Mega Man 3
Game Title: Mega Man III
Genre: Action Platformer
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Director: Masayoshi "Patariro" Kurokawa
Release Date: November 1990
Overall Rating: 9.0 / 10
The Mega Man saga has long been a standard-setter for the platforming shooter genre, and it's third installment for the NES is no exception. Although many would say that it pails in significance to the more popular Mega Man 2, 3 retains a place in my heart as my personal favorite of the original series. But on a less subjective note, I will break it down into it's core elements and outline my gaming experience.
Gameplay - 9.0 / 10
As with most Mega Man titles, the gameplay is fast and addicting, and almost never repetitive. Variations in terrain, the behavior and placement of enemies, and a relatively wide variety of traps and pitfalls all make for nearly endless variety. The physics also seem to be updated slightly from the previous game. Mega Man 3 is the first game in the series to feature the sliding feature, which is extremely useful in many places and vital in others. Admittedly I was reluctant to acclimatize myself to this new basic tactic. However I quickly realized just how important it is to be able to dart out of the way of attacks that are two fast to hurdle or outrun. The disappearing tiles are back as well, however they somehow seem more managable than they did in previous games. They don't push you to the side as easily as before, making landing on one as it appears more than just a matter of chance. And the sequences that involve them are short and intense. The result is a platforming experience that is a welcome challenge, without being a tantrum-inducing nuissance.
Graphics - 8.5 / 10
The funny thing about the Nintendo Entertainment System is that throughout it's first five years, developers gradually made better and better use of it's limited graphical capabilities. The Mega Man saga is a prime example of this. The first one, although posessing most of the same gameplay elements, was relatively simple in terms of visual experience. The second game vastly improved this, and by Mega Man 3, the graphics were more on par with a well-detailed comic book than a mindless platforming shooter. Backgrounds and foregrounds are glimmering with animation and texture, and special attacks really catch the eye. The only problem is that it often oversteps the boundaries of the hardware. An example would be in the opening stretch of Top Man's stage. Bots are leaping, lurking and even assembling themselves all at once, power-ups linger just out of reach, and your own Buster blasts dot the screen, meanwhile the processor is so strained that it's becoming difficult to time your jumps. (What exactly is the floor in this stage made of, by the way? Mint leaves encased in glass bricks?) If this game was released in late 1990, it probably could have waited for the hardware improvements of the SNES.
Sound - 9.5 / 10
There are a few tracks in this game that I will simply never forget, but also quite a few that I couldn't remember to save my life. For the most part, however, the soundtrack is superb. It tastes of sharp, robust power-metal flavors with a toasty hint of 80's rock. My personal favorite was always the Magnet Man theme. And let's not forget that light-heartedly catchy password screen music that appears in the event of a game-over. It was as if the game was taunting you for your failure but at the same time affectionately patting you on the back and reminding you that this is, in fact, just a game.
Story - 8.0 / 10
What's there to say? Dr. Wily is back... but not really. He claims to have reformed but now his new Robot Masters are out of control. This installment of the Mega Man series introduces Proto Man as an ambiguous villain who turns out to be an ally in the end, saving Mega Man from a collapsing castle. This opens up alot of possibility for future story developments, although at a glance seems a bit disorienting. Proto man makes appearances in a few of the initial levels, on one occasion only appearing to open a path to the rest of the level, but in others posing as a mid-level sub-boss. After the initial 8 levels, there are a series of four selectable stages in which the Robot Masters of Mega Man II make appearances. Altogether, this game is full of ins and outs, which although somewhat arbitrary, help to divide the game up into distinct phases and make it all the more memorable.
Replay Value - 10.0 / 10
Even after knowing all of the secrets and strategies of this game, (many of which I have already forgotten), it is still mind-blowingly challenging. There are so many twists and turns to be encountered, despite being a fairly linear, that each replay is a whole new experience. You will find yourself wondering, "How did I get through this part as a kid?" I seemed to recall having played this game with relative ease years ago, but that only served as a ray of hope that I could do it again. Thus it was that much more astounding when I finally played it all the way through.
Final Thoughts -
One has to be just a little bit massochistic to take on an old-school platformer like this with intent to beat it. Mega Man games have always been notoriously frustrating yet captivating at the same time. There is nothing more satisfying, in my oppinion, than claiming victory over a game that seems impossible the first time through. I spent the bulk of my MM3 experience playing segments over and over again, in a constant state of thinking, "I was so close last time, but this time I can do it." Eventually I made it through, and I don't regret a minute of it. This sort of classic gaming is really worth getting nostalgic about.
Gameplay - 9.0
Mega Man 3 takes common platform shooter gameplay and applies it so competently that it deserves a medal.
Graphics - 8.5
The NES has seen a wide range of graphic qualities over it's lifespan, and this is at least in the upper fourth of the spectrum.
Sound - 9.5
The sound is not only entertaining and appropriate, it has also inspired dozens of bands and songs throughout the last two decades.
Story - 8.0
The story is not as simple as it once was, but the complexity doesn't detract from the gameplay. Appropriate for the third game of the series.
Replay Value - 10.0
It was fun then, it is fun now, and I'm sure it will be a blast the next time I cue it up.