Monday, September 05, 2011

Megaman 10

The Blue Bomber returns in another 8bit adventure that will delight his old-school fans!

One of the most common themes in discussions and arguments among gaming aficionados is the idea of endless industry progression. Games are supposed to become more and more beautiful as time goes on. Accompanying soundtracks are supposed to become increasingly epic. Storytelling should become more seamless and enthralling. Ingenious methods of gameplay are expected to push us into the great unknown of the medium. And that's fine. For the most part, such notions are what keep our beloved industry trucking forward, dropping jaws and bloodying thumbs in the process. But when you play a game like Mega Man 10, delivered by Capcom to its old-school fans as yet another offering following the 2008 release of Mega Man 9, you realize that stagnation and regression can be good things, too.

Mega Man 10 is a game for the core Mega Man franchise's many fans, and its appeal inherently sits with its backwards-looking approach. There's nothing new about Mega Man 10's tech, delivery or gameplay. The title looks, sounds, feels and plays like the very first Mega Man game released twenty-three years ago on the NES. While Mega Man 7 (SNES) and 8 (PSX/SAT) deviated from the 8-bit path, and ended up disappointing many an ardent fan as a result, Mega Man 9 returned to the series' roots, and Mega Man 10 stays firmly on that same path. And that's a good thing, because the 8-bit world is where Mega Man truly belongs.
 For those gamers unfamiliar with the premise of the core Mega Man series, it goes a bit like this. A group of powerful robots are created by Doctors Light and Wily to help humanity in various mundane tasks. Dr. Wily turns on Light and reprograms most of these robots to do his bidding, but one of these robots, Mega Man, quickly throws the kibosh on Dr. Wily's nefarious plans (as played-out in the original Mega Man game). In each of the next eight games, from Mega Man 2 through 9, Dr. Wily returns in one fashion or another, this time with robots he's engineered or corrupted, in endless attempts to take over the world, and to kill Mega Man in the process. He never succeeds, which is what makes Wily one of the more persistent and humorous foils in the realm of gaming. But he keeps on trying nonetheless.

 Mega Man 10's story attempts to turn things on its head yet again, with Dr. Wily appearing to not be behind the robotic attacks at the center of the plot (and we won't spoil whether or not that's actually the case, but we're pretty sure you've got a good idea if you played, say, Mega Man 4, 5, 6 or 9). Instead, a robotic virus known as Roboenza has wreaked havoc, and some of these corrupted robots are attempting to take over. But no matter which direction the story dashes towards, Mega Man's gameplay and aesthetics remain the same as they've been for a long time. And for a title like Mega Man 10, gameplay is king.

 Veterans of the franchise will know precisely what to expect, and will immediately feel at home with everything Mega Man 10 has to offer (especially if you played Mega Man 9, and witnessed some of the subtle changes and additions developer Inti-Creates threw into the game). The game is a 2D side-scrolling action game. The Blue Bomber is still equipped with his trusty arm cannon, and he'll once again be able to choose his path through a majority of the game by selecting the order to defeat eight levels, and those stages' boss enemy, known as Robot Masters. As always, going in a certain order is always the best idea, since each weapon you earn from a downed Robot Master is another's weakness. Exploiting these foes' weaknesses will make the game far more manageable, and for fans of the series, figuring out this order is part of what makes these games so fun. And following those stages are the ruthlessly-difficult end levels, with a more linear approach leading up to the game's conclusion.

 But just because Mega Man 10 looks backwards in so many ways doesn't mean the entire package is a throwback. While the classic Mega Man gameplay shines through in the game's main campaign, there are plenty of extras that will keep gamers busy as well. For instance, Time Attack mode makes its return in Mega Man 10 (having first been seen in Mega Man 9), allowing gamers to work their way through unlocked stages as quickly as they can. Times for each stage are kept on an internet high score board for all to view, so there's plenty of incentive to master these stages (and indeed, beating the game will also put that time on an scoreboard accessible with the Wii's Wi-Fi connection as well).

An even more major addition to Mega Man 10 is something not seen even in Mega Man 9, and it's called Challenges Mode. Mega Man 9 had Challenges that were, in essence, the equivalent of Achievements or Trophies. But this time, these Challenges are a bit more clear-cut to earn, and add an entirely new level of depth to the game. For instance, when you reach Strike Man on normal mode, you'll unlock a corresponding challenge in Challenges Mode.
When you go to play it, you'll find out that the challenge is to fight and defeat Strike Man at normal difficulty without getting hit. There are 88 of these challenges, and any one of them that isn't automatically unlocked can be earned by playing through the game in its entirety on Easy, Normal and Hard difficulties (indeed, many of the challenges are simply mirrors of each other spread across the three difficulty settings). This mode is certainly Mega Man 10's greatest addition to the series, and we hope to see an even more-refined and deeper version of it if and when Mega Man 11 rolls around. In the meantime, Challenges Mode will no doubt suck away hours of your life, as you attempt to get a better and better overall rating (which is achieved by completing said Challenges).

However, the biggest addition most gamers are already familiar with is in regard to Proto Man, Mega Man's brother. Mega Man 9 had Proto Man unlockable as a piece of DLC, but this time around, you can play through as Proto Man right off the bat. Playing as Proto Man has its ups and downs, as he's able to shoot powered-up shots and slide along the ground, just like Mega Man could in Mega Man 4 and 3, respectively (and beyond). However, he takes more damage when hit, balancing out the advantages he has. While we preferred playing through as Mega Man, playing as Proto Man adds more depth to the game, and gives you a reason to play through again once you've beaten Mega Man 10. Speaking of beating the game, Mega Man 10 is hard. Parts of it are far harder than anything seen in Mega Man 9, though as an overall product, its difficulty setting is about on par with the previous game in the series. Where things get really hairy is on hard difficulty, which can be unlocked by beating the game once through on normal. Hard difficulty is, at times, heinous. Almost comically so. What's so great about this difficulty setting, however, is that playing through each stage is entirely different. While the layouts remain the same, there are more enemies, different enemies, and plenty of new hazards. Even the Robot Masters have different, more powerful attack styles in this mode. Talk about brutal!

OVERALL: Apart from any disappointment about the length of the game, Mega Man 10 still has plenty to offer, and for a game that costs $10, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. Mega Man 10 is unequivocally worth more than you're going to pay for it, but that $10 might not be well-spent if you don't know what you're getting yourself into. Fans of the series are going to want purchase this game, no questions asked, and you're going to love it when you do. But those who didn't game during the 8-bit era and have no familiarity with older games are going to find Mega Man 10 to be a frustrating, ruthless and unforgiving crash-course in the way games used to play. There's no hand-holding to be found here - Mega Man 10 takes levels of memorization and skill that pretty much no game today requires. It's as throwback as throwback can get in that respect (especially on hard mode - just you wait).
But those nostalgic, skilled old-schoolers who want to take another romp with Mega Man are going to fall in love with Mega Man 10. Its graphics, while in an archaic style, are beautiful. The Robot Master designs are awesome. The music is brilliant. The gameplay is classic. And the little additions give the series enough new life to keep things going full steam ahead. So yes, progression in gaming is a good thing. But when you're talking about the classic Mega Man series, the world of 8-bit is precisely where it belongs. And because of that refusal to take a big jump forward, Mega Man 10 delivers. This might be quite the statement for many, but I stand behind it 100%: in terms of pure gameplay, Mega Man 10 is easily a better game than 90% of what we play on a yearly basis. And you can take that to the bank.

SYSTEM: Nintendo Wii, Play Station 3, XBOX 360



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