Fans of Capcom's long-running platformer already know that Mega Man has been featured on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, PlayStation, Xbox 360 and even the WonderSwan. But did you know that Mega Man had more than one dalliance with Sega and their line of consoles? It's true. Not only did Sega manage to snag Mega Man for a Sega Channel-only Genesis game, but they also managed to shrink down our hero for their Sega Game Gear handheld game system. With all the excitement over Mega Man 9 (out now on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii), I decided to go back and rediscover this forgotten gem.
Like most of the Game Boy Mega Man adventures, this Game Gear game is not completely original. Granted, it does have a few Game Gear specific features, but by and large the elements from this game were taken from Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5. It shouldn't surprise anybody that the Game Gear is more than capable of handling the graphics power of these two NES games, and throw in the color scheme and this is one of the best looking portable Mega Man games of the 20th century.
From the get-go Mega Man gives you the option of four bosses - Bright Man, Napalm Man, Star Man, and Stone Man. From there you will also encounter Wave Man and Toad Man, all the way up to the big man himself. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much of the game was retained, down to accurate level designs and some groovy music. Sadly these aren't the world's best boss characters, but the technical mastery more than makes up for a few stupid one-on-one battles. The real joy of this game is playing through these incredibly difficult levels, finding what weapons work best on the bosses and trying your hardest to accurately right down the unique passwords. In other words, this portable game feels just like a real Mega Man adventure.
The reason for this is because this IS a real Mega Man adventure. Sure this is portable, but when it comes to the graphics, sound and length you would never notice the difference. This game even has some of the annoying trappings of the Mega Man franchise, especially the cheap deaths and the frustrating level designs. Fans of the series have come to accept these for what they are, but I can see these level designs turning a lot of new gamers off almost immediately. If you're not prepared for a hardcore challenge then you're best not even thinking about playing a 2D Mega Man game.
My other complaint with the game comes in the form of the lame enhancements that were ported over from Mega Man 4 and 5. I guess I can't be too surprised, but it's a shame that of all the things they decided to port, it was your stupid robot dog (Rush) and the other lame "special" attacks. Maybe I'm just a purist, but I prefer my Mega Man games to be gimmick free. I didn't find that Rush or the special attacks added much, and in some ways they actually made the levels a little worse. I can get over these additions, but I would have liked this game a little more had it been a lot more like the first three Mega Man outings.
Even though it's not a brand new Game Gear game made from the ground up, it's hard not to be impressed with this stellar portable game. The gameplay is spot on and the graphics and sound are among the best the system has to offer. If you're sick of playing through mindless Sonic the Hedgehog carts, you owe it to your Game Gear to give it something genuinely exciting. Mega Man may not be perfect, but it's a stunning first (and only) attempt on Sega's long-forgotten handheld console.