In 1993 I was presented with a choice.
As per usual when staying with my grandparents I was taken to a car boot sale before being dropped off home and not long after arriving I ran across two Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) cartridges both leaning reluctantly against some rusty old tat from the 60s.
I begged and pleaded with Nan and Granddad to let me have them and mercifully they compromised allowing me to have have just one. The two cartridges on offer were Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man.
It was a difficult choice and so I have always considered this to be weird crossroads in my life for that ‘gaming enthusiast’ part of me.
Eventually, after what I remember being a long time and my Granddad threatening on multiple occasions to just leave me there on the spot I chose Ninja Gaiden, the deciding factor being that it (presumably) had ninjas in it.
Fast-forward to March 2015 and I have long considered Ninja Gaiden on the NES to be one of my all-time favourite videogames.
Mega Man however I still haven’t played, despite it – or at least one of its many sequels – sitting firmly within many a gamer’s top ten list.
Having spied a number of Mega Man (Rockman in its native Japan) titles on the 3DS eShop and having recently read a post from fellow Cane and Rinse community member ‘Kiss Mammal’ (suggesting the series for a future podcast) I opted to finally give the game some of my time.
After launching Mega Man on my 3DS I was initially presented with a modest title screen. It had a black background, no music, just the words: Mega Man (in a fancy 80s font), the usual copyright information with the familiar phrase: ‘PRESS START’ lodged between the two.
Naturally I obliged and quickly followed the prompt, I was then placed on a blue screen with a repetitive (yet thematically relevant) loop of music. More importantly I got my first glimpse of the game’s level select screen.
Displayed prominently before me were six squares, each of which represented a level and the boss at the end and for the first time I was introduced to Cutman, Gutsman, Iceman, Bombman (not to be mistaken for Hudson Soft’s Bomberman), Fireman (not to be mistaken for a common-or-garden firefighter) and Elecman (not to be confused for the bloke who pops round in a hi-vis jerkin and reads your meter).
In the interest of full disclosure I did not spend a full hour with Mega Man because of the six stages I managed to fully complete four with two minutes to spare and I didn’t feel in the remaining time I would make any notable progress. The four levels I did finish were Cutman, Bombman, Gutsman and Elecman.
I found the moment-to-moment gameplay in Mega Man a prime example of NES platforming done right, and I am honestly surprised that given modern trends there aren’t many independent developers aping Capcom’s style.
Although originally frustrated at Mega Man’s limited ability to fire his weapon horizontally at a height and position that never quite matched the enemies I faced, I stumbled on a menu during the latter half of the third level that let me use the abilities of bosses I had beaten.
From that point onwards I felt that I could overcome any challenge – as long as I had the right tool. As I write this I also fondly recall the stage structure; levels don’t just go left to right but also have verticality and typically end in some sort of underground facility with a quick boss fight.
I felt the most challenged in Mega Man when navigating the more difficult platform sections, while simultaneously being attacked and realising I am on my last life and will be forced to restart the level if I die.
I found the game difficult at times thanks to those awkward angles that enemies would usually attack from, as well as the timing-critical platforming, and in both regards I was frequently reminded me of the game that I chose over Mega Man more than two decades ago, Ninja Gaiden.
So overall my hour with Mega Man was a pleasant one, albeit a little nerve-racking at times!
I enjoyed my 58 minutes with Mega Man and I will be going back to finish the last two stages, as well as whatever comes after. The large colourful sprites are a delight to see in action and each level is accompanies by a catchy little tune (by Manami Matsumae) that I could enjoy humming along to.
The only thing I am somewhat unsure of is whether my fondness for the game is born purely of its excellent design or of my nostalgia for that era of gaming.
A little more time getting to grips with with Mega Man, AKA “The Blue Bomber”, will hopefully help me form a concrete opinion.