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Mega Man Anniversary Collection Review

Developer: Atomic Planet Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: June 22, 2004 Also On: GCN, PS2 and Xbox

The wait is finally over for fans of Megaman who have been waiting, due to delays in the release date, for months for Anniversary Collection to see the light of day. Obviously, many true Megaman fans would have the game by now, and would not need to consult a review to influence their decision in the matter, but for those of you who are unsure about the necessity of getting this game for whatever reason, I am here to tell you that getting eight games from a classic franchise plus a couple arcade games for $30 is a worthy investment for any fan of actions games, whether they have played a Megaman game before or not.

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I considered reviewing each game separately, but, truth be told, regardless of the fact that things were added in each game to make it different from the ones before it, for the most part I would be saying the same things over and over. Most of what needs to be said can be said of all of them in general, but I will be saying some things about specific games. When I do so, I will be sure to clarify which game I am referring to. I will cover the two unlockable arcade games separately from the eight mainline games though.

Let’s begin with graphics. In Megamans 1-7, I can easily tell that great care was taken in insuring that the ports were fairly exact. There have been minor changes, such as the correction of a spelling error in one of the cutscenes of 6, but such changes are few and far between, and most of them are positive. I cannot speak for 8 for the simple reason of never having played the original version, but it does certainly look like a Playstation game graphically. Overall, the graphics are ported very well, which is all I would ask for in a compilation game like this.

Now, let’s talk about sound. Capcom never changed sound much until they switched consoles between 6 and 7. The same soundset seems to have been used from 1987’s Megaman to 1993’s Megaman 6, with the addition of new sounds as necessary for new items. You have your traditional jumping and shooting noises, the noise of a shot hitting an enemy and the ever-annoying noise of your shot bouncing harmlessly off an enemy. 7 and 8 employ the same noises, but the quality of them is increased to keep in line with the console generations they came out in. Overall, the sound effects are ported just as well as the graphics, with very few exceptions.

The music is another story. For the most part, it is ported perfectly, and it is still just as addicting as ever, but in some games a theme would stop and start over in the middle of a level for no apparent reason. That is not a serious complaint, however, as its occurence is fairly uncommon, and the fact that it does that is far overshadowed by the addictiveness of the themes themselves, with few apparent exceptions. Capcom’s music composers knew what they were doing when they wrote the scores for these games.

The gameplay in a Megaman game was something that was pretty constant throughout the series. You had your little blue robot Megaman who would go through the world destroying robots sent to take it over for Dr. Wily, and then you would go to Dr. Wily’s laboratory in a futile (except for 6) attempt to capture him. The thing that made Megaman revolutionary though was the fact that you could go after the robots sent by Wily in any order, and then use the weapons of defeated robots against others. In Megaman, there were six robots to deal with, then in 2 through 6 there were eight. 7 and 8 have eight robots also, but for some reason Capcom split them into two groups of four rather than giving all of them to you at the beginning.

One other thing that needs to be said is that the Megaman series always remained somewhat original because something new was added in each game to keep it from being an exact carbon copy of its predecessors. In 2, energy tanks and a diverse item set for maneuvering rather than the magnet platform creator were introduced, followed by sliding and Rush in Megaman 3. 4 introduced the Mega Buster and Flip Top, while 5 introduced Beat. 6 really only redefined Rush into power armors rather than transportational items, but that was still a shift that brought creativity into the game. 7 introduced the concept of buying items with bolts, while 8 pretty much made common the riding of vehicles by Megaman, something done only once before that point.

But while all of this might make the games sound like they were radically different from each other, such is not the case. The basic premise of the games remained the same: run, jump, and shoot your ways through the levels until you find the boss robot, beat that robot, and move on to the next level of your choice. Repeat until all eight robots are defeated (six in the first game), then go after whoever sent the robots after Megaman. Originally, such a system only required two buttons, the A and B buttons on an NES controller, and, in fact, even still you can play through the games using just those two buttons on a GCN controller.

As long as we’re on the subject of controls, it is within the realm of control that the one drawback to Anniversary Collection arises. That’s not to say that the controls are bad. In fact, they are very responsive and do what they are supposed to do. To make this game more convenient, Y becomes a rapid fire button in Megamans 1-6, and X becomes an automatic slide button in 3-6. Of course, you can still slide the old-fashioned way as well. In 7, you are restricted to the original two button set, and in 8 Y becomes a second fire button and X a second jump button. L and R can be used to rotate through your weapon inventory without having to enter the status screen, and the C stick to rotate through transportation modes, at least in somes games (I haven’t tried it in all of them), but for those of you who prefer to reminisce, you can use the Z button to access the status screen and switch weapons and transportation modes manually.

That all sounds well and good, and indeed is, but here’s where everything goes south. Since Megaman came out in 1987, B has been the fire button and A the jump button (or more accurately, the button on the left fires and the button on the right jumps since the buttons have different names on different consoles’ controllers). Even Megaman Network Transmission employed this system. But, lo and behold, Capcom decided to switch the controls on us so that the button on the right is the fire button now and the button on the left is the jump button. Bear in mind that I am reviewing the GCN version of the game, so the PS2 controls might not have been switched.

This might not sound like a big problem, and after a while you get used to it and it isn’t. But, in my case, it does mean I am relying on that Y button rapid fire a lot more than I would if I could carry a charge. That is my one major gripe about the new control scheme is that I always forget to not charge my gun with the middle of my thumb, so if I want to jump with a charged weapon, I end up rotating my thumb and putting the finger next to it on the button while I press the B button to jump with my thumb. Most of the time I just avoid this problem by using the rapid fire rather than the charged shots, but in some cases, such as the guys that turn into cloud platforms in Flame Man’s stage in Megaman 6, jumping with a charged shot is necessary.

Saving is not nearly as big a hassle in this game as it was in the original versions of the games. Instead of having to take and use passwords (like a lot of the other stuff, you can still use passwords if you so choose), the game instead saves your progress every time you either defeat a boss or lose your entire set of lives. This is true even in the original Megaman where saving originally was impossible. That certainly makes the game more convenient to play for short periods of time.

Although I don’t find Megaman games particularly difficult for the most part, for those of you that might be new to the game, Capcom has two things to offer you to make the game easier. First of all is a difficulty setting. You can set the difficulty to normal (which is the way the games were originally released), or you can set it to easy which will make the games, in my opinion, woefully easy. I haven’t even played in the easy mode, but just from watching a friend play in it, I can tell that it is an absolute insult to the concept of difficulty. Basically, easy is a training mode for getting used to the mechanics of the game, and Megaman veterans won’t need to use it.

The other thing that Capcom offers is a Navi mode. This basically presents you with hints at various points in the game to help you get farther. Among these hints is a Beat icon pointing Megaman in the way he is supposed to go so he doesn’t try to go a wrong direction and get killed, but there are also hints on how to beat bosses and how to handle tricky areas or enemies within levels. Like the easy difficulty, this is something Megaman veterans won’t need. Overall, these games are ported very well and are just as fun as their original versions, even with the switched controls.

Were it only these eight games from the classic Megaman franchise on this disk, it would still easily be worth paying full price for, and thus a steal at $30, but there is more to the game than just exact ports of the first eight games of the original Megaman series. You can unlock what appears to be concept art, as well as extra musical tracks inspired by elements of the series. But by far the most important unlockables are the two arcade games. Let me make clear that I am discussing unlockables only because I am not spoiling anything you couldn’t find out by reading the back of the display case for the game.

Anyway, the arcade games are sort of the black sheep of the games on this collection. I’m not saying they’re not fun, but only that they are somewhat pointless compared to the other eight games. There are two unlockable arcade games, but I will discuss them together because if I discuss them separately I will forget which is which (they’re that similar) and end up making mistakes.

Anyway, in a nutshell, the graphics are about Megaman 8 quality, possibly a little worse. You play as Megaman, Protoman, or Bass (or Auto in the second one) and you fight bosses from games in the original series one at a time. No levels, only the bosses. Of course, to spruce things up a bit, their attack patterns have been changed. The sound isn’t really anything to write home about since much of the music is drowned out by the constant shot of you firing your weapon at a boss. About the best thing to these games is that they are alone in being multiplayer capable on this collection. Yes, two players can play at once.

That doesn’t really save these games though. They would be a lot more interesting if you had limited continues, but instead all you have to do is hit the Z button when you die and you can keep going with a new life bar. With the exception of Auto, it doesn’t even really matter which character you’re using, as they are all essentially the same. Basically, you fight six to eight bosses from games in the original series, then you fight a boss from one of Wily’s lairs (Yellow Devil most often) before fighting Wily himself. This would all be more exciting in my opinion if you didn’t have infinite lives, because the infinite lives thing makes it too easy to win, thus making the games outlive their usefulness faster.

The arcade games are basically diversions from the main games and not much else. It is sad that what most Megaman fans were looking forward to the most turned out to have so little depth, but it isn’t a really big deal in the scheme of things.

Megaman Anniversary Collection is definitely a must-have for Megaman fans, but, in my opinion, it is a must-have for anybody who appreciates 2D gaming. Ten games for $30, even if the two arcade games won’t last that long, is a deal that should be seized by anybody who has a GCN or a PS2. Who knows, if enough people buy this, maybe we’ll see Megaman X Anniversary Collection in a couple years.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8.2
Written by Martin Review Guide