Friday, April 10, 2009

Mega Man 2

If you look at the enitre Mega Man series (there are too many games for me to count) you can image it could be a daunting task to pick just one as a great example as art. Personally I think Mega Man 2, is not only the best game in the series but easily the most artistic game. After Mega Man 2 the series became a huge hit and went from a real artistic vision to a franchise with the sole purpose of gaining money with medicore games. For those of you who know the franchise well enough, you know I am not saying anything new here. Mega Man 2 is often held as the best game in the series and even one of the best games of all time.

Designing a Hero

One look at Mega Man you can clearly see he is heavily influeced by Japanese anime. This anime look actually works extremely well in old Nintendo games. In anime, human features are exagerated. The one anime feature that most people can't help but look at are the giant eyes. Basically every anime artist uses big giant eyes, in order to portray emotion effectively. Now Mega Man may not have a wide range of emotions but giving the character this style allows the player to actually see the features of the face. Most NES games had the lead character with no face or beedy eyes. Mega Man has large cartoony eyes that really stand out and help to portray something the player can actually relate to.

The other major character design choice is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Mega Man wears his underwear outside his pants. Now in real life this would look ridiculous, but it works with drawn characters. Mega Man is not alone in his fashion both Superman, Batman, and countless outher super-heroes share this style. Not only does this subconciously give the player a link from Mega Man to superheroes but it also works well with animation. Super Heroes wear underwear outside their pants (or at the very least have multi-coloured costumes) because it makes it easier for the viewer to tell where the action is. Seperating the legs, from the mid-section using different colours makes it easier for us to follow the action on their legs. Mega Man also wears long gloves for this same reason. Rather then having one uniform colour that will make the character looked washed out, seperating the arms, legs and mid-section make the action easy to see and control.

One final thing that helps Mega Man stand out is the black outline the designers drew around him. Mega Man goes from level to level and each one looks completely different from the last. On top of that Mega Man can change his colour scheme depending on what weapon he is using. This black outline makes it so he never blends into the backround. We can always find him on the screen no matter the background or what he is wearing.

Even against a blue background while wearing blue Mega Man stands out.

Labour of Love

Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man, was really proud of his original Mega Man game. However, the game did not get the response that Capcom, the puiblisher, wanted. The original Mega Man did not sell very well, and since Capcom was in the business of making money, they were not very interested with another Mega Man game. But luckily Capcom eventually allowed Inafune and his team to make Mega Man 2, but only under the condition that they also work on other games. Inafune and his team had to work on the assignments that Capcom gave them and after hours, when they had free time, they could spend it working on Mega Man 2. Rarely is this kind of dedication seen in making a game. Keiji Inafune called making Mega Man 2 a "rogue effort." Thankfully Japanese work ethic prevailed and his team was content with working late hours to create a game they actually cared about. They used the original Mega Man as a blueprint but built on the game in every way they could. They added more bosses, more unique weapons and updated the graphics (which even though it was released in 1988 in Japan it still looks good). 

Choose your own adventure

The first eight bosses in Mega Man 2. You can choose who you want to start against.

One thing the original Mega Man set up was getting rid of level progression. Rather then playing Mega Man level 1 then Mega Man level 2. The game started with 6 bosses on the screen and you choose where you wanted to go. Choose cut-man and you go to his level, once you beat it you fight him and get his power. This basic idea was repeated in Mega Man 2 but instead of 6 bosses there were 8. This adds a new layer of interactivity that was uncommon in NES games (platformers especially). Now the player had to think about which level to tackle first. Not only that but since after beating the boss and gaining the new weapon you had to figure out what boss would be weakest against your new powers. It was really simple and easy to understand, while at the same time adding a new way to play a shooter/platformer. It gave the player a certain influence over the game. He/she could choose how they wanted the game to unfold.

The Music

It is impossible to talk about Mega Man 2 without mentioning the music. When this game came out no one had heard video game music that fast and with so many layers (for an NES game). The composers pushed the hardware to its maximum in order to get their rather complex music score to sound good. Even today people still consider Mega Man 2 having the best music of any game ever. It is a daunting enough task to create a few songs for an old NES game but the designers went above and beyond the call of duty and created an intro song, a level select song, a song for each of the 8 bosses, a song for selecting the bosses, a song for the final levels in the game, and a song for aquiring a new weapon. That's a lot of music and is an exceptional amount for games of its time. Furthermore each song was not just unique from the last but they were all much faster than video game music was at the time. The music not only sets the mood, by adding to the action happening on the screen, but also helps along the simple story of the game. I have provided a couple examples of some of the games most classic songs.

Intro Song

What a way to start the game. Because of the sound system the NES had the begining notes sound like futuristic computer noises setting the stage for the time period. The song starts off slow giving the player a false sense of calm. The music slowly builds faster and faster until we see Mega Man and it reaches its peak. The song is now at maxium speed and throughout the game it doesn't let up. The game designers effectively created a crescendo into the game before the player even started one level. It lets the player know we are skipping the slow part and getting right into the action.

Bubble Man

I could pick any or all of the Mega Man bosses but everyone has their favorite, and mine is Bubble Man. Personally I feel that this song really goes against everything we should expect with the level while at the same time complementing it. Somehow the creators meshed the fast paced songs of Mega Man 2 with an underwater level. Underwater levels in games typically have a more mellow tune to match the feeling of gliding through water. Even the boss' name, Bubble Man, evokes the image of safe, calm and slow. Even though the song is fast it still captures the image of a bubble. The song starts a little slow for a few seconds with a few notes floating up then the hard raw notes hits right after. Its almost like bubbles floating up and popping. Its imaginative, creative, and perfect. If you want to hear the other songs click the names, Metal Man, Wood Man, Heat Man, Air Man, Crash Man, Flash Man, Quick Man.

Wily world 1 and 2

Once you beat the 8 main bosses you move on towards the climax of the game. The climax starts off with the fastest paced song, that reminds the players of a really rocking guitar solo. Even among the other fast songs in the game it stands out, and lets the player know the game is about to ramp up even more. It is hard to create a climax in such a high action game but this song helps cement the fact that the peak of the game is yet to come.

Why not Mega Man 1 or 3

Now why do I feel that part 2 deserves special recognition over its sequel and the original.Some poeple might think that since Mega Man 1 is the original it deserves special recognition above the rest. Others think Mega Man 3 was the better game because it had an extra layer of polish. Simply put Mega Man 2 is the perfect example of a Mega Man game. The original lacked the layer of polish to make it really stand out, the basics were there but playing the game you can tell it was missing something and did not live up to its full potential. Mega Man 3, while still a great game, was the first in a series of over working the franchise. I would still suggest that Mega Man 3 is a great game but it did nothing better than Mega Man 2. Mega Man 3 was created because the success of Mega Man 2, it was not a labour of love it was an assignment. It also gave Mega Man his first superfluous abilities (sliding and a dog named rush) that pointed toward the watering down of the series. Mega Man 2 is just the right mix of old and new, and you can tell everyone who worked on it cared a great deal about it and strived toward this piece of art.


  1. Wow,

    I was never a gamer but when I was a kid I LOVED this game. The music really brings me back. Crash Man was my favourite boss and only after listening to his music just now did I realize that the music I've been humming for years was from Mega Man 2...great post!

    Also good point about the underwear outside the pants. So much practical stuff goes into these decisions: like most cartoon characters having 3 fingers and 1 thumb instead of 4 fingers.


  2. Being a kid from the Gulf, Sega was the console of choice. We all had the Mega Drive (The Japanese version of Genesis) so I'm not very familiar with the Mega Man franchise. I just checked out some of the gameplay vids on youtube for megaman2 and I really don't see what's so great about it. How was it better than Sonic or any of the famous Sega games?


  3. Yeah the Sega master system was the console of choice for the the UK, Brazil, and West Asia. I don't really know why it came out like that, maybe it was the marketing in those nations. Luckily I had a friend across the street who owned everything Sega so I spent my time at his place playing a lot of master system and he was at my house playing Nintendo.

    Maybe part of it is you had to be there at the time, but I can't really say since I still play this game and still love it so it has to be more then nostalgia for me.

    If you look at Mega Man as a franchise it doesn't seem that special. Most of the games are mediocre. But Mega Man 2 always is listed as one of the best games. One thing that every latches on to is the music. Its hard not hear that they are fairly catchy tunes and really push the NES's sound capabilites.

    The other thing that made the game so great and addicitive was the customization. In Sonic you go from level to level and Sonic is the same in gameplay from the first level to the last (Not to say Sonic isn't a kick ass game it is an upcoming article). In Mega Man every boss you beat you get his weapon. This brings new abilites and changes the way you can play the game. Mega Man is fairly weak to start off with but at the end he has 8 new weapons at his disposal along with 3 other gadgets. There is a sense of character growth that was unlike many other games. Sure in a lot of games you get power ups but they are temporary. In Mega Man they are permenant additions to the game.

    Thats the way I feel though.

    Rohit I have a question for you what Sega Master System and Genisis games do you remember fondly? I can track some down and play them if I haven't yet (In Japan it is very easy to get your hands on old hardware and games). Even though I played a lot of Sega I never owned a system and was limited to what my friend had. Your input would be appreciated.

  4. Actually those aspects of Mega Man 2 do make it amazing. The side scroller games of old used to be the same character always. I can't really remember any other games like Mega Man 2 that did have skill development and the freedom to choose how you want to beat the game.


  5. I'm not sure how much help I can be with the Sega games because my taste in games was very limited as a child. I pretty much only played the most popular games. I loved the Sonic series. I had Sonic 2 & Sonic and Knuckles. I still have the Mega Drive system and the special thing about that Knuckles game was that you could attach other previous Sonic games to the Knuckles cartridge and play as Knuckles in the old games like Sonic 2. I don't know if it's a collector item but I still find that pretty cool. I loved the Mortal Kombat series. More than Street Fighter, that was all us gulf kids game of choice. Mortal Kombat 2 of course was the best one. I own MK 3 though. Some other ones I liked was the Shinobi series. Shinobi 3 was a great game. I liked the Streets of Rage series. It was like a Double Dragon type game only better. Streets of Rage 2 is the best in the series. There's also the classic NBA Jam. I loved that game. Another good NBA game was NBA live 95. Ecco the Dolphin was another great one. I even like Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse. There was something really fun about that game. I was also a lot into wrestling as a kid and loved Wrestlemania (the game). The only ones I can think of that you maybe haven't played might be Golden Axe and Skitchin'. Golden Axe is a pretty good button masher. Skichin' was actually a pretty ingenious game. You had to race but with rollerblades. You had to go around the city and make it to the finish line and do tricks along the way too. I think you could even grab onto cars (but i'm not totally sure about that). Skitchin' is definitely one of those outside of the box games that was a lot of fun. I hope I helped though I have a feeling I didn't....haha