For those of us who grew up in the 80s, Mega Man was an important pillar of our gaming experience. Offering tight and punishing gameplay, it set itself apart from the popular Super Mario Bros. and Alex Kidd franchises of the time. The Mega Man series was probably my favourite platformer from that era, so it’s only fair to warn you that I am writing this review with no small amount of nostalgic bias. Featuring reproductions of the original six NES games alongside a historical image repository, and all new challenge mode, Mega Man Legacy Collection was touted as the ultimate Mega Man experience for collectors and newcomers alike. So, how did it hold up?
Let’s start with the original six titles. Unsure of what to expect, I fired up the first game and was immediately transported back to the lounge room floor of my youth! The nostalgic kick was strong, hitting home as soon as the glorious 8-bit soundtrackbegan. It wasn’t long before joy turned into frustration, as I remembered how punishing and uneven Mega Man games canbe. The focus on precise timing, punishing hazards, quick deaths, and lack of checkpoints were a harsh reminder of what video games used to be like. That said, the games weren’t entirely unfair. Enemies and bosses all follow set patterns – you just have to learn the timing and ensure you don’t mess it up! This proved surprisingly rewarding, and it wasn’t long before my play style had adjusted to accommodate the game’s requirements.
If you’re new to the Mega Man series this may seem a little daunting. The games are all tough, side-scrolling platformers that use a “learn by dying” means of progression. Initially restricted to firing just your Mega Blaster (arm cannon) you must battle robot enemies as you progress through themed levels, each of which results in a unique fight against a robot master. These boss fights have long been a Mega Man calling card, and something that, to this day, remain a distinct feature of the series. After defeating each robot master, Mega Man gains that boss’s special ability which may then be used freely as you continue through the game. The trick with the Mega Man games is that each boss is particularly susceptible to one special ability. Having trouble beating Magnet Man? Maybe you should try using that Spark Shock you received after defeating Spark Man. What’s that? You couldn’t beat Spark Man? Well, he’s susceptible to Shadow Blades, so I guess you’d better tackle that level before trying this one. This brings us to another hallmark of the Mega Man series, which is the freedom players have to select the order in which they tackle levels.
I’ll not delve further into what made the original games great. There are a plethora of reviews that explore them in detail, andif you’re considering buying this collection, you’re either a fan of the series looking to relive a classic experience, or a newcomer keen to learn where it all began. Earlier I mentioned that I was unsure of what to expect when I started these games. The Mega Man Legacy Collection promoted “faithful reproductions of the series’ origins” but wasn’t specific on the methods they’d employ. Were games to be cleaned up versions of the originals? Or perhaps remade versions with replicated mechanics and modern aids? As much as I loved the original series, I’m also a fan of games receiving graphical overhauls, so I wouldn’t have been adverse to a nicely rendered 3D overlay – maybe with the option to flick between that and the original 2D graphics. As it happens the games feel like direct ports of the NES classics. Thisisn’t a bad thing, however it does mean that all the faults of the original games have translated across to the Legacy Collection. The game slows noticeably when many shots are fired or when too many enemies are on screen at a time. In later games, like Mega Man 6, there’s even a noticeable line on the right hand side as the next part of the level is drawn.
On the plus side, you do get some advantages similar those you’d experience were you to play the games on an emulator. You can save and load at any time and can even use rapid fire buttons to emulate mashing the fire button at ludicrous speed. These features do feel a little “cheaty” however, and can dampen the challenge. Also included are a few aesthetic tweaks that are interesting to play with. You can adjust screen size between original, zoomed or stretched (although why you’d want to stretch 4:6 to 16:9 is beyond me!), and add filters or a contextual background image to replace the black letterbox bars. The monitor filter is interesting, adding horizontal lines between pixels to give a more textured feel, while the TV filter adds blur, which just feels strange. None of these features affect gameplay though, feeling more like minor add-ons. I appreciate their presence but feel there was a missed opportunity to have some real fun with graphical enhancement.
Alongside the reproductions of the original six games, Mega Man Legacy Collection offers two additional modes; Museum Mode and Challenge Mode. Museum Mode is an in-game repository of Mega Man related media, including production art, character files, concept art and promo material. Accompanying this is a database section which offers statistics and suggests tactics for most in-game enemies, although strangely very few bosses are included in this database, which is a shame.
Challenge Mode is, in my opinion, what makes the Mega Man Legacy Collection really worth thepurchase. Combining remixes of levels from all six games with timed boss fights, special challenges, and scaling difficulty, Challenge Mode offers a shorter, more competitive game experience, unique to this collection. Challenges must be completed in the fastest time possible and upon completion players can see how they rank on global leaderboards. Furthermore, you are able to watch replays of how others achieved their top scores, giving you useful insights into how you might try for that top spot.
The Mega ManMega Man Legacy Collection is an enjoyable compilation. It feels a little “cheap” in its implementation, however it comes at a very low cost. $23 AUD for six remade NES classics plus a new Challenge Mode and some nostalgic artwork is a very decent deal. If you’re new to the series be warned; Mega Man is a fantastic platformer but brutal and challenging. It was one of the forerunners of plat former design and doesn’t have the gameplay assists of current 8-bit themed titles like Shovel Knight. That said the “cheats” I mentioned earlier make it considerably easier to complete, giving you a great way to experience the games whilst minimising the frustration. If you’re an established fan of the series Mega ManMega Man Legacy Collection is a great way to centralise your collection and relive the fun of the original titles. By compiling the six original titles you’re spared the arduous task of digging out your old NES and the Challenge Levels add a new, and fun incentive.