Joystiq E3 hands-on: Mega Man 9


Short version: Mega Man 9 is, well, Mega Man. That's the whole point, isn't it?

Not quite as short and possibly more elaborate than the game deserves version:
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"If you listen carefully, you can actually hear the game designers laugh maniacally and give each other high-fives every time you die."

Mega Man 9 is, well, Mega Man. That's the whole point, isn't it? It's the gaming equivalent of mac and cheese, a warm and familiar serving of something you know, love and know you love. Or hate, in which case you shouldn't even bother.

While we won't delve into the alarming psychological instability of a mac and cheese hater, it's safe to say that this trip down memory lane won't transform you into a fan of the blue bomber. In fact, this particular lane's innumerable traps, deadly spikes, disappearing platforms and mean-spirited robot elephants would almost certainly encourage a detour.

Mega Man 9 is tough. There's something sadistic about level design that steers you down the wrong path, secretly building up your confidence and arrogance, only to splatter you on some sobering spikes. If you listen carefully, you can actually hear the game designers laugh maniacally and give each other high-fives every time you die. They love it -- but so do you.

Capturing the "feel" of Mega Man's NES outings isn't simply a matter of faithfully reproducing the retro graphics, animation and inescapably catchy 8-bit music. Mega Man 9 does all of that wonderfully, by the way, but it also succeeds in capturing that ineffable quality of a series classic like Mega Man 2. It evokes frustration, the kind that makes you fling the controller, gnash your teeth and mutter obscenities under your breathe. Not even Capcom employees were immune to those feelings during E3.

"How can that be a good thing?" you ask, secretly annoyed by our prescient abilities. The answer, as pointed out earlier, is that Mega Man 9 is Mega Man. As in: Unexpected deaths; level memorization; challenging bosses and those annoying hardhat-wearing bastards who pop out at the most inconvenient times. It's infuriating alright, but it's the kind of boiling frustration that, more often than not, translates to another attempt at foiling the robot masters.

Just one more go, then I'll give up.

Alright, just one more.

And Mega Man 9 is just one more. Just one more old-fashioned leap across precariously placed platforms and through stuttering boss shutters. If you want it, and you'll know if you do, look for it on WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network later this year.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.