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E308: Mega Man 9 feels more like a 10


While Capcom's press conference was going on elsewhere in the LA Convention Center, their meeting room harbored a poor, neglected Mega Man 9 station. Due to the unique situation, I was able to stand and play Mega Man 9 for a good 20 to 25 minutes. The demo was limited to two levels, which weren't named. Judging from the bosses' appearance in their intros (which are straight out of Mega Man 2), I played Plug Man's stage and Concrete Man's. Concrete Man looks almost exactly like Guts Man from Mega Man. Whoever they were, they had some damned hard stages.

First I should talk about the presentation. It looks just like an NES game in motion. It is exactly like a new Virtual Console game appeared out of an alternate history. The look is clean and colorful. It's the real thing. And the music comes straight out of classic Mega Man compositions. The stage intro music is the classic Mega Man 2 tune, and the rest of the music I heard was original compositions in the style of the series. The only hint of newness was found in the control explanation sheet -- the minus button will eventually go to the "Challenge List," a feature that wasn't yet revealed.

The stages remind me a lot of Mega Man 2. The Concrete Man stage starts off looking like Wood Man's stage, and then moves into a girder-based design. It's absolutely, one hundred percent classic Mega Man in design. Jumps lead into unavoidable Metool hits, birds fly by and drop exploding eggs, and enemies pop up out of chasms just as you try to jump.

Both stages relied a lot -- a lot -- on the disappearing blocks. VWOOP VWOOP VWOOP! They've been used to make false paths and deviously-placed blocks guaranteed to kill every player many, many times. These disappearing-block sections are a lot harder than before -- at least, it seems that way.

In fact, overall the difficulty seems a bit higher than the classic series. The Metools seemed to be placed especially meanly, and the enemies extra tough. Maybe it's because the Mega Man Zero team is involved. Or maybe it's because I haven't memorized the layouts. Like all good action/run-and-gun games, each successive failed run leads to a better run next time, until, eventually, triumph. Not that I managed to triumph in either of the levels I played. One level ended (for me) with a giant robotic elephant that rolled a big metal beach ball at me. I got through two of them, but the third elephant took me out. Repeatedly. The other level ended, consistently, with an extra long jump from one disappearing block to another under a low roof.

If I could, I'd spend the rest of E3 in Capcom's meeting room, trying again to meet (and lose to) a boss.

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