Mega Man 10 Review «

Mega Man 10 is hard. And when I say that, I mean “hard by Mega Man standards” kind of hard. It’s as though some insane Capcom mastermind played through all of the old Mega Man games — among them, some of the most difficult 2D platformers ever made — and thought to himself, “Man, this isn’t hardcore enough” before sitting down and mapping out the sadistic journey that is MM10.

Everything’s exactly as it’s ever been for the entirety of Mega Man’s 23-year existence: Eight robot masters sit in empty square rooms at the end of eight themed stages, waiting patiently for you to murder them and take their fancy weapons in order to exploit some other robot master’s weakness. After this, you discover that immortal series antagonist Dr. Wily was behind all the hardship (MM10’s plot revolves around an outbreak of the oh-so-cleverly named robo-virus Roboenza), and you proceed through a final grueling gauntlet of stages, kill a bunch of robot masters you already killed (this step’s got a couple of very cool twists in MM10), and take Wily down again. It’s comfort gaming at its purest… and I mean that in a good way.

Of course, Capcom’s ongoing bout of Retroenza (MM10 — like 2008’s Mega Man 9 — is as NESified as ever) definitely helps that along. The big difference here: Levels are livelier and more intricate. MM9’s relative multitude of boring black backgrounds are gone, replaced with colorful themes that do as much justice as possible to a collection of bosses that count dudes like Sheep Man (who uses electricity as his obligatory weapon and stage theme) and Strike Man (a robotic baseball) among them. It’s obvious that more care and consideration went into the stage designs this time through — even when you die for the 14th time because a robo-seahorse knocked you into a floor of insta-death spikes while you were negotiating a semi-timed underwater seesaw platform puzzle while carefully trying to avoid over-jumping into the ceiling spikes, the aesthetic alone will be enough to stay your controller-throwing hand.

And again, I repeat: This game is really goddamn hard. Yes, the aforementioned seesaw puzzle is a worst-case scenario (courtesy of the third Wily stage), but MM10 will feed you plenty of your teeth as you trial-and-error your way through the initial eight stages (ProTip: Start with Sheep Man; you’re welcome). Hellish jumps, enemies that exist purely to knock you into pits, disappearing platforms, death-spikes… MM10 pulls out all the classic Mega Man skill tests. It adds a few of its own, too, like timed sandstorms (screen-flooding torrents that push you forward or back — right into the waiting death-spikes) and a deadly freeway sequence (giant trucks barrel toward you, colliding for significant damage or potentially carrying you right into, you guessed it, walls of death-spikes if you jump on top expecting a quick ride). It’s evil, it’s punishing, and (most importantly) it’s fun.

Now, I’m the kind of person who often whines about difficult games and why they shouldn’t be so stupid hard. I don’t know whether to attribute my infatuation with Mega Man to irony or blind nostalgia, but I like the challenge inherent to MM10. Yes, sometimes I wish the difficulty curve skewed a bit lower, but the puzzles are pattern-recognition exercises at their finest — the same stuff that triggers my fondness for shoot-’em-ups, really — and kept me glued to the game far past the point that I’d typically tolerate. And yeah, MM10 includes a much-publicized Easy mode, which involves neutered enemies, punch-pulling bosses, safety platforms that aid in even the most mildly difficult jumps, and 1-UPs and global weapon/life-replenishing items galore. It’s basically “Baby’s First Mega Man” mode, which means it’s destined for rampant Internet mockery. But I don’t see much of a problem with having the option when you’re not in a hardcore mood. Still a shame that MM10 lacks any middle ground, but we’ve seen worse.

Speaking of, I’m not entirely sure, at this point, where I’d park MM10 in terms of relative classic-Mega-Man quality. It’s not quite up to the shining standards of Mega Man 2 and the extremely underrated Mega Man 5 (and I’m dead serious about that — go play it before you knock it), but it’s definitely nowhere near the bottom of the bin that Mega Man 4 and the non-NES installments so squarely define. Given my score, it’s obviously closer to the top; between this and MM9, it’s clear that Capcom’s cybernetic mascot’s still got some kick. I don’t know about you, but I could do with annual 8-bit meat-grinders from now until 20XX.


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