Growing up in England, we didn't have much for entertainment. We had sticks and hoops, whittling, cricket, and marbles to keep us away from a life of crime. With such awful, antiquated fun, we force-fed off the scraps of popular culture from other, bigger, richer countries, and goddamn it, we loved it. (This isn't entirely true; we are the kings of music, but that's for another post)
However, technology-wise, we were light years behind. I think I got my NES when I was 15, and the N64 was already wreaking havoc across the world. I didn't give a shit. Nintendo can shove that overpriced black rectangle up their puckered arseholes for all I care, because gaming obsession begins and ends in 8-bit.
The game that single-handedly wrecked my adolescence was Mega Man 2. For me, it didn't get any better, or more frustrating. I realize that back then, video game developers had the capability of cranking out maybe 1 or 2 games a year thanks to the awful technology. Those NES cartridges looked like grey placemats with a graham cracker sticking out of it. So many lost hours blowing dust off that damn cracker to make the game work properly... but I digress.
For difficulty and gameplay, you look no further than Mega Man 2. Normally sequels are awkward and stiff, but MM2 was a flawless upgrade over the original, with much better Robot Masters, more interesting level design, and far better weapons.
To illustrate... Ice Man from MM1:
- wtf? Every enemy he shoots, he gets power-ups!
- The pointless use of the disappearing blocks half-way through. If you miss one, you just fall to the floor and begin again. That second phase is completely pointless! Throw the damn game away already.
- You NEVER get that many power-ups right before fighting a boss. In MM2, you're practically dead right when you go through the gate.
- An eskimo? That's the Robot Master? I think he's even wearing Ugg boots.
Now, we show Heat Man from MM2:
MUCH harder. Of course, they had a neat "Item 2" to get past the disappearing blocks section, meaning that instead of spending hours ruining your state of mind by dying on that section, you can simply jump on that rocket sled and cruise on underneath.
Even so, this guy makes it look a lot easier than it was for me at age 15. It might have been the acne or the inherent awkwardness of being a teen, but either way, Heat Man was the tip of the iceberg in terms of difficulty.
Once you got to super boss Dr. Wily's castle, a frustrating 5-part journey through hell and back requiring every weapon in the arsenal and necessitating that you fight every boss again, you're about ready to murder someone.
This is just Stage 1 of 5:
What a little shit he is. The dragon was rather cool though. Look at the colours! All the Mega Man games had that Rock-Paper-Scissors approach, meaning that if you understood the weaponry available, you could dispatch your mini-bosses with ease. If you didn't understand it, you were in for endless despair.
The fondest memories I have of this game revolve around the music. I'll be damned if it isn't some of the best sound design and composition in video game history. AND it was done on the most basic of sound boards! Ridiculous! The Dr. Wily stage above is supreme; speed metal worthy of any fight movie. Close your eyes and imagine you're watching a movie where the hero is trying to get his girl back. He's suiting up. He's training. You can see it, right?
The music is fucking king (scroll down for MM2).
Childhood memories are so strong at the moment, particularly when the future looks so fucking bleak. Mega Man 2 gives you a reason to believe again. Suit up, grab your Mega Blaster and take on the world, one Robot Master at a time.