The story goes that the original Mega Man was not a huge success. Looking at that box art I think we can all agree that it isn’t very shocking. However the team believed in the character and wanted to fully explore the world that they had created and were given the green light to work on the game in their free time so long as it didn’t impact their 9-5 work. That decision would pay off as Mega Man 2 would go on to become one of the best selling games in the series as well as commonly voted as one of the greatest games of all time.
Dr. Wily has returned and built 8 robot masters of his own design for you to fight. The sequel largely follows the same formula as the original but comes with a legion of improvements. Many of the series tropes were established here. The difficulty has been dialed back this time; to some degree the game is almost a bit too easy not that there aren’t areas that will still test your platforming skills. You have an option to select the difficulty at the start although it really doesn’t make too much of a difference. Energy tanks can be found, allowing you to refill your life. This addition is probably the biggest reason for the ease at which you can breeze through the game since you can simply brute force your way past the harder bosses.
The game is also longer this time and thank the heavens you are given passwords after every level. The one caveat though is you will always start at Wily stage one no matter what code you are given there. The magnet gun is replaced by Items 1-3 which perform the same basic function but are more situational. You receive these after beating specific bosses to prevent everyone from missing them unintentionally like the Magnet Gun of the first game. The insane boss rush at the end of the original has been replaced with teleporters that take you to the bosses instead of facing them one right after the other with no break in between.
The game benefits from the team’s experience creating the first game in all facets. Graphically they now had an idea what the NES could do and in turn the levels have became more imaginative. Obviously they’re all themed after each particular boss and the traps throughout the levels evoke this.
They decided to push the envelope a bit in terms of enemy size. This was a serious technical achievement back in 1989.
The bosses themselves are probably the most famous and recognizable in the entire series; the selection they chose for the game really is outstanding. The soundtrack is arguably the best in the series with many of the level themes regularly voted as some of the greatest tracks of all time. If the Wily stage theme doesn’t get your blood pumping you need to see a doctor cuz you ain’t human. My personal favorites are the Flashman, Bubbleman, and Heatman themes.
The game was very much a labor of love for the creators, literally. In every aspect of the game’s design you can see that the designers were very cognizant of the flaws of the first game and fixed them while also introducing their own ideas as to how the series should progress. The first 8 levels present little challenge, but as you make your way through Wily’s castle the game forces you to step your game up.
Time to step your game up! They’re not playing around anymore by this point. Some of these bosses can be tricky.
I love that slow ramp up games had in those days, where you are given a set of tools whose uses are limited at first but as you progress the situations you find yourself in demand you meet the challenge. This is how seasoned gamers are born, and this game reinforces that theme perfectly. Many of the series tropes were established here: 8 levels to start followed by Wily’s fortress, the boss rush at the end, and even the password format used.
It’s crazy to think the team made this game in their spare time but when the passion is there legendary games are created and Mega Man 2 easily shares that distinction. This is definitely one of the greatest games of all time and should be not be missed by anyone.
Bonus: The soundtrack for the game is incredible and has sparked a wide variety of remixes and tribute albums. Some of my favorites include:
Project Megaman (taken straight from their youtube page) – Project Megaman is a Jazz/Fusion Cover Quartet that specializes in improvising over re-harmonized video game music primarily from the popular Nintendo game Megaman I, II, and III, along with other classic N.E.S. games.
This is one of the more unique remixes I’ve come across and is fantastic. Here’s a sample:
The Greatest Bits – A tribute album dedicated to Mega Man 2. Very awesome renditions of the songs in the game. Feel free to go to the website to hear samples.