So, Digital Eclipse and Capcom have recently been on a roll, first with Mega Man Legacy Collection than with The Disney Afternoon Collection. Digital Eclipse sees themselves as a preservationist of classic games and Capcom has a library of well regarded retro games that is challenged by few. So, imagine my surprise when I found out Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 was not being handled by Digital Eclipse? Would the emulation quality hold up?
So what’s this about?
Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 is a collection of the final four (numbered) entries into the “classic” Mega Man series. For those not familiar with the greater Mega Man brand, classic is the original character that debuted in the 1987 Famicom/NES game. Since then, Mega Man has spawned several sub-series, such as “Mega Man X” or “Mega Man Legends,” but the classic series remained and more or less functioned as its own thing. Let’s take a quick look at the games included.
Mega Man 7 – Mega Man 7 is an often overlooked entry in the series. The only numbered version to be made in the 16-bit era (although spin-offs like Mega Man Soccer, Compilations such as the Mega Man: The Wily Wars, and even a non-numbered sequel in Mega Man and Bass do exist), it was released at a time when a lot of Mega Man fans had moved on to the “cooler” Mega Man X series. The story of the game takes place right after Mega Man 6 and consists of Wily having some backup robots free him from jail. Not the most thrilling plot, but it gets the job done. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this game is the introduction of Bass, a robot created by Dr. Wily to be Mega Man’s rival mostly because every blue video game protagonist needs an edgy rival. This game is also unique in that you can only choose between 4 robot master stages at the start before unlocking an additional 4. This feature would return in Mega Man 8. This reminds me a bit of the Gameboy Mega Man games, and I dislike it as a practice because it removes one of Mega Man’s central conceits: the ability to tackle the game any way you want. Mega Man 7 is a fun and overall serviceable entry into the series. It has big, colorful sprites that make it a delight visually. Unfortunately, these larger sprites also mean that there is less room to navigate in a stage, making the platforming and boss fights feel cramped when compared to the NES entries into the series.
Mega Man 8 – A classic Mega Man game NOT on a Nintendo system? Blasphemy! This game originally released on both the SEGA Saturn and the Sony Playstation in 1997. The plot involves a weird space robot named Duo and some nebulous evil energy, which is an odd choice for a Mega Man game but hey, at least it’s not all Wily this time. It holds the distinction of being my least favorite games in the series, but it’s still a fascinating title that does a lot of things right. The game looks great, with anime inspired cutscenes and fantastic sprite work. Mega Man is a bit smaller then in 7, which make the game appear a bit more like the NES titles, although the actual physics feel off in comparison. This entry also makes a few fun tweaks to the series. I enjoy when Rush Jet is featured in fun SHMUP inspired segments, for instance. It also introduced the ability to use the Mega Buster at the same time as your equiped special, which was a fantastic and very welcome addition. In a lot of ways it’s a culmination of everything the classic series was. Unfortunately, the game has definite drawbacks. The robot master fights feel sluggish, the gameplay feels off, and the voice acting is legendarily bad. Truly, truly, awful. Still, it’s a game that’s worth playing at least once.
Mega Man 9 – This game was Mega Man’s return to form. Mega Man 9 brings the series back to its 8-bit roots. More than that, it actually strips the game down to its basics, as almost all of the improvements seen in Mega Man 3 onward have been removed. Gone are the charge shot and slide, for instance. I’ve always been a bigger fan of Mega Man 3 than 2, so the lack of slide hurts me. It allows for more platforming options, and slapping it on Proto Man doesn’t change the fact that it can’t be naturally integrated into stage and boss design. Once again, I understand the intent: Mega Man became bloated, let’s bring it back. Still, the game feels very safe from a design standpoint, and I’ve always felt it was often cheap in a way the classic games weren’t. There always seemed to be just one too many insta-death traps off screen for my liking. All that being said, though, it’s still a fantastic game. The level design and gimmicks work when they do not rely too heavily on the aforementioned instant kills, the gameplay is spot on, the robot masters hit that sweet spot of being difficult but not frustrating, and the music is amazing. Seriously, this game probably has a top 3 soundtrack in the series for me.
Mega Man 10 – In some ways, I like Mega Man 10 more than 9. Since Mega Man 9 laid out the groundwork for the blue bombers return, 10 was able to expand on the formula and feels a bit more fresh. It’s a robust package, with fun robot masters and some really unique weapon options. Plus, it lets you play as 8-bit Bass once the game is completed, which delights me to no end. Besides that, most of what was said about 9 applies here. I don’t feel that it has a many cheap feeling deaths, and I overall enjoy the stage gimmicks and designs better. The music is also good, but I wouldn’t say it’s Mega Man 9 good.
But is it good?
First things first: the emulation is REALLY good. I have to commend Capcom’s in-house team for creating a collection with no visible input lag, no weird music issues, and pixel perfect visuals. The games themselves have several viewing options, including a nice CRT mode, and an option between several arcade style borders for each game. The games are all solid to great, as mentioned above, and this collection is the only way to play them on modern hardware. The collection has a few extras, such as remixed stages, an art gallery, and a music player, but they honestly feel a bit sparse in comparison to other such collections. The save system seems truly bizarre. Instead of getting a save state, the game auto saves for you at check points. It’s a weird system, especially considering that these are 4 of the harder entries in the Mega Man series. Although purists might argue otherwise, a rewind feature such as the one found in the Disney Afternoon collection would also be useful for less experienced players.
Now, to talk about the elephant in the room: where in this collection is Mega Man & Bass? While not a numbered entry into the series, the 1998 Super Famicom title (localizing in the West as a Gameboy Advance title in 2003) is every bit a classic Mega Man game. I can forgive the Gameboy Mega Man titles or sport related spin offs not appearing, but it’s a shame that one of the classic Mega Man platformers may never come to a Mega Man Legacy collection. In addition to this, would it kill Capcom to rerelease the SEGA Saturn version of Mega Man 8? That version of the game is very hard to find on it’s native hardware, has never been re-released, and has unique content not found in the PlayStation version.
I think this is my biggest complaint with this collection: it could have been more. More games, more features, more extras. These are four good to great Mega Man titles, but none of them have the pedigree of a Mega Man 2, and the first collection surpasses this one away in terms of both content and game count. Still, I did like this collection quite a bit, and it’s a must have for fans of Mega Man or classic platformers in general.