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 9.
Once again the world is in chaos after an octuplet of Robot Masters go on a rampage. Despite literally conquering the world 8 times over, the clearly villainous Dr. Wily somehow manages to convince everyone that Dr. Light is the one behind the attacks. As Dr. Light is being dragged away, Rock, Roll, Rush, Auto and Eddie go on a wild adventure to prove their creators innocence and defeat Dr. Wily for the last time (ha).
Mega Man 8 took a toll on the Blue Bomber. Critics and consumers alike were bitterly divided and sales suffered as a result. Capcom put Rock on the rocks for over a decade to give the series time to heal. And heal it did, as Mega Man 9 released and the world rejoiced. The old gang was back together again. It was Mega Man’s time to show the naysayers what he could do once more.
Despite rocking that sweet nine in its title, Mega Man 9 innovates by ‘Rush Jetting’ seven games backwards. That’s right, Mega Man 9 is a weird pseudo sequel / spiritual successor to the legendary Mega Man 2. This means 8-bit graphics, no charge shot, no greasy thighs and absolutely no vehicle sections. Thankfully they let Rock keep his sticky shoes, because reverting back to ice skates would have been disastrous. That’s not to say they have not slipped in some spicy extras. You still have Rush in all his bouncy, flying glory, a shop that sells your E/W/M Tanks and even Proto Man makes a few appearances. If you liked the NES games, then Mega Man 9 is a love letter that combines the best of the series – minus the slide. RIP ‘Mega Thighs’.
Once the inevitable shell shock has subsided, you can hit start, be greeted by eight (not four!) Robot Masters and get ready to gently hoof their firm booty’s into oblivion. This time round we are given quite literally the most diverse set of bosses you will ever see. We have a black hole spewing flying saucer with bunny ears, an electrical plug, a walking honeycomb, Guts Man 2.0 and some watery tart who likes to aggressively handout tridents. That’s right guys/gals, Mega Man just got gender inclusive. Diversity aside, all eight robots look great. Sure some elements are recycled from other games (fire, water, electric etc.), but they look awesome and having a few basic elements makes figuring out the ideal order a bit less arduous. Also, Splash Woman is a merbot(?). Nuff said really.
Once you decide who you want to unleash your divine lemons upon, you are you thrust into a stage that is gushing theme from every death pit. Galaxy Man is floating in space, Jewel Man is hiding in a mine and Hornet Man is meandering in a garden somewhere. What sets these stages apart from the last eight entries, is the almost overwhelming level of quality on display throughout. Every single stage is perfectly crafted to contain challenging platforming, interesting enemy placements, the odd ‘newbie trap’ and unique mechanics to keep things interesting. I would go as far as saying these are the best stages the series has ever produced. Period.
Keeping the momentum going are the Robot Masters themselves. As has been the case for nine games, your first fight is the most difficult and satisfying. As an avid lemon spammer, I enjoy the classic rapid fire method on display here. A weakness of the series has been the domino effect – once you get one weapon every other boss falls without much effort. Mega Man 9 manages to strike a really nice balance. Whilst some bosses are undeniably easier than others, the majority still require you to understand you enemy, their patterns and your weapons properties. For the first time ever, Mega Man manages to keep an almost consistent level of challenge – and it is glorious.
This quality carries over to the weapons, as Mega Man 9 has some of the best weapons Rock has ever layed his metal mitts on. You have a rapid firing, piercing Laser Trident, a screen/projectile tornado nuke, a chargable magma spewing shotgun and a homing hornet that can nab consumables out of reach. The cherry resting atop this delicious arsenal is the Black Hole Bomb though. Throw one of these out and witness projectiles, enemies and even a few bosses get torn a new one. The number applications a singularity has in a combat/platforming scenario is limited only by your imagination.
Mega Man often has an end game that is ludicrously difficult/frustrating, or devoid of challenge. Wily’s Fortress this time around is perfection. Every stage tests your skills, bringing just enough challenge to keep you invested. The boss fights during this section are also top notch and outshine the rest of the series in scope, challenge and fun. Wily himself is an incredibly challenging fight that requires patience more than anything else, which in and of itself is a ‘mechanic’ the series has yet to explore. The only negative here is you cannot visit the shop to stock up on E-Tanks. If you attempt to, you have to do the whole fortress again. Stock up in advance and you will be fine.
This is where I would normally begin to wind down and dip into my final thoughts, however Mega Man 9 throws a curve ball upon completion – Proto Man Mode, Hero Mode and Super Hero Mode. Proto Man Mode finally gives you the opportunity to play as Rock’s super cool brother – Blues. Proto Man, unlike his derpy sibling, can charge his Proto Buster, has access to the Proto Shield, Proto Coil and Proto Jet from the get go and can even rub on some ‘Proto Grease’ and unleash his mighty ‘Proto Thighs. There is a hefty price for all of this power however. He takes double damage, cannot access the shop for additional supplies, has no unique story elements (missed opportunity) and he can only fire two lemons at a time, unlike Mega Man’s three. This effectively makes Proto Man Mode the Hard Mode of the game.
Hero and Super Hero are more or less the same mode in practice and essentially give Mega Man his own Hard and Super Hard mode. You still go through eight Robot Masters and whoop Wily, but certain stage elements have changed, everything hits harder and you deal less damage. It is a shame Proto Man purists can’t jump into this mode, but I imagine doing so would be near impossible given his already gimped durability.
Mega Man 9 looks almost identical to Mega Man 2, which means the game looks old. Much older than the vast majority of the NES era games, as by the time Mega Man 6 rolled around, the techno-wizardry on display was staggering. I feel like a lot more could have been done to make the game look better, even if it is purposely trying to evoke a specific kind of nostalgia. I like it, but I do miss the detailed sprite work of later games.
Musically Mega Man 9 knocks it out of the park. Once again it is borrowing heavily from 2, even stealing a track here and there to whip up some of that nostalgia from earlier. Here though, I think it works. Returning and original tracks have a clarity to them that the NES just couldn’t achieve and it all sounds top notch. I’d absolutely rate this as one of the best soundtracks the series has every produced.
Mega Man 9 is a heroic return to form. I enjoyed the SNES and (most of) the PS1 era titles, but it wasn’t until Mega Man 9 rolled around that those titles really started to show their cracks. Mega Man 9 is so good, it makes good games look bad. If that isn’t impressive, then lets just say this is easily one of the greatest 2D platformers of all time, and quite possibly the best Mega Man game to date.
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