Mega Man 2 might as well be a soundtrack from the get go. Why even bother with the gameplay? It’s like Fortnite’s single-player stuff; who cares when the other side is so damn good?
It’s pure magic that everything sounds as smoothly as it does considering the times. Mario, Zelda, Teenage Mutant Ninja Bros, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers and all the other heavy hitters of the time were still working off single MIDI tracks. Mega Man 2 seemed to be in a different league completely with their mixing technology that they stole from the ancient Egyptians after the aliens left it behind in the pyramids. Those turntables can’t be topped.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the baffling reality that it took me 29 years of life to find this game and offer my ears such aural delights. It’s a failure on my part, my family’s part, and my left hand will be taken as punishment. I don’t use it much anyways.
*One hand chopping later*
The gameplay for Mega Man 2 is…I wouldn’t call it smooth but consistently accurate is fair. Lots and lots of animation tricks exist to where you can really find an unstoppable stride if you’re paying close enough attention. It’s somewhere in the middle of a Mario and Zelda stride where you’re neither plodding nor blazing. I appreciate the hell out of Capcom that took the time to balance a shooting experience instead of just throwing you and a machine gun against the world.
Precision in design is key to helping an action platformer feel fair and yet retaining challenge. You can go to nearly any NES game and find challenge and death. Only a handful retain the fair feels though, and I love that Mega Man 2 is one of them.
One of the only decisions I don’t like is giving the enemies set spawn points that can have you fighting 3 or 4 clones if you have to retreat at all. Even with the main flow of the game making each level two-parts endurance test before a one-part boss, that sort of copying feels cheap. The swarm enemies err as well since you never really get a good weapon to wipe them all out at once, but you’ll only face those in a few levels.
Having ordered stages to have players organically find boss weaknesses was something of a genius stroke for the home console market. Mega Man 2, unlike the X games that I’m playing now as well, points you in the direction of which boss order you should seek with at least hints of real-world rationale. Metal cuts into bubbles, bubbles can put out fire, and so forth are, while not the most defined lines, present enough to make sense once a player discovers that possibility.
Wily’s run-up is on an entirely different level of difficulty. In the sense of striking while the iron is hot, Mega Man 2 still holds as a game meant to be a single-sitting sprint in my eyes. If you cool off and lose your stride, you could have a painful trip through the good doctor’s gauntlet. As the tradition started here, there are a bevy of passwords to place you exactly where you want to go as long as you write them down…what am I saying? Search Google!
Mega Man 2, while difficult to play now that my left hand is a pencil holder, is a wondrous example of creativity and ambition in all sections of a game. Capcom certainly came back to this well several more times, but that doesn’t keep this entry from being a quintessential NES experience.
Mega Man 2 Score: