Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Aug. 25th
An Alternate Timeline Adventure With the Mega Man Legacy Collection, Sort Of
The following is not a review, because as—theoretically—an adult I don’t have the time to plow through six Mega Man games while trying to hold down the rest of my work duties. This is in a large part due to the fact that I no longer possess the side scrolling skills I once used too. Nor do I have the pattern matching recognition abilities of an old Mega Man champion.
You see, although I owned an NES during the classic era of the Mega Man franchise, the Mega Man games were never part of my Nintendo diet.
This wasn’t due to a dislike of the series, but just the fact that my mom was broke and I couldn’t have every game that I wanted. I got about two games a year, max. Unless I went and held a yard sale and got rid of some of my toys. Something I still regret.
Instead I would gaze longingly on the maps of the levels of the various Mega Man games as published in Nintendo Power and other video game magazines. Much of my current fascination with “retro” games comes from the fact that it was a path not taken in my childhood. Now with very little effort, I can download these gaming classics and experience them more or less as they were originally intended.
So what follows isn’t overview of the glitches, the plot lines and fidelity of the complete Mega Man Legacy Collection but instead a glimpse at how well this digital box set evokes the alternate universe where I grew up with a life full of Mega Man.
(Perhaps in that universe they spelled Berenstain with a Y.)
The me that exists in that other universe is either a hell of a lot tougher than the one in this or he went mad long, long ago.
Mega Man is tough y’all.
I treated the Legacy collection like it was a six CD changer, jumping back and forth between the different iterations of the game. The first thing that struck me was, in spite of obvious advances in what designers could eke out of the old NES, the games are very much connected. Enemies and basic concepts reappear over each of the games, tying it all together thematically. These were cranked out on a roughly once-a-year starting in 1987, with an extra one-year gap between Mega Man 2 and the third in the series.
In case you have no idea what a Mega Man is, he’s a good robot who fights a series of bad robots and takes their powers when he defeats them. The original innovation of the series was that Mega Man—the game—didn’t dictate which order you faced the evil robots in.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a best order, but it left it up to you with the aid of those aforementioned gaming magazines to sort it out. The boss battles in Mega Man form a a kind of elaborate Rock-Paper-Scissors game at a strategic level. At a tactical level it requires Lightning fast reflexes the likes of which could possibly challenge the best e-Sports players.
Were kids just tougher in the 90’s?
I’ve sampled about a dozen of the levels in the collection, reached three bosses and defeated one. I can’t begin to tell you how accomplished I felt just for beating one of those little bastards.
I imagine the Noah who grew up on Mega Man as some kind of, oh, I don’t know. Hacking God? Mastermind of Anonymous? Homeless guy without crippling case of carpal tunnel syndrome? He either has an infinite supply of paitence born from memorizing the merciless patterns of Dr. Wiley’s vast hoards of mechanical death bringers or he went insane in 1992 after defeating his nemesis for the upteetnth time.
Either way: I’m scared of him.
Here’s what I do love about the collection: it seems to do a really great job of re-creating the original conditions of each game. Not only are the 8-bit graphics present but so too are the slowdowns of the original games. Those points where the NES CPU and game cartridge just couldn’t handle the action that was on the screen at the time. These flaws, viewed through the lens of history, are no longer flaws but essential parts of the game.
Also you probably can’t beat the damn thing without them.
So here’s the real question: am I going to dive in and try to make up for the lost time in my alternate childhood? Am I going to try to see the road not traveled, perhaps in the hope that it will make me a well rounded person?
I dunno. There’s a lot of world out there.
What I do know is this: as a certified digital game hoarder (don’t ask to see my GOG collection) I doubt I could pass up such a faithful feeling collection as Mega Man Legacy. If you have that gene, you probably won’t regret dropping $15 on the set. Especially if you miss old school side scrollers. It doesn’t get much more old school than this.
For those of you who are old hands at the Blue Bomber’s adventures you’ll be happy to know that the game comes with a whole bunch of “remix” challenges that mash-up levels within various games to create whole new kinds of frustration. They’re quite lovely, provided you have the proper masochistic tendencies.
I may not be the perfect audience for Mega Man Legacy Collection, but I am very glad it exists.
Disclosure: Mega Man Legacy Collection was played on an Xbox One using review code provided by Capcom. It is currently available for PS4, Xbox One and PC.