Mega Man 2 is one of the greatest games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It took everything from the original game, added to it, perfected it and gave it an easy mode to make it more accessible and that’s why it will forever be the best Mega Man in the series. For those that don’t know, its a 2D platforming shooter that lets you select which one of eight robot masters you’d like to tackle. You start out with a humble pea shooter and gain a new weapon for each of the robot masters you destroy.
You’re back as Mega Man or Rock Man depending which country your cartridge is from. He’s a robot boy with a gun for an arm, turned super hero kill bot that’s out to save the world once again from Dr. Willy. I have to wonder if Dr. Willy and Dr. Light are the only two humans left alive in a post apocalyptic world they created and that’s why they need to keep churning out robots that look like animals. What’s the purpose of a robot kangaroo or a jet propelled shrimp?
As a game its different than a typical run and gun, because you can scroll the screen left and right, go forward or backward. One of the joys to the game is how easy it is to play. Like traditional NES shooters, A is to jump, B is to shoot, left and right are to move. The jump and movement are quick and responsive. Mega Man can climb up and down ladders and he’s pretty nimble. There’s no duck and this predates Mega Man 3’s slide mechanic. You can pause or use select to call the game’s menu in order to change between weapons. In addition to all of the blasters, there are three traversal weapons. A platform that bounces, before it crawls up walls. Another platform that levitates and a rocket board that blasts forward in one direction.
Each weapon turns Mega Man a different color which is good to not only add some color diversity, but also to indicate what you have equipped. These weapons all have their own charge and you can always get more charge from little canisters that randomly appear drop from destroyed enemies. You need to have the weapon active that you are charging though.
The weapons are all completely different and each one of the bosses has a weakness to one of them. A grey bubble gun that pathetically travels along the floor. A ninja gear that can get thrown in eight directions, because the default gun only fires left and right. Quick man gives a fast firing, boomerang that loops back. The flash weapon can stop time, but will completely drain when you use it. There’s a leaf shield that rings around you, but you can throw it if need be. An air blaster that fires three tornadoes up at an arc. A crash missile that will destroy certain walls so you can get through to different areas for power ups.
Mega Man 2 offers so much variety between levels. Everything is gimmicked and themed, such as a wind, air, water, a forest and so on. Each level is beautifully detailed with bright, vibrant colors and great backgrounds that add to the amazing color pallet of each area. They all have different dynamics to them. Metal Man’s stage has conveyer belts and screws that drill through the ceiling and floor. Bubble Man’s stage is under water with a ceiling full of spikes. The water makes you jump much higher and if you’re not careful, its spike city. Quick Man’s stage is iconic with the series and probably the most difficult of all the eight masters. Your fate is sealed with crushing bars that close in as you race downward screen after screen.
The bosses all have their own flair and no boss fight is ever the same. The bosses are all quick and can leap across the screen when they’re done attacking. Each one has different patterns and attacks. Air Man launches tornadoes everywhere. Woods Man defends himself with leaves while other leaves fall from the ceiling. Flash Man will freeze you, making you vulnerable. Heat Man always looks blazed when you look at his eyes. While they all kinda look like guys in robot suits, they’re robots; named man. It sure beats naming them Flahser, Bubbles and Woody.
Mega Man as a series has always offered cute and charming enemies. Big eyes, little smiles. There are so many different types of enemies. Its an adorable look for something out to kill you. Little ones that hide under construction helmets and shoot at you, others that ride in two legged walkers, then turn into shielded soldiers. Even mini boss characters have slow eyes to make up for their giant mouths. Big frogs that spit babies, light fish with gaping maws, a black jaguar that spits a snake of fire.
The first eight levels are only building up to Dr. Willy’s skull fortress. This multi-segmented castle is where you’ll need to use all of your weapons and put your skills to the test. You’re not just competing against the level, you’ve gotta manage your weapon charge or you’ll never make it to the end. Plenty of things will generate enemies, so you can always waste time refilling like that.
Each segment of the castle has a giant boss, everything from a huge dragon to a robotic tank with a face and arms. There’s a boss that is essentially wall tiles that merge together, before they attack you. There’s even a boss rush where you’re forced to fight all of the bosses again, but this time you’ll have all of the weapons, the only issue is having the charge to use them. After everyone is defeated, you’ll finally get to fight against Dr. Willy himself.
The blue bomber can take a lot of damage, but if he falls in a pit or hits a spike that’s an instant death. Each death puts you back at the start of whatever section you’re in. Losing all of your lives sends you back to the boss selection screen. There are health pickups everywhere, but beyond that, you’ll find extra lives and energy tanks that give you full health when you use them from the menu.
The incredible themes for each level turn a fantastic game into a legendary one. There are so many memorable songs here with great beats that a few of them are bound to get stuck in your head. Some songs are upbeat and happy, others have sound dangerous with a fast beat. The sound design is excellent as well. Everything sounds great from your pea shooter, to the damage you take and even the sound when Mega Man lands.
Since it can be a long game, there is a unique password in the shape of a grid that only requires you to put pellets instead of long strings of letters.
At the end of it all, you have time to reflect as Mega Man walks back in solitude through a variety of colors, seasons and weathers until he’s finally in a happy place where he can leave his helmet behind and go back to being a normal boy. Well a normal robot boy with a gun for a hand.
Beyond the fun of Mega Man’s controls, a lot of the fun comes from choice and variety. You chose which level to go to and figure out what weapon works best with which boss. While its still a difficult game, its forgiving, forcing you to start at the menu rather than the beginning of the game.
Mega Man 2 is still the easiest and best of the series; it stays fun, even when it gets difficult. It’s a must have for the NES.