There have been many sequels that were better than their predecessor. Not that it should come as a surprise because it is expected at the very least. But some games go so far above in terms of refinement that it is astonishing. Going from Super Mario Brothers 2 to SMB 3 was practically a revelation. But in the space of one year Nintendo did it again with Super Mario World. Mega Man 2 is a similar jump in quality but is surprising in that at its core it is pretty much identical to the first game. However Capcom smoothed out the rough edges to produce an undeniable classic and cement the series in the hearts of gamers.
And to think it almost never happened! Mega Man was a great game, loved by nearly all who played it. Yet apparently it did not sell well enough for Capcom to deem it worthy of a sequel. But the creators loved it so much they were allowed create a sequel in their spare time so long as it did not interfere with their daily work. As dire a situation as that sounds a legendary game was born from their passion. Mega Man 2 is not just one of the best games in the series but also one of the best games of all time. If you have never played it do not pass this one up.
Dr. Wily has returned with a set of 8 robot masters of his own design to seek revenge on Mega Man and Dr. Light. That’s all the story you need. Of all the games in the series this set of 8 bosses are the most iconic for a variety of reasons. Well except Bubble Man. These are a more creative set of robot masters than the slightly generic bunch in the first game. Flash Man and Quick Man are a lot more interesting than Fire Man and Ice Man. Metal Man is the one of the best designed in the series and also has the coolest weapon, the Metal Blade.
The boss weapons this time around are incredibly powerful. Heat Man’s Atomic Fire could be viewed as the precursor to the later Mega Buster as it is the first weapon you can charge. The Time Stopper and the Leaf Shield were so iconic they were copied in later games under different names. Even the Bubble Lead, as dumb it is in practice ends up being crucial to completing the game. The Metal Blade is so powerful it replaces the default gun for anyone with common sense. There are a few duds in the list though. As cool as it is to stop time there is really only one situation where it is useful. The previously mentioned Leaf Shield is pretty terrible at doing what its name suggests since it is thrown away as soon as you move.
The level design is more adventurous this time out as Mega Man 2 is not afraid to go to exotic worlds rather than industrial locations. The flame filled passages of Quick Man’s stage will make you sweat if you don’t come prepared. The suspended platforms and obscured landings of Air Man’s stage threaten to finish you with one careless mistake. I’m partial to Flash Man’s stage, not just because I like the music but because the downward descent hides plenty of items in its tight corridors and destructible walls, enticing you to come back.
There is a greater thematic consistency to each stage although that was present in the first game as well. Wily’s Castle is where the game puts everything you’ve learned to the test. It no longer holds your hand and is not afraid to almost sink to the level of the first game when it comes to spiked pits and such. The bosses in the Castle are almost as challenging as the Yellow Devil though thankfully not as cheap.
Speaking of challenge the one area that needed the most attention was the difficulty and that too has been fixed. The original game could be very unforgiving in its difficulty and you either rose to the challenge or moved on. Mega Man 2 is better balanced. There are less spiked pits, better enemy placement and best of all energy tanks of which you can carry nine. Even Dr. Wily’s castle, where the game kicks it up a notch is still completely fair. You’ll have to be smart about your item usage or risk having to die to go back and refill them.
One weapon in particular, the Metal Blade is literally game breaking. It is grossly overpowered and uses so little energy you will never use the default mega buster again. That is a bit of overkill for a game that isn’t that difficult. For those seeking a challenge there is a hard setting. Most pivotal however is a password feature that is a godsend as this is longer than its predecessor.
The overall production values are higher but it is the music that is the most impressive. Composer Takashi Tateishi’s score along with the excellent sound programming is more daring in its use of instruments with several of the series most memorable tracks such as Dr. Wily Stage 1 and the opening going on in infamy. Mega Man 2’s soundtrack is considered one of the greatest in gaming. It’s hard to argue as nearly every robot master’s theme is so incredible.
Mega Man 2 is every bit the classic that it has been held up as and is a perfect platformer in every way. While it isn’t my personal favorite of the NES titles (that distinction belongs to 3) for anyone new to the series it is the game I would point to first. A classic in every way.