Review: Mega Man (NES)

In this review, we run and gun our way through another Mega Man action game. We find out how this series all started.

This game was released in 1987 and would kick of a whole franchise. We’ve already reviewed the rest of the classic NES series with our reviews of Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3, Mega Man 4, Mega Man 5, and Mega Man 6. Mega Man 7 and the Mega Man X series would be released on the SNES.

If you’ve already played the other NES games, this game will seem quite familiar to you. You start the game with a set of robot masters to go after. You can select them in any order, but you must defeat all of them to move on to the next part of the game. What is noticeably different is the fact that this game features 6 robot masters instead of what would later be considered a signature 8 robot masters to defeat.

In each level, you must go through what is more or less an obstacle course complete with enemies, ladders, chutes (which seems to be unique to this game), spikes, and bottomless pits. If you make it to the end, you take on the stages robot master. If you successfully defeat the robot master, you can pick up the robot masters weapon which is dropped and must be collected (another unique element to this game). While we never encountered it, this opens up the possibility that both you and the robot master can die.

Another element unique to this game is the points system. You get points for defeating enemies. You also can pick up small items that count as bonus points if you complete the level. You’ll also get stage clear bonus points which goes into the thousands for completing the level.

Other items you can collect from defeating enemies includes the life cell (small or large), and the ammo cell to recharge your special weapons (small or large). Additionally, you can collect free lives if you are lucky enough. Energy containers were introduced in the second game of the series, so don’t expect them in this game.

One small unique item seems to be a Mega Man part. If you can find and collect it in one of the robot master levels, you can obtain a tool item that permits you to make temporary floating platforms. This can certainly be useful in some parts of the game. The downside is that using this will render you weaponless until you stop using it and select a different weapon.

The great thing about this game is that it did introduce the concept of non-linear play. You can choose your own path as you select which order you want to complete the levels. I thought this was certainly innovative.

A major downside was the difficulty of this game. The moving platforms, appearing and disappearing blocks, the platforms that also fire at you, and difficult to utilize platforms all contributed to this being a painfully hard game. To make matters worse, when going up against a robot master, you take a lot of damage each time you get hit. In fact, I would say that you get all of half a dozen or less hits before you get taken out. So, while the bosses attacks aren’t that difficult on the surface, you have a very small margin of error before you find yourself trying to just hang on for dear life in the fight.

While the robot master levels are quite difficult, they are certainly passable. Unfortunately, when you make it to the Dr. Wily stages, you’ll discover that the difficulty of this game ramps up to asinine. Just hoping to defeat the first boss is a long shot. Even if you do somehow manage to defeat that boss, the second level forces you to re-fight all the robot masters. If you defeat one, you get to simply move on to the next robot master with little to no health. As a result, you are practically expected to have damageless fights with them. If you die in this run, you go straight to the very beginning again. At this point, I threw my hands up in despair and said “forget it”.

Generally speaking, there are a lot of great ideas in this game, but it is marred by the difficulty. It goes from hard to pretty much unplayable. I’m not sure what the point was with the points system. Unsurprisingly, this was taken out in future games. Had I not played the future games, I would say that this game has a lot of great ideas, but it needs some re-tooling before it has a hope of getting any kind of success.

Graphically, this is where the game does shine. The environments were well realized and each stage had its own look. The enemies were well thought out, and it was clear what different things were. Only downside was the occasional slowdown, a screen wrapping glitch where things appear on both sides of the screen, and flickering. Beyond that, I have no real complaint with the game.

The audio was OK. None of the music, I found, was particularly memorable, but it wasn’t bad either. The sound effects worked well for this game, though.

Overall, this game had a number of good ideas. The level selection worked incredibly well at the beginning, and taking on new weapons upon defeat of a robot master were all great ideas. Unfortunately, the extreme difficulty of this game – especially towards the end really hurt this game to the point of it being unplayable. Only small graphical glitches could be found, but that didn’t hurt this game that much. The sound could have been better in the music department, but the sound effects were pretty good all around. If you’re just getting into the classic series, I can’t recommend this game and, instead, suggest starting with Mega Man 2 and going up through the series from there. It’s not a bad game, but it needs work.


Died fighting Elec Man on the second Dr. Wiley stage. High score: 770,500 points.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 66%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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