Megman recently celebrated his 25th birthday, but he probably wouldn’t have made it past 2 years of age if it weren’t for one important game; Megaman II. Most lists put Megaman II near the top of best Nintendo games of all time. For me, it’s definitely number one. Of the myriad of Nintendo games I played as a kid, none of them impacted me as much as Mega Man II. If you haven’t played this game, I plan to convince you to get an emulator or pick up the cartridge and check it out.
The Developers Were Passionate About Megaman II
There’s an interesting story around the development of Megaman II. Megaman I was financially a bomb. Capcom was ready to give up on the blue bomber and move on to other projects. However, the team that made the original Megaman didn’t want to give up. They decided to spend their own time developing the game, improving the graphics and making more music for it. They put in 20 hour days and completed the game in about four months. This type of dedication and passion is exhausting but often leads to enduring products. Megaman II simply exudes this kind of commitment to quality.
I think this is something that gets lost so often today in games. Arbitrary deadlines cause people to give up their vision to get something out there to start making a quick buck. In the end, passion and creativity sell a lot more than dropping your game in the holiday season.
It’s Hard, But Not Too Hard
Megaman II is the first game I can remember that really made me tense up. In airman’s level there are some moments where you have to make blind jumps into the void and hope one of those big robo heads is going to appear under you. Once you land, the robo head starts launching an attack. This section of the game still gives me that feeling all these years later. It wasn’t until much later 3D games came out that I ever got a sense of vertigo or physical tension from being on the edge of a platform or taking a crazy blind jump. All this said, the game is never so hard that you want to throw the controller across the room, a common reaction to NES games.
It Has Depth
The premise of Megaman is not that different than many other games like Contra or even Super Mario Brothers. You run, avoid things, shoot robots, hop on platforms, etc. It’s nothing new, but the way it’s all put together is truly ingenius. The underwater sections require special diligence since gravity is altered there.
I think the thing that stands out the most to me about the depth is the weapons. You can play through the whole game with the default blaster and it’s enjoyable. But the game gives you liberal weapon refills when you start using the other tools you earn from each boss. Play through the levels in the right order and you’ll have tools to take shortcuts, get extra powers or take out enemy bots before they become a threat. Particularly, the seemingly useless bubble gun has such a cool secondary purpose of helping you identify false floors in one of the difficult final stages of the game.
The MUSIC….Oh man, THE MUSIC!!
Megaman II’s music is perhaps some of the best NES music out there. The game’s 21 tracks remixed hundreds of times in varying styles. The catchy tunes were composed by Takashi Tateishi and Manami Matsumae and many would agree that they’re among the most catchy and genre-defining songs of that Nintendo era. The game’s level selecting setup means there’s no “first level” to impress users with. This was common in a lot of NES games, the first level looked awesome and had great sound, but past that, it just became monotonous and musically uninspired. No matter what level you start with, the music is amazing. I’d have to say Flash Man and Quick Man’s levels have some of the best tunes. I’ve heard from many that Dr Wily Stage 1 music is THE best 8-bit song ever.
The songs definitely have a rock music influence to them. I get the feeling these guys were listening to 80’s hair metal guitar solos and trying to convert them into 8-bit blips. The end result doesn’t sound like your average video game track or a heavy rock song but something completely new. It’s hard to believe there’s only four sounds playing at any one time when you listen to these complex and well-composed tunes. I’m always trying to capture those melodic components in my own music.
Megaman II spawned an entire series of successful games, but I don’t think any of them was ever quite as perfect as Megaman II. I strongly suggest you play this excellent game today.
Here’s an awesome song done Coheed and Cambria style based on the Dr Wily Stage 1 Theme music.