How one gamer disliked Mega Man and then finally understood everything.
Two weekends ago, Nintendo World Report staffers and friends from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania gathered in my house to play some Mega Man games. It was a fun time, and I hope the small amount of people that watched it enjoyed our often off-topic romp through Mega Man 2, 4, and 9, along with F-Zero X, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Sweet Memories - Blackjack asides.
The one thing about Mega Man games that kept on coming back to me is something that I always find fascinating about certain retro games. There is a clear, distinct “language” to how Mega Man games operate. To some, it is majestic and perfect. To others, it’s dated, backwards, and dumb. I find myself to be a special case because I’ve been on both sides. I guess you could call me the Mega Man Daywalker or something.
When I was younger, my only experience with Mega Man was a copy of Mega Man 3 on NES that I bought at a flea market that stopped working when I got halfway through a stage one time, my friend’s copy of Mega Man 6, and Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge on Game Boy. Mega Man 6 isn’t really seen as a series high point, and that first Game Boy game is crazy hard. I was already playing from behind. This distaste for the style present in Mega Man games developed for me; it was boring and the hero was limited to shooting in one direction and jumping in a very specific manner. I liked the flexibility of similarly hard games like Contra (where you can shoot in 8 directions) and Ninja Gaiden (which also has its own language that I spoke fluently in my youth like some sort of gaming savant, an ability that has more or less eluded me in my 20s.).
The allure of Mega Man boggled and eluded me until Mega Man 9 came out. As a self-proclaimed lover of retro games, I picked it up without thinking too much. It didn’t click at first, but then I spent a night with two friends of mine. One of them played tons of Mega Man games as a kid, and he imparted wisdom to me, basically teaching me the language of Mega Man games. Figuring out that perfect boss order. Cursing at block puzzles. Gathering E Tanks. Using certain weapons against tricky mini-bosses. Acquiring that boyish grin whenever Dr. Wily raised his eyebrows.
Over the course of a few weeks, I went from being curious but never impressed by Mega Man games to devouring Mega Man 9, and then checking out Mega Man 2 and 3 on Wii Virtual Console. It was revelatory. I suddenly understood a series that never grabbed me before. Mega Man 9 was a nice entry point, and Mega Man 2’s Normal mode made it even more friendly for a newbie to study up and learn the rhythm and flow of the series. My affection for the series reached a fever pitch when Mega Man 10 came out, and I gathered those same two friends to play it the weekend it came out. We beat it two or three times that weekend.
While time has slowed my progression through the series, as I’ve never played much of Mega Man 5 or 6, I’m slowly working my way through the NES games on 3DS Virtual Console. I replayed Mega Man 2 for the umpteenth time, and going through Mega Man 3 for the first time in a long time. I’ll likely skip Mega Man 4 as I go through the series because I relived the hell of Drill Man and Dr. Cossack during our Mega Man 10K last weekend.
However, the Mega Man X series has never clicked for me. I sort of enjoy the first one, but I guess maybe I’ll need to find a friend or two that can show me the ropes of why Mega Man X is so amazing. Any volunteers?