As someone who grew up with the NES and Super NES, it's rather bizarre to witness franchises seemingly return to the days of my childhood. Games like Castlevania Adventure: The Rebirth or Contra 4 feel like forgotten Super Nintendo games, and while those franchises have had plenty of evolution since the '90s, there is still something engrossing and fun about the simple old-fashioned games that newer titles can't quite capture. None of the franchise relaunches have been quite as memorable as Capcom's revival of the classic Mega Man franchise. With Mega Man 9, Capcom went out of its way to make it feel like a forgotten Mega Man title, complete with nonsensical plotlines, hilarious box art and even screen flicker. It may have been years since the last NES Mega Man game, but the only difference between Mega Man 6 and Mega Man 9 was that I was using a Wii Remote instead of an NES controller. Mega Man 10 is another entry in the franchise, and it follows almost exactly in the footsteps of its predecessor. Like it or not, Mega Man 10 is more of the same, although as anyone who played the good NES Mega Man titles can tell you, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Much like its predecessor, Mega Man 10 is an homage to the simple 8-bit NES stories of old. A mysterious virus called Roboenza has been spreading among robots, causing them to malfunction. Amongst those is Mega Man's sister, Roll, who is quite ill with the robot virus. Oddly enough, Dr. Wily comes to Dr. Light and claims that he isn't responsible this time. Indeed, he was working on a machine to fix the virus when eight robots stole the pieces of the machine ... and of course, it is up to Mega Man and his brother Proto Man to get the pieces back. Along the way, they'll have to battle a group of eight robot masters: Blade Man, Chill Man, Commando Man, Nitro Man, Pump Man, Sheep Man, Solar Man and Strike Man. On top of that, they'll have to discover the source of the mysterious Roboenza virus, although Mega Man fans probably won't have a hard time figuring out that mystery. It's classic 8-bit silliness at its finest, and there are no pretensions of deep or meaningful plots, just a blue robot and his desire to fight for everlasting peace.
If you've ever played a Mega Man game, you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect, as MM10 doesn't deviate much from the formula. You begin the game by picking one of eight Robot Masters from a screen, and you travel through their individual levels to defeat them. Once all eight are defeated, you get to fight the mysterious final boss, whose true identity should be a secret to nobody. The platforming and game mechanics are almost unchanged from the previous games in the franchise, and there are really no new twists or turns to be found in this game. Mega Man still lacks his charge buster and slide move and is almost identical to his MM9 version. Perhaps the biggest change is that players can choose to play as Mega Man's brother, Proto Man.
By and large, Proto Man is almost identical to the downloadable bonus version of himself available in MM9, but he's actually available from the outset of this title. Proto Man is fairly similar to some of the later versions of Mega Man. He can charge his buster and slide, as well as use his shield to block attacks. On the downside, he can't fire as rapidly and seems more prone to damage. You can't use him to place on leaderboards, but he provides an interesting extra way to play the game.
The level design in MM10 is fairly solid. None of the levels are particularly exceptional, but most are memorable and interesting. For example, Sheep Man's level takes place inside a computer where data is constantly being deleted or moved around, and this forms some interesting jumping puzzles. Commando Man's level is set in a raging sandstorm, where the gusts of wind and dust will blow Mega Man around and obscure his vision. Those frustrated by MM9 will be glad to hear that the levels are a lot more fair toward players. There are fewer traps that will doom players the first time they run into them, although they're not completely exorcised from the game.
One particularly neat feature is that there are often multiple paths through the levels, so if you miss a jump or choose a certain direction, you may find easier or harder ways through the game. Some of these are rewards for completing tough jumping puzzles, while others are just a matter of the player's choice. There are also a lot of neat hidden bonus items if you're willing to take the time to investigate a bit, assuring that you'll have a plentiful supply of power-ups, should the need arise.
As per Mega Man tradition, you receive a new weapon each time you defeat a foe, as well as the Rush Jet and Rush Coil items. Compared to the weapons in MM9, the new powers you earn from defeating the Robot Masters in MM10 are a bit less impressive. There are no weapons as flat-out powerful as the Jewel Satellite or Black Hole Bomb, and indeed, most of the weapons are situational. The Rebound Striker, for example, can be aimed upward or downward and can bounce off walls to do extra damage. Triple Blade shoots knives in three directions, either upward or downward, depending on whether or not you're jumping. The Chill Spike will freeze enemies it hits or, if it misses, it'll create a deadly patch of icicles. Perhaps the most fun of the lot, the Commando Bomb, is a guided missile that can change direction twice in mid-air. Unlike MM9, where each weapon was almost uniquely powerful and interesting, the MM10 weapons tend to feel a bit lacking. They're still fun to use, and finding the proper place to use each weapon is a challenge on its own, but overall, they're not quite as fun as the weapons in the previous title. A lot of them are fairly straightforward attacks with one or two gimmicks, and they aren't as fun as the Hornet Chaser or Concrete Shot.
Compared to its predecessor, Mega Man 10 is an easier game, even on the default Normal mode. Your weapons are less powerful than their counterparts in MM9, but that is perhaps the only way Mega Man has been weakened. The stages are laid out in a way that is significantly more forgiving toward mistakes. There are fewer instant-death traps like spikes, so it's more difficult to get killed. Pits are still plentiful, but the return of the Beat Bird power-up from older Mega Man titles makes them far less dangerous. There are also multiple paths through some levels, which often let you avoid some of the most difficult segments. Health power-ups are a lot more common, and it's very easy to find E-Tanks or 1-Ups; the game seems to place them right where a player is likely to need them the most.
The sub-bosses have been significantly toned down in difficulty, and they are a lot less likely to be a barrier to victory compared to their MM9 brethren. The last levels you unlock after finishing all eight Robot Masters are also significantly easier than the MM9 versions, and they should be a lot less frustrating to those who are not hardcore Mega Man players. There are fewer moments where gamers are likely to curse the game for being cheap or unfair, and it's just a more relaxing experience. For those who can't survive the default Normal mode, there is also an Easy mode, which disables many traps and makes some enemies easier to fight, allowing almost any gamer to save the day.
However, MM10 being easier doesn't quite mean that it is "easy." It's still very possible to die in the game, and even skilled gamers are likely to lose a few lives during their first runthrough. On top of that, there are various ways to make the game more challenging. A special Hard mode is unlocked once you finish the game; it adds a bit of extra difficulty, including new traps and more dangerous enemies. You can also pay a small fee to remove Mega Man's helmet, which increases the damage he takes from enemies. On top of that, the special optional Challenges are still available in MM10 and include some ridiculous tests of skill. Perhaps the hardest is "Mr. Perfect," which requires you to finish the entire game without ever once taking damage. While these Challenges are mostly an optional fun bonus on the Wii iteration, 360 and PS3 gamers will have to complete them in order to earn Achievements and Trophies, respectively. In particular, the "Mr. Perfect" Achievement is certain to make Achievement completionists cry — and not in a good way.
Outside of the main story, there are a few interesting gameplay modes available. A future DLC will also allow players to play as Dr. Wily's evil robot, Bass, who can shoot in multiple directions with his regular buster. Players can also compete in a Time Attack mode to finish stages as quickly as possible. Their times can then be uploaded online to compete with MM10 players across the world. Future DLC will also add a series of special stages with new bosses and new dangers, although the contents of those stages are currently a mystery. One piece of DLC we can point out as a very interesting selling point is Endless mode. This feature was also available in MM9, and it is a series of randomly chosen screens that challenge players to survive against constantly changing odds for as long as they can. Most of these modes are still unreleased DLC, but unless they've changed substantially from the similar modes in MM9, they should add a fair amount of value to the game.
One particularly cool feature is the new Challenge mode. As mentioned above, you can complete Challenges while playing the game, but there are a completely different secondary set of challenges that you access from the main menu. These challenges will put you into pre-defined challenge rooms and give you a specific task to complete. You may have to kill enemies, get through a tough jumping puzzle, or learn how to use a specific special weapon. Many of these challenges serve as tutorials for the game and teach basic game mechanics to players. Some are a bit more difficult, however, and include defeating some of the Robot Masters or minibosses. Some challenges also have multiple objectives. You may be asked to beat Sheep Man, which is a simple task, but you'll only earn a silver medal for doing so. In order to completely finish the challenge, you have to defeat him without taking a single hit. These challenges are mostly optional but serve as a great way for newcomers to the franchise to learn the ropes or for hardcore Mega Man fans to polish their skills.
Visually, MM10 is basically identical to its predecessor. It is still using the 8-bit art style, although I noticed that it tended to mimic different games than MM9 did. The Mettools, for example, now scurry along on little feet, as opposed to peering out from under their hats. For the most part, there isn't really anything new here. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is particularly unusual. It's a very different set of music from MM9 and uses the 8-bit chiptune soundtrack in an unusual way. Some of the tracks are quite good, but there are a few that fall rather flat, and the overall soundtrack lacks a certain punch, even though there are a few standout tunes.
Mega Man 10 is a solid follow-up to Mega Man 9. It lacks a bit of the charm of its predecessor, but it still remains a solid and well put-together Mega Man game. The level design is good and less likely to frustrate players, and there are a number of modifications to make it a game that's easier to play and enjoy. The Challenge rooms also serve as a great tutorial for newcomers to the franchise, and the Easy mode allows young gamers to play through without frustration. The weapons and enemies are not quite as memorable and exciting as in MM9, but they have their charm. The addition of an extra playable character isn't that different from Mega Man 9's DLC, but it gives the game a little extra replay value. MM10 is a game built to be played multiple times, and Capcom has done a good job of assuring that players will want to play the game over and over, including Time Attacks and future DLC. By and large, Mega Man 10 is just another Mega Man game. It doesn't do anything particularly innovative or new, but it's good, simple fun. If you've ever enjoyed a Mega Man game, you'll most likely enjoy this one, but if you haven't, Mega Man 10 won't do anything to change your mind.
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