I played through Mega Man 7 earlier this week and was not impressed. The large sprites do a lot to ruin the “Mega Man” feel, the game is slow and sluggish, the music is very very different than all the previous games. There are some interesting ideas in some of the levels and the game is very pretty at parts but over all 7 is the least Mega Man like Mega Man.
Luckily, a mysterious foreigner created a de-make version of the game with 8-bit sprites and music. Does this “fix” the game? BZ and I intend to find out.
The first immediate difference is that the game lets you pick from all eight robot masters rather than only 4 (7 was the first game to restrict your choices to 4 to start out). Neither BZ or I are familiar enough with the masters or their weaknesses to really experiment with different orders, so we’re still going to follow the normal suggested order.
The graphics are nice and well composed. The colors still have that green/orange/purple aesthetic (at least in Cloud Man’s stage) but they’re more muted and complimentary. The enemy sprites still feel very large and out of place to me. I don’t know if the creator was matching the baddie’s sizes to Mega Man’s relative size or if he was maintaing the proportions to the original game. Either way, their size and detail still say 16-bit to me while Mega Man and the background all scream “8-bit!”
BZ likes that in Cloud Man’s stage it does fell like you’re making your way across the rooftops to the bosses’ fortress. Upon reaching the end: “I like these clouds. They look like a sunset. Too bad it’s still that purple though.” He says the boss fight and level design were pretty easy all around but the control scheme is horrible. He’s playing with his arms crossed. His left hand on the arrow buttons and his right hand on Z and X.
Junk Man, more green and creamsicle orange. This is a disturbing trend that lasts through 8 and wasn’t ended until 9. Thank god.
It’s really cool how much they retained in the 8-bit style. Like the Star Wars reference with the junk monster in Junk Man’s stage. It’s neat that the few little cool things that made 7 bearable are still present.
I do have to say the 8-bit remixes of the songs are great. I can’t wait to hear what 7’s genuinely (Burst Man’s and Shade Man’s) themes sound like.
BZ: I like how the weapons have specific uses in the levels. Like Cloud Man’s thunder can be used to turn on power in Junk Man’s stage.
Loki: It feels very Mega Man X-ish. I guess that makes sense seeing as this game was made right after that one.
I’m glad they replaced the menu with the one from 4, 5, 6. 7’s menu was one of the worst in the series.
BZ: Junk Man destroyed me. I hate playing on a keyboard. I feel like the game has extremely simple level design so far, but I keep dying on simple areas. Loki is now up to bat. He plays with his right hand on the arrows and his left hand on the Z key like the loser he is.
The demake is an interesting experiment so far. We discuss the possibility of not finishing it if the control scheme becomes too bothersome. Also, the game only runs at a DS-ish size without bogging down my shitty work laptop too much, so it’s hard for us to play it as a team. I’m forced to sit much closer to Loki than I’d like, and it’s very apparent he hasn’t showered recently. His wife is nothing if not a trooper.
I make a crack about Junk Man’s name. Is he the brother of Hard Man? If you combined the two, would it be Hard Junk Man? What if you crossed that with Top Man? Would their cousin Soft Junk Man be more of a Bottom Man? What about the Junk Shield? Is it a cup?
Burst Man has another coherant looking theme, and the upbeat music perfectly matches the soapy atmosphere (Loki tells me that Burst Man was originally to be called Soap Man, which makes much more sense). The level features the good ol’ timed grenade blocks that 6 introduced to much more thematically correct effect, and the level has the first instance of Mega Man water that makes you float. It’s used to great effect in a segment where the water carries you upwards through the level, although the gimmick isn’t taken far enough: it’s over before they do anything truly interesting with it.
Loki dies several times in succession on Burst Man; he shoots bubbles that carry Mega Man rapidly towards the spiked ceiling and must be blasted several times from the inside to escape. Loki clearly hates it, but I think it’s an interesting dynamic that forces you to concentrate your fire on more than just the boss. I’m also pleased to see the return of boss arenas with environmental elements to them beyond simple being empty square rooms: the series largely abandoned this starting with 4, but here, Burst Man’s arena has the spiked ceiling and Cloud Man’s arena has pits to either side, each of which add another layer of complexity to the battles.
Freeze Man’s stage is a visual stunner. The dreaded purple returns, but mixed with icy blues in an intentionally frozen stage, it works much better. The game looks fantastic even here in its 8-bit form; little details like the fossils in the rocks and the crystalline windows in the cave wall are a joy to look at. The music is excellent as well, having a suitable icy quality and an infectious melody.
There’s an interesting enemy here which drops icicles at you. The icicles must then be used as platforms to bypass spike pits. The game hasn’t been impressing me overly much with its gameplay so far, but this is a nice if subtle idea.
Loki: With Freeze Man down it’s BZ turn to feel Burst Man pain. He may claim that it’s a neat boss fight but we’ll see what he has to say after he’s suffered though twenty cheap deaths.
Even with the Freeze Cracker BZ still dies all the times on Burst Man. He’s not the type of boss that you can spam energy tanks on. If you get caught in a bubble it most likely certain death. I hated him in the real 7 and I hate him here.
Running back through the level BZ missed a Rush Jet opportunity because he didn’t wait for Rush to finish his transformation into a jet before he jumped on him. This is another downfall 7’s 16-bit philosophy. Rush’s animation takes a beat longer which throws off the flow of the gameplay.
BZ likes the section of the level where Mega Man must navigate rising and falling water through sets of spikes. Why does Mega Man float only in this water, BZ wonders. The answer, of course, is that the water is sudsy and full of soap.
Upon reaching Burst Man again BZ decides to just fire mega buster shots as fast as he can. It works pretty well for the most part. The problem is that the stopping shooting even for a moment results in death. 5 deaths later BZ hits the nail on the head: “This fight would be fair if Freeze Cracker popped the bubbles in one hit.” I agree. It would make sense if Burst Man’s weakness took the unfair element out of the fight. Alas, Freeze Cracker takes just as much hits to pop a bubble. On the 6th try BZ does it. Too bad his hand has cramped up from shooting so much.
Onto Slash Man. We both agree that “Slash” is a hard concept to build a level around and that the “robotic Jurassic Park” they went with is probably better solution than most. The level looks great, especially with the 8-bit graphics. There’s foliage in the foreground that obscures the action and looks real pretty.
BZ: I feel even in this de-make there’s an emphasis on big sprites over interesting gameplay.
Loki: Actually, I’m finding this de-make doesn’t play significantly different than the real version. =\ BZ takes down Slash Man with no trouble.
I send him back to Cloud Man’s stage and tell him about the blizzard trick (where you use Freeze Cracker on a weather robot cause it to snow). He is really impressed.
BZ: I love how it changes the gimmick of the invisible platforms and lets you see the secret path.
Loki: Next up, Junk Man’s secret. Which… also requires Freeze Cracker. With two Robot Masters weak to it and all these secrets reliant on it the developers must have really loved it. Which is weird, because there’s been no share of ice weapons in the past. Rush Adaptor get! And we’re onto Spring Man’s stage. This is my favorite stage in the game. Sure the aesthetic theme is stupid as hell (Spring Man?!?!?!) but bouncing around through corridors of springs is just too much fun.
BZ: Too bad this is the ugliest level in the game. Plus it’s the start of the whole clown, magic trend. I’d rather they just recycle elemental themes, ironically.
Loki: Shade Man’s stage is the standout in the game. It feels like a showcase for 16-bit Mega Man. The level starts with the moon coming out from behind some clouds, there’s zombies popping out of the ground, different types of corridors in the castle, multiple paths depending of how you kill the mid-boss, enemies who hid in the background. It all feels like Capcom was saying “This is what 16-bit Mega Man can do.” Too bad the rest of the game doesn’t live up to the promise.
BZ: Shade Man’s theme really suffers in this remake though.
Loki: Yeah, it’s one of the few songs that sounds worse. We should have gone with the Ghost ‘n Goblins song.
Onto Turbo Man. I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate this stage. What with the tires that knock you into spike pits and the hidden drop that loops you back to the begining. The less said about it the better.
BZ: It’s not that bad. *dies on an instant death fire column*
Loki: And then you drop out of a building onto a moving truck? How does that work?
BZ: I think it’s okay. This level looks good but is really boring.
Loki: Onto Wily 1. I have never beaten this level. I probably played twenty times last week. The platforms that drop you off when they reach certain sections of their tracks combined with the fact that when you stand on them the lights go out and you can see the parts of the track you need to be wary of make for a very unfair level.
BZ: I think the lights turning off is a neat trick. It forces you to stay in the air as much as possible.
Loki: But obscuring the parts you need to see in the paths or you die? Unfair. Combined with upgraded Guts Man as a boss who has an attack that’s impossible to dodge makes for a level I just can’t be bothered to finish. After a good half hour of grind for e-tanks BZ kills Big Claw Guts Man. We’re in unfamiliar territory now.
BZ: I’ve gotten this far. I think there’s… turtles?
I don’t like these Bass mini-boss battles. It’s unfair you have these and then a real boss battle. They’re a major resource drain. Plus, he’s cheap. His buster fist too ambiguous to dodge. Sometimes it seeks you out, sometimes it goes across the room, sometimes it just flies right in front of him. It behaves too randomly to avoid it. *gets hit by fist; explodes* NOOOO!!!!
Loki: I like the concept and design of this turtle boss. And he looks really good in the demake.
BZ: I’d like him a lot more if I had more lives left. I do NOT want to fight Bass again. I guess I might as well use the last e-tank.
Loki: BZ spams the fire button and explodes the turtle. He raises his claw-like hands to the sky in triumph. He may have beaten the level but he’ll never tie his shoes again.
BZ: Wily 3. I really like the music in this stage. It’s not Wily music at all. It’s F-Zero music. This level has a lot of neat gimmicks: invisible platforms from Cloud Man’s stage are back, there are multiple paths, bomb platforms that move, old mini-bosses, disappearing block gauntlet… *dies*
BZ: Loki takes over to give my cramping hands a rest. We’re now at the boss gauntlet, which has fantastic music but suffers from… well, from forcing you to fight Mega Man 7’s shitty bosses again. Burst Man is going to be a huge pain.
Seconds after I type this, Loki kills him. Maybe the Freeze Cracker is more than it’s… cracked… up to be?
Shade Man is a fair bit tougher in the demake. He grabs you whether or not you attack him in the same swoop, making the battle much more frustrating than it was intended to be.
I’m looking forward to finishing 7 and moving on to 9. Even in the demake, 7 feels like a tedious and uninspired game. It has lots of little touches that give it a level of appeal and add interest to the game, but I’d be very hard pressed to say I’ve been enjoying this experience. I can’t tell if it’s the game itself or just the shitty keyboard controls; Loki and I discuss this for a minute, and neither of us can put or finger on it. There are a few well-designed level gimmicks; there are a few clever boss battles. The music is excellent, and the visuals ooze character and are among the best in the NES series (yes, we’re considering the demake part of that). If nothing else, I’d consider replaying this demake with a proper controller down the line to compare it more fairly against its peers. In the meantime, I can’t wait for it to end.
Shortly after I type this, Loki dies in the last phases of the boss gauntlet and we get a Game Over. We decide that dinner (lunch?) is more important than finishing 7, and we close the program and call it a day. We’ve seen nearly all there is to offer, and we’re hard-pressed to feel bad about our decision not to finish it. In an hour or two, we’ll return with full bellies and proper controllers to tackle my personal favorite entry in the series.