With the upcoming release of the Mega Man Legacy Collection I thought it would be apt to take a look back at one of the most widely revered of the collection’s games, Mega Man 2. Known as ‘Rockman 2: The Mystery of Dr. Wily’ in Japan, Mega Man 2 is a platformer released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988, that to this day remains culturally relevant. Now before reading this review I think it’s important to say that before 2015 I had never played this game, a fact that is blasphemous to many gamers. This is an important fact as it shows that the opinions I have on the game are not tinted by those rose coloured spectacles of nostalgia. Without having a working NES (or Famicom) to hand I turned to my Wii, booted it up and downloaded the title on the Virtual Console.
The premise of the game is simple. A year after Mega Man, a super robot created by Dr. Light, defeated the nefarious Dr. Wily and his robot masters the aforementioned doctor has returned with a batch of new cohorts ready to once again attempt world domination. Mega Man must defeat each of the new robot masters stages before challenging wily in his castle. That’s about it. Without going into the instruction manual that’s as much as the game offers you. This doesn’t matter though, the basic plot allows you to get straight to the gameplay which is where the real magic happens.
As the game begins you are offered the choice of order in which to tackle the games’ 8 different stages. After defeating the boss of the stage Mega Man acquires the robot masters unique weapon, which become important tools in defeating the other masters and Wily’s Castle. This is one of the great mechanics of this game as it creates a challenge in working out which order best suits your style,which also leads to a high level of replayability. Another reason to revisit the game is its tight controls. Everything in Mega Man 2 feels responsive, you never feel like the game is unfair, if you die it’s your fault. Move, Jump and shoot are all that is required to control the titular character. With just five inputs the team at Capcom created one of the most simple and intuitive controls I have ever experienced. Replayability is further enhanced by the two difficulty options. On normal mode the game is easy enough to plough through in a few hours, with hard mode adding a greater challenge to those looking for it.
In addition to impeccable gameplay Mega Man 2’s presentation is of a high standard. Using the NES’ limited power the artists have created beautiful sprites that are well animated giving the game a smooth aesthetic. Each stage looks significantly different from the other and is well matched to the boss who occupies the area. This stops the game from ever becoming bland, a problem the first game suffers from at times. Complimenting the visuals is the games audio. The MIDI soundtracks are some of the best produced on the system, let alone in the Mega Man series. As the game boots up I instantly find myself humming along with the theme music, and this doesn’t stop as I traverse from Air Man’s stage all the way to the end of Wily’s Castle. These are songs I actively listen to outside of the game, a rarity for me, and a real testament to their quality.
There are no games that are perfect but this game is as close as you get. Few flaws are present (e.g. boobeam trap in Wily’s castle) and when they are they add to the charm of the game. This game proves that a great game is great forever, no matter its age (it was actually released two years before I was even born). Mega Man 2 proves that if you don’t over complicate things and just deliver great gameplay, great visuals and great audio you’re sure to make a game that will stand the test of time.