weak to particular weapons, so that's their main use. One issue that the Mega Man games started to develop in later iterations is that they became progressively less and less useful, eventually only being useful for exploiting boss weaknesses. Mega Man 9 changes that by making almost all the special weapons extremely useful, both during boss fights and during the regular stages. It's a concept that hasn't been done justice since the very early Mega Man games, such as the first three. The idea is that Mega Man's regular buster is rather weak and inefficient at taking care of most things, so it's generally better to use a special weapon. There is a situation for every special weapon, like Magma Man's weapon shoots out a spread shot that can reach enemies in areas the regular buster can't. Some special weapons also have effects being damaging enemies. For instance, Hornet Man's weapon shoots out a hornet that normally homes in on foes, but it can also pick up nearby items, like health power-ups. I do think some of the special weapons are a little overpowered, though. Tornado Man's weapon is a good example, because it completely annihilates all normal enemies on the screen. You can't use it too many times, as it runs out of ammo quickly, but it's still way too powerful. Galaxy Man's weapon does a similar thing, where it shoots out a black hole that instantly kills any nearby foes. The special weapons could stand to be a bit more balanced, but ultimately, it's a good thing that they're so useful. I'd rather have a bunch of overpowered weapons than a bunch of useless ones. Mega Man 9 has some of the best special weapons in the series.

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The stages in Mega Man 9 are all incredibly difficult. Like, they're even harder than what you would normally expect from an NES Mega Man game. You can tell that the level designers are very good at making some of the hardest levels ever. There are a lot of enemies and they're all paced in ways to maximize the disadvantage to the player. Instant kill spikes and bottomless pits are positioned in nefarious ways, often requiring nearly impossible jumps. The true challenge in this game isn't the bosses, it's the stages themselves. That's a stark contrast from most Mega Man games, where the reverse is usually true. The difficulty never feels downright unfair, but it does seem like they went a little overboard this time around. One example is this part in Tornado Man's stage where wind either blows against you or blows you forward, and you have to make a lot of tough jumps during these turbulent winds. On top of that, there are flying enemies that try to hit you as you're jumping. This same level also has dreaded ice physics, for some reason, even though it's not an ice level. I realize the designers were trying to honor the high difficulty of NES games, but I've played plenty of NES games, and this is way harder. A lot of it comes down to memorization, so you'll have to replay stages repeatedly until you get it right. The good thing about the high difficulty is that it helps make the game more memorable, since you'll have to memorize it to win. However, if you can't stomach the difficulty of the old Mega Man games, then you definitely won't be able to handle this one. Mega Man 9 is not for the faint of heart.

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This game brings back the shop from Mega Man 7 and Mega Man 8, with a few minor modifications. The shop can be accessed at any time during the stage select screen, and it's where you'll buy helpful goods like Energy Tanks, Weapon Tanks, and more. The tanks restore life energy and weapon energy respectively, but there are a couple of interesting items. There is something called a "Spike Shield," which will protect Mega Man from spikes for one time. Normally spikes kill Mega Man in one hit, so that can be a big help. You also have an item that calls Beat, a robotic bird, to carry Mega Man out of a bottomless pit if he falls into one. Again, this item can be invaluable. One of the only items that can be kept as a permanent upgrade is the Energy Balancer. This eliminates the need to constantly switch weapons when restoring energy, because it automatically puts the energy into the weapon that needs it most. It's mostly a convenience thing. I wish this functionality was built into the game by default, though. All the items purchased at the shop are of the expendable type, so you'll have to buy more as you need them. As for how you buy these items, you need bolts. The bolts can be found inside of destroyed robots or simply hidden in the environment. You can make the game a lot easier by farming bolts and buying as much as you can hold, but the game will be hard no matter what. Mega Man 9 takes the shop system from Mega Man 7 and makes it even better.

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Mega Man 9 is fan service to the highest degree. Fans of the old school Mega Man games who felt neglected for so many years are now getting the attention they always wanted. The idea of a brand new, 8-bit game coming out in 2008 is like a dream come true for NES aficionados. Then again, if the 8-bit visual style isn't your thing, then you might not enjoy Mega Man 9. Some fans would have preferred if Mega Man 9 went with a more sophisticated visual style, but all in all, Mega Man 9 seems to have pleased most folk. And despite the antiquated visuals, nothing about this game's design is antiquated; anyone who played the Mega Man games of old will immediately notice the modern design cues this game has going for it. Years of experience have allowed the developers of the game to make an incredibly polished product. Mega Man 9 is tough, well designed, and thoughtful.

Word Count: 2,117

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