Since the release of the original Mega Man game back on the NES in 1987, Capcom have released numerous titles in the franchise, spanning numerous consoles and handhelds. In 2008, Capcom took the series back to its original roots with Mega Man 9, a throwback to the old "classic" NES style Mega Man titles. While overall the game was just as good as the originals, there were some nagging issues which were readily visible for anyone who played the originals back in the day. Two years later, Capcom is giving their second try at releasing another throwback with Mega Man 10. Does it improve on its predecessor, or is this Mega Man 9 with a new coat of paint?
For those who have not played the original Mega Man games on the NES, each game's story revolves around Mega Man and two doctors: Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. In each game, Dr. Wily either turns against Dr. Light or comes up with some plan to have the robots do his bidding. These robots are thrown into battle against Mega Man, but each time Mega Man makes it to Wily's fortress and defeats him. And even though Wily loses each time, he carries on trying. In Mega Man 10, a robotic virus known as Robenza is wreaking havoc, turning good robots bad, and attacking the city. While Dr. Wily at the outset doesn't appear to be behind it, those who have played the latter games on the NES should have a good idea of what is going on.
At its core, Mega Man 10 is a game made for the hardcore old-school Mega Man fans through-and-through. In an era where video games are expected to improve technologically and graphically each iteration, Mega Man 10 looks and sounds just like the originals, complete with perfect emulation of the sprite tearing and sound canceling that the NES hardware was known for in the Mega Man games. Mega Man is still equipped with his arm cannon and the player still gets to choose from eight Robots Masters to fight against, each having their own weakness to another Robot Master's weapon. Exploiting each bosses' weakness and finding the most ideal route through the game is part of what makes the classic Mega Man titles so enjoyable, since players can make the game as easy or as hard as they want, depending on which boss they pick first. None of the weapons are too overpowered like Mega Man 2's Metal Blade, but there are a few weapons such as the Thunder Wool which are near useless outside of specific bosses. Following these eight stages is a multi-level dungeon, featuring a gauntlet of the hardest parts of the previous stages complete with a rematch against all the bosses back-to-back. For those who have played the previous games in the series, Capcom has also included some older bosses that players are sure to recognize.
Fans who have played the previous games know that the classic Mega Man games at times can be ruthlessly hard, even on Normal mode. However, Mega Man 9 was known for having a number of cheap deaths which made some stages extremely frustrating because it was a gamble whether players would make it through without dying. Mega Man 10 fixes this, replacing annoying deaths with jumps and obstacles that may seem cheap, but in reality can be easily avoided if players take their time and analyze the choices available to them. There are some people, however, who were introduced to the series just recently and may feel that the game is "too hard" for them. For those people, Capcom has included an "Easy" mode, which replaces some of the spikes and pits with platforms to catch the player, but not all of them. For new players, or even old-schoolers who don't have as much time as they used to be able to devote to a Mega Man title, this mode strikes a nice balance between being moderately difficult without being mind numbingly easy. And for fans who can't just get enough punishment, a "Hard" mode is available as well, which in contrast to Mega Man 9, actually improves on the AI of the enemies and bosses, giving them new attacks and strategies to keep experienced players on their toes.
In this day and age, however, just the above alone would only make for a rehash of the previous titles without any substance. Like the previous title, Mega Man 10 includes plenty of extras to last the player outside the main part of the game. Time Attack mode makes its return, allowing skilled players to run through a stage with all of the weapons in an attempt to get through with the fastest time possible. A new addition to Mega Man 10 is the ability to upload a video of your run in addition to the time, allowing less-skilled players to learn the tips and tricks of the pros as well as show more advanced players some tricks they might not have otherwise thought of.
Mega Man 10 also improves on the "Challenges" mode present in its predecessor, this time linking more directly to the game itself. Initially, players can take on challenges that act as a tutorial to the controls as well as the numerous traps present in the game. But once a player plays the actual game, more can be unlocked. For instance, when Sheep Man is reached on Normal Mode, a corresponding challenge is unlocked, giving players a gold medal if they can beat him without getting hit. There are corresponding challenges for both the Easy and Hard modes, giving players a reason to play through the game multiple times. This is one of the most welcome additions to the game, which greatly extends its replayability.
One of the key faults in Mega Man 9 wasn't its gameplay or art direction - it was the music. One could easily switch one stage's tune out for another and it wouldn't have made much difference. Mega Man 10 fixes that by including themes which feel at home in each stage. Pump Man's theme has a distinct underwater ambiance, while the techno feel of Sheep Man's stage perfectly complements the digital design of the stage's enemies and background, which uses math and computer symbols in a green-on-black display. Some of the music is a slight disappointment compared to previous battles, namely the Robot Master battles and a few minor boss themes, but overall the package is just as good as any of the best NES tunes from back in the day.
For $10, Mega Man 10 more than pays for itself. This is true even for players who aren't accustomed to the game's sometimes brutal difficulty thanks to the inclusion of the Easy mode. The Robot Masters are wonderfully designed and the gameplay mechanics and stage design is as top-notch as any of the other games in the series. Long time fans will enjoy the changes made to the Hard mode as well as the various challenges that are available, some of which are brutally difficult. Constant improvements and advancements in video games are good thing, but sometimes going back to what worked pays off even more. In terms of gameplay and polish, Mega Man 10 is easily leagues above most of the games you will play this year. Even if you have never played a classic Mega Man game before, Mega Man 10 is definitely worth a look.