Mega Man 7 – Retro Games Review

Disclaimer – This review is part of a 5 part series of reviews for the the Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 for the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. Due to a full review of the collection coming soon, I will not be mentioning everything the collection brings – only mentioning those that pertain to Mega Man 7.

Dr Wily has finally been defeated. Mega Man stood victorious, the Doctor in chains. The world rejoiced as peace was finally secured. Little did they know, he had a backup plan. Six months have passed, and deep within Wily’s Castle, four Robot Masters are released from their stasis chambers. Their goal – to free Dr. Wily and destroy Mega Man.

The Mega Man series was beginning to suffer at the hands of ‘fatigue’ after six entries on the NES. Mega Man X had been released to much applause, and the future of Rock – the original Blue Bomber – was uncertain. Capcom, not wanting to abandon their venerable mascot, decided to reinvigorate the classic formula. They wanted it to it stand side-by-side with X – each game focusing on a different set of core mechanics. With this decision, Mega Man 7 was born.

Slapping the start button, for the first time, does not start the game. Instead you are shown a fully animated, in-engine cutscene with Mega Man, Roll and Auto – a new addition to the Light family – travelling through a city under siege. You suit up, find Dr. Light and go on your merry way through an intro stage, yet another new addition. When the stage ends you encounter a mysterious robot called Bass (and his robo-doggo Treble) and the stage ends. Many people criticised this segment on release, stating it was too long or there was too much unskippable dialogue. Personally, I really enjoyed it. The whole stage can be beaten in around four minutes (that time including cutscenes!). A great way to set the scene for the most cinematic Mega Man yet. Whats not to like?

Once you mosey on through the intro stage you are given a somewhat strange screen – the level select. But not as we know it. Typically, you are given eight Robot Masters to choose between. Mega Man 7 only has four. This change is probably one the biggest changes 7 actually brings to the table. On the plus side, you are given less options and therefore are not overwhelmed by “first stage anxiety”. You also spend less time bouncing through levels trying to find the correct path. It basically makes it easier for newcomers to the series to find their footing. Unfortunately this does have the added side effect of diminishing its replay value, since your starting options are so limited.

Once you pick your stage and begin fiddling around with the controls, you will immediately notice that Mega Man appears to move slower than his NES days. His jump feels a little bit floatier and has less height, his Mega Thighs propel him further and his Mega Buster has a seriously noticeable delay before it even begins to charge. The biggest change however, is how zoomed in the camera is. This makes Mega Man look massive compared to his iddy biddy NES days, and this scaling is applied to practically every element in the game. It certainly looks impressive, but it hampers your view. Luckily stages are designed around this limitation for the most part. Regardless, these are significant changes if you are coming hot off the NES games. I found myself misjudging practically all my jumps, slides and charge timers. This lead to a painful first few levels, but you will adapt to this new Mega Man if you stick at it.

Not content with simply changing his fundamental controls, Capcom went and give Mega Man’s tool belt a serious rework. Rush is back once more, sporting his traditional ‘Coil’ form. Power and Jet Adaptors are gone, replaced by the significantly better, but hidden, Super Adaptor. Beat is different and kinda MIA…again. Your E-Tanks have been reduced from nine, to four and M-Tanks have been renamed to S-Tanks. Aside from all of those, Rush Jet returns if you look hard enough. Rush Search makes its debut and digs up upgrades, consumables and collectables. There is even a super secret upgrade that you can find, but you can uncover that one yourself (no spoilers). This is easily Mega Man’s most comprehensive set of utility powers. Whilst the likes of Rush Search are a bit naff in execution, and Rush Jet is somewhat overshadowed by the Super Adaptor, they are fun to find and mess around with.

Finally, Mega Man 7 is a massive step up in difficulty from Mega Man 5 and 6. Pixel perfect platforming is common place, enemies take more damage and due to your hefty bulk, you will often take more damage. Cutting back on E-Tanks means your mistakes are all the more punishing. Challenge has finally returned the series, and it is much better for it. Every victory is earned. Every skill is learned. If things do get a bit too hairy, pop to the shop (hit select) and purchase some extra E-Tanks and have fun.

Once fiddling has subsided, you can begin to appreciate the stages themselves. Each Robot Master has a theme, and that theme is effectively portrayed within their stages. Spooky castlea filles with robot zombies, killer traffic cones in a mechanics shop and even a museum filled with Robot Masters of old.

As is typical with Mega Man, stages will introduce concepts and mechanics and expand upon them over the course of the stage slowly adding in new ways to interact with said mechanic. Burst Man in particular is a masterclass in this design philosophy. It introduces bombs, bombs over pits and bombs underwater. Then it adds spikes underwater, ceiling spikes, an underwater miniboss (with spikes), a vertical scrolling section (also with spikes), an alternating water level section (with more spikes). Even Burst Man himself follows this trend by having a spiked ceiling and attacks that interact with it. This level sounds difficult, but it teaches you everything you need to know by incrementally increasing the challenge.

Unfortunately this quality does fall by the wayside once you hit the second half of the game. Most stages at this point have very little in the way of new mechanics. Those that are there, aren’t often explored beyond a one-off appearance. Luckily the core platforming is still very satisfying throughout, and no stage is “bad”. Still, it would have been nice if the initial quality had been carried throughout the experience.

After battling through a Stage you will, as always, fight the Robot Master of that area. These fights are some of the best the series has ever had. Your first fight anyway. All four bosses have incredibly intricate attack patterns that require precision jumping and sliding, as well as an understanding of how your attacks alter their movements. Freeze Man is arguably the hardest boss in the entire game, however his pattern, despite being overwhelming at first, is very predictable and therefore exploitable. All four are top tier. Unfortunately once you beat one, the remaining seven drop like a stone. Their attack pattern is reset when hit by their weakness, so you can literally kill them without being hit if you have even the slightest inclination on how to avoid their now limited move pool. Typical Mega Man I know, but when they tease you with this level of intensity, you can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed.

Coming off such a strong cast of Robot Masters, I had hoped we would have a diverse and interesting selection of weapons. Mega Man 7 delivers – for the most part. You have an interesting shield that degrades with use, an incredibly powerful Thunder Bolt that hits harder than a charge shot, a shattering ice projectile that can be fired in multiple directions and even a effective melee option – a series first. Nearly all of them have a use in combat, with even the more niche ones being incredibly handy when the situation arises. What makes them truly shine is their use outside of combat. Like the original Mega Man, weapons can interact with various stages in a number of ways. Fire can burn forests, Ice and turn rain into snow and lightning can power machinery. Utilising their “hidden” potential will reveal all kinds of secrets that aid in your journey, and it just feels awesome when you stumble across some of the more obscure ones.

On the subject of obscure, let’s quickly touch on Rush Search and Mega Man 7’s use of hidden items. The vast majority of upgrades are hidden in seemingly random locations across all eight stages. There is no indication where they are, you just have to check every pixel, of every level to find them. Or check a guide and save some time. These upgrades can be incredibly potent, and locking them behind a painfully slow searching process kills the games pace if you don’t already know they are there. You can purchase most of these upgrades in shop, but they are incredibly expensive and buying them will hinder your runs financial prospects quite significantly.

Once you have barged through all that obscurity and whooped all the Robot Masters, you will be taken to Wily’s Fortress. That’s right, there is no hidden ‘Second Fortress’. These stages are pretty good for the most part. Stage gimmicks return forcing you to prove your mastery of the game and the bosses are incredibly fun to defeat. Until you reach Wily. Mega Man 7 has the unfortunate, yet rightfully earned reputation of having the hardest final boss in the entire series. Even maxed out on E-Tanks, this guy can thomp your bottom due to random movement, your weapons doing basically no damage and an attack pattern that is almost impossible to dodge. Oh and you die in 4-5 hits. It’s not only hard, it feels unfair. This really puts a downer on the whole experience, as a poor final impression would.

On a brighter note, this game is gorgeous and brimming with character and charm. Enemies new and old are rendered in glorious 16-bit, googly eyes still intact. Stages have an attention to detail that rivals any other game on SNES. The bosses truly take the cake however. Most of them tower over Mega Man, look awesome and take full advantage of the SNES’s power.

They take no prisoners with the music either. Whilst the traditional chip tunes of the NES were mostly incredible, the SNES has extra layers, longer loops and a clarity the older games just couldn’t match. It also helps the actual sound track is brilliant with nearly every tune being able to stand tall next to its mythical “mega brothers”.

Mega Man 7 is a clearly a different beast from its NES counterpart due to it controling, looking and sounding different. But this is still Mega Man through and through. It successfully takes the Classic series into a new generation, and through sweeping changes, manages to reinvigorate the formula.

Sure it falters in a few areas, but that does not stop this game from ushering in a new era for the Blue Bomber. Do you like Mega Man’s new 16-bit look, or are you a stalwart 8-bitter? Let me know in the comments below.

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