It’s no secret that certain people at Sony in the US frowned upon 2d games. While a few snuck by early on it would take a change in leadership before the floodgates would open. Can you imagine if Mega Man 8 were forced to stay in Japan? At least Saturn owners would have received a cool exclusive. As the eighth game in the long running series Mega Man 8 does not break from convention. It does however feature ridiculous production values as well as solid level design making it an enjoyable if familiar ride.
In a distant part of the galaxy two robots clash with neither gaining the upper hand. They injure each other and eventually crash land on Earth. One of these robots harbors an evil energy source that Dr. Wily steals and uses to power his latest robot masters and fortress. The other is discovered and repaired by Dr. Light. Duo as he is called was created to eradicate evil throughout the universe and now enlists Mega Man to complete his mission.
Mega Man 8 is far more story heavy as Capcom decided to go all out with animated cutscenes and full voice acting. Too bad their efforts turned out comical rather than dramatic. The story is enjoyable for what it is but is hysterical anytime the characters open their mouths.
Mega Man 8 follows in the footsteps of part 7 in many ways. Auto’s shop returns with a wealth of new items and abilities to purchase. This time around the screws used as currency are either well-hidden or will take skill to reach. The only new power-up added to the list is the Mega Ball. While its most obvious use is as a makeshift soccer ball it can also be used as a spring board. Unfortunately it takes skill to line up your attacks properly and the one boss designed around it is more frustrating than exciting.
The same setup of only four robot masters being available from the start returns unfortunately. I don’t like it but at the very least the bosses here are far more interesting than part seven. That applies to their stages as well. Astro Man’s level consists of two mazes of collapsing corridors that need to be navigated before reaching the man himself. Aqua Man’s level showcases Mega Man’s ability to swim. Flame Man’s temple puts all of your weapon interactions to the test and is the most varied of the entire set. Cold man unfortunately features my least liked gimmick, the motorized sleds. The annoying jump and slide prompts leave little room to react and if you die you must repeat the whole segment. You get points for trying but I still hate you for it Capcom.
Mega Man 8 is more difficult than most titles in the series. The game is very stingy with health capsules; you won’t find many lying around and they don’t drop frequently. But worst of all there are no energy tanks! The boss battles are particularly nightmarish if you don’t have their weakness too. Trying to tough it out comes with mixed results. Some like Sword Man follow a fixed pattern and are easy. Others like Astro Man are aggressive and random with their attacks. It never descends to the level of the original but damn does it get close.
The insane production values will make you question why anyone would try to block its release. This is Mega Man as you always dreamed. The expanded capabilities of the 32-bit platforms allow Capcom’s art to shine like never before. The screen is literally filled with enemies at times and they all explode in a shower of individual gears and bolts. The backgrounds are beautiful although a bit conservative with the scrolling. It rarely goes three layers deep although it doesn’t matter. The robot masters have far more personality than ever with their lavish animation and numerous sound bites. The few animated cutscenes suffer from heavy compression and are very grainy but that is the only visual blemish I can come up with.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now, the voice acting is atrocious. Mega Man 8 has one of the worst English dubs of all time. Nearly everything that can go wrong did. Bad line reads, mispronunciation, a nearly incomprehensible script, it just goes on and on. The most egregiously bad actor goes to Dr. Light. Not only does he sound like Elmer Fudd you can hear him flub his lines and correct himself mid sentence! While some of the lines from the robot masters are questionable they do help give them personality. It is just too bad that Capcom ruined the most important part of a story heavy game.
Saturn owners had to wait an extra month but in the end received the superior version. There are a number of additional features and content that make this the definitive version of the game. The most prominent is the Bonus Mode which features an extensive array of fan art and official Capcom art. There is also a sound test, voice test (which is hilarious for the wrong reason), as well as a movie viewer for the game’s cutscenes. There are additional graphical effects which come as no surprise; this is what the Saturn was made for. Another nice bonus is two additional boss fights. Both Cutman and Woodman can be fought for additional screws to use in the shop, tying into the series 10th anniversary.
Some of the levels feature different music as well. Both Tengu Man and Aqua Man feature different arrangements on each platform. Whether you like the playful PS One version of Tengu Man’s theme versus the hard rock in the Saturn version comes down to taste. Personally I think they both pale compared to the SNES tune. The FMV in the Saturn version is even grainier than its PlayStation counterpart and looks terrible.
That aside Mega Man 8 is still a great game. There weren’t too many 2d platformers during that generation so it was nice to see Capcom roll out the red carpet for their mascot. Given the choice the Saturn version is superior but good luck finding it. On the flip side you can find the PS One game in a variety of compilations dirt cheap. You can’t lose either way.