Review: Mega Man Anniversary Collection (PS2)

MEGA MAN ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION
review by Liquidcross
Genre: Action
Platform: PS2/GC
Rating: E (Everyone)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Atomic Planet
Release Date: 06/22/2004

The Lord has truly smiled upon us. Capcom had given subdeveloper Atomic Planet the task of taking the original games featuring Mega Man, a classic gaming hero, and packing them all together for mass consumption. Mega Man Anniversary Collection is the result, and includes ten games: Mega Man 1-6 (originally released on the NES), Mega Man 7 (originally released on the Super NES), Mega Man 8 (originally released on the Playstation and Saturn), and two arcade fighting games, Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man: The Power Fighters (aka Power Battle 2). This is nearly every original series game produced; the only ones missing are a few non-platforming titles (more on those towards the end of my review), Mega Man & Bass (which is still for sale on the GBA, hence Capcom not adding it to the collection), and the original Game Boy titles (which Capcom is releasing on a GBA cartridge this fall). Regardless, ten games for under $30? You can’t beat that with a stick. (Note: This review will focus on the PS2 version, NOT the GC version.)

STORY

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 1987, then you should have some idea of how the Mega Man series goes. Mega Man himself is a robot, originally named “Rock.” (His sister’s name is “Roll”…get it?) MM’s creator, Dr. Light, has an old colleague who constantly tries to take over the world with his own army of robots. This would be the nefarious Dr. Wily, whose hairdo makes Einstein look clean-cut. It’s a straightforward good-vs-evil story, but as the series progresses, MM often has to wonder why he just doesn’t kill Dr. Wily outright before he can escape. More characters show up in later games, too, like Proto Man (MM’s brother), Rush (MM’s dog), Eddie, Auto, Beat, Duo, and Bass & Treble. For what started out as a fresh take on the platforming genre quickly expanded into a powerful saga in its own right, and later series (like Mega Man X) expanded upon an already solid foundation. Not many series out there can claim the same level of solid continuity that MM can. (Rating: 9/10)

GAMEPLAY

This is where the Mega Man series as a whole really shines. You’d think it was overly simple: run, jump, shoot. Sure, there’s plenty of that, but as you fight off various Robot Master bosses (always ending with the suffix “Man,” i.e., Air Man, Gravity Man, etc.), you earn their special weapons. In “rock-paper-scissors” style, these special weapons often deal out more damage to specific Robot Masters down the line. The trick is figuring out who is weak against what. To make things more interesting down the line, later games in the series featured additional items that helped you through levels, like the Jet Sled in Mega Man 2 and the Rush adapters from Mega Man 3 forward. Mega Man himself learned some new tricks, too, starting with the sliding move in Mega Man 3 and the charge-up Mega Buster in Mega Man 4.

Then we’ve got the two unlockable fighting games. While these are easy as pie, it’s still a load of fun to pick a character (Mega Man, Proto Man, Bass, or Duo) and whomp the piss out of Robot Masters in a Street Fighter-esque setting. Special weapons are still the name of the game, and Dr. Wily shows up at the end. Classic!

Capcom’s added an optional “Navi Mode” to Mega Man 1-6, in which other characters from the series can help Mega Man if you’re unsure what to do next. (This is the exact same thing that was found in the Japan-only Rockman Complete Works discs, a set of PS1 ports of the original six NES games.) This is rather unecessary, as it’s impossible to get “lost” in these games. Even later games which had diverging paths were still fairly linear. At any rate, it is still a nice addition, and will likely impress newbies to the series. (Rating: 9/10)

GRAPHICS

These run the gamut from 8-bit to 32-bit. As a result, it’s hard to compare them to the 3D stuff that’s commonplace nowadays; apples and oranges, as it were. So I’m going to rate the graphics overall depending on their time period, and in that regard, they’re amazing. The first Mega Man game looked great, but they just kept getting better, really pushing the NES’ limits. The Super NES era brought on a more “cartoony” look for MM and crew, and this continued through Mega Man 8 on the PS1 and Saturn. Rather than detracting from the series, this added to its unique flavor. The previously mentioned “Navi Mode” revamps all of the energy meter and menu graphics to those used in Mega Man 8, with cleaner text. Fear not, diehards: all of the other graphics remain the same. Even better, the sprite flicker and slowdown is gone! Anyways, not a single MM game had crappy graphics; each title’s sprites fit to a tee; the fluid animation, fantastic character designs, and cool effects only served to bolster the developers’ graphical prowess. It only goes to show that 2D ages very gracefully, and hasn’t lost its edge. (Rating: 10/10)

SOUND

Mega Man tunes are some of the most memorable in gaming history, right up there with the Mario and Zelda themes. I can’t think of a single gamer who hasn’t had the opening theme from Mega Man 2 stuck in their ear at one time or another. Even for an 8-bit audio system, MM tunes always struck me as some of the most well-designed and melodic musical pieces of the time. MMAC features fully remixed soundtracks in Navi Mode, though some pieces are missing from the first three games, and a some of the tracks there don’t match up properly (again, this is a carryover from Rockman Complete Works). This is hardly a real flaw…only supergeeks are going to notice, anyhow. The new tracks sound fantastic, and capture the spirit of the original tunes without comprising their integrity.

As far as sound effects are concerned, the first six games made full use of the NES’ audio hardware, with convincing blasts, explosions, and even a specific noise for when Mega Man lands after a jump. Those are all still here for your aural pleasure. Okay…that sounded dirty. Mega Man 7 & 8 used more advanced audio effects from their respective systems, and those all sound fantastic as well…MM8 even added voicework for MM, though he sounds like a little girl. Or a guy who’s been kicked really hard in the crotch. (Rating: 10/10)

CONTROL

Spot the f*ck on. Everything responds with razor-sharp precision. If you’re having trouble in a MM game, it’s because you suck, plain and simple. There’s no way you can blame the controls here! Since modern game controllers have a lot more buttons than those of yore, extra functions have been thrown in, like autofire, sliding (in the games that have that ability), and use of the L/R triggers to cycle through weapons and items. (Rating: 10/10)

REPLAYABILITY

Capcom’s not stupid. MMAC is loaded with unlockable content, including artwork and the aforementioned fighting games. Yep, that’s right…you need to earn the right to play Power Battle and Power Fighters. Even if that wasn’t necessary, MM games are just so much fun that they stand up to repeated plays over 15 years after the original’s release. They don’t feature all the hidden characters and cheats of modern games, but who needs ’em? You can also check out episodes of the US-made Mega Man cartoon, which was pretty damn silly. It’s still a nice touch, though. It’s just a shame the Pocketstation compatibility of the Rockman Complete Works discs didn’t make it over here, as the minigames you could download were tons of fun. (Rating: 8/10)

BALANCE

The MM games were never ridiculously easy or difficult, but the challenge is spread out well over the games included. The first MM title is tough, and so is MM7. The others all fall somewhere in between, with later stages in each game naturally getting harder to make it through. There’s an optional “Easy” mode for the first seven games, but c’mon, you really don’t need it. Once you figure out which weapons affect what boss, you’ll rip through the games a lot faster, anyway. This makes repeated plays even easier, but no less enjoyable. (Rating: 8/10)

ORIGINALITY

Mega Man singlehandedly raised the bar for complex platforming games. Along with the Mario series, the Blue Bomber has completely dominated the field. There were plenty of robot games before MM showed up, but nothing with that series’ level of characterization and incredible design. (Rating: 9/10)

ADDICTIVENESS

Like many classic platformers, Mega Man games always leave you thinking, “I’ll just play one more level.” Fools! Before you know it, you’re running through Dr. Wily’s castle in the late hours of the night. There is no escaping it: MM games are among the most fun platformers ever created, and no matter how many times you complete them, you’ll still want to play through them over and over again. (Rating: 10/10)

APPEAL

Obviously, MM diehards and other platforming fans will eat this right up. But MMAC also appeals to those looking to get a stack of great games for a low price, not to mention that it’s introducing the Blue Bomber to the younger crowd, who may not have been around during his initial foray into our living rooms. Young or old, male or female, human or Klingon, there’s something for everyone in MMAC. (Rating: 10/10)

MISCELLANEOUS

The only thing that could’ve made this collection better was to include some random Mega Man games that either a) didn’t see the light of day in the US, and/or b) weren’t platforming games. These include Mega Man Battle & Chase (picture Mario Kart, but with MM characters), Super Adventure Rockman (almost like an interactive movie), Wily Wars (a Sega Genesis remake of Mega Man 1-3, complete with extra levels towards the end), Rockboard (an NES board game denied US release by Nintendo of America, because it featured gambling), and the abominable Mega Man Soccer. Still, as I’ve said before, ten games for such a low price is hardly a bad thing, and the few missing games were nowhere as good as the ones included anyways. On another note, the Gamecube version of MMAC has numerous problems, such as a wonky control scheme and lack of music remixes during gameplay (you’ve got to unlock them and play them separately). As a result, the PS2 version is the way to go. You really can’t lose. (Rating: 10/10)

Final Scores:

Story: 9/10

Gameplay: 9/10

Graphics: 10/10

Sound: 9/10

Control: 10/10

Replayability: 8/10

Balance: 8/10

Originality: 9/10

Addictiveness: 10/10

Appeal: 10/10

Miscellaneous: 10/10