Tag Archives: Magnet Beam

FGC #528 Adventure

Let's go on an adventure!Adventure was released in 1980, and many claim it was the origin of what is considered to be gaming today. Without Adventure, we wouldn’t have a template for games that feature inventory juggling, dragon-slaying, or the entire Legend of Zelda franchise. But, while even major motion pictures pay tribute to the influence Adventure had on gaming and pop culture at large, no one ever asks what happened to the venerable cast of Adventure. As the VH-1 frequently asked when I had cable: Where are they now? Let’s look into it!

The Bat

Flap flapAdventure’s most hated foe was no dragon or daunting maze, it was the aggravating bat. Just when you thought you had acquired that valuable key or chalice, the bat would come swooping in, pinch it right from your paws, and leave for parts unknown. Would you ever reclaim your lost item? Only that winged terror knows for sure.

Where is it now?

Bats have had a long, illustrious career in videogames. Did you know that bats are responsible for 90% of all deaths in the territory of Wallachia? Or that Batman finds a new and exciting excuse to utilize actual bats in nearly every game he ever visits? But these fun facts don’t get to the heart of the real question: what happened to Adventure’s kleptomaniac bat? Thievery is a very particular skill for a winged mammal, so where did that individual bat wind up? Well, if you think about it for a minute, you’ll realize the answer is obvious:

THE BAT

Aero the Acro-Bat is the most well-known thief-bat in gaming. He stole all of our hearts in 1993, and then retired a happy, prosperous bat after a reappearance on the Gameboy Advance. A true success story for the ages, and everybody knows there are no other thief-bats in gaming. None. Now be quiet, and stop eying that chaos emerald.

The Sword

Stabbin'The hero of Adventure is no swordsman (and possibly not even a man), but they don’t need to be. Sometimes a sword is all you need, and waddling over to a dragon and giving ‘em a good poke is all that’s obligatory to clear the threats out of this dungeon. The sword makes it all happen, and, while you can’t wield the sword while carrying literally anything else (you’d think a key could fit in your pocket), it is the one-size-fits-all murder weapon of choice for any and all adventurers.

Where is it now?

Sword is second only to Gun in the world of videogame weapons. Adventure may not have invented the idea of a sword-wielding adventurer, but it certainly cemented the sword’s usefulness, and the general relationship between swords and dragons (they’re not fond of each other). As a result, swords have been synonymous with adventure games ever since, practically to the point that if you see a hero with a sword, you’re already expecting to look around every corner for a hidden Triforce. Whether it is because of Adventure or not, the sword has experienced an unquestionably successful existence.

The Keys

Unlock conditionsSure, other games may have had keys, but did they have color-coded keys dedicated to color-coded gates? Nope! That was all Adventure! It wasn’t enough just to find a key, you had to find the right key, and you’d never get anywhere without it. That bridge can’t save you now, you need a golden key for a golden gate, mister. No entry allowed!

Where are they now?

Keys are synonymous with adventures, so a better question may be where aren’t they now (the answer is “your inventory”, because you used them all). One might claim that the height of “key mania” occurred back in the Playstation/N64 era, when the 1-2 punch of the Resident Evil franchise and Ocarina of Time sent those 90’s kids into a bout of key-mania. Who didn’t have a set of key-themed pogs? However, while keys don’t get the headlines as much now, they’re still out and proud, and even in ways you would never expect. Want to “unlock” that swimsuit DLC? Then you’re going to need a special key called “your credit card”. Keys are just as popular as ever!

The Mobile Bridge

A bridge too far to carryAdventure was the first game to feature a full inventory of items for your adventure (oh, I just got that), and the very biggest of them all was the mobile bridge. Sure, you may need a key or sword to conquer doors or enemies, but the mobile bridge is a goddamn freakin’ bridge. You want to get across something? Anything? It doesn’t matter, you’ve got a bridge that is four times your size, so you’re going to make it. Way to save the day, bridge!

Where is it now?

The bridge itself hasn’t seen much use in its original form since The Legend of Zelda saw a Link that occasionally had to ford rivers. But the spirit of that mobile and completely inexplicable structure is now more popular than ever. Want to play Minecraft? Fortnight? The most popular, universal titles in gaming right now all have a root in the simple joy of carrying an enormous bridge around the world, and we wouldn’t have people programming supercomputers in Mincecraft without it. The humble contribution of the mobile bridge has defined gaming in the past as much as in the modern era of lugging around an entire Home Depot in your virtual pocket.

The Magnet

It's magneticWhile there are other important items in Adventure, the magnet might be the absolute most useful. The other items are generally all “keys” (see!) that “unlock” specific conditions, like how a “sword” unlocks “a dead dragon”. The magnet, meanwhile, has unlimited utility. It, as one might expect, magnetizes any other item to your person. This makes the magnet simultaneously unnecessary and absolutely the most important thing in the maze. You can carry any item, sure, but you can’t carry any more than one item at a time. But if you’ve got a magnet, then the world is your oyster, and you can drag a parade of bridges and swords along for the ride. Bless you, magnet, you make a pause inventory completely superfluous.

Where is it now?

You hate to see it happen: the Magnet’s meteoric rise to fame happened fast and furious, as it seemed like every game after Adventure included a magnet. The peak of magnet-mania was likely Magnet’s appearance as a sentient robot in Dr. Wily’s Robot Master army in 1990. However, shortly thereafter, magnets severely dropped in popularity. Whether it was because “real” inventories gradually dropped the need for a “magnet-style” item, or because a posse of insane clowns claimed magnets couldn’t logically work was immaterial, the end result is that the once-ubiquitous magnet is now little more than a has been. Sure, magnetism sometimes appears as an innate or equippable “ability” nowadays, but being an abstract concept doesn’t pay the bills on that “Magnet Mansion” it bought with the advance from the Yu-Gi-Oh money…

Dark Areas

It's dark in hereIs there anything more important in a videogame than your field of vision? From the time Man progressed past the text adventure, Man was also encumbered by the need to see everything at all times. In Adventure, if you could see the whole of the maze from some glorious, mountaintop view, you would have no issue at all navigating its every twist and turn. But, no, you are damned to walk on the Earth, and finding your way to the sacred chalice is always a challenge. What’s more, some areas are dark, thus hampering progress with an inability to see even inches in front of your dot’s face. Oh, Dark Areas, you make simple walking a challenge.

Where are they now?

Bitch is everywhere! The darkness has crept into all of our lives, and now you can’t skulk around the labyrinths of Mars without bringing a danged flashlight. The Dark Areas of Adventure might be the single most enduring thing in gaming, as even Mario has to deal with a dark planet full of Boos every once in a blue (power) moon. Now, an attentive reader may notice that encroaching, unstoppable darkness being the greatest success story in Adventure is a bit… dark. And to that witty observation, I’d like to ask you a simple question: have you been alive this year? No further questions at this time, thank you.

The Dragons

Maybe it's not a duckThree dragons will stalk your hero, and, like Pac’s pals before them, they all have their own personalities. Or maybe they don’t! I’m not really going to test which dragon is the most angry when the end result of their collective tantrums is being devoured. I don’t want my little dot to live the rest of their days being digested, so I’m going to go ahead and hold off on the scientific studies until after this sacred chalice is retrieved. You’ll thank me later.

Where are they now?

One member of this trio was already established before Adventure. Eagle-eyed players noticed that Yellow Dragon was tucking a few extra heads behind his neck during filming, and, yes, Yellow Dragon was King Ghidorah slumming it in some videogames all along. The Godzilla money was running kind of dry in the early 80’s, and this “King” wanted to see if he could conquer a foreign market. It didn’t exactly set his career on (atomic) fire, but dude does have three mouths to feed, and a gig is a gig.

Red Dragon has similarly had a hard time establishing himself, but he has been “that dragon” in multiple projects over the years. The logo for Dragon’s Age? That’s Red Dragon. Dragon’s Crown resting on a dragon’s head? You know the dragon with that headwear. The fire dragon in any given Final Fantasy? Almost always Red Dragon (he was briefly in rehab opposite Final Fantasy 6, but it’s considered impolite to point that out). Red Dragon is well aware that red is second only to green in general dragon popularity, and all humans seem to think dragons look alike, so he’s always going to have a part. You might not always know it is him, but his IMDB page is longer than some wyrms.

And as for Green Dragon? Well, she recently got a gig with Nintendo…

THE BOTTOM

… Which makes her current popularity a real come from behind victory.

The Sacred Chalice

You can be a winnerIt’s not enough to simply find your prize in Adventure, you have to actually shlep it home. The goal of Adventure is to uncover a magical, strobing chalice, and then take it to a specific castle that may or may not be protected by cantankerous dragons. It’s a difficult quest, as you can only really carry one thing at a time, and apparently the concept of hanging onto a sword and a cup at the same time is the sort of fiction reserved for playing cards. But make it through the danger with your charmed sippy cup, and you’ll win this Adventure soundly.

Where is it now?

After decades of being replaced by every stupid glowing bauble that instantly ends your protagonist’s adventure (in a good way), we finally saw the return of the sacred, difficult-to-carry chalice in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. It was everything Adventure had promised! Carrying a chalice was boring and unrewarding! And it made for a pretty fun game! It was confusing! And now there’s a remastered edition that can actually be played without the dreaded Gameboy Advance cable? Everything is coming up chalice!

Warren Robinett

There is a mysterious room/wall in Adventure that, should you pay attention to some very particular pixels, reads “Created by Warren Robinett”. What does that mean? Nobody knows.

Where is he now?

He’s not in the local phone book, so there’s really no way of knowing. I’m not certain who this Warren Robinett character is supposed to be, but he can’t be that important. His name doesn’t even appear in the game’s end credits (of which there are none)!

But every other thing in Adventure seems to have gone on to have illustrious careers, so most of Adventure is remembered fondly.

FGC #528 Adventure

  • I like purple, tooSystem: Originally for the Atari 2600, but also available at your local mall kiosk on one of those Chinese bootleg devices. It’s also on modern consoles in the Atari Collection, and that’s a pretty fine way to play.
  • Number of players: This is a solo adventure.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is the granddaddy of the Zelda-esque adventure genre, and it is downright amazing how much of this was repurposed for the genre we all know, love, and endlessly debate. That said, if you’re playing this in anything but random mode, you can probably finish easy or hard mode in all of three seconds. Were people not capable of making maps back in the day? Adventure is an amazing time capsule, but, as one of the first games with a true ending, I find it hard to believe it had to compete directly with Space Invaders.
  • Favorite Item: If you can’t figure it out from the article, the magnet is the best thing ever. I didn’t even know “magnet physics” were possible on the Atari!
  • Did you know? It never ceases to amaze me that Steven Spielberg directed Ready Player One, a film that hinges on uncovering the “credits” easter egg of Warren Robinett, and the damn overarching story or its themes don’t take a goddamn minute to consider why that easter egg exists at all. It was because Atari was trying to hide the names of the people making their games! It was a huge blow for the idea of games as art! And the people that create them being identified as artists! Switch itThis is still a huge problem thirty years after the release of Adventure, left alone in a bad future that is ruled by corporations that are clearly not crediting the creators of an army of virtual mods. But, no, it all has to be attached to a movie that is so rock stupid, it posits that no one could ever accidentally hit reverse at the start of a racing game. Bah!
  • Would I play again: Adventure is important to gaming as a whole. Will I bother to boot it up again? Nah. I can spend that whole two minutes elsewhere.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Banjo-Kazooie! Bear and bird are at it again for the first time! Please look forward to it!

FGC #429 Mega Man: The Wily Wars

There's a man...Today we are going to talk about version erasure.

In a way, today’s game is simply Mega Man 1-3. If you’ve been paying attention to Mega Man releases, you may be aware that Mega Man 1 is available on the following systems: Nintendo Entertainment System, Playstation, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Vita, Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo WiiU, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Android, iPhone, Windows, and, depending on the software installed, some thermostats. Suffice to say, Mega Man has made his way around the gaming world, and, unlike the other games of this theme “week”, you should have absolutely no trouble playing Mega Man 1-3 in any way, shape, or form.

Except… Well, the devil is in those details.

Yes, you can play Mega Man on many systems and platforms. But the problem lies in the fact that you can only play Mega Man. Did you know that there was an entire version of Mega Man created entirely to accommodate a different screen size/resolution? It’s true! It was Mega Man Powered Up, and it was a reimagining of Mega Man 1, but with new cartoon-y characters and stage layouts designed to properly fit the widescreen future of gaming (that was, apparently, the PSP? No, that doesn’t check out…). It was fun and different and a whole new look at a game that, let’s face it, maybe hasn’t aged all that well. And, while the directors may have made some ill-advised choices (no one wants to hear Fire Man talk. Ever.), the whole experience (complete with Mega Man stage builder) still wound up becoming one of the best titles for the PSP.

But Mega Man Powered Up never made the jump to the Vita, or any other later system. It’s not completely lost, though, you can still dig out a PSP Universal Media Disc and play the title in America. Today’s game, Mega Man: The Wily Wars, didn’t receive the same courtesy.

chugga chuggaLong before the Switch, Vita, PSP, or even the Playstation 1 rerelease of Mega Man 1, Mega Man: The Wily Wars was released for the Sega Genesis in Japan as Rockman World. Much like Powered Up, the goal of Mega Man: The Wily Wars was to release Mega Man, Mega Man 2, and Mega Man 3 with a more modern update. Mind you, “update” for the time was simply revolutionizing the franchise to fit in 16-bits and maybe include an extra background layer or two… but it was still an upgrade to contemporary sensibilities. Nobody was going to sit down with their swank, fresh 4-button Sega Genesis controller and play something that looked like it belonged on the Nintendon’t. The very thought of such a thing! Mega Man: The Wily Wars is a Mega Man for the new, “Sega!” shouting generation of gamers that are not content with the 8-bits of pure garbage that is OG Quick Man.

And Mega Man: The Wily Wars is… pretty okay. On one hand, you’ve got a 16-bit reimagining of Mega Man 1-3, and that is indisputably great. I love me some classic pixels, but it feels like a lot of the original graphics miss the mark when compared to the raw expressiveness of the hand-drawn art of the series. On the Sega Genesis, Robot Masters like Hard Man actually look large and imposing, and the stages actually look like places, and not just random themed-levels. And Top Man’s domain has some tops in the background! That level is starting to make sense!

Getting a little airOn the other hand, from the all-important gameplay perspective, Mega Man: The Wily Wars feels like a photocopy of the original. In fact, it feels like a true “fan game”: a situation where the creators did not have access to the original code, and had to wing it according to fuzzy memories of the original. On a surface level, this is Mega Man 1-3, the end. But for someone that has played through those three titles approximately three billion times (for various reasons), the seams show almost immediately. Some Robot Master Weapons do not work like their previous incarnations (you will whiff on throwing a Guts Block at Cut Man), and some are completely useless (Magnet Missile now clumsily chases enemy bullets). And some of the more cunning platforming sections are significantly less refined: the moving platforms of both Guts Man and Top Man stages are timed just wrong enough to cause a lot of unnecessary death (or sitting around waiting for platform timing spawning to be actually surmountable). Overall, despite the advanced graphics, there is enough perceptible “looseness” to this collection that it feels downright inferior to its 8-bit origins.

Except… someone added a few more levels to this collection. And that change managed to accidentally innovate on the Mega Man formula.

The new stages in Mega Man: The Wily Wars are not that exciting. They are pretty much exactly what you would expect in a game that already features Mega Man 1-3: a collection of stages that seem to randomly join bots, traps, and gizmos from the original trilogy. Needle Man’s needle pointers appear under Bubble Man-esque seas. Snake Man’s cloud platforms appear along Bomb Man’s arcing bullet monsters. Air Man’s cloud riders appear indoors for some reason. It’s all very predictable, and the level design doesn’t offer a single stage that seems to justify the endeavor, either from an “innovative” or “difficulty” perspective. Additionally, the bosses are visually interesting, but… kind of terrible. There’s a bit of the Mega Man spark in there, but you’re a lot more likely to see a Ninja Gaiden-esque situation where the boss gets stuck in some easily avoided pattern while you lay on the mega buster. These additional stages and bosses aren’t terrible, they’re just a stark contrast against the platforming excellence you must complete just to see these stages.

But the unique Wily Wars stages of the title offer one major innovation: Mega Man gets straight up inventory management.

Look at all dem weapons

Mega Man has completed Mega Man 1-3, so the Blue Bomber has every early Robot Master weapon from Guts Arm to Gemini Laser. But ol’ Rocky can only equip eight weapons and three support items at a time! So you, player, have to choose Mega Man’s loadout. Do you take the Ice Slasher to freeze enemies, or the Air Shooter to damage enemies with an aerial advantage? Are you going to stick with the rapid fire abilities of Metal Blade, Quick Boomerang, and Shadow Blade, and figure that having all three is ideal for energy consumption? And what of the utility items? Crash Bomb isn’t very useful, but it will demolish certain walls, so does that earn a slot for helpfulness alone? Want to stop time with a flash, or block some bullets with a leaf? With 22 different weapons available, that apparently allows for *DO MATH LATER, PUT NUMBER HERE* different combinations! That’s more than *PREVIOUS NUMBER ROUNDED DOWN*, and certainly enough to allow for multiple, interesting playthroughs. Mega Man is actually an adaptable robot! Fight for everlasting peace, Mega Man, and find new and fascinating combinations of doing it, too!

This was kind of cool, tooBut, likely because of its lackluster “emulation” of the original titles, Mega Man: The Wily Wars has been lost to history. It’s not even available in the United States in any physical form! MM:TWW only appeared on The Sega Channel on this side of the pond, and when Sega turned off the lights on that early attempt at a gaming streaming service, it took Mega Man with it. So this title only saw a physical release in Japan and PAL regions, and then… never again. Mega Man 1-3 has been rereleased on practically every system since its conception, but only the NES versions. The Sega Genesis version, complete with its revamped graphics and new stages, hasn’t been seen in any way, shape, or form since 1995. It’s just… gone. Potential innovation in a franchise practically as old as gaming itself, and it doesn’t even warrant so much as an easter egg appearance in a single Capcom collection.

Mega Man: The Wily Wars is a fun reimagining of a trilogy of games that have seen rerelease after rerelease. So could we please see this rerelease one more time? Please?

FGC #429 Mega Man: The Wily Wars

  • System: Sega Genesis… kinda. Mega Drive? Did it have a special name in Japan? I should really try researching these things before I start typing…
  • Number of players: Never going to see that 4-Player Mega Man platformer. Just one.
  • Just play the gig, man: Oh yeah! The music sucks! It’s not just Mega Man songs being run through the Genesis sound chip ringer, it’s also the fact that some of the songs are just… wrong? It’s as if the whole thing was composed by someone trying to remember the “lyrics”, but they might repeat a chorus too many times. It’s Mega Man Karaoke. …. Actually, that sounds pretty cool.
  • OinkFavorite (New) Robot Master: Hyper Storm H is a giant blue monster that feels like a refugee from the Mega Man X series. I like him. And he’s technically based on that big pig from Journey to the West, which tangentially means he’s related to Oolong from Dragon Ball Z. That’s another point in his favor.
  • Version Differences: The Japanese version seems to run much smoother (and faster!) than the PAL/English version. Is this an emulation issue? Some part of the core game? Who knows! Sure would be nice to have a definitive version, though!
  • Doing what Nintendon’t: The Sega Channel was an online service that was essentially gaming Netflix. Or it would have been, if it wasn’t usually just really short demos and some kind of variation on Nintendo Power’s Classified Information section (but for Sega games, naturally). Okay, maybe I’m being a Nintendo Kid again; yes, there were apparently as many as 70 playable games on the service at a time… but all anyone ever played was Sonic 3, right? Maybe some Eternal Champions? What’s important is that the service lasted for four years, which is about four years longer than the Dreamcast ever had.
  • Other Forgotten Versions: While we’re at it, how about we see the Saturn version of Mega Man 8 resurface. That version has two extra bosses over the Playstation 1 version, but guess which edition winds up in every collection? We have the technology to bring Wood Man back again!
  • Did you know? Keiji Inafune apparently claims that this was the most difficult game to debug in his career. Maybe it was because he came in late? Maybe it was because the production team had no idea what they were doing? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because Guts Tank still haunts Inafuking’s dreams, and its reappearance is always a reason to fret.
  • Would I play again: If it were easier to play, I’d likely give it another go. It’s a nice change from the usual, 100% memorized Mega Man experience. It’s not the best version, but it’s certainly a version that deserves to still exist.

What’s next? Hey, at least Mega Man: The Wily Wars got a physical release in some regions before its online service was shut down. How about we take a look at when a game exists only on an online service, and then winds fighting the world of “delisted”? Please look forward to it!

Boo
That’s just mean

FGC #139 Mega Man

Let's Mega Man!Is Mega Man 1 any good?

This is a question my friends and I toss around on occasion. I used to be an avid defender of Mega Man 1, because it’s Mega Man, stupid, so it must be good. There really isn’t that much of a difference between Mega Man games, so what’s the confusion here? Run, jump, destroy Guts Man, the end. It’s good stuff.

Then Mega Man Legacy Collection was released. This wasn’t the first compilation of Mega Man games ever released, nor was it even the first time we’d seen a Mega Man rerelease in a while (seriously, I feel like I downloaded the 3DS Virtual Console version about two weeks before Legacy was announced), but it was the first time I played through the entire Mega Man NES library in rapid succession (almost like I was trying to get something done). Previously, I had always let Mega Man games “breathe”. Despite the fact that some of the entries can be completed in an hour or so, I always tried to space Mega Man games out by at least a day, either to properly enjoy and digest the experience, or perhaps just because I didn’t want to be reflexively reaching for a metal blade while tackling Toad Man. So, in my rush to play through all of Mega Man Legacy Collection as quickly as possible, I played through Mega Man, and, within a few hours, also played Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3.

And from that day forward, I have not been quiet about stating, in no uncertain terms, that Mega Man 1 is crap.

This is something that I’ve touched on in my own thinking for years. I maintain that Mega Man games are only ever “great” by the second or third release. Mega Man 2 is obvious, but its descendants like Mega Man Battle Network 2, Mega Man Zero 2, and even Mega Man ZX Advent are all great games primarily because they scrapped or reformatted features from their ancestors until only an impeccable play experience remained. The only Mega Man game that bucks this trend is Mega Man X, and I’d argue that that only happened because it’s much more of a direct Mega Man descendant than any of the spinoffs. Like Miyamoto and Yoshi, I can totally see Inafune implementing a number of brilliant ideas for Mega Man X that had been kicking around his noggin for years, but were unable to be realized on the NES hardware. Something like Mega Man Battle Network, though, needed a few tweaks before it hit that same echelon.

And that’s why I think Mighty No. 9 is doomed. …. Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, right, Mega Man 1. So, yeah, while I always acknowledged that Mega Man 1 was no Mega Man 2/3, it’s only recently that I’ve come around to the concept that Mega Man 1 might be just plain not worth it. Like, it’s not a bad game, but DODGEthere’s a reason every one of these articles ends with “Would I play again?” I can acknowledge that Final Fantasy 2 (JP) or Dragon Warrior are games that set the standard for genres that are still healthy(ish) today, but I’m pretty sure I’m never going to tromp through Palamecia ever again. You’ve seen one monster closet or cursed belt, you’ve seen ‘em all. By the same token, every second spent fighting Guts Man is time I could be spending with Guts Tank, so why play the “lesser” game?

Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to objectively look at a video game. Even the simplest NES titles have so many moving pieces that I am completely incapable of looking at one piece of a game as overwhelmingly terrible (glitched, floating, shooting Ice Man platforms) without also comparing it to something that I enjoy (nothing like a slippery hallway full of penguin bots). At best, I can compare a game to other games like it, and hope that a certain level of “no, I like A better than B” will take hold.

So, I can compare Mega Man 1 to Mega Man 2. No, that’s a terrible idea. Mega Man 1 is a band’s first demo tape, Mega Man 2 is the studio album with an experienced producer. You can see the influences, but comparing the two objectively is going to be a pretty inevitable curb stomp for one party. UGH No, comparing Mega Man 1 to its remarkable successor is a poor choice. Hm… perhaps I should compare Mega Man 1 to other… ones.

Mega Man wasn’t the only hero to start an empire on the NES, so maybe we can take a look at other “first” games, and see how Mega Man 1 compares. Let’s start with…

Super Mario Bros. singlehandedly revitalized gaming… and it’s basically the reason I’m even considering giving up Mega Man 1. Super Mario Bros. is a great game! It is masterfully crafted and designed from top to bottom to be not only fun, but also teach 2-D platforming in general. It’s iconic for a reason, and, what’s more, it sold about a million Nintendo Systems, too.

It also contains the Hammer Bros. Without a fire flower handy, I have snuck past the Hammer Bros unmolested… maybe twice? And that one bro guarding (final) Bowser? Bane of my existence.

That’s not any fun. What is fun is transforming into a flying raccoon, riding a dinosaur, or even hurling vegetables. I’d argue that every single other Mario game is more fun than Super Mario Bros, so why waste my time on the original? This doesn’t make SMB a bad game, simply an unnecessary one, as it has a complete lack of cat suits.

(And “The Lost Levels” doesn’t count, as that’s clearly an expansion pack for SMB.)

The Legend of Zelda sits on the other end of the Nintendo spectrum. Despite all later Zelda games improving on LOZ’s gameplay, the original You see, because... oh never mindis still a damn fun experience. While one could argue that much of the LOZ franchise has gotten away from the original’s overhead sword ‘em up adventure model, we’ve still got A Link to the Past, which really is “Super Legend of Zelda” in every way. Regardless, LoZ still offers an unprecedented level of freedom completely absent from its descendants, and a few bosses/challenges that have not been reprised in later editions. I’m basically down for a game of Legend of Zelda whenever, and I’m a lot more likely to hit its delightful aesthetics than some of its 80 hour brethren.

Speaking of which, there’s Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy is an odd duck, because, were you to ask me if I would ever play the NES version ever again, I would immediately deny any and all impulses to fire up that old clunker. I’ve only ever played through Final Fantasy, start to finish, once. That said, I’ve also played through Final Fantasy Origins (PSX), Final Fantasy Advance (GBA), and Final Fantasy (PSP). And I think the PSP version got a second play as a Vita download. Aside from Final Fantasy 4, I’ve probably played through more versions of Final Fantasy than any other Final Fantasy game, and, given I seem to keep doing it, I must enjoy something from the experience.

But, all that said, I don’t want to deal with “spell charges” or “no saves in caves” ever again. Even if I felt like relying on aging Nintendo hardware to preserve my game progress from Garland to Chaos, I doubt I’ll ever play the original Final Fantasy again, because it’s another game that was only improved in later versions… just, in this case, the later versions are a cavalcade of remakes. Mega Man 1 only seems to have one or two remakes (Genesis and PSP), and neither particularly “replace” the original game.

Speaking of games that are remade constantly, there’s Castlevania, the eternal story of a leather-clad sadist and his clearly masochistic partner. He just keeps coming back for more! The original quest of Simon Belmont has been remade in a number of ways over the years, but those games may as well have been sequels (or actually are?). Pre-Metroidvania days, Castlevania heroes were generallyBrrrr interchangeable, and, ultimately, it didn’t matter if it was Simon, Richter, or Eric battling the legions of batness. So the original Castlevania established a template that would be used for years… but Castlevania III is right there. Like, there is not a single way that Castlevania III doesn’t improve over the original Castlevania, and it has a pirate! And, if you want to game the password system, you can play 90% of the game as a bat. Castlevania is another great start, but it was eclipsed by Trevor Belmont faster than some sort of flying mammalian creature escaping an inferno of some kind.

Arguably, there’s one franchise on the Nintendo that’s phenomenal and probably contains the gameplay closest to a Mega Man experience. I’m talking about Wizards and Warriors.

Hahaha, no, that franchise sucks. I’m not playing any of those ever again.

No, a game that really hues closest to the Mega Man formula and also started on the NES is Contra. Contra is unmistakably a game I will play again, and primarily because there’s nothing like it, even within its own universe. Yes, on the surface level, Contra is a simple, run ‘n gun game where you’re tasked with destroying an army of alien backpackers, but on a deeper level, Contra is a perfectly calibrated game where your offensive and defensive tools are seamlessly suited to the task. With the possible exception of the proto-flamethrower, there is not a piece out of place in the original Contra. Whether you’re battling a wall with a glowing weak point or Ocular Fire, you’ve got the right tools for the job available, and it’s just a matter of you using all your skills to get there with Spread intact.

Too hot to handSo… maybe that’s my answer? Like, I can safely say that I’d rather play Mega Man than Super Mario Bros, Final Fantasy, or Castlevania, but Contra? Contra just nails it in every conceivable way, and it’s primarily because every round hole in that game has a matching round peg. I’ve been battling those Hammer Bros. for thirty years, and I still can’t find the exact solution for those dorks. Same for the Marsh Cave. Same for Drac’s Catacombs. There are chunks of those classic games I’d rather avoid, and I don’t feel that way about Contra at all.

Mega Man is a great game, but it’s also got CWU-01P, boss rematches without life refills, and far too many reasons to exploit the Magnet Beam. It also has Wily and his Yellow Devil, two (2.5?) bosses that, without the Elec glitch, are just slogs. And let us never forget Mega Man’s terminal velocity drops. Mega Man 1 has got a lot of problems, and almost all of them are fixed almost immediately in later games.

It’s all steak, but Mega Man has a lot of fat. I think I’ll stick to the lean cuts.

FGC #139 Mega Man

  • System: NES. Also available on every console generation that has ever been.
  • Number of players: There are enough color variations of Mega Man as is, let’s not add a Luigi into the mix.
  • Favorite Robot Master: Ice Man is one of the few RMs to “blow” his signature weapon, which was very popular in the NES days (BowserBrrrrrr breathes fire), but doesn’t make much sense when a number of your characters have obvious “arm blasters”. Ice Man has also always looked adorable in his little parka, too, so bonus points there.
  • Least Favorite Robot Master: Bomb Man took, what, seven seconds to design? He’s a guy holding a bomb! Awesome! Let’s go to lunch.
  • Did you know? Keiji Inafune did not invent Mega Man, he simply “inherited” the Blue Bomber from the previous project lead. He was primarily responsible for the best Mega Man games, though, so you’d be forgiven for not making the distinction. If you want to credit Inafuking with creating a character, you may look no further than his beloved Zero.
  • Would I play again? Go read the article again!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Actraiser for the SNES! Ah, I promise not to forget all the little people when I ascend to the heavens and start accidentally earthquaking civilizations back to the Stone Age. Please look forward to it!