Part 2: Introduction and Skull Man
After MM3 skimped on the intro, we now get a very nice one again with smoothly animated cutscenes in glorious 8-bit-graphics. They even didn't make any spelling mistakes this time around!
Now, in the video, it's just one point of many and gets kinda, but I have to stress it again here: The addition of the Mega Buster was a really big thing. I'll just explain the thread title right here: From now on, there will never, ever be an alteration to any standard shooting weapon for the main character in a Mega Man game. Exceptions like MM9 and 10 just prove the rule. For the whole X series, the starting gun of the titular hero will be chargeable in three stages, with the last shot being triple the strength of a normal shot and piercing enemies. Only the middle shot will get an upgrade. Same is true for Zero's starting gun in his own series...and both ZX games, with only a small alteration for ZXA's female lead.
Hell, it even extends to the Battle Network series, just omitting the half-charge in some games!
This weapon has been set in stone since this game. I can't overstate its importance. In this regard, it's pretty similar to the Slide. However...I still rate the slide, even though the slide itself is in far fewer games, as far more important. Because contrary to the Buster, the slide evolved. It became the Dash, and the Dash is the one thing that makes the later games so fast-paced and fun. Buster...well, people to this date are arguing if it changed the game for better or worse. I haven't heard complaints about the Slide!
Personally, I don't mind the Buster at all. In this game at least, it's a very decent upgrade, but the special weapons still are far more useful in most situations. Which we'll explore later, of course!
- Opening - Chill and mellow. In the vein of MM2's opening, which was just great, so I dig it.
Opening 2 - ...and continuing with the obvious parallels, this one is all action-y and heroic. Short loop, though, so not much to say.
Title - They really didn't skimp on the music budget, didn't they? Sadly, this is not nearly as good as MM3's almost symphonic piece, but awesome enough!
Skull Man's stage is straightforward enough and actually a nice introduction (which is why I let psy.Che handle it, incidentally). The first part shows off nicely how far more efficient the Buster handles things, and while you're going back and forth, you'll find that the intervals between the cannons perfectly match the charge-up time. Generally, I don't think you should charge all the time; after all, most people find the noise annoying and actively waiting for it to finish charging is a waste of your time. You're fine with rapid-firing normal enemies, usually. However, if you know that you're going to profit from it soon, for example if the enemies are visible way in advance like here...there's no reason not to use the walking to!
After a few more gentle stretches, we're introduced to a future staple: The shield attackers. This stage really is an introduction, as they function as main gimmick for the middle part. You'll notice how they'll get more and more irritatingly placed. The level designers in this game still know exactly what they're doing and the result is great.
In the middle of it all is a big optional area littered with shields that are...absurdly non-threatening. It's kind of a choose your destiny thing, except that Rush lets you access any of the paths anyway. Seems like an oversight to me...or maybe Rush wasn't originally intended to be in the game! What makes me say such a thing? We'll see later.
While we're criticising details, let's talk asshole jumps. Apart from very few ones, mostly in the Doc Robot stages, MM3 didn't really have those jumps that are designed you that you can just make them. Most of the time, MM1 and 2 don't do those, too. And I hate them. Seeing as Mega usually never has problems with jumps, those come as a surprise most of the time...and will cost you a life. It's kind of inevitable that there's going to be parts in a level that are instant-kill, but that doesn't make me hate those any less. It's do or die, and I don't think that's fun. As the jumping physics are perfect, usually it's no problem to just make those jumps, but...yeah. Some are problematic out of thin air in this game. Like the one to the E-Tank...and the one right after you should decide to not to take the risk of getting it.
Why do I nag so much on those? Well, I finally got around playing Mega Man 9. Insert a random string of curse words here, they charge asshole jumps up to 11 and I fucking hate it.
BACK TO THE STAGE
The dropping green dudes are always going to make for a surprise the first time around, too bad psy.Che practiced too much, eh? Would have been awesome to hear his screams. You can pick them off with a charged shot in mid-air, I was probably too cautious there. Most of them are a matter of knowing where they're going to appear, but the first one will cause enough paranoia so that the novice will step lightly, so no biggie.
The last stretch is more or less just an exercise of releasing the shoot button at the right time and chargin' it up in between, so nothing much to comment on except damn, look at that sweet background.
Oh yes, and the game is really nice with its pickups in the whole stage; you might have noticed that there are two more or less easily gettable E-Tanks (you should try the edging forward tactic!). Bonus: From this point on, stages will be revisitable! Farming time ahoy.
I think I dissect him enough in the videos. Jump, Shield, Charge, Shoot, Jump, repeat. No problem...if you live long enough to dissect that. As said in both videos time and time again: He, and most other fights, leave you very little time to adjust to a usually quite simplistic pattern. I much prefer fights like Shadow Man, who doesn't have a set string of actions at all and requires reflexes and quick thinking to dodge. This, after you know what you're supposed to do, is just busywork.
On the man himself, love his design. Many people do. Pretty rad. The nineties were a good decade, I'm just old enough to appreciate that.
- Battonton: It's the bats - again. Returning from Mega Man 2, they're scarcely different, being invulnerable for a short (but usually just long enough to be infuriating) time until they slowly home in on Mega. Two Buster shots to take down, or a charged one because what else are you using the time until they unfold for anyway?
Imorm: Very strange enemy. When Mega approaches, they drop from the ceiling, where they hid invisibly until then. They're mostly there for the surprise factor, though through the virtue of clever level design, psy.Che manages to get killed three times by one just being there!
Shield Attacker: Following a set path, those guys are going to be everywhere from now on and most of the time are surpremely annoying. Usually, they'll be placed so that either taking them out or dodging them is going to be hard, and when they get cute with the design, both. Later, special weapons will alleviate some of the problems with them, for now, it's four normal hits, which means a charged one won't do it; they really thought it through! Fortunately, they only become invulnerable when fully turned around, which works greatly in our favor.
Skeleton Joe: Castlevania called, they want their bonethrowers back! They're quite unique in being one of the very few enemies to only be defeatable by a charged Buster shot (granted, one other thing can do them in - for later), other weapons just will stun them. Apart from that, probably the least threatening incarnation of the Joe yet, seeing as their aim, indeed, sucks. Seems they have just two possible arcs, high and far or almost dropping down.
Skullmet: The other Mets are kinda cuter...
We won't see those again. They're kinda basic, and their use is limited to corridors that double back at each other. Still, having a cannon that's protected from behind is a great idea that seemed to have gotten lost; many times, you can defuse a situation in advance by just shooting through the wall. Not with those. To fix this, is took them until Mega Man X5 (which is the first game where walls will block shots), which baffles me.
Super Ball Machine Jr.: What the hell kind of name is that? No, there's no senior anywhere. All they can do is catch you on the wrong foot with their suprisingly fast bouncing balls. Apart from that, pretty boring and forgettable, also only in this stage.
Togehero: Look at this chill guy, he just doesn't give a fuck, floating in a lazy sine wave, slowly extracting and retracting his spikes...
Also gone in one hit so don't blink or you'll miss him.
- Skull Man - Get out of my head, damn it! No, actually, don't. This is my second favourite song in the game, it's insanely catchy and everything a Mega Man tune should be. I love it.
Stage Select - Works. What else is there to say.
Password - Contrary to MM3's password music that actually was catchy, this is abysmal. I hate it. I pity those of you who played this at an old TV and had to write down passwords per hand while this piece of shit played.
Stage Start - It's MM2's theme again, which is a shame because 3's was better. In my opinion at least.