Mega Man 5, NES

1992‘s Mega Man 5 on the Famicom/NES starts with a jaunty tune and a comic book style intro, and then after that it’s back to more of the same platform shooting…

This time Mega Man is up against Stone Man, Gravity Man, Crystal Man, Charge Man, Napalm Man, Wave Man, Star Man, and Gyro Man. Make that Gyro & Eggs Man…

Mega Man 5 took some criticism at the time for “not having any kind of innovative gameplay or storytelling”, which is not a fair criticism because Mega Man 5 does contain some radical new ideas in places. Take – for example – Gravity Man’s levels. In which you can reverse gravity and switch between walking on the ceiling and walking on the floor. Nothing like that had been seen in the Mega Man games before. And the new mechanic works really well, although it does make for an extremely tough challenge. There are other surprises and enhancements too. Mega Man‘s gun charges up over more degrees of power this time, with a wider-ranging blast at full power. This ‘full power’ blast is required to get through some sections of the game (when you’re running against the boring machines in the Napalm Man tunnels, for example). There are gas jets; pipes you can travel inside; water flow that pushes you off platforms; there’s even an outer space level with low gravity… All those who said that Mega Man 5 didn’t innovate are just plain wrong.

Mega Man 5 is still an excellent game. It’s challenging, and the graphics and sound are top notch for a Famicom game. The parallax scrolling (different layers moving at different speeds to give the illusion of depth) is particularly good. As are the crystal levels. The only down side is the sprite tearing, but that’s a limitation of the machine not the game. Mega Man 5 has the best presentation out of all the Famicom Mega Man games, in my humble opinion.

Note: this wasn’t the last Mega Man game on the Famicom/NES. That was Mega Man 6.

More: Mega Man 5 on Wikipedia

Mega Man 4, NES

Mega Man 4 was published by Capcom for the Nintendo Famicom in 1991.

Other than a new intro sequence (still not making much sense having been badly translated into English), a new set of bad guys, and some newly-designed levels, there’s not a great deal different in this game to what has preceded it. Actually; I lied. That’s not entirely true – there are mid-level boss fights in this game – which I think were new to the series in 1991. I could be wrong. Anyway… What have the Romans ever given us?!

Mega Man 4 does feel more difficult than the previous games, and the levels also feel shorter… so I’m not quite sure what to make of it. All the mechanics and jump timings are the same as before, which I guess is most important.

In this fourth game the protagonists are: Ring Man, Dive Man, Skull Man, Pharaoh Man, Bright Man, Toad Man, Drill Man, and Dust Man. And – of course – you fight Dr. Wily at the end of the game – as usual – because he’s the main troublemaker.

Mega Man‘s dog, Rush, also makes another appearance in this, having debuted in Mega Man 3.

More: Mega Man 4 on Wikipedia

Mega Man 4 NES Baddies Wide

Mega Man 3, NES

There are over 130 Mega Man titles, and many are essentially the same formula. That is: choose a level based on one of a number of boss enemies (usually themed, with a unique name); run and jump your way through a tortuous series of platforms and ladders to reach said boss; then whup its ass in a boss fight.

Mega Man 3 first came out on the Famicom in Japan in September 1990. Of the first three Mega Man games it is arguably the most polished. It is a tough game though. Like all Mega Man games.

In this one you’re up against Magnet Man, Hard Man, Top Man, Shadow Man, Spark Man, Snake Man, Gemini Man, Needle Man. You can guess what Spark Man does, but what does Needle Man do?! You’ll have to play the game to find out… 🙂

A playable dog character, called Rush, made his debut in this game. As did Mega Man‘s ‘slide’ move, which allows him to slide under low barriers and enemy attacks.

More: Mega Man 3 on Wikipedia

Mega Man 2, NES

The 1988 sequel to Mega Man, Mega Man 2 is more of the same rock-hard platforming and shooting action on the Nintendo Entertainment System (aka the Famicom).

Your six major protagonists this time are: Bubble Man, Air Man, Quick Man, Heat Man, Wood Man, Metal Man, Flash Man, and Crash Man. And – as usual – each has their own themed level which you can choose from in the opening menu.

Defeat one of the bosses (not easy) and you get bestowed with a new-fangled power. And – believe me – having those extra powers helps!

Mega Man 2 is definitely more colourful and varied than the first game. There are some nice touches, like the foreground clouds moving over the playfield, and a proper intro, but ultimately it’s the same frustrating gameplay as before. Frustrating, but still enjoyable – and strangely compelling…

Of note is the soundtrack by Takashi Tateishi, which helps keep the game rolling along at a fast pace. I particularly like the song accompanying the Crash Man levels.

More: Mega Man 2 on Wikipedia

Mega Man, NES

Known as “Rock Man” in its native Japan, Mega Man is a Nintendo Famicom game developed and published by Capcom in 1987. It is the beginning of the long-running Mega Man series.

What the first Mega Man did was establish a style of its own – for both gameplay and graphics.

Like, for example, the fact that Mega Man jumps according to how long you hold down the fire button. Hold it down for only a short while and he’ll do a short jump. Hold it down continually and he will jump continually – until he reaches an apex; at which point he’ll come back down again. Learning that apex, and the timing of jumps in Mega Man, is key to unlocking the entire series. And that particular mechanic has been there since the very first game and is what makes it what I would describe as “hardcore”.

The graphics are basic and the colours are garish, and the introductions to the baddies are not very interesting. Playing this now you can see that it is really an embryonic game – not quite fully formed, even though the distinguishing features are there. As the Mega Man series progressed, so did the presentation, and by the third Mega Man game the series was looking unstoppable.

Final note: in this first Mega Man the bad guys are… Cut Man, Guts Man, Elec Man, Ice Man, Fire Man, and Bomb Man, and you choose who you want to attempt next from a menu screen.

More: Mega Man on Wikipedia

Maziacs, MSX

This MSX conversion of Don Priestley‘s classic Spectrum game, Maziacs, was released by DK’Tronics in 1985. It captures the essence of the original perfectly.

The aim of the game is: to locate the hidden treasure, while at the same time avoiding being killed by the titular Maziacs – weird, two-legged monsters that patrol the maze.

When you begin you have no weapon, so finding one is a priority. If you encounter a Maziac with no weapon in your hand, your chances of beating it are relatively low. Bump into one with a sword in your hand and the probability goes up.

Your character’s energy is represented by a vertical bar on the right of the screen. Food can be found to keep this topped-up. You’ll also find chained prisoners who you can interact with and they will tell you the route to the treasure for a limited amount of time (shown as a yellow path on the maze).

Mazaics has four difficulty levels and each maze is randomly-generated based on a set of rules, so the game does have some longevity. And appeal. Maziacs remains an appealing and playable game to this day.

More: Maziacs on Wikipedia

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, Megadrive/Genesis

Developed by Sega and released for the Megadrive/Genesis in 1990, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a masterpiece platform game that has stood the test of time extremely well.

The game itself is pretty simple: running, jumping, climbing, and swimming, with Mickey on a quest to save Minnie Mouse from the evil witch Mizrabel.

Mickey’s main weapon is his bounce, which he can perform while jumping and which helps him defeat enemies. He can also pick up items, such as apples and marbles, to use as projectiles to throw at enemies.

To defeat Mizrabel, Mickey must find the “Seven Gems of the Rainbow”, each of which can found behind a door, in a different realm, protected by one of Mizrabel’s henchmen. There are six different – graphically distinct – stages (The Enchanted Forest, Toyland, The Storm, Dessert Factory, The Library, and The Castle), with a boss battle at the end of each.

Castle of Illusion still looks and plays great to this day. If I had any complaint it would be that the Megadrive doesn’t have transparent pixels (like the SNES does), which means that the designers had to make do with using ‘stippling’ in the water sections (which is ugly and makes the game look dated). Otherwise: it’s marvellous (still).

A remake of Castle of Illusion was made by Sega Studios Australia in 2013 and is currently available on Steam.

More: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse on Wikipedia