Mega Man: The Wily Wars

Going into 1993 Sega had built up a tremendous amount of momentum due to their success with Sonic the Hedgehog 2.  That led to more third parties hopping on board.  Capcom would be one of the last holdouts along with Konami.  As that infamous image of Sonic shaking hands with Mega Man made the rounds we all knew; it’s just a matter of time.  As Mega Man X revitalized the series on SNES the question became how Mega Man would make his Sega debut.  Mega Man: the Wily Wars was the answer.  It isn’t the slam dunk gamers and the press expected but it is a more than appropriate remake of the most popular entries in the series.

Not content with simply packaging the three games and calling it a day Capcom has instead come up with a reason as to why Mega Man has to revisit the worlds of his original three adventures.  Dr. Wily has traveled back in time to defeat the less experienced Mega Man during their original conflicts.  Only after reliving the past can Mega Man then challenge Wily in his tower.

Remakes and compilations were nearly unheard of during the 16-bit era.  Aside from limited cartridge space we were only one generation removed from the 8-bit days.  I think most developers preferred waiting until they could drastically overhaul their prior releases on more powerful hardware.  Mega Man: the Wily Wars like Super Mario Allstars was a bit of an anomaly in that regard.  As a compilation of the Blue Bomber’s most beloved adventures it would have been more than worth every gamer’s attention. The graphical overhaul and additional content sweetened the pot.  Too bad not many were fortunate enough to play it.

For some strange reason Mega Man: the Wily Wars was only released in the US through the Sega channel.  For those who weren’t around or don’t remember the Sega Channel was a service that gave access to a rotating roster of 50 games for somewhere around $15 a month plus an activation fee.  Wily Wars wasn’t the only game that saw exclusivity this way.  Golden Axe 3, Pulseman, and Alien Soldier were also released this way.  For the lucky few who had access to the service when it was active I’m sure it was awesome but for the poor (me!) locking some of the console’s finest behind such a pricey service sucked

From a gameplay perspective everything has been recreated in exacting detail for the most part.  From enemies to item placement if you have intimate knowledge of all three games it will serve you well.  Going back to the original Mega Man still produces a bit of shock since it is lacks many of the more popular elements such as the slide and Rush.  Those accustomed to the fairly even difficulty of the following games will be surprised at just how challenging the first game can be.  There are no convenient energy tanks and the game is stingy with weapon refills.  However battery backup has been added for all three games.  It makes the trek through Mega Man tolerable at least.  Mega Man 2 and 3 were both near perfect as is so aside from the overhauled presentation your memories of both games will still hold true.

Having said that there are some slight differences and these changes aren’t always for the better. There are many details that add up and throw the “feel” of the Wily Wars off.  The most noticeable is the presence of slowdown.  The game slows down for no discernible reason other than bad programming.  It’s prevalent enough that your timing will be thrown off every now and then. In some cases its beneficial, such as the fight against Quick Man.  A number of glitches have been fixed such as the player 2 invincibility “cheat” in Mega Man 3.  You are going to have to tough it out against the Yellow Devil in Mega Man this time as the pause cheat no longer works.

The difficulty is based on the Japanese versions which were harder than their international counterparts.  You’ll notice most enemies take a few more hits to kill which is annoying when combined with their longer invincibility frames.  Overall how much it bothers you will vary; I was annoyed at first but got used to it.

The one major addition to the game would be Wily’s Tower.  Completing all three games opens Dr. Wily’s fortress, a new four level dungeon with bosses inspired by Journey to the West.  As an added bonus you can choose eight weapons from all three games to bring along, creating some interesting combinations.  It’s a wonderful bonus and one that is worth playing through all 3 games to tackle.  Not that anyone who bought the game wasn’t planning on doing so anyway.

Gameplay changes aside the real reason most had any interest in this package would be the presentation and in this regard it doesn’t disappoint.  The color palette is a bit darker overall but you’ll appreciate the beautiful backgrounds added to every level.  Each individual stage has been given 1-2 layers of scrolling with added background detail that perfectly matches the tone of the level.  The overhaul is really apparent on stages such as Gutsman and Flashman.  The sprites have been redrawn (except Protoman, it’s the same NES sprite!) and given some new animation frames. 

Curiously Mega Man 3 is the most uneven, as if the outsourced developers ran out of time.  The game has an updated color palette but its backdrops are mixed. Some like Gemini Man and Needle Man stages look fantastic.  Others like Top Man and or Spark Man either lose the charm of the original or look near identical.  Mega Man 3 is my favorite in the series and deserved better.

While most will agree that the graphical overhaul was a success the music doesn’t fare as well.  The Genesis sound hardware produces a very distinct sound and when games go outside of its range the results are often disastrous.  The original tunes that were heavier on the bass and guitar have seen the best results when remixed.  Woodman and Elecman’s themes are perfect examples.  The more melodic such as Top Man and Gemini sound strange; I won’t say their bad, just very different.  Then there are the truly terrible such as Fire Man and Cut Man.   In my opinion they needed to nail the music just as much as the graphics.  A lot of the music produced throughout Mega Man’s history is some of the finest in gaming.  This uneven remixed soundtrack does it no justice.

Mega Man: the Wily Wars is a solid remake of the three of the best games in the classic series that could have been so much more.  Sadly if you want to play you’re going to pay an exorbitant amount.  It never received a physical release in the US and the Sega Channel is long gone.  Both Pal and Japan versions usually fetch $2-300 on Ebay.  The game is good but not that good. 

Overall: 7 out of 10

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