keskiviikko 16. tammikuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mega Man III | GB | 1992

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: December 11, 1992
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom, Nintendo

With the release of Mega Man III, the series of handheld Mega Man games was heading to nowhere, just like the flagship series of the franchise. Mega Man X was on its way to redeem and renew the franchise - for a spell - but it was still a year off. Mega Man III was released a week after Mega Man 5 saw release on the NES to a somewhat lukewarm response from critics, but good reception from fans. The Game Boy game was greeted as a return to form after the "immensely disappointing" Mega Man II; the team that made the first game had returned. Well, passing on the subject of how the whole Mega Man series would be destroyed by the media if it was made today, for now at least, I'll just say that the difficulty level of the game leaves no doubt that the same guys who made Dr. Wily's Revenge are back. As for how fresh the game feels like after playing the two previous games back to back... well, you know how it is. It's starting to taste a little woody...

...Woody and bloody

I've hardly started the game
and already I'm dying. It's
going to be a long trip.
Dr. Wily is using an oil rig in the middle of the ocean to draw energy from the Earth's magma core to power his latest ambitious creation. Mega Man battles through eight of his rebuilt foes and yet another Mega Man Killer to reach Dr. Wily's oily fortress.

"Oily fortress". If this was any other series, I'd completely refrain from saying something as stupid, but if cheesy's the way they wanna do it, then cheesy response's what they're gonna get. This is Mega Man III, the third game in the Mega Man series for the Game Boy, and in theory, it combines the most notable (not necessarily the best) qualities of both of the previous games, resulting in the best Mega Man adventure the Game Boy could offer at that time. In reality, it's something different. Not even the best there was. Being sort of "hybrids" of two NES games at a time, the original Game Boy series is the most uninspired part of the Mega Man franchise to this day. Not the worst, but the most uninspired one - repeating the stunts of an already repetitive franchise, and trying to disguise it as something new and different, and jumping from one extreme to another when it comes to the difficulty level. That's how it was building up to be.

Oh, come on!!!
Seriously, we saw all of this before. Four past bosses, four more past bosses in Wily's fortress, the new Mega Man Killer, the Wily level. Could it really have been so hard to make a game with a new plot, totally new and exclusive bosses and levels, generally a game that has some potential to be a cult classic that casual Mega Man fans would actually want to own a Game Boy for? Like Metroid II was for Metroid fans? Or like the Super Mario Land series was for Mario fans? I guess only Nintendo believed in the Game Boy that much. Still, Mega Man III was outsourced by Capcom, to a team wholly dedicated to improving from another team's Mega Man II for nearly a year. They had time to create one of the most frustrating handheld games in history by borrowing level design from the NES games and adding in some awkward twists of their own enough to prompt one to break his Game Boy in half, but apparently they had no time or interest to look into what made Mega Man II actually pretty good in my view. Such as fine technological performance, and a semblance of slack. OK, it was damn easy, and that's not good, but seeing Mega Man III's near-impossibilities, I find it hard not to respect the makers of Mega Man II for respecting the player.

The snakes are harder and
bigger. And now I'm blushing.
After the credits of Mega Man II, I headed into this game wishing for not much more than just one thing: balance when it comes to challenge. That would've been enough for me to look at the game a bit differently than what it is: an utterly frustrating and enfuriating, repetitive, ultimately pointless game, but still, irresistable in all its torment. Fuck.

Enough beating around the bush, let's take a look at the game, as pointless as it might seem - in short, you can just refer to the review of Dr. Wily's Revenge, all the things I said about its notorious difficulty and consider their point multiplied by a dozen. You could refer to all the other things said, too, 'cause judging by the look of the game, it feels like Mega Man II was never made. The very same technical issues make their return - there's lag and flicker all over the place and the controls are not quite as smooth. Well, at least the music's once again better (read: listenable by some degree), but it's no wonder since it's largely ported stuff from Mega Man 3 and 4 on the NES. The exclusive stuff might be a bit lackluster, but at least the sequencing's on the mark. Most of the time, that is.

Before we go - autograph,
please? "To Rock"
It's obvious from the start that we're dealing with the brainchild of the original team; although Energy Tanks are present (obtainable only by the spilling of some serious blood and tears, except those handed out to you at a chance of 15% or so), and both Rush and Game Boy debutant Eddie are in, as well as Mega Man's slide ability, Mega Man III feels like a step back when it comes to the cramped level design and the unavoidable hazards it throws at your face just about every passing second. The structure of the levels is merciless to your poor character with his pathetic (and meaningless) health bar, not to mention enemy placements and behaviours. There are way too many enemies that run up to you in tight spots, and damage you by either running into you or upon explosion when you shoot at them - there's no escape. You can only dream of health items, not to mention extra lives. The game's pulling the same not-funny prank as the earliest games in the series on steady intervals - you know, yielding the most useful health items from enemies you shoot to shit right above a chasm or a set of spikes, or inside walls, anywhere they're just and barely beyond your reach. Truly getting a health item in this game with no danger involved is an occasion - usually, enemies just yield weapon energy - which is usually useless to me since I clash through most levels using the Mega Buster.

Piece of cake, until you
realize you're underwater.
The structure of the game is once again slightly different, but very familiar - it looks like they're testing every variation of the same idea out on players, to find the best solution. In my mind, the best solution would've been to make a traditional Mega Man game, since capacity clearly wasn't an issue... oh, well. First, you'll have to make it through four levels starring those bosses from the 8-bit's Mega Man 3 who were missing from the previous handheld installment. Just so happens there are three of my favourite bosses from that game; Snake Man, Gemini Man, Shadow Man, joined by the less awesome lobotomy patient Spark Man. Don't think for a second that these would be the easiest levels in the game - I almost gave up going into the first one I picked off the list. Actually, I think these are the most challenging levels in the game - getting through the quirks of Shadow Man's level dubbed into a lagging Game Boy format, and the boss if you don't have the Gemini Laser to dish out some punishment, are accomplishments in themselves.

Although upon entrance to the center level you seem to be entering Dr. Wily's "oily fortress", that's not the case. I guess it's just the game's way of showing that you're getting closer. The center level is very short, as in five or six screens. In the end, you'll face off with a giant version of Suzy, a regular enemy most common in the first installments on both the NES and Game Boy. She's easy enough to hit and kill, but the arena is extremely cramped (it's set in a boss hallway, ouch) and she does extreme damage with every hit, "extreme" meaning about double the amount any regular enemy does to you. That's a lot in this game. Anyway, you gain a large health orb from the fight, which leaves you expecting more bedlam awaiting beyond the teleport... but, as the prank mentioned a while ago would have it, you have no use for health, as you're taken to another Stage Select screen.

Four bosses from Mega Man 4 now stand in between you and your very unlikely victory - and here we once again see how the imagination of character designers started to go downhill with and after Mega Man 4. At least the singled-out best-looking boss in Mega Man 4, Skull Man, is here to represent, but then we have Dust Man, Dive Man and Drill Man to even the score. Seeing that this bunch nevertheless represents the better part of Mega Man 4, I can't wait for the next handheld game... assuming it continues the tradition, I don't rightly know just yet. These levels are much longer than the first four, but perhaps not as unforgiving as you might expect after what you've been through already. Kind of reflects on the difference in difficulty level between the NES games Mega Man 3 and 4, I guess.

FINALLY... Rock has come
back... to the oily fortress.
This year's model of the Mega Man Killer - Punk - is a NIGHTMARE. Kudos for making him harder and more intimidating than Enker and Quint put together... but draw the line somewhere, OK? I sincerely think this guy cannot be beaten if you're not lucky enough to have some Energy Tanks with you. Considering how hard they are to obtain, and the certainty at which you've used them already before reaching Punk, I do believe you're fucked at this point of the game. If not, you have one more gigantic level to go, complete with the return of Suzy as a sub-boss, and as tradition goes, multiple battle phases against Wily himself. Although I used all of my Energy Tanks against Punk, and I'm *this* close to not only hammering this game to rubble, but abruptly pulling the plug on this whole marathon, I enter Wily's castle for the... 12th, 13th time? Ah, excuse me, "oily fortress". Got to stick with that one.

No - you spare me, please. I
beg of you. Just teleport to hell
and get shot down already. I
know the drill.
My... fucking... God. In all seriousness, a large part of the oily fortress ain't that bad. It's a pretty loose remix of all the stuff you've seen this far - not even necessarily the top worst stuff, which is the first positive surprise, to rear before the abundance of health handouts, which make perfect sense since the level is gigantic and absolutely impossible to beat if there was no extra health available. From the mid-section to the end, the level is infernally difficult. Not only will you have to face off with Suzy again, but survive half of this level (which is as long as one whole standard level) after that, and on the top, two phases with the final boss. You happen to die before figuring out a sure-fire strategy for the first phase, you are NOT taken to the boss door as per usual, you are taken several screens back, to receive punishment from enemies that are very tough to kill, and on which you probably spent your last Energy Tanks on the last round - if they weren't "wasted" on Punk. No rest for the wicked, let's just bear it. Well, Wily isn't TOO difficult. If you're lucky, you might even survive the whole two-phase fight unharmed. Extremely lucky. Thank you for playing - Capcom. Hmm... you're welcome... since I'm inevitably heading into Mega Man IV, I'd just like to say I wish something a little more soothing than a simple "thank you" next time. A blowjob, maybe?

Mega Man is Mega Man. Deep-fry it, and it's still Mega Man, but what the NES titles gave us at their best - hell, even at their worst - was great, innovative level design, cool characters, and most of all, SLACK and clear windows of opportunity, despite being difficult. They were difficult for a lot of right reasons - up 'til Mega Man 3, at the very least - not because of narrow levels with a 50/50 chance of survival waiting at each step even without the presence of enemies, and a deadly lag ensuing every time there's a little too much of that presence. Also, the structure needs work - it's beginning to turn out even more predictable than in the main series. Even with the stench of death lingering all around it, Mega Man III is an entertaining game - most of the time.

+ Better music and related technical performance than last time around
+ Nearly all good stuff which has been noted before
+ Good selection of bosses

- No, they just can't find the middle road - it's once again just plain merciless...
- ...As in extremely rough on the player, by being extremely stingy when it comes to health items, having narrow levels full of enemies that are outright impossible to avoid, and a pathetic health bar, plus on the technical side, we have a fatal lag to worry about every time there are too many separate characters or items on the screen - something like three or four besides Mega Man himself is enough to summon it
- There's no point in criticizing the repetition within the franchise anymore, since this is the way true fans like it, but the more specific structure of the Game Boy series is getting old; some new sort of plot elements and order of progress wouldn't hurt

< 7.3 >

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