Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Megaman - Dr. Wily's Revenge (GB)

And you thought the original was difficult

Have you ever noticed how much the difficulty of the Mega Man games fluctuates? The thing which makes the original so notoriously difficult is its lack of features that can sustain you should things get hairy. You try getting through Mega Man 3 without any E-tanks and you'll see what I mean. The second, then, is comparatively much easier, the third is quite tougher, the fourth... you get the idea. One has to wonder why it took until 1991, when the fourth instalment for the NES was released, for a handheld Mega Man to see the light of day. Enter Mega Man: Dr Wily's Revenge. This subtitle is never expanded upon as there is no in-game story. That's hardly fair; us fans of the series have been wanting to know what really happened before the first Mega Man for ages. It doesn't help that several different versions of that story are floating around. This first Game Boy title for the blue bomber has a lot more in common with its parent than the enigmatic story; the difficulty.

Already from this first game, it's clear that Capcom had no problem translating Mega Man from the NES to the Game Boy (unlike the case of Super Mario). The graphics are pleasing and clear. Indeed, the Game Boy's lack of colour gives it capabilities of a subtlety the NES can't produce. This makes the bases Mega Man battles through feel somehow much more polished than those on its big brother. On the other hand, the playing field we see at a time is much smaller, because Mega Man (thankfully) hasn't been scaled down in conjunction with the dimensions of the NES playing screen. This causes minor berths at best. These are fine graphics. My only problem with them is that a lot of the levels tend to look a bit similar in their factory/base setting. The NES levels somehow looked much more distinct.

The utterly pointless point system from the original NES game has wisely been left out of this release. Not as wisely, two whole Robot Masters have been left out. Why was this done? Subsequent titles have shown us that the cartridge is fully capable of housing eight levels per game. Because four bosses from Mega Man 2 actually make an appearance in this game (unfortunately most of my favourites), the next title, Mega Man 2 (not to be confused with the excellent NES title), only has four bosses from that game, along with four bosses from the game following that. The real folly, however, is how Gutsman and Bombman are left out, never to appear in a Game Boy reincarnation. Sure, neither will Gravity Man, Gyro Man, Star Man and Wave Man, but it's somehow easier to leave out four than only two, especially two of perhaps the most famous Robot Masters in Mega Man history (and them being my favourites and all).

The music, I regret to say, is nothing special. Most tracks are conversions from the same tracks from the NES. They lose a lot of spunk in translation – with the exception of Elec Man's tune, whose tune here gets a real atmosphere which the NES version definitely could have used more of. Overall, a listenable and catchy soundtrack but somehow much less charming than it was in the original.

If you've played any Mega Man game, you'll know the drill. Select a boss, battle through his base and send him to the scrap heap, while keeping his weapon. Here, the "You Got" weapon screen has finally been realised. It was always a bugger in the original never to know what the weapon you acquired was called. Then you can take on Dr Wily's fortress. Only here, his entire fortress is one long and arduous level. You'll probably already know what waits after that. Just staying alive is an accomplishment in itself, though. As stated above, the original Mega Man for the NES still is one tricky beast. Unfortunately, in these four years it took for Mega Man to get to the Game Boy, that part of the original still registered as such an important aspect of it that it was proudly incorporated into Dr Wily's Revenge. Of course, every Mega Man game has seen a slight improvement. In the case of Dr Wily's Revenge, it's the difficulty that got the main treatment in that area, meaning that it was intensified as opposed to balanced out. Oh dear. Either the enemies are tougher or Mega Man's blaster is absolutely wimpy all of a sudden, because the difficulty of everything has been cranked up tenfold. Why is Cut Man's stage so difficult now? In a complete redesign, it is situated inside some factory as opposed to around it. Even the tiniest wheel enemies take lots of hits to kill. Enemies in common with the two releases then are suddenly way, way more difficult. You'll grow to dread your encounters with Big Eye. In the NES game, he wasn't so bad because you usually just fired and timed your strides underneath him. Not in Dr Wily's Revenge you can't. Big Eye is one absolutely annoying enemy, and one that's very hard to get past unscathed. In this version, you can only hit him when he's airborne, which is absolutely unfair considering how he only seems to jump when about to stomp on you in this game. To make matters even worse are the numerous enemies or traps with patterns that are nigh on impossible to avoid (the circling scissors in particular come to mind).

This would all be bearable if the game designers had actually bothered to stash any large energy capsules around. Good luck, there's hardly any big ones around, and very few small ones either. That's no fair. What right does the game have to deprive the player of the means to recharge their energy? It would also be bearable if your blaster was any good at all. It has suddenly become about 50% less efficient. Tough as the NES game is, at least you feel you're getting somewhere when you shoot at enemies. How are you supposed to get anywhere with game mechanics like this? Now, Cutman doesn't stagger when you hit him, and that totally negates the entire purpose of him as the easiest boss. On the other hand, the bosses are even more susceptible to the right weapons than they were in the NES game. Their weapons prove most useful against enemies, so things are at their most difficult before you beat one boss. I really like how you enter the boss lairs in this game. Ironically, Fireman – far and away the hardest boss in the original – is the easiest boss here. The thing which makes him so blasted difficult in the NES version is that blasted fire in the floor that pops up when he... well, fires. That floor-based fire is gone here, allowing him to be easily defeated because he only sends one wave of fire at a time, another thing that made him hard in the NES version. So, there is hope after all. Just don't make the mistake of taking Cutman's stage first like I've done almost constantly until now.
Where does all this leave Mega Man: Dr Wily's Revenge? Just like its parent, it's that brave trooper, that experiment that paved the way. It's a short game, but it makes up for its length with its insane difficulty, which then in turn seriously comes down on its fun factor. This is the one Mega Man game I have ever played that I haven't beaten, which is embarrassing. Between trying to avoid enemies with impossible patterns to trying to find the few health pick-ups I can, my love for this game dwindles as I am playing it. Even the original was more generous of health power-ups, at least by defeated enemies. In Dr Wily's Revenge, many of them drop nothing. If you want to see just how much abuse you can overcome in a Mega Man game, this is the way to go. Me, I have no fun in constantly worrying about dying because of hard-to-dodge traps or tiny enemies that just won't kick the bucket under the fire of my incredibly unpowerful shooting. Not the best Mega Man experience, that's for sure.

SYSTEM: Game Boy



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