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Mega Man 2

Year released: 1989
Company: Capcom
Genre: Action

Once in a while a game comes along that stops everyone dead in their tracks with its quality. It captivates us, draws us in, and makes us play for hours at a time trying to find everything it offers. And even when the game is completed, it still keeps players entertained for months, even years after the fact. Although most classic series fall into this category anyway, Mega Man 2 goes beyond that. It's easily the best out of all of them, because it offers some of the best gameplay and technical merits I've ever seen on the NES.

The real area where the second installment made leaps and bounds over the first was its presentation. The graphics in this game are a tremendous step up from the first installment, largely because of the backgrounds and animation. For one thing, the scenery in numerous stages looks very polished. My personal faves are Metal Man's and Bubble Man's stages. Not only are they nice-looking, they're animated. It gives the atmosphere a nice boost because we're no longer playing behind static walls all the time. The animation is nice, too. Some of the sprites are well-detailed, and also seem to have a bit more "personality" to them. The bosses themselves are better looking than before, but I'm probably not the first to mistake Heat Man for a cigarette lighter. And although there isn't much music from the game that stands out (save the opening/ending theme, Dr. Wily's stage music, and maybe Bubble Man), None of the music is particularly bad, either. The sound effects are patterned off of Mega Man 1's original palette, which is good because the sound effects were more realistic early in the series.

In the Mega Man series, Play Control is always a serious consideration. Again, you'll find solid hit detection and responsive control. One small problem, though, is that you may skid a little bit in areas with a lot of obstacles. It shouldn't be much of a problem most of the game, but there are a couple places where you might take a cheap hit because you walked a little too far. Also, a minor complaint: If you're facing left when you start climbing a ladder, you'll face right when you get off. Although most of the time you'd have to switch directions anyway, I'd rather make that call myself.

There really isn't much to the plot. Dr. Wily was ticked off when you last trounced him, so he tries it all over again with eight new robots. OK, so it's not the most involving plot of them all, but in an action series like this you might want to try out a few simple plots before adding in the false identities, alterior motives, and mysterious characters. I'm not defending the storyline; I'm just saying I can understand why it's so simple. Besides, considering how relatively unpopular the first installment was, people have to get into the plot fairly quickly if they're going to get into the game as well as they should.

Let's admit it: this game is easiest of them all. I can usually beat this game with only 2 lives (only because of the Turret sacrifice) and in a little over an hour. Most of this is because unlike Mega Man games 3 to infinity, where there's only one optimum order of levels, there are numerous paths that work in this game. Then again, there is a Difficult setting, but I have yet to find anyone who uses it. The Difficulty option, when activated, halves the damage you inflict on enemies and doubles the amount of damage they inflict on you. Even though it's really just dead space, it's there if you want it.

I find this game to be the most enjoyable one in the series. First of all, it's short. If I have a spare 90 minutes, I can pop this game in and beat it without hassle. Second, it's easy. The frustration factor is exceptionally low, and the many different stage orders make for a lot of variety. Also, it's never boring. Unlike areas of later games, when your mentality dwindles to the "here we go again" syndrome, Mega Man 2 gives every level its own charm, its own gimmicks, and at the end you can't help but smile at your accomplishment when you complete the game.

I can hardly blame people for saying that this was the game that thrust Mega Man into the video game icon he is. This is the best Mega Man game I have ever played, and it's one of my all-time faves on any system. If you haven't given this game a look, you should bow your head in shame.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 17
Aesthetic Score: 22
Overall Score: 93%

You are now listening to the Dr. Wily's early stage music in Mega Man 2.