[Editor's note: We played the Wii version of this game. If you're worried about the graphics being different for the PS3 version ... you're probably looking at the wrong hands-on article.]
Mega Man 2 is my earliest truly memorable gameplay experience, so it's a bizarre feeling to be getting hands-on time with a game that looks identical fifteen years later. Make no bones about it, though. Mega Man 9 looks identical to the old NES games from the series. Capcom said they were taking the series back to its roots, and that's what they've done; difficulty included.
If you've never played a NES Mega Man game, firstly -- shame on you! Secondly, you'll probably be confused by Mega Man 9's graphics. These are pixelated 8-bit sprite graphics at their finest. In fact, the game looks like it borrows assets from Mega Man 2. Particularly the forest level, where the background looks almost identical.
Speaking of levels, there were only two available and they were both hard as nails. Mega Man 9 is going to make you weep like no modern game has done in years. During the levels I played, Mega Man doesn't have any particularly special abilities. No charge beam and no slide tackle. Rush returns with a spring in his back, letting you reach higher ledges, but that's it. There's no indication whether you'll be able to pick up these skills later in the game or not, but I'm hoping so. Even Mega Man 4 had the charge beam.
Even the sound effects and music escaped the passage of time, both are classic 8-bit Mega Man. As a result fans' brains will be torn in two as an overwhelming sense of nostalgia collides with the knowledge that this is an all new adventure for the character. A bizarre feeling.
Jumping puzzles involving disappearing and reappearing blocks are back with a vengeance in Mega Man 9. As are annoying mid-level boss characters who take up half the screen and have even bigger attack patterns. Did I mention this game was hard? Apparently only a handful of people have beat the levels shown at E3 -- and they're Capcom employees. The difficulty will probably be toned down for the official release, but you never know.
To sum up, Mega Man 9 is a NES Mega Man game that is late to the party by about 20 years. Despite that the game looks and plays great, as long as you can stand the 8-bit graphics. If you're a fan of the series then you'll love this and feel right at home. Otherwise, steer clear. Unless, of course, you've never played a classic Mega Man title, in which case you should probably pick this up and have a go. If you like it you can go back and play the others. At least you won't have a hard time adjusting to the aged graphics.