Expectations: BZ and I’s thoughts on what we expect from 10. We’ve both managed to avoid all spoilers and opinions of the game all month so we’re going into this as fresh as can be.
Based on what little we’ve heard we expect this won’t be as good as 9. It should use the same tight engine that 9 uses so even if the level design and weapons aren’t as good we do expect a fun experience. Graphically, we don’t think it’s going to over abuse the same color pallet the way 6 did and that seeing it was created by IntiCreates each stage should have the same graphically unique identity like 9’s did. There should be some new and interesting gimmicks and ideas going on here but perhaps not as many or as fresh as 9’s. We are a little skeptical of the game allowing both Mega Man and Proto Man as playable characters from the start.Will the stages be designed well for both. Part of what made 9 amazing was that it stripped back the excess from 20 years of Mega Man. Adding Proto Man back in is adding some excess back into the design. Is this the beginning of the trend all over again? Basically, we’re expecting a good, even great experience, and one of the best games of the series but… still not as good as nine.
BZ: As I write this, Loki is asleep; being a feisty Californian, I’m wide awake and ready for action. With that in mind, and with a promise made to not touch the remainder of Mega Man 10 until morning, I’ve decided to update the blog in his sleep-induced absence.
Thus far, Mega Man 10 is an exercise in disappointment. We’ve just finished the Robot Masters, and it’s too early to judge the game as a whole, but a quick check of the number of interesting level design gimmicks alone places this at somewhere just over 5, while Mega Man 9 sometimes had that many in an entire stage.
Entire levels of Mega Man 10 pass without incident. Blade Man’s level has nothing intriguing save for a mine cart requiring you to jump on both sides to progress, and Chill Man’s level has nothing more exciting than a set of blocks that shatter underfoot. Commando Man’s stage has impressed me with its sandstorms, and Sheep Man’s stage has a fun set of disappearing Tetris blocks, but even these stages have only their solitary gimmicks. They’re certainly not bad, but coming off the heels of 9, which often crammed as many as 5 or more mind-blowing innovations into a single stage, this feels rote and boring by comparison. It’s every bit as guilty of mindless imitation as people accuse the latter NES games of being, and it’s a major disappointment that it contains roughly the same amount of creativity in eight stages as Mega Man 9 consistently packed into one. While 9 felt positively bursting at the seams with new ideas, 10 feels strained and parched for them. The few impressions I had read prepared me for a game that didn’t live up to 9, but they had also downplayed how vast the difference was. If 9 is the pinnacle of the series, 10 so far feels at best like a solid contender for middle ground.
Update 2 PM Sunday:
BZ: Were now on our second playthrough of the game (using Proto Man and Easy Mode).
Loki: Finishing the Wily levels we both feel they redeem a lot of the game. They take concepts that were introduced in the RM levels and expand on them. Like Sword Man’s mine carts underwater and more interesting (and dangerous) uses of Chill Man’s blocks. Plus Wily 1 bosses are THE BEST. In fact, I like all the Wily bosses. CRAB ROBOT! And the twist after beating Wily’s machine is great too. Awesome last boss, both in concept and that you have the low gravity high jump.
BZ: Playing through easy mode I’m appreciating some details I missed before, like the way Nitro Man’s wheels let you climb walls. In terms of quality this isn’t anywhere as good as 9 but I think it’s better than 4, 5, and 6. The great play control from 9 returning alone cements that.
Loki: Yeah, but this game doesn’t have the PURE fun factor that 9 did. That said, the Wily levels are some of the best in the series.
BZ: Too bad the branching paths don’t play out all that interestingly. The only one where the path seems to make a difference is Pump Man’s stage where the underwater path is completely different from the dry path.
Loki: Pump Man’s stage is one of my favorite Mega Man stages ever. The aesthetic design is beautiful and fits the concept of the stage to a T. It feels more like a “real place” than any other MM level. Plus, I love the idea of Mega Man running around in sewage. There are some other great stages. Nitro Man’s comes to mind. Too bad there are some stinkers. Strike Man’s might be one of the most boring in MM history. That it’s really difficult too doesn’t help.
It’s also disappointing that the weapons are generally less useful than 9. There are some neat ones though, which BZ will elaborate on below:
BZ: The Wheel Cutter seems useless at first; it simply fires in a downward arc and travels along the ground (and occasionally the walls, but never to much effect). We didn’t realize until our second playthrough that holding the fire button causes you to hold it in front of you like melee weapon (you got your Gears of War in our Mega Man). Additionally, if you do this in front of a wall, you physically travel up the wall while attached to the side of the wheel. It’s a clever easter egg that has already come in handy several times in the Wily levels and will certainly be instrumental in speedruns.
The Water Shield acts like a cross between Power Stone and every other shield weapon in the series. It initially surrounds you with several rotating water droplets, which will shield you from enemy attacks but individually dissipate on contact. At any time, you can press the fire button to throw them off of you in a spiraling arc. It’s useful in its own right and an inventive take on an old series standby, but it’s disappointing to see how much less useful it is than the Jewel Satellite from Mega Man 9.
Commando Bomb, shockingly pilfered from Commando Man, has its own set of unique properties. What begins as a simple straight-shooting missile shortly reveals itself to be remote-controllable with the d-pad; furthermore, it emits shochwaves on impact that do considerably more damage than the projectile itself, making for some unique situations where you’re actually trying to pilot it away from your target.
We started discussing the level design earlier, but I’d like to tackle it in more depth now. As I discussed earlier, the game is nowhere near as consistent as 9; environmental gimmicks are much fewer and further between. Counting the Wily levels, there are probably less than a dozen genuinely creative ideas at play here, which evens out to be about half of what 9 had.
With that said, the game still has more going on than many of the earlier games in the series, and the Wily levels add a few brutal and original twists that redeem the game as a whole. Additionally, Pump Man’s stage which I had initially written off as being an atmospheric but empty level, revealed itself to be hiding its best and most inventive design in its secondary route on our second playthrough.
The branching paths thing has gotten a lot of hype, so I’d like to talk a little about that. By and large, it’s not all it was cracked up to be: it only appears in a few levels, and it usually doesn’t offer you much variation for your choice. Commando Man’s level, for example, presents you with the option of entering an underground base or bypassing the interior entirely to run across the roof. Unfirtunately, the two routes play almost identically, with the interior of the base bafflingly still having the screen-obscuring sandstorms that plague you on top. It’s be nice to see instances like this having a larger effect on gameplay rather than being so arbitrary.
With that said, the aforementioned Pump Man’s level uses this to fantastic effect, letting you explore the sewer underwater or trudge along its drier top half. While the upper portion has you battling slimy mets and Metroid-esque Zebetite structures, the bottom half immerses you in an underwater labyrinth of giant fans and chaotic bouncing bubbles. In this single instance, the game makes good on its concept, and the level ends up being one of the best and most replayable in the game for it.
It also bears mention that the endgame is a gripping and inventive finale in its own right. Several of the Wily bosses are extremely fun battles, and there’s a welcome bit of nostalgia thrown in that had us grinning from ear to ear. Even the Wily tanks, often my least favorite part of the series, are a blast to play against. This segment of the game also throws in a clever twist that had Loki and I cackling with (totally hetero) delight.
So where does Mega Man 10 fit in with the series at large? As we’ve no doubt driven into the ground by this point, 9 is better, and significantly so. With that said, however, 10 is still an excellent game that ranks as one of the better entries in the series, even if it’s not as consistent or as jam-packed with ideas as its immediate predecessor. It has more going on than almost any other pre-Mega Man 9 entry, and it gets vastly better in its latter half.
Loki: Hard Mode is amazingly hard but also amazingly fun. It takes a lot of the concepts and pushes them in the way we wanted to them to have been in normal. It’s doing a lot to endear the game to us. We’ve been playing for two hours now and have only beaten Sheep Man. It’s great. Too bad we won’t be able to make much more progress before BZ has to fly back to California. So, on that note, BZ, any final thoughts?
BZ: I didn’t like 10 much at first but the more I play the more I’m liking it. The Wily levels and Hard Mode have done a lot to endear the game to me. Hard More is a glorious slaughter. I think 10 might be the second best game in the series.
Loki: I think I agree. I have a lot of affection for 2, 3, and 6. But if I’m honest with myself I’ve got to admit that a fair amount of that affection is nostalgia. They’re good games but objectively comparing their level and weapon designs, graphics, and “fun factor” it’s clear that 1o is the better game.
Plus, that Pump Man stage. That shit is so good.