I have a lot of fond memories from the early days of the NES, but few are as fond as those of Mega Man 2. Mega Man 2 was one of the first truly eye-opening games on the NES in the departments of graphics and gameplay. Add to that, one of the best soundtracks of all time, and you practically have an instant classic. Although the difficulty was toned down immensely from the first Mega Man game, MM2 still surpasses its predecessor in almost every way, shape, and form.
I remember when I first saw this game, I thought the graphics were the most amazing I had ever seen. Looking at it now, years later, I can see where they may not be quite as good as I'd once thought, but they are still excellent, nonetheless. Mega Man 2 uses bold, bright colors, which is common among NES Capcom games, and a wide variety of settings and enemies. The enemies all look very colorful and well-drawn. Some bosses are absolutely huge! This was one of the first NES games I know of to use bosses that took up large portions of the screen. Later NES games did this, too, but none really looked as good as the big baddies of MM2. The backgrounds are also very colorful, and always fit the theme of each boss's level. For example, lights flash in the Flash Man stage. There's lava and hot colors used in the Heat Man stage. Wood Man lives in a forest of green and brown. The game has a "cartoonish" look that almost seems like a direct cross between anime and Disney. The only down side is that there are some areas that lack the detail of others. The Skull Castle interiors are a little boring compared to the other areas in the game. But it's easily forgivable when you look at everything else that's there.
Mega Man 2, undoubtedly, has one of the best soundtracks of all of the NES Mega Man games. At least three of its songs are on my all-time favorites list of video game music. The overall "tone" of this game's music sounds a little different from the other NES MM games. The tunes drive fast and have a good beat, and they are quite memorable. The first Skull Castle (Dr. Wily) theme is one of the best videogame songs I've ever heard. I only have one major complaint in the music department and that is the music for the second half of Skull Castle is really bland compared to everything else. The sound effects are all very good, too. They're essentially the same as the first Mega Man game, and they keep consistent throughout the series.
Mega Man 2's play control is really precise and near-perfect. It feels a little tighter than the controls in MM1. Jumping and shooting is easy. Switching weapons is easy, too. You do this via a menu that you can bring up by pressing Start. If this is your first time playing a Mega Man game, it might take a bit to get used to the controls, because Mega Man doesn't jump quite as high or as far as some other videogame heroes (except when he's underwater.) The only other flaw is that Mega Man climbs ladders slowly in this game. Overall, the control is great, which is great since I've often had trouble with play control in other NES Capcom titles (ie, Ghosts n Goblins, Street Fighter 2010).
Well, Mega Man 2 doesn't have much of a story. The only real plot is that Dr. Wily and his evil robots must be stopped from taking over the world...again....Which is, of course, the plot of every other game in the original Mega Man series, too. There's no surprise twists or turns, and no other characters getting in on the act, except for one: Dr. Light shows up after you clear some stages to give you special items. The game has a pretty nice ending, even though it doesn't seem to have much to do with anything that happened during the game. The atmosphere is pretty decent, with the backgrounds and enemies of the stages corresponding to the stage boss's name. For example, Bubble Man lives in an underwater world full of robotic sea life.
Challenge is the only area where the game lacks. I have a feeling Capcom made this game easier because a lot of people felt the first Mega Man game was too hard. Well, Mega Man 1 had some bosses that were practically impossible to beat, unless you used that glitch where you fire the Elec Beam, then pause and unpause the game. Also, there was no way to save the game. To make things easier this time, Capcom included a password system in MM2 to save your progress, and you can also find Energy Tanks in some levels that restore your energy once per tank. Extra lives also seem more common in this game. Fixing annoying flaws is a good thing, but I don't think it was necessary to tone the difficulty down this much. The challenge of Mega Man 2 is practically relegated to some "tricky spots" and figuring out which weapons work best against which bosses. But most of the bosses can easily be beaten with the regular arm cannon, and once you know what works on the big bosses, they aren't too difficult. There is a harder difficulty level that can be selected at the beginning of the game, but I didn't find it much tougher than the easy level. Some enemies take an extra hit...whoah. Inexperienced gamers may find this game more challenging than I did. Also, some areas may be more difficult to get through if you don't have the special items from Dr. Light, yet. (Heat Man's level comes to mind.)
Despite this game's lack of challenge, it is incredibly fun to play and replay. There's good variety in the levels. It's fun fighting the bosses and dealing with the many different kinds of enemies and obstacles that get in your way. In one level, you'll slip and slide on ice. In another level, you'll ride on clouds to get through the sky. Quick Man's level forces you to keep moving fast, or else you get stopped dead in your tracks by beams that close in on you. Other levels have you hopping across disappearing blocks or riding trolley-like platforms over pits of spikes. The variety of actions in each colorful world is what seems to give the Mega Man series its appeal. You can also use special weapons for more than just fighting bosses. This wasn't integrated as well in this game as it was in later MM games, but it's still fun to experiment here and there. The game's only real drawbacks are that it's a little short and not overly challenging.
Overall, I think Mega Man 2 deserves the title of "classic". It's probably my second-favorite of the NES Mega Man games. (My first favorite is MM3, which is longer and slightly more challenging.) If you're looking for fast action, wide variety of levels, great graphics, and excellent sound, then check this game out! And if you've never played a Mega Man game before, this is a good place to start.
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