This was pretty much my first Mega Man game, and it kicked my ass for awhile, but I stuck with it and by god, I started getting the hang of it and started doing my fair share of ass-kicking, and it felt good. That Dr. Wiley....he is going down, oh yes, he is going down...once I figure out how to get through his impossibly ridiculous castle...
UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead:
Mega Man 9 was recently launched on all the platforms’ download stores, and one reason why this was possible is because the series went back to its 8-bit roots, bringing you all the classic gameplay you either loved or hated.
Like many previous Mega Man games, you get to pick your poison and choose which level to play, from your choose of 8 levels, each centering around a robot boss which you meet in battle at the end of the stage, however, getting there is one thing in itself. While each stage may only take 3-7 minutes to play through once you’ve mastered it, you’re going to have to die many, many times before you can reach such a feat. I was never a huge fan of the Mega Man series, because every time I tried to play a game, I died almost before I began, and I never had the patience to try and try and try again. Mega Man 9 is no different, however, I learned that you’re supposed to die, and you’re supposed to die often, but doing so is a learning experience, so you can make it that much further on your next life. You start to learn where enemies show up and how to avoid them or destroy them and where spikes are and you learn patterns and strategies, and eventually, you can make it to the boss and then defeat him. If you’re a Mega Man fan, you will probably already know this, but if you are new to the series, then prepare yourself. You have to go in knowing that you will die many times, but don’t get down. You will swear very loudly at the tv, and you will get frustrated, but mastering and then beating a level is so rewarding because of it. I can’t tell you how many times I cursed the tv and the developers, those sneaky bastards, hiding spikes off-screen so you jump right into them, or having enemies pop out of know where, making you fall into a chasm or other instantly dying mechanism. The game seems cheap like this, and the first time you play a level you will get destroyed, but then you learn from these "mistakes" and you dominate the level and the satisfaction from it is some of the best you can get from any video game.
Here, you can see the level select screen, however this is Protoman Mode, but the it's basically the same for the main mode.
However, just knowing where everything is and what is going to pop up isn’t always enough. You have to have some skills and some nerves and consistency. If you get distracted, you will die. This is mostly in response to jumping, and the fact that you basically have to be perfect. As Mega Man, you only have two moves at your disposal, and those are shooting, either left or right, and jumping. Jumping is pressure sensitive, so if you press and hold the button, you will reach your maximum jumping height, but if you quickly tap the button, you will only do a little hop, and this of course is definitely important. There are countless times where if you mess up a jump, you will die. You either won’t quite make it over the gap and fall to your doom, or you’ll jump too high, right into a bed of spikes and be killed. So this part of the game can be very frustrating, but again, if you have the determination and practice, you can make your way through the level, where you will be very happy with yourself.
To make your travels through the game a little easier, you have a variety of weapons at your disposal, all of which have special abilities and attributes that can help you take down enemies. However, you aren’t given these weapons from the get-go, but must earn them by defeating bosses. You get a single new weapon from each boss, so you get 8 new weapons, plus another 2 special ones that give you access to Rush’s, your robot dog, abilities of a spring jump and hover craft. Some of these weapons are more useful than others, but overall, knowing how to use them is key. Some are really cool, like the black hole weapon, which deploys an actual black hole that will suck in and destroy enemies and enemy fire, and another one that will turn enemies into blocks of concrete. The other weapons are useful in other ways, but it is important to remember that each has their own ammunition, so you have to take care to ration it out so you have enough when the time comes. Each boss is also weak to one of these weapons, so figuring out who is weak to what will help determine the order in which you play through the levels.
Friggin' sweet. Prepare to laugh at your enemies as they are helplessly swept inside the black hole, bwahaha.
Another way to make the game a bit easier for players is that there is a store you can go to from the level select screen and purchase things like energy tanks, extra lives, and other safety nets to help you avoid destruction. The currency is screws, which you can find throughout levels and by downed enemies, although the big, more valuable ones are sometimes difficult to get to and may have you risking your life. I never actually bought anything from the store, because I’m hardcore, but it can definitely help you through your trek to the end. It could also be worth mentioning that there are an infinite amount of continues at your disposal, so don’t worry about ever having to start all over from the beginning.
The game consists of a total of 12 bosses, 8 from the 8 main stages, and then an extra 4 in Dr. Wiley’s castle area. Like I mentioned before, each of the 8 stages is themed around that boss, for instance, Magma Man’s level is one that contains lots of fire and lava, while Splash Woman’s level is under water. All of these are really cool looking and play very well into the theme, creating a great, unique atmosphere for each level which changes the experience and keeps things fresh. Each level contains new enemies unique to that level, with a few standard ones and some other distinctive elements, and overall, each level is designed very, very well. Every stage also has some cool music that harks back to the 8-bit generation and is simply stylish.
Jewel Man....you're annoying, but with the right weapon, you are nothing; nothing but putty between my....uhh...cannon.
If you do somehow manage to work your way through the game to completion, you are hardly done. In fact, you are just beginning. The game also contains nearly 40 challenges for you to complete, some of which are ridiculously ridiculous. There are your standard kill 500 enemies, beat the game within 60 minutes, beat each boss within 10 seconds, but then there are some crazy ones, like never miss a shot, clear the game without taking damage, clear the game by only killing the bosses, and many more. When you do clear a challenge, a little message will alert you, which is always nice to see, but seriously, getting some of those harder ones will take major practice. Good luck to you.
Also featured in the game is a time attack mode, where you can play one level at a time in an attempt to set a new record. A plus is that you start with all of the weapons, so you can run through it with relative ease, and it’s a good way to learn the ins and outs of a level and practice without worry of messing up a challenge or something, although you do only get one life, so you can’t hit a check point or anything. There are also online leaderboards, so you can see how you stack up against the best of the best.
Platforming goodness in its truest form. I hope you don't mess up, even for a second while skipping from small platform to platform. You have umbrellas falling from the sky, with the wind blowing, and if you make ONE small mistake, you get to do it all over again, hurray!
Aside from the main story mode and time attack mode, there isn’t anything extra. There aren’t harder difficulties or anything, although there is some downloadable content, which currently includes Protoman Mode and Endless Attack Mode. In Protoman mode, you play as, can you guess? Yes, Protoman. As Protoman, you play through the same levels, however, you cannot visit the store, and you have a few extra moves and some other changes. When you jump, you hold up a shield to reflect enemy attacks and bullets, and you can also slide and make use of a charge shot. Unfortunately, not everything is good, as you also take twice as much damage as Mega Man and get pushed back twice as far when you get hit, which makes for quite the challenge. Endless Attack Mode has you play through an endless level, where you just keep going and going and are scored by how far you make it.
Overall, Mega Man 9 is a great addition to the series. While the gameplay is pretty dated and lacking, with only the ability to shoot side to side, not up, and jump, you can’t crouch or slide, it is still fantastic, placing the emphasis on true skill and dedication to keep playing even if you die 20 times in a row. The game is hard, but you need to know going in that this is the case, and by the time you’ve gotten to the end of the level, you will be able to do it again with relative ease. The game has a great soundtrack and the level design is very good and challenging, and they are designed perfectly for each boss and bring about an enveloping atmosphere. If you’re a fan of Mega Man, then you probably already own this game, otherwise, if you want a challenge, pick it up. If you don’t like Mega Man games though, then this one won’t change your mind, but if you simply haven’t given the series a real chance, then you may as well start with this one.