Genre: Action, Platformer
Year: 1990
Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Capcom
Platforms: NES
Feeling Like: Three’s a crowd

This is the 8th Mega Man so far on the 500. There are 5 more to go.

When a single franchise makes up 2.8% of a too-big list, it’s obvious that I have a large affinity for it. I grew up playing the Mega Mans and even the ones that were too hard, or too difficult, or were weaker compared to their superior counterparts were still unforgettably enjoyable. Mega Man 3 isn’t a personal favorite, but it’s still better than 267 other games according to me.

The controls are still pitch perfect and rival the best on the NES. Moving, jumping and shooting always feels good. There isn’t a single second where I felt unequipped to handle the obstacles laid out before me. There’s only two buttons so there’s no room for complicated maneuvers. With the addition of the slide, the developers opened up a whole new way for the Blue Bomber to traverse and create new ways to present challenging level designs. It wasn’t just that you could slide, it was that you could keep sliding, as long as the tunnel doesn’t end and there’s enough room to switch directions.

That being said, it’s one of the more frustrating Mega Man games and I found it way more difficult than Mega Man 2.

The cheap deaths are still there, but to me that’s why you pay for the ticket. I know it’s not “good design” to not know a leaping enemy will rise out of nowhere to drag you to your death, but as a longtime Mega Man player, I should know to approach unknown chasms with trepidation. The bosses felt like the usual fare, though this time I wasn’t wild about any of the weapons. There’s no overpowered Metal Blade here to bail me out of a jam.

I recently learned that fans could submit boss designs in a contest and the winning ideas would actually be put into the game. The concept is laughable now, but when you pump out a Mega Man game almost every year, I suppose outsourcing creativity isn’t the worst call. But then I learned that they had already created the stages prior to knowing what the bosses were! Now that’s funny. You can tell why some stages just have random spinning Tops shoehorned in.

But it’s upon beating the eight Robot Masters that you learn you’ll have four additional stages to tackle prior to Wily’s Castle. These stages are brutal in difficulty and the bosses are combinations of of Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 bosses. It took me frequent game overs to learn their patterns and discover which weapons were the most useful. Without Energy Tanks, I’m convinced I never would have beaten them. AND THEN it’s six more Wily Stages before Dr. Wily himself.

It is a marathon compared to the first two Mega Mans. It was always satisfying when I’d finally beat a level, but I never seemed to get a reprieve; the next stage always seemed more perilous than the last. If there’s one thing Mega Mans don’t do, it’s fuck around.

Boy, did the soundtrack keep me going. It’s as essential to the experience as any other factor.

It is supremely good, just as diverse and interesting as Mega Man 2’s, maybe even better. The intro song will never fail to get me hyped up. I’ll listen to Spark Man’s, Snake Man’s, or Needle Man’s theme any day of the week. Naturally, my favorite is found in one of Wily’s Castle Stages. This one too. I can’t even pick a favorite, the tunes are terrific. They feel more complicated and nostalgic, perhaps because originally this was planned as the last Mega Man game prior to its meteoric rise in popularity. That trademark Capcom NES feel is present in every track and it’s easily the highlight of the game.

A moderately frustrating Mega Man on the NES is still a classic and far better than most games I’ve played. The format is rudimentary today, but others have borrowed from such games as Mega Man 3 for a reason.

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