Mega Man once again returns to his 8-bit roots to deliver an entertaining old-school platformer. It's not as well-designed as its predecessor, but the challenge and creativity once again hearken back to the best days of Capcom's signature franchise.
- Still a worthy challenge for longtime fans
- Well-designed levels offer a variety of interesting challenges
- New easy mode works well for those who aren't interested in old-school difficulty
- The weapons aren't terribly useful this time around
- The robot master designs leave something to be desired
- Fans hoping that Proto Man is an interesting alternative to Mega Man will be disappointed
It’s finally the year 201X, and the notion of a brand-new 8-bit style Mega Man isn’t quite the novelty it used to be. Realizing that the reinvention of a 20+ year-old formula is very much off the table, the folks at Inti Creates have instead focused on designing levels that up the ante from Mega Man 9 – the first of Capcom’s “neo-retro” Mega Man titles. But with so much energy having been devoted to level design, certain other elements have suffered, and that is ultimately what keeps Mega Man 10 from reaching the rarefied air of its predecessor.
Another Mega Challenge
In the last years of Mega Man’s 8-bit platforming dynasty, level design truly suffered. As time went on, the challenging platforming that served as a series hallmark gave way to long hallways devoid of foes, robbing the series of any semblance of challenge. That’s definitely not the case in Mega Man 10 though, where every stage has some sort of unique challenge to differentiate it from the rest. Inti Creates has once again designed stages that are difficult but fair, taking care to avoid recycling challenges in favor of new and interesting obstacles. Standout moments include the excellent Solar Man level, which forced me to carefully navigate a host of fireballs and multiplying enemies to the tune of the game’s best music. Pump Man’s unique use of bubbles and Nitro Man’s constant vehicle attacks mark two other great highlights. None of these elements are particularly new, but Inti Creates has implemented them in such a way that I had to constantly be on the lookout for obstacles that were often as useful as they were dangerous – a hallmark of good level design.
Moving into the later levels, I encountered quite a few pleasant surprises, including a mini-boss that definitely hearkened back to the first three Mega Man games. Credit goes to Inti Creates for ensuring that the stages never feel predictable, even as they revisit the well-worn electric, fire and ice tropes from previous games.
Weapon of Choice
As usual, Mega Man’s robots yield weapons that follow certain conventions -- shields, rebounds and wall-traveling powers all making encore appearances. Although Mega Man 9 distinguished itself by ensuring that each and every weapon had a use outside of battle -- sometimes more than one use -- Mega Man 10’s weapons are often watered-down or even outright useless. Take the Bubble Shield, for example, a tool that ditches the invulnerability to one-shot enemies -- which made Mega Man 9’s Jewel Shield so useful -- for a barrier that steadily degrades with each attack. It’s an interesting idea, but after having it fail on me one too many times in Solar Man’s stage, I ditched it and never looked back.
Other weapons play out more as missed opportunities. In Strike Man’s stage, for instance, there’s a mini-boss whose head can only be reached by riding his hand up and attacking. The ability to use the wall-riding Wheel Cutter would have made for a nice reward, but it’s far too limited. The shot from the attack travels up walls, but stops at the ceiling, which neuters its usefulness. Other weapons are either simple variations on the default weapon, or are simply too difficult to use, Electric Sheep's weapon being the worst offender. Shots from his "Electric Wool" attack take more than a second to float upward and are easy to cancel before they launch their lightning bolt, making the attack next to useless in battle. After the outstanding weapon design that characterized Mega Man 9, the watered-down powers in the sequel are a disappointment.
The Neo-Retro Sequel
Beyond trying to keep the design relatively fresh, Mega Man 10 also tries to be somewhat more accessible than its predecessor, and it’s relatively successful thanks to the new easy mode. At times, hardcore fans will find it too easy, but it’s generally able to simplify things without sacrificing the intricacies of the well-mapped level design. The inclusion of Proto Man, meanwhile, comes off as a somewhat sneakier attempt to make the series more accessible, since he’s really only a vessel for select powers like the charge shot and the slide. Veteran players probably won’t want to use him except as a novelty.
Inti Creates’ task in creating a sequel to the excellent Mega Man 9 is an unenviable one. With no way to forge into new territory due to medium constraints (you can only stretch 8-bit so far), they must instead deliver on the expectation of high-quality level design, unique robots and interesting weapons. Mega Man 10 falls short of its predecessor in a couple of those regards, but it’s still a far sight better than many of the mediocre to awful sequels that have represented the franchise of the years. If you love 8-bit era Mega Man classics, Mega Man 10 definitely belongs in your collection.