With lunch in our bellies and a six pack of Dr. Kentucky’s Real Beer Jubilee waiting in the fridge we leap into Mega Man 3. BZ really wants to explore what he calls 3’s “oppressive atmosphere.” There’s something about the game, he claims, that makes the game feel heavy in a way that the others don’t.
Starting with Magnet Man (which has by far the best music in the entire series) BZ points out the odd color scheme. The level starts with a grey sky with pink and purple clouds (extremely impressive on the NES). The game as a whole has a strange sense of visual design for a Mega Man game, and we’re going to try to put our fingers on exactly why this is.
BZ: There are enough Hard Man jokes out there and I initially didn’t feel the need to make another one. This changed when I noticed his gaping rear end in the illustration below:
And again when I acquired his weapon: a giant fist.
There’s a strangely oppressive atmosphere throughout: the game has a tendency to overuse the same shade of plum-purple, and the color schemes in most of the levels are more eccentric than most of the other games. Shadow Man has this black lava with red highlights, green and purple background, and gold foreground that never quite gels together into a coherent design. Loki mentions here that the music also does something strange here: the stage theme as a whole is this weird circus-y tune with a bridge that sounds like it belongs in an entirely different song. We turn to discussing the nature of the level’s theme: the boss, calld Shadow Man, is apparently some sort of ninja, while his stage is a lava factory featuring walking grenades and parachuting smiley faces. There’s a strange disconnect between the various elements at work here.
Top Man has a similarly strange theme. His stage is a greenhouse-looking area with flying bolts and giant hairball-coughing, flea-ridden cats.
Also, the Game Over theme (which we’re seeing now after running out of Top Spin) is the happiest Game Over music I’ve ever heard. It seriously sounds like something you’d hear blasting from the speakers on an ice cream truck.
Snake Man, however, has the most coherent theme yet, at least for the first half of the stage: the walls, ceilings, and (occasionally sentient) floors appear to be crafted from robotic snake carcasses. The second half of the level breaks from this for a quick foray into the sky, of all places, where you ride cloud-shaped platforms and battle giant cloud-shrouded bullets.
Gemini Man continues this. As the level of a robot master named after a constellation, the opening segment, placing you against a spacey outdoor background, makes sense for what it is. The second segment, placing you in an underwater maze of rainbow blocks and flying tadpoles, is a bit more suspect. It’s a very compelling design despite the dissonance, but it’s very different from the games that came before it.
Loki: Along with the toy-like but still very alien blocks and weird crystalline webbing in the background the level also has a mid-eastern theme that despite not fitting the theme at all still fits it like a glove.
Needle Man’s stage stands out because it’s the one level with nothing but primary colors. The bright green and orange cream-cyicle hues reminds us immediately of Monsteropolis of all places. Again what metallic panels and hanging nets have to do with needles is a mystery. At least there’s giant spikes and hedgehogs to give some relevance.
Ah Doc Robot stages. The first of the series’ faux fortress. Not only do these stages let you revisit old levels but old bosses too. It’s cool how they remix the old levels. Needle Man’s stage is now visited at night and the ground is all torn up (plus the giant mets in the background of the original stage come out of hiding), and background elements in Spark Man’s stage become platforms that you now have to traverse. Fighting the MM2 robot masters is a challenge as they are not only stronger than they were in two but none of your new weapons are intrinsically useful against them. It’s fun to apply the new weapons to the old master but the novelty wears out quickly when dying to one sends you back to the beginning of the level rather than right before the boss’s room (at least for the first of two bosses in the level).
Epiloge: Mega Man learns he has a brother and puts an end to the peace keeping robot. May world peace never come. Fight Mega Man! Fight Proto Man! For everlasting peace!
Our consensus: Best ever?