Mega Man as a series has a long and storied history. You’ll often find Mega Man 2, 3, and X on top ten lists of the best games of all time. But what about that first game? I know I don’t hear about it all that often, even though some of the bosses are the most iconic in the entire series. So, what is it about Mega Man 1. Why doesn’t it come up as often?
The short answer is, it simply isn’t as good. Mega Man games tend to be pretty challenging, and the first game is no exception. However, unlike the later games, Mega Man’s challenge is often complete nonsense. You’ll encounter platforming sequences that require pixel perfect jumps while enemies are slamming into you. There’s also lots of blocks that appear and disappear that you have to jump on with perfect timing. Even as early as the first couple minutes of Guts Man’s stage, there’s a section that requires such precision that I didn’t make it past it while playing today.
That’s not to say that there isn’t anything good to talk about. Most of what makes the Mega Man series what it is is present in the first game. Mega Man has two main actions he can perform, jumping and shooting. You make your way through levels, which you can choose the order in which you play, by jumping on platforms and shooting enemies. At the end of each stage, you fight a boss. Beating the boss gives you a new ability.
The cool thing about the abilities is that each boss has a weakness to one of them. This makes which stage you take on in which order important. For example, Elec Man is weak to Cut Man’s weapon, so making sure you beat Cut Man before Elec Man is important. The weaknesses make sense for the most part. Elec Man is based on electricity, so cutting wires would be a weakness. This is something that actually got worse as the series went on and the bosses became more obscure. Mega Man 6 has bosses like Yamato Man and Centaur Man. Good luck guessing those weaknesses.
The basic act of playing Mega Man feels good, but not as good as the later games. There’s a little bit of a delay from when you push a button and when the action actually happens. After you get used to it, it’s not too bad, but it prevents the game from being something you can easily pick up and play.
Mega Man is well known for its music, but like everything else I’ve mentioned, it just isn’t as good in the first game. Some of the tunes are still good, Elec Man’s stage in particular stands out. But whereas Mega Man 2’s soundtrack is still being covered by bands, Mega Man’s just doesn’t earn the same kind of admiration. Still good, just not classic.
Mega Man is still a good game, and is definitely worth checking out, especially if you want to see the origins of those concepts. The unfair difficulty will most likely lead to frustration, but with a little patience and practice, there’s a very rewarding game in there. It just isn’t as good as Mega Man 2 or 3.