I don’t envy the development team of Mega Man 3. The legendary second installment is a beloved classic around the world and any follow-up would be heavily scrutinized. With many of the staff moving on to different projects it would have been very easy to simply churn out a boring sequel. However Mega Man 3 not only improves on its predecessor it introduces some key elements that would become staples of the series. The debate as to which game is better rages on but at the end of the day part 3 is a truly great game and one of the system’s finest.
While there isn’t an elaborate intro this time there is an actual story. Dr. Wily has apparently turned a new leaf and proposes a peace keeping robot to be built with Dr. Light. All that is needed are eight energy components from eight robot masters. Opposing you at every step is the mysterious Break Man, whose connection to Mega Man will be revealed in time.
The lineup of bosses isn’t as iconic as part 2 but are no less impressive. With the basic elements accounted for Capcom went a different route in coming up with their themes and weapons. Some like Needle Man, Hard Man, and Gemini Man are difficult if you aren’t prepared. Others like Spark Man and Magnet Man are really easy; it’s more of a hassle just to reach them. Shadow Man’s fiery stage is an ill themed match but his boss encounter is the most memorable because of his weakness. Which brings us to Top Man, the lame duck in the group. The Top Spin is quite possibly the dumbest weapon in gaming yet you’ll use it for two of the hardest fights in the game.
Two critical features introduced here would have a significant impact on the series going forward. The ability to slide makes up for the fact that Mega Man cannot crouch. I’ve always found that a pretty stupid limitation but sliding is infinitely cooler than ducking anyway. The level design has changed considerably to accommodate this ability and for the better in my opinion. The 3 Items from the second game have been consolidated in the form of Rush. Rush can assume three forms, the rush coil to reach high ledges, the rush marine for underwater exploration, and the rush jet which allows you to bypass the trickier sections of the game. Rush would feature in every installment going forward with new forms in each game.
Mega Man 3 is actually one of the longer games in the series. After the initial 8 robot masters the Doc Robots are unleashed. These 8 bad asses use the powers of Mega Man 2’s bosses and it is interesting pitting your new weapons against the old. They don’t occupy a new set of levels; 4 of the previous stages are heavily remixed and they are paired up. While disappointing it is still really cool that they are even in the game. This is followed up by a one off battle with “Break Man” and then Wily’s Castle which is longer than in nearly all subsequent games. You certainly get your money’s worth.
The challenge this time around is a little bit higher but not to the level of the original Mega Man. There is no overpowered weapon like the Metal Blade so you’ll have to rely on your own platforming skills. With the addition of the slide the levels have numerous tunnels, some that lead to items and some that hilariously lead to instant death. Certain robot masters like Hard Man and Needle Man in particular are very aggressive. If you aren’t armed with their weakness or extra energy tanks these fights can be brutal. The Doc Robot are a challenge due to their size and attacks. On the other hand you can cheese some of the roughest parts of the game with the Rush Jet.
Dr. Wily’s castle, which is usually when the game steps it up a notch is easier than the prior games too. The game literally drowns you in energy tanks and here you can store 9 which is overkill. The bosses are a joke, including the returning Yellow Devil. The traditional boss rush is made even simpler because nearly every boss is weak to their own weapon! Some dying in a single hit if you can believe it. You’ll even end up using one or two otherwise useless weapons in there!
Mega Man 3 improved on the production values of its predecessor in a number of ways. The overall palette and design of the worlds is much more colorful this time around. The mechanical designs and enemy size has seen a notable increase in size as well. It’s pushing the system pretty hard as there are multiple instances of slowdown. The soundtrack is probably my favorite in the classic series which might be blasphemy to some. There is no one track as iconic as Wily Stage 1 however the overall score is better in my opinion.
Mega Man 3 is probably my favorite title in the original series and one of the best NES games of all time. I know I’m not alone with that opinion. Regardless of which game you prefer both are an essential part of any NES library. Do not pass this up.