It’s difficult to find many games from the 1980s that feel as solid or hold up as well as the Mega Man series on the Nintendo Entertainment System. A lot of NES games have that distinct “cardboard” feel to them where everything feels flat and thrown together, but even in 2012 the Mega Man series is as playable as it was a quarter of a century ago. It’s constantly debated, but perhaps the peak of this classic collection of side-scrollers was the second instalment.
As well as being one of the greatest and celebrated games of all time, Mega Man 2 is also a shining example of what a sequel is supposed to do in gaming. Rather than take the formula of the last game and run it into the ground (like further sequels would do) Mega Man 2 expanded everything and took the reliable and cuddly kitten of the original and turned it into a massive two-headed fire breathing cheetah monster of a game.
The choice of six levels became eight levels, graphics were drastically improved giving the game much more detailed backgrounds and level design, an incredible and iconic opening cinematic was added to the title screen, and gameplay was polished significantly and the general control felt a lot tighter this time around. Perhaps the most important addition was the inclusion of a password system that the original game was lacking, meaning you had to beat the (very difficult) game all in one sitting. And as anyone who had one knows, the NES wasn’t the most reliable system ever created; the slight shockwaves of a controller hitting the ground or a grandmother falling down the stairs could easily mess it up and have you starting again, so the password system was greatly appreciated.
Mega Man 2 probably isn’t the greatest video game of all time, especially by today’s standards, but it has aged incredibly well and there’s something about it that just makes you want to go back and play it again even though you’ve already beaten it 83 times, memorised all the level layouts in your head and really should have taken your grandmother to the hospital by now. The Mega Man series innovated the non-linear approach to gameplay with the stage select system; playing the game again and again you start to learn new tricks with the weapons you collect from defeating bosses, as well as the best order to beat the bosses in to get through the game faster or more effectively.
Mega Man games have a certain feel to them, the way the controls are designed on jumps and shooting, along with distinct sound effects that can only be described as “Mega Manny”, it’s all very satisfying. Mega Man 2 probably has the best collection of robot masters as the bosses, it’s that special blend of coolness (Metal Man) and lovable stupidity (Bubble Man) which really make these guys stand out from other games, especially later on when they really starting running out of ideas (Plant Man). One of the most memorable parts of Mega Man 2 was the unlockable Metal Blades as a weapon, which were notoriously overpowered in terms of strength, ammo and general usability within the game. It’s a rare case of a game actually being improved by an imbalanced weapon simply because of how fun it is.
What really puts the shine on that special “Mega Man” feel is the soundtrack, and Mega Man 2s soundtrack might be one of the most appreciated and remixed in video game history. Nearly every level theme is distinct from the last, catchy and memorable and it’s just great overall and is 8-bit music at its absolute best.
There are some really cool moments in the game, it’s hard to describe a game from 1988 as having “set pieces” but they’re as close to them as NES games can get. There are the massive beams in Quick Mans stage that you had to do over and over again to get them right because they kill you in one hit. There’s the massive dragon that bursts out of the ground in Dr Wily’s castle and chases you across a block jumping section before being forced to stand your ground and fight it, as well the cinematic closing scene of the game, as Mega Man battles a Wily machine disguised as an alien, destroys the castle and walks back home through all weathers, leaving his helmet on a peaceful meadow as the credits roll.
Mega Man 2 is an absolute classic game and an experience that all gamers need to experience at least once, but will probably want too much more. If you have the lung capacity to try and get an old Nintendo working slap it in and enjoy a fine slice of gaming history.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.