Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mega Man 3, or "Top Spin is the worst boss weapon. Ever."

I haven't managed to finish writing the third part of my Ultima retrospective. I'm running low of synonyms for 'garbage.' So instead, dear reader, please indulge me this digression.

Once upon a time, Capcom made a game about a little blue robot who shot Tic-Tac-looking plasma bullets at other, oddly themed robots. He'd wander long, linear levels and eventually fight stronger robots and steal their weapons after crushing them beneath his cerulean boot. He'd then assault the main antagonist's fortress and rarely make it through because most people would eventually give up because without a password system and with limited lives and continues, that sucker was hard. But the game was good.

Then Capcom released a sequel. And I'd dare say it was as tough as the first, all be it in different ways. But Capcom heard the anguished cries af the frustrated gamers and added a password system. No longer would you have to finish the game in one sitting. And the game was good.

Where am I going with this? Oh, right. Mega Man 3. Some people might say this is where the series started to slide... Bad pun, sorry. What I mean is that with the addition of Rush and sliding and the fact the game was, to some degree, easier than Mega Man 2 might mean that the series was starting to go down hill. And to some degree, I suppose it did. Capcom was adding layers of complexity onto the basic framework of the first two games. But to those nay-sayers, I say this. Mega Man 3 is my favorite game in the classic series.

For the benefit of the uninitiated to the Mega Man series, here's the deal. As I described earlier, the setup is rather formulaic. You choose your stage and Mega Man goes out and hunts down eight (Six in MM1) rogue robots generally under the control of the evil Dr. Wily and defeats them. He then faces off with Dr. Wily himself in his various Skull-themed castles. Mega Man defeats Wily, Wily invariably escapes (Well, except for MM6. But they worked around that in 7,) setting up Capcom to be able to churn out sequel after sequel after sequel. To accomplish his goal, Mega Man is armed with only his trusty arm cannon. Oh, and the weapons he gains upon defeating the enemy robot masters. And sometimes he gets special extra equipment which is mostly replaced by Rush adapters from MM3 on. MM3 marks the beginning of the series attempt to throw a bit of variety into the endgame. But we'll get to that in a moment.

At the start of Mega Man 3, Dr. Wily has seemingly sworn off evil and teamed up with Mega Man's ever-gullible creator, Dr. Light, to build Gamma, and gigantic peace-keeping robot of death and destruction. To do so, Mega Man is sent out to retrieve eight crystals (That are never shown in-game) from eight mining area guarded by eight robot masters that in no way work for Dr. Wily. To help him, Dr. Light has given the blue bomber a transforming robotic dog called Rush and given him the legendary power of being able to slide. Don't scoff at the slide. It's as close as we're getting to the ability to duck until mid way through the Mega Man X series.

So off Mega Man goes to fight the likes of Needle Man, Hard man, Shadow Man and... Top Man? Yeah, I think MM3 is when they started running out of good themes for robot masters and just started attaching random nouns to the word 'Man' and hoped for the best.

You'll also encounter a mysterious robot with a trademark whistle named Break Man. Little does Speed Racer Mega Man know that Racer X Break Man is really his long lost brother. Yes. Really. Hopefully I'm not spoiling too much (Oh, and Dr. Wily is behind everything and will get away at the end of this game,) but Break Man is really a robot called Proto Man, the prototype robot created by Light and Wily prior to Mega Man. One day, he just sort of wandered off from the lab. Wily eventually found him and, apparently not knowing how obviously evil Wily was, got the robot to work for him in slowing down Megs. He donned a mask and showed up in the various levels to briefly fight his little blue brother before teleporting away.

Anyway, eight boss kills later, Mega Man returns to Dr. Light's to find out that, shock of shocks, Wily took the crystals and absconded with Gamma. Before Megs can head for the latest Skull Castle, (Where does Wily find the money to build so many of these when they keep getting blown up each game?) Mega Man has to go face off with eight Doc Robots who have taken over four of the previously cleared stages. The Doc Robots each emulate one of the MM2 robot masters. Unfortunately, you don't get to steal all their powers again. Rather, you have to use all your fancy new weapons.

The levels you revisit have all seen better days. The maps have been partially destroyed and made far more difficult to transverse. It adds a bit of variety and lets you visit completely new levels that have familiar elements to them.

With the Doc Robots disposed off, one thing stands between you and Dr. Wily. Break Man. You face off with your older brother one final time in his own level area before he teleports off. Finally, the way is open to Wily's castle. In inside, you'll face several levels, each controlled by customary end bosses including a machine that launches exploding turtles at Megs, several copies of Mega Man and the eight robot masters from MM3. After destroying Wily's latest 'Wily Machine,' he'll boot up Gamma and fight you on board the incomplete giant robot. With Gamma dispatched, the fortress will begin to collapse (Stupid load bearing bosses) and blocks will fall, seemingly killing Wily while Proto Man will pop in and rescue the blue bomber. Cue the ending sequence in which we learn who Break Man really was and one of the coolest closing themes of all time.

Right, enough plot. Let's talk robot masters and weapons. After all, that's why we play Mega Man, isn't it? To be able to blow up other robots with stolen weapons of mass destruction.
  • Snake Man: He's a large walking snake... man. Yeah. The weapon you pick up off him is the Search Snakes. They're green and run along the floor and walls kind of like Bubble Man's Bubble Lead. Only they're snakes.
  • Gemini Man: You face twin robots (Get it? Gemini? Twins?) who bounce around the room shooting at you. You pick up the Gemini Beam off their smoldering corpses. It is a laser that ricochets off walls until it dissipates or hits something.
  • Shadow Man: He's a ninja, so he's all stealthy. His level has a tendency to shut off the light every so often. Once dead, he'll give you his Shadow Blade - a boomerang shuriken that can be shot up and diagonally. It's kind of like the Metal Blade from MM2, but less useful.
  • Hard Man: He gives you his Hard Knuckle - a rocket-powered fist you shoot at the enemy. You may insert your own joke involving the words 'hard' and 'fist' here if you so desire.
  • Needle Man: He's an oddly-shaped blue guy with a spring-loaded spikes on his head and a big red nose who shoots needles at you. You get his Needle Cannon upon his death. Honestly, it's just the arm cannon only with pointed projectiles instead of Tic-Tac shaped ones. Use it if you feel like a bit of variety or something.
  • Magnet Man: You'd think making a complex electronic robot out of a bunch of giant magnets might not be the smartest idea, given the nature of electro-magnetic pulses. But hey, he's a fairly effective robot master all told. His weapon is the Magnet Missile, which is just that. A giant exploding magnet who shoot at enemies. The only real interesting thing it will do is that it shoots up or down depending on where the enemy is.
  • Spark Man: Elec Man's 'special' brother. He's a walking spark plug with prongs for hands. You get his Spark Shot which is essentially little yellow sparks you fire at your enemy. Not all that intimidating.
  • Top Man: Top Man... What can I say about Top Man? He is the laughing stock of robot masters. Well, until you hit Plant Man. His level is filled with giant tops and things that fire giant tops. And what does he do against you? He shoots a bunch of tops at you before spinning at you on the ground. But his boss weapon... Now that, that is the disappointment. They could have given you a top shooter of some sort. But no. No, we get the Top Spin - the first master weapon that is as likely to kill you as it is to nick your enemy. Mega Man spins into his enemy. The problem is that it's horribly ineffective you'll usually end up taking collision damage. The only enemy in the game it's worth using on is Shadow Man who inexplicably is weak to the damn thing. I don't know. I guess ninjas have some sort of mortal fear of ballet or something.
So that's Mega Man 3 in a nutshell. It's a good game, to be certain. It's the point in the series where the game was becoming more complex, but hasn't hit the critical mass where it collapses under it's own weight. All in all, I've found that most Mega Man series games tend to peak after their third installment. X3 was the last one on the SNES and thus, the last one before the introduction of long cut scenes filled with horrible voice acting. Battle Network 3 always seemed to me to be the last EXE game they released before they ran out of ideas. Zero really hit a high point as far as things go when it hit 3. Fortunately, they ended the series after Zero 4 before things got too weighed down. I'd be curious whether they'll eventually release a third ZX game so we can see how that stacks up. There was no Legends 3 unless you count some of the side games. And I haven't played any of the Star Force games, so hell if I know how they go.

At any rate, you can get Mega Man 3 from a myriad of locations. There's the original NES release, the Sega Genesis remake, the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the PS2, Xbox and Game Cube and more recently on the Wii Virtual Console.

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