Mega Man 10 Review
Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 12:42PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Difficulty Design, Level Design, Mega Man, Misc Design & Theory, Review, Story

Mega Man 10 (MM10) is already one of my GOTY for 2010! At first I wasn't completely thrilled at the idea of another retro style Mega Man game, and I was reluctant to pick it up on day 1 because of my love for Mega Man 9. After all, both games are NES style Mega Man games with a common core design. Take the classic formula of JUMP, SHOOT, powers, bosses, and Wily and throw in some DLC and leader board support, and you got yourself the sequel that everyone saw coming. Many shared my same sentiments before playing the game. Unfortunately, now many have spread false claims about Mega Man 10. Having much love for both games, if you want a detailed explanation of why Mega Man 9 is so good read this. Most of the positive qualities apply to MM10 as well. The rest of this review will focus on MM10's differences from MM9 and address some of the negative feedback.  

Remember when I used to do re-reviews back at the beginning of Critical-Gaming? If you do, congrats! You've been following this blog for a long time, and I appreciate the support. So now, after reading through many reviews I feel like the following topics and comments need to be addressed directly. 

 

Story

It's so bad it's good? Is that why people think they can "tolerate" Mega Man's story? Though simple and a bit tongue in cheek, I've always approached such stories like manga, comics, or kid's books. Some things are exaggerated, simplified, and glossed over, but over all it's the spirit of the work that I'm looking for. If the gameplay gives me the meat of the story, then the opening and intermitten story elements in a game like Mega Man 10 merely provide the context. I'm the kind of person who studies and writes stories of all kinds. All I need to start an adventure is an altercation as simple as someone stole my Chaos emeralds, there's a princess to save, or Wily and the robots are at it again.

If you want more sarcastic lines how about this one "And don't think Mega Man is going to save you like he usually does." That's funny to me. Mega Man catching Wily's pod was pretty fantastical too. Furthermore, I cracked up at the Robenza epidemic. I think it's funny how robot dependent humans have become in Mega Man's world. And to solve the problem without the robot's help, only Dr. Wily is smart enough to build another machine to develop the cure. And when Wily's machine was stolen by the robots (supposedly), I laughed even more. After all, I'm sitting here writing a blog post about a video game on my netbook on the internet. I wouldn't be doing this without technology or Mega Man's help. And the bit of humanity that Dr. Wily expresses by leaving the hospital with the cure to Robenza makes Wily a slightly more complex character that we're used to. 

 

Boss Design

I can't speak to the criteria others measure cleverness, but I can talk about boss complexity, depth, and the amount of skill it takes to beat them. Actually, I've already talked about it in great detail in this 4 part series. To explain further, all the bosses and mini bosses in MM10 are unique stressing different skills, and encouraging different counter playstyles. My favorite has to be Chill Man. The entire boss encounter is designed so that players have to master low traction ice maneuvering. More specifically, mastering the JUMP and slide away SHOOT is ideal for maximizing your counter attack. With each boss you must platform, move your eyes, time your moves, and strategize differently. And they're all designed in layers that create different challenges based on your method of counter attack. Using the M. Buster versus the weapon the boss is weak to stresses different skills. For example, using the thunder wool on Pump Man requires a set up. You have to launch the thunder wool early so that Pump Man jumps into it. A simple run and gun tactic won't work. So for anyone who says using T. Wool is annoying or useless, they clearly aren't playing on a high enough level to appreciate the design of the weapon or the boss design of Pump Man. 

 

Power Design

This statement is far from accurate. Each enemy, mini boss, and boss is designed with at least 1 weakness to a special weapon. Just look at the in game replays or the youtube speed runs. Pick any of the world record holders videos and you'll see how all the powers can be expertly used outside of the boss showdown encounters. Their work is nothing short of amazing and inspiring. In fact, MM10's weapons are very similar to MM9's. The biggest difference is that the MM10 weapons were toned down to make the game more challenging overall. Power for power we have...

 

Level Design

Level design of Mega Man 10 is focused on layers of counterpoint and alternate paths in addition to supporting unique level gimmicks. I use gimmick here in a positive sense. There are platforming challenges, enemy challenges, and challenges that layer these types together. Each level features unique enemies and platforms that work with the level theme. Like MM9 the design is polished and well tuned for M.Buster only, special weapons, speed runners, and alternate characters so that each option plays differently.

I haven't taken a count of the amount of pits and spikes there are in MM10 versus MM9, but I thought it was about the same. I don't believe these reviewers have taken an accurate count either. Regardless, just having pits and spikes in a level doesn't accurately describe how the gameplay challenges are constructed. Though these elements seem deadly, they're the most dangerous when combined with tricky enemy placement. And if you call yourself a Mega Man veteran and you still complain about having to use reflex skills when falling through long corridors of spikes, then I have no sympathy for you. You should embrace the pause technique to boost your reflexes. Then you can use your knowledge skills to just memorize what to do. It's not that hard. 

One thing that the level designers got rid of are powerup locks that restrict progression. In MM2 and MM9, you have to use specific powers at times to progress. While this seems like a perfectly adequate alternative, the decay design of Mega Man special weapons create a few issues. After dying your special weapon ammo doesn't refill. So unless you find a good farming spot, you might be out of sufficient ammo to progress. All you need to beat MM10 is your trusty M. Buster (and maybe Rush Coil/Jet). It's much cleaner to avoid the lack of ammo progression problem. Locking away items like E tanks and extra lives behind powerup locks are still great ideas.   

While playing Strike Man's stage I noticed a pattern in enemy placement. There are many enemies on this stage that are positioned diagonally up or below Mega Man's horizontal line of fire. This makes shooting these enemies with the M. Buster more difficult. However, using the triple blade weapon works perfectly. It's almost as if the levels are designed so that the special weapon the end boss is weak to also helps you progress through their stage. This theory holds true for Commando Man and Sheep Man's stage as well. So perhaps the levels are designed to subtly communicate boss weaknesses and create a dynamic between using the special weapon in the level or on the boss. 

 

Difficultly Design

Some have expressed that MM10 is hard even for Mega Man standards (a series consider one of the hardest). Those who complain about difficulty probably aren't using all the resources available. After picking a mode (easy, normal, hard) you can collect and purchase helpful items. You can also practice mini boss and boss battles in the challenge mode and/or use powers like Rush Coil, Jet, and other weapons to make challenges easier. With all of these options, certainly most gamers can find their sweet spot of challenge. Personally, I died a few times each level playing through the game on normal. And after beating the game, I moved on to playing through Hard mode with Proto Man. That was a greater difficulty jump than I expected. I died a lot here. After studying the bosses and practicing the levels more, I beat the game on hard as well. The whole time, I never felt like the challenges were ever unfair. A well rounded skill set goes a long way, but, in addition to freestyling, there's a trick to everything. Knowledge is power. Though trial and error is our most common method of self teaching, there are safer ways to gain knowledge than most realize. 

 

Extra Stuff

The achievements in MM10 are better organized than in MM9. MM10 breaks things down into 2 categories. Most of the achievements or challenges can be accessed and attempted from the menu. These challenges are bit sized and encourage players to focus on specific weapons or on playing a certain way. The other smaller category of challenges must be earned by playing the main game. I wish all Mega Man games had these features so I could go straight to specific levels or boss battles. The reason I know and love so much about MM10 is because this challenge system allowed me to easily and effectively study the game. When I think about the boss design of MM9, I can't tell you if they're as interesting, complex, layered, or solvable as in MM10 because I simply don't have a good way of getting the repeated practice on them. 

Just check out these ridiculous MM9 challenges. Many can be compressed into a single challenge. Some seem very simple but are difficult to monitor while achieving them. Others encourage players to play in unique ways, but I feel that they detract from the core experience of playing Mega Man. Who really cares that you can beat the game once per day for 3 days?  

 

Like I said, MM10 and MM9 are two great games. MM10 is the kind of polished and challenging experience that's only possible as a sequel to a great game like MM9. If you use nostalgia and novelty as your guide, then you might be disappointed in this game. If gameplay and challenge drive you, then welcome to the club. 

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (http://critical-gaming.com/).
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