“Fight, Mega Man! For everlasting peace!”
Mega Man has been an integral part of the foundation of video games since his inception in 1987. The Mega Man Legacy Collection is a compilation of six classic NES titles with not much in the way of “newness”, proving sadly how much Capcom is done with their first golden boy.
At least they gave us the greatest Mega Man picture ever above, even if the Legacy Collection turns out to be rubbish. Good thing it’s not rubbish.
Featuring the original Mega Man, Mega Man II, Mega Man III, Mega Man IV, Mega Man V, and the appropriately named Mega Man VI, the Legacy Collection is the best-presented modern collection of older games that I’ve ever played. Though the additional features could’ve been rounded out a bit more, the Collection presents these six titles with respect, leaving them intact with slowdown and glitches, an HD time capsule back to the 80’s and early 90’s.
At first, I wondered why they didn’t bother polishing them up, reduce the sprite-flicker and all of that. Then I realized that would be a dishonor and a mistake. Here’s why:
For a moment, can we compare the Legacy Collection with another older compilation, the Mega Man Anniversary Collection? How do they differ? Anniversary included more games (the first eight games of the original series) but it went the route of attempting to “update” them, as well as featuring terrible button layout (GameCube version), a cumbersome memory card auto-save, content that must be unlocked, and unresponsive controls, which are critical for the demanding stages in these games.
On the other hand, Legacy includes less games but they are visually crisper, the controls are tighter and more responsive, the interface and menus are more user-friendly, a lot of additional content that’s not unlockable but available at once to enjoy casually, and the “save states” feature is essential for completing these difficult games. The difference between the two is that the games in the Legacy Collection are easier and more enjoyable to play, and their presentation is much better than in Anniversary.
And for that, Legacy is a historical treasure, a window looking back at the roots of gaming development and design, reminding us just why the original Mega Man became so iconic with its clean, unaltered emulation of these classics. Imagine if you went to the Louvre in Paris expecting to see the Mona Lisa and instead of the original, you got a computer rendered image created by a group of modern graphic artists. It could be exact down to the minute details even but you’d still know it was an imitation and not the painting in its original form.
Everything from the original games are here, including the password system and unfixed typos, such as when “Mr. X” tells Mega Man that he “Faild”.
The Legacy Collection has been compared to the Criterion Collection. I’ve recently enjoyed Paths of Glory, Seven Samurai and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb as Criterions. But the comparison with Mega Man’s Legacy is both a fair and unfair assessment.
Yes these games are here in their original form in the highest possible quality given modern technology. You can even play around with different sizes of the game screen to fit a widescreen tv or to emulate an old-fashioned tube tv, right down to the fuzziness! However, the Criterion Collection is renown for its additional features that help to set the stage for the importance and influence of the film, as well as the backdrop for the film and insights on its cast and crew through original interviews and recordings.
The Legacy Collection does provide additional features as well, but sadly it’s not much. Each of the six games includes a Database and Museum. The Database displays the HP and attack power of everything in the game with hand drawn images and bits of information. Turns out every single one of the wacky, charming enemies in these games has its own unique name. The most useful feature of the database is it shows the weapon weakness for each enemy.
The Museum is more interesting, if not as useful. Concept art and original sketches are included by the E-Tank load for each of the six games. Particularly interesting are the unused concept designs for bosses that never made it into the game. Worm Man? Boomerang Man? Faucet Man? Thank God these never saw the light of 8-bit day.
Aside from the Museum and Database, there isn’t much else to inform us about what went into creating Rockman. No propaganda exists in the Collection to remind us what made these games so great and iconic. There are no interviews or recordings. Just the images. Someone dropped a ball somewhere. Keiji Inafune clearly could’ve been taken away from his work with Mighty No.9 for a simple interview.
What Legacy lacks in archival content it makes up for with extra gameplay content. This is particularly exciting for those vets who already cleared the original six Mega Man games in the past and can still command their muscle memory to do so again with ease. For gluttons for punishment looking for more… punishment, there are the Collection’s Challenges.
Over fifty of them.
Fight Mega Man II’s Mecha Dragon boss with a time limit, run through a series of tough sections from the games strung together with warps between them, watch replays of the best of the best on the leaderboards. You can unlock more gauntlets for poor Mega Man to run through as you complete each Challenge.
I’ve loved Mega Man for the majority of my conscious life and while I can respect the cleverness in the design of these Challenges, some of them are just too hard! I’m trying as it is to make it through the titles I never finished as a kid (III and V), but even if I could complete those I’m not sure I’ll ever be up to these steep Challenges. Still, it’s there for the real die-hard fans. And I mean, die hard. As in they will die a lot. It is a joke, you see?
The Mega Man Legacy Collection ought to be the gold standard for repackaging 8-bit games in a single collection. No bells and whistles. No need for frills and shallow thrills. Let the original content speak for itself on the grounds of its own quality, whether it has aged gracefully or not. The Collection gives the six games room to breathe, refusing to “update” their graphics beyond sharpening them up for the modern flatscreen. It’s wonderful to play these historic pieces once again without having to rummage around with cartridges and clumsy old wiring (no knock to the faithful NES chilling on my entertainment center).
Stopping at the original six games was another wise decision for this presentation. The original series was at its best here and now there’s the best chance for the world to see (or remember) just how good they were. Provided the insane difficulty isn’t too much of a turn off and the lack of refinement (especially in the first game) doesn’t push too many away.
The 8-bit Review
How shall we grade visuals? Standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the upcoming Final Fantasy XV or with Firewatch, Mirror’s Edge, and No Man’s Sky, it’s clear that Legacy is representing an almost thirty year gap between modern high-def beauty and 8-bit “retro” pixels. But I hope everyone who buys the Legacy Collection knows exactly what they’re getting: a demonstration of just how much the NES was truly capable of. In some cases, it’s actually surprising.
What’s most impressive here is how well Legacy preserves the original graphics, with all of their flaws and visual mistakes. These games are treated with the dignity they deserve as influential legends. This is about Mega Man’s “legacy”, after all. They are tinkered with like mere playthings for the amusement of 2016 sensibilities! No ugly “smoothing” filters in sight. Just glorious, sharp-edged pixels.
The artwork that’s sprinkled throughout the Collection is also a welcome addition to the game’s visuals. Artwork can be found not only in the Databases and Museums, but also on the “covers” of the six titles when selecting them. Colorful, bizarre and extremely Japanese, they’re there to remind us of Mega Man’s roots as Rockman.
There’s a Music section that accesses the soundtracks right from the start menu. Smart!
This character was known in Japan as Rockman. Rock n’ roll is in his DNA, by golly! Some of these songs are instantly recognizable. Several of these songs have been covered, remixed, redone, dubstepped, updated, and republished many times over. They are the anthems of the 8-bit golden age. Let’s just ignore some of the new elevator music in the menus.
The Mega Man sound is distinct, the archetype of the action game. Only now we’re talking about six Mega Man games. Not just one. The combined auditory essence of all six is enough to convince any naysayer who doubts just how awesome these games were (talkin’ about those doubters who hate on things because they’re too old — more like “too young to know good games when they see ’em!).
Can I rate its audio eleven out of ten? There’s just no way we can touch on them all. If these don’t make you want to get up and run, then you might be dead… or too busy playing Mega Man.
The Mega Man games are formulaic, using a rock-paper-scissors mechanism for their robot boss strengths and weaknesses. They never diverge widely from the basic schema, though if you were to play the games in chronological order (which you should not; definitely don’t start with the first one as it’s much harder than most of the others), you can see how the games became more refined as they were developed and more features were added. This took the form of the now characteristic charging of the Mega Buster and Mega Man’s slide, as well as numerous support abilities from the Blue Bombers pets, like useful Rush enhancements in the later games.
The Challenges go a long way to mix up the general homogeneity of the six games. When it boils down to it, they aren’t all that different. Super Mario Bros. 3 is more distinct from Super Mario Bros. than Mega Man is from Mega Man VI. But with the Challenges at least there’s a bit of unique gameplay. Bearing in mind this isn’t a complaint.
These games have been out for decades across multiple systems and in various reiterations, so you know if you love or hate the gameplay. What Mega Man offers is consistently great action-platforming. It’s demanding. It requires intense precision (some jumps can come down to a pixel, seems like). The level designs were and still are innovative. Everyone should have the chance to play these landmarks of gaming at least once.
The only reason why these very accessible games with their simple menus aren’t perfectly accessible is because there are several weapons and items in the six games that aren’t exactly self-explanatory. Without the original manuals, there’s not much else to do but turn to the internet when you’re confused about what B-E-A-T does or how to properly use any of the many weapons against the many bosses. Beyond that, though, running and jumping and shooting is about as basic as it gets.
Gird up your loins and fix yourself a sausage Manwich, ’cause this game will make a Mega Man out of you. What’s not to love? The absolutely psychotic difficulty is part of the old school charm. The addition of “save states” (being able to save and load at any point in the game) is a godsend and for some may be the only way of conquering these games. But it won’t necessarily help you beat a crazy boss…
The Mega Man series are games that challenges you to be your best, without being unfair. I noticed today that the designers did a swell job of demonstrating new level features in each stage in a non-hostile environment, or at least one with little threat, before throwing you into an obstacle course with disappearing blocks, perfectly placed enemies, scrolling conveyor belts, lasers, cannons, fire pits, invincible buzz saws, bottomless pits, and so many spikes. Not once will your hand be held. Suck it up. One or two of these may be some of the hardest games you’ll ever play.
I decided to create a new grading category just for this kind of product, because we’re not merely reviewing a single game here but a collection of several. On their own, each of these games may grade differently, but these metrics are meant to take the whole compilation into consideration.
So then how well does Legacy function as a collection? It kicks the pants off of the other Mega Man compilations. For the reasons mentioned above, it is one of the best in terms of preserving classic graphics and gameplay, keeping their hands clean of fixing things that aren’t broken. For original quality, this collection rocks. But some real additional content like “behind the scenes” stuff could’ve really made this package shine. I still don’t know the story of Mega Man’s invention and how he came to be? What, did some guy fall and smack his head on his bathroom sink and then suddenly “Eureka”? I don’t know! Tell me!
Mega Man has been done before. Mega Man collections have been done before. He’s Capcom’s own private dead horse to beat. What makes Legacy as unique as it is? Everything that makes it great: clean, accessible, original, perfect emulation where the games speak for themselves and take center stage.
Plus… trophy support! That’s one new reason to play through all of these classics again!
My Personal Grade: 10/10
I hope I’ve been objective. I can’t hide my love for the original Blue Bomber, undies on the outside and all. When I was a kid I wanted to be him. Now he’s almost an anachronism but he’s not quite Astro Boy yet. Gamers have another chance, the best chance, to relive Mega Man or experience him for the first time in the Legacy Collection. That warms my old 8-bit heart. I love the look and sound of these games. I love their challenge. I loved watching my 16 year old brother play through Mega Man IV for the first time, having never played a Mega Man game in his life, and being euphoric over beating his way through his first stage and boss.
Should you pick up this Legacy Collection? If you loved the originals and played them, then absolutely yes, you should. You’ll appreciate the authenticity of this Collection. If you’ve never played Mega Man games, or few NES games at all, this is still one of the best opportunities out there for accessing a great set of them without having to worry about getting a hold of used hardware. Mega Man will surely be off-putting to some for the sheer length of time that it’s been since these were mainstream. Often times the gameplay can be downright frustrating and controller-tossing. But if you think you’re a patient enough gamer and you want something to gauge your skills and cut your teeth, look no further than six incredibly well-preserved classics from gaming history in the Mega Man Legacy Collection.
Maybe you’ll love the worthy legacy of Mega Man just as much as me.
Aggregated Score: 8.5
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