Nintendo owners are in for a summer full of action and adventure with Capcom’s latest masterpiece, Mega Man 2. This sequel takes every positive attribute from the original and builds upon it in every way imaginable. While we were big fans of the first game, this second installment has blown away our expectations and easily ranks as one of the best pieces of software available right now on the NES. You’ll want this one in your collection!
Right from the start I knew I was in for something special with Mega Man 2. After inserting the cartridge and hitting the power button on the NES we’re treated to a short cinematic scene that sets the story for your upcoming adventure. The music is tranquil at first and we see a skyscraper building in the foreground. As the story wraps up, we’re whisked up the side of the building and standing at the top is Mega Man with his hair blowing in the wind and a kicking soundtrack blaring in the background! You can choose normal or difficult challenge levels and from there you’re on to a stage select screen. Here you’ll see all eight robot masters that you must defeat before being able to take on the evil Dr. Wily.
At its core Mega Man 2 plays very similar to the first game, so those that have experienced that game will feel right at home. Everything is bigger and better here, including more stages, a higher variety of enemies, huge sprite characters, and awesome special weapons. Each robot master has a weakness, and it’s up to you to discover which special weapon deals the most damage to each boss. The instruction manual suggests that beginners might want to take on Air Man first, since he’s not too difficult to thwart with the standard gun. Once you’ve taken him down you’ll acquire his power, which is the ability to throw small tornados at your foes. To use your new powers you’ll have to select them on the sub-screen and equip the new gun you’d like to use. Each has its own energy meter so you can only use them so many times before running out of juice. Luckily killing enemies often results in special energy pills to drop, which you can use to refill your various weapons. Expect to be going in and out of the sub-screen a lot as you manage your various powers. Half the fun is figuring out which guns work the best against specific enemies.
There are also three special items that you acquire after defeating certain robot masters. These include the Jet Sled, Levitation Platforms, and Elevator item. Just like the weapons these have their own energy bars, meaning you can’t just use them over and over again because they’ll eventually run out. The Jet Sled is especially useful in stages where there are bottomless pits. Simply activate the sled and fly across the screen, avoiding instant death!
Mega Man 2 plays almost identically to the first game, which means you’ll have a lot of running, jumping, and shooting to do. The difference here is that each stage has been expertly crafted to create a living, breathing, and wonderful world to explore. Each of the robot masters has a unique level to play through and they all have different environments and themes. For example, in Bubble Man’s stage you’ll be jumping across platforms with gorgeous waterfalls in the background and eventually you’ll dive deep into the waters below. Here the gameplay completely shifts because Mega Man can now jump extra high (the height of the entire screen!) underwater. You’ll have to avoid cleverly placed spiked mines while shooting hordes of robotic enemies. Some are almost as big as the screen, like the Lantern Fish! In fact, large adversaries are commonplace across many of the courses, with Hot Dog (huge robotic watch dog that spews flames from its tail), Dragon (this beast is a sight to behold), and Guts-Dozer (you’ve never seen a foe this big on the NES before) standing in your way. Each of them can be somewhat difficult to destroy, unless of course you know which weapon to use (when in doubt pull out the Metal Blade).
In addition to gigantic sprites, Mega Man 2 features a plethora of highly detailed normal sized robotic enemies that you’ll encounter. Each stage has its own variety, like Bubble Bats on Wood Man’s course and Croakers on Bubble Man’s. All of them animate really well and are colorful and imaginative. Each robot master has a unique fighting style, with new patterns to learn and attacks to avoid. Each level is so different from the last that it’s difficult to choose a favorite, but I’m sure some will float to the top.
Incredible graphics are only part of the story though, because the audio is just as and maybe even more impressive. Just a few years ago game players were content with simple beeps and subpar sounds, but as each year has ticked by the music compositions have become more sophisticated. We’ve heard outstanding music from greats like Castlevania and Blaster Master, but nothing comes close to Mega Man 2. There’s not a bad song in the entire game! Even more incredible is that each of the eight stages has a completely different soundtrack. From there you get a few more new ones in Dr. Wily’s fortress, which – by the way – the first stage of his secret lair is absolutely amazing. No matter which track you’re listening to it has a sort of addictive quality to it that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for days and weeks to come. On top of the impeccable tunes are a smorgasbord of unique sound effects that really do a fantastic job of matching the on-screen chaos. Each weapon sounds different from the last and every stage has some type of unique audio cue that you won’t find elsewhere. It’s obvious the developers spent a ton of time in the sound department of this game and it shows!
One of the biggest complaints of the original Mega Man is that it was too hard. Capcom has listened and included some very useful tools this time around. First up, as mentioned before, you can select your difficulty at the start of the game. Normal is the way to go until you get really good at the game. Joining in the recent trends of gaming, Mega Man 2 has a brand new password system so you can continue your quest at a different time. This password is kind of genius in that it doesn’t use the usual numbers and letters, but instead creates a grid where you place dots in certain squares for your password. It’s easy to jot down and much less likely you’ll make a mistake. Some of the levels also contain Energy Tanks that you can collect. If you’re about to perish while fighting a boss, simply go into your sub-menu and use one to refill your health to full! Even with all of these additions the game isn’t overly easy and it will take some practice to memorize stage layouts, enemy patterns, and discover boss weaknesses.
Mega Man 2 is a perfect example of what a sequel should do by improving on every aspect of the original. Better graphics, amazing sounds, exciting stages, memorable bosses, fun power-ups, and plenty of surprises make for one of the best games ever on the NES. It’s even fun to replay again and again. This one is a keeper!
Mega Man 2 Review
- Graphics - 10/1010/10
- Sound - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 10/1010/10
- Lasting Appeal - 10/1010/10
Final Thoughts: OUTSTANDING
Mega Man 2 is the perfect sequel, taking everything the original game did and cranking it up to 11. Huge sprites, innovative boss designs, fun weapons, exceptional music, and spot-on gameplay make for one of the best NES games ever created. Taking down Dr. Wiley has never been so much fun!