sunnuntai 6. tammikuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mega Man: The Wily Wars | GEN | 1994

GENRE(S): Action / Platform / Compilation
RELEASED: October 1994

Nearly two years ago, the Mega Man franchise was among the first to be dissected on this blog, and as hard as it might be to believe, I only scratched the surface with a total of 11 reviews. Mega Man's been around for 26 years, three years shy of yours truly - and not many of those years have gone by without presenting us at least one title in the main series, or one of the countless spin-offs. Besides the SNES classic Mega Man X - the first one, which I consider to be the best game in the whole franchise - I've never been too keen on the spin-offs, but I signed my death warrant when I started doing this blog. I know I have to take a look at those some day soon, but luckily, I can start things off in a familiar setting - an obscure game, a cult classic that gave new life to the three games that in turn gave life to this popular series. Following the success of an edition of Street Fighter II on the Sega Genesis, rumors of a non-Nintendo Mega Man game began circulating in the media. As ludicrous as it seemed, especially since Capcom was working on Mega Man X2 for the SNES at the time, and another game which turned out to be Mega Man 7 for the same platform, Mega Man: The Wily Wars for the Mega Drive/Genesis hit the Japanese shelves in late 1994. An outsourced 16-bit remake of the kind of obscure first game, AND the two games that all but made the series what it is today, all in one, topped with its own story and extra levels? Time to whip out the arm cannon.

Blue Bomber: Origins

Figuring out the long-researched mysteries of time travel, Dr. Wily gathers a group of his earlier creations and forces the newly-created Mega Man to try his luck against all of them at once, while cooped up in his tower finishing up work on three of his most powerful battle robots yet.

It's funny how some critics constantly remark the recent wave of HD collections and "Origins" remakes and remasters like it's a whole new thing. Yeah, it's surely become more common in these days, but one shouldn't forget 16-bit remakes of 8-bit games; Super Mario All-Stars is surely the most known and popular one out of the small bulk. If there's one thing that hasn't changed or doesn't ring any less true in the case of remakes, is that they can go both ways. Remakes of classic games can be really good, but they can also have several flaws which might go as far as to actually prompt us to dig up the earlier versions, which still turn out the more enjoyable ones. For a recent example, The Secret of Monkey Island. The 2010 "Special Edition" of the 1990 game looked good, it had voiceover work by the same guys who had worked the series for years since the third installment... but the gameplay was crummy. It had none of that classic feel in it. It's kind of sad that a lot of PC players seemed to play the whole game on Classic Mode, which was the original game, without the voiceover work and fancy graphics which carried the game's whole point. Sad for the people who busted their balls to accomplish this long-anticipated remake. It was good, but it could've been much better. What I'm hearing of the new edition of BioWare's critically acclaimed debut Baldur's Gate, it plays out a lot better than the original. What I'm seeing, is almost the exact same game. That's not the way either. There's actually no rule of how to make a good remake that is satisfying from all possible standpoints. Making one is damn hard these days, and although Super Mario All-Stars was a winner, it wasn't any easier back in the 16-bit era.

Basically, the games are exactly as they were.
The Wily Tower is set to Mega Man 4's user
From there, I can easily pick an example: Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the SNES. You'd think that with three such consistent, classic titles, with nothing else essential changed besides graphics and music, and some modifications made to the original Ninja Gaiden III's ridiculous difficulty, you couldn't make a disappointing collection. Well, Ninja Gaiden Trilogy turned out great as far as most of the gameplay was concerned, but firstly, the graphics certainly didn't impress all that much. The game was produced in the twilight of the SNES, and Ninja Gaiden was famous for its cinematics, which everyone expected to go to some whole new places in the 16-bit environment. But no, they were the exact same games with a new palette and smooth edges, stuffed with a cheap-looking, outright ugly main menu to choose your game from. Not much tweaks to the sprites or backgrounds, let alone the physics of the game. That was still quite acceptable in my view, but what ruined the most of the experience was the awfully remixed music - the first 8-bit Ninja Gaiden game had absolutely great music, it was all but botched here with so-called enhancements. I was really itching to get to Act 4-2 and hear the song which pretty much defines the whole series for me kick in and drop me off my seat, but all it did was make me reset and choose another game. Castlevania Chronicles, the remake of the original Castlevania for the PlayStation... no, I won't even begin to recount the ways that piece of crap pissed me off.

Our first encounter with one of the cheesiest
villains in history. There's bound to be a few
more. That's why it's called Wily Wars...?
Well, through all this retrospect of remakes - good and bad, mostly disappointing - we get to Mega Man: The Wily Wars, which includes remakes of Mega Man, Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3, originally released on the NES, and an exclusive series of levels, which means you're in for the longest Mega Man game ever. It's both a remake, and storywise (HA), a sequel. Whichever you consider it as, the truth is that Mega Man 2 and 3 are some of the most classic 8-bit games in history, some of the most defining titles of the era. The first one was good, but not nearly that good - it was Mega Man 2 that paved the way, both critically and commercially, and became the reason why the Mega Man series still exists today, after all the bumps it's hit along the way. In their darkest hour, when they were just about to fail the series, Capcom financed Mega Man 9 for current-gen consoles - an 8-bit game made according to standards set by Mega Man 2... and thrived. Hell, I'm playing Mega Man 2 on my NES right now, and I haven't had such fun with a Mega Man game since I first beat Mega Man X - and mind you, I've been playing Mega Man 2 for 23 years. Beaten it about a million times, too. All the more reason for me to see how the Genesis remake treats this classic, and another one, as well as a game that never managed to bring me true fulfillment - Ice Man returns...

I never noticed how much that huge... thing...
looks like Elijah Wood.
Being a fan of Mega Man 2 above the other games on this here collection, I started from that one, illogical or not, and I must say that looking at some screenshots before starting up, and watching the opening cutscene made me believe that Capcom had taken the same easy way out as Tecmo did with Ninja Gaiden Trilogy a year later. The general font, even the script being exactly the same as in the 8-bit games, and the city in the background looking really scruffy, I thought this would turn out yet another smoothie, not a real remake. As soon as the game started, I was delighted to see that Capcom instead followed Nintendo's example back when they did Super Mario All-Stars. The backgrounds have had some serious work done, and both Mega Man and the enemy characters don't only look different, they move somewhat different, more fluidly, and all without ruining the atmosphere.

What does ruin the atmosphere, however, is the music. Especially Mega Man 3 is known for its music, and the way-beyond-classic opening track (which now also works as one for the first game, for some reason), as well as the Stage Select theme tell yet another sad story about how game designers seem hell bent on totally rearranging music that should've simply been remastered. The thing that bothers me here the most besides a different sound is most definitely the tempo of the songs. If I had never heard the originals - and I can't imagine someone who hasn't, in some context - I would love all of it, but the notably slower tempo and different arrangements do severe numbers on more classic tunes I can count. We're not quite talking something as horrid as adding xylophones to Ninja Gaiden's 4-2 here, but I can honestly say the 8-bit tunes were a lot better. The original music, which there's a lot of, sucks throughout the line with the exception of just a couple of tunes; there's no Mega Man in it at all, it rather sounds like something from the Capcom jam stock.

OK, a quick explanation. Mega Man: The Wily Wars is, for all intents and purposes, a 3-in-1 (+½) cartridge. The binding plot is amusing rather than distracting, it's the cheesiness of the series as we used to love it before it was taken a bit too far. You can play the games in any order you like, but separately. In other words, you can't go and stuff Atomic Fire from Mega Man 2 up Ice Man's ass in the first game as much as you'd like to. When you've finished all three games within the confines of a single save file, the Wily Tower is unlocked and you can try your luck with a complete weapon and item set of your choice, from any of the three games. It's way more solid than it sounds like.

I hate this room.
The Mega Man series went through minimal changes between 2 and 3, but Mega Man 2 was a notably different game than the first one. Also, the easiest 8-bit Mega Man game there ever was. A lot of folks consider it just as hard as the rest of 'em, which is kinda incredible since both Mega Man and Mega Man 3 are NOTABLY harder games, as well as Mega Man 5 and 6 to some extent. When Mega Man 2 came out in the U.S. and Europe, it struck most as a breeze, considering the unforgiving nature of the first game. It had a password system, a choice of difficulty level (of which Difficult was the standard set by the first one), and it introduced Energy Tanks which restored you to full health at any time and they were easy to find. Most notably, on the Normal difficulty level, you could literally pick a starting point from the most pathetic-sounding boss (Bubble Man.) and continue clockwise until you reached Dr. Wily's keep. The bosses weren't hard at all and it was easy to pick the right weapons against them; you either picked the one you got from the last boss, or kept trying everything 'til you could drain half of the boss' life bar with one shot. Most of the bosses even outright blocked every other weapon but just one. Although most boss rooms were more cleverly designed than the straightforward cubes in the previous game, their attacks were easy to dodge. Seriously, Mega Man 2 was an easy game on the usual scale of Mega Man and the 8-bit in general - which might be a part of the reason people consider it the most comfortable and lasting experience in the series. It WAS an easy game. Mega Man: The Wily Wars keeps traditions pretty much in check when it comes to Mega Man and Mega Man 3, as they were hard to begin with. There are some minor changes to both games - but Mega Man 2 has had a few notable ones made.

Mega Man 3 gave us Rush, one of the greatest
sidekicks ever - and he's going to help you a
LOT in the final stages, and the Wily Tower.
First and foremost, no more Normal difficulty for you. It's the game as the Japanese made it. Enemy placements are quite crazy, there's a bigger number of them, they act differently, and handing it to Bubble Man right from the start and proceeding clockwise is still an option, but not the best one available. Those who beat Mega Man 2 on the NES but never tried Difficult might be in for a fight, and I... I love it! In a way, I prefer this version of Mega Man 2 over the original NES version, and that's a compliment if there ever was one, since the original game is one of my all-time NES favourites. It's not too difficult in the end though, if you've beaten the original enough times to know every level inside out and be prepared for just a little bit of extra. After all, all the Energy Tanks are still very much in place, and they'll help you a million. But, it's difficult enough to drop into consistency with the rest of the series, especially the games at hand right here. The first game is evil, but not quite as evil as I remembered it to be at its worst - besides, there's a save feature now. Mega Man 2 is now a bit harder, which makes it _almost_ as difficult as the first game. Then, we have Mega Man 3 that was always meant to crunch your balls to flattened raisins, and it still does exactly that... with authority, and purpose to entertain the hell out of you.

The last item on my list of gameplay issues regarding the remastered games is control. Mega Man moves more fluidly in look than he ever did in the original games, and therefore, he also feels more fluid to control. What I like most about this game's controls might sound like a small and simple thing, but I think NES kids know what I'm talking about when I say I'm so glad they made C the jump button and B the fire button instead of moving one of these features to A - as usually A and B are the main action buttons in Genesis games. This way, adapting to the controller after hacking through these games on the NES for half your life is not hard at all. The learning curve is two seconds into it for any guy or gal who's half a fan.

This guy's huge, he has two health bars and
he's still a pushover.
The Wily Tower - you'd think that since it's exclusive and it's unlocked after you've finished each game, that it would be a challenging showdown for the ages, but actually, it isn't. In fact, the whole "game" is a pushover in comparison to what you've just been through. The only real challenge lies in picking the right weapons and items for the job. The long levels might give you hell in many forms, as they're mixed bags of everything from the three games - Snake Man's snake heads show up, as well as those bloated glowfish from Bubble Man's stage, and of course, the disappearing blocks - but the bosses, all the way from the pathetic animalistic wretches ripped off Mega Man X to Dr. Wily himself, are practically effortless to defeat. It's a cool extra, no doubt about it, and maybe it's just supposed to be a love letter to fans instead of an ultimate challenge. I think something like this is where Capcom was getting at with the eventually cancelled Mega Man Universe.

In my honest opinion, I think Mega Man: The Wily Wars is an extremely overlooked gem, perhaps second only to Super Mario All-Stars when it comes to the greatest compilation of remakes in history, and one of the best overall games on the Sega Genesis system. To get 8-bit masterpieces like Mega Man 2 and 3 remastered this gracefully for the 16-bit environment, one more classic game, and extra levels to boot, on one single cartridge... just think about it. The only thing I can really complain all the way to oblivion about is the quality of the music. Seriously, nothing else. This is a bundle of love, and it's a true joy to kick off the year with such a positive surprise.

+ Three classic games that made the franchise what it was
+ Nice colouring and overall, good graphics
+ Fluid gameplay that surpasses the original games
+ All that originally made these games stick: innovative enemy and level design, non-linearity, all that
+ Especially with Mega Man 2's modified difficulty level, and with Mega Man 3 and the Wily Tower here, you are guaranteed a Mega Man game of challenge and length like no other

- Although the capacity is larger, there are some persistent lags and glitches like the slow-down following the firing of the Gemini Laser
- Wily Tower's a cool, lengthy extra, but somewhat of a pushover
- The new bosses aren't too impressive, either
- Several problems involving sound; glitched audio, the total lack of some classic sound effects,  badly rearranged music, and crappy original music (except for one gem in the Wily Tower)
- One of the saddest moments in my "career" was to find I've run out of fresh insults towards Ice Man, Heat Man and Spark Man

< 9.2 >

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti