Unlike the 16-bit generation Capcom didn’t wait very long to start their Mega Man releases when the 5th generation came along. Both Mega Man and the X series would see new releases in the US in 1997. Mega Man 8 was released in the beginning of 1997 for both the Saturn and the Playstation to celebrate the series 10th anniversary and what a celebration it is. With unparalleled animation and much needed gameplay additions it breathed new life into the aging series.
The story begins with 2 unidentified robots fighting in outer space. After a brief skirmish they both crash land on Earth. While this is going on, Mega Man is engaged in battle with Bass. Their fight is interrupted by Dr. Light informing him that an unknown energy source has been found on a remote island and he should hurry before Dr. Wily reaches it first. And here we begin.
Right away you know you’re in for a treat. There are many cut scenes like the opening spread out in the game and while the picture quality is not the greatest, the animation is awesome. They began flirting with cut scenes more and more in the later Mega Man games and now with the added CD space they were able to have fully animated cinemas, greatly enhancing the presentation. While the animation is great, the sound is not, but more on that later.
It was just a matter of time until Capcom started using animated cut scenes in their games. The video is slightly grainy but it captures the OG Mega Man charm so well.
Gameplay follows the Mega Man formula to a T. Unfortunately they carried on the retarded decision to only allow you to fight 4 bosses at once from part 7. There are no major upgrades this time around as well. You receive the Mega Ball in the beginning but to be honest it’s completely forgettable. It comes in handy in a few situations, such as using it to boost your jump but that’s about it. You retain all of your primary abilities from previous games.
What has changed, and this is completely understated, is the ability to use your chosen weapon in addition to your Mega Buster. Boss weapons are mapped to a different button now and in addition to this you can use one weapon, switch to another and somewhat combine the effects of the two. This is never mandatory but if you want to reach some of the out of the way screws you need to take advantage of this. Auto’s shop returns with a load of items to buy. However screws are limited, forcing you to choose carefully.
The Robot Masters are awesome and have a wide arsenal of attacks. They border on being mini fighting game characters.
The bosses and their levels are truly a step above previous games. The levels themselves are divided into 2 parts, often times switching up gameplay. Frost Man’s stage makes extensive use of snowboarding. Tengu Man has you hop aboard Rush for mock shooting segments. Clown Man’s level has animated toys in the background that directly affect your progression throughout the stage. This diversity keeps the game from getting stale. The Robot Masters all have unique voices and this helps them come to life as they taunt you and call out the name of their attacks like an anime character. Corny? Sure. Entertaining? Absolutely.
This is what we’ve been waiting for. Shame there weren’t that many 2d games during that generation.
The graphics are, in 1 word, phenomenal. This is the 2d Mega Man we always dreamed of. The stages are practically alive with activity. Birds fly by in groups, background elements swing back and forth into the foreground, etc. Every enemy is animated beautifully and blows in a shower of debris. The amount of enemies that fill the screen at times with nary a hint of slowdown borders on absurd. There are many times you’ll stop and just marvel at the animated insanity on display.
The soundtrack is also excellent; however this is offset by the biggest black mark on the game: the voice acting. I’m not one of those elitist assholes who thinks all English voice acting is bad, but this is just sad. All of the cut scenes are voiced, the bosses have a pretty large amount of speech and even Mega Man pipes in every so often. Outside of a few exceptions most of them are terrible. Dr. Light is especially bad. That motherfucker sounds like Elmer Fudd. Some of the voice samples made me stop and pause the game from laughing so hard. Clown Man and Aqua Man in particular are comedy gold. While it detracts from the game’s overall polish it doesn’t completely ruin the otherwise stellar presentation.
8 installments without many significant in later installments is enough for any franchise wear out its welcome. Despite not bringing anything new to the series beyond its cut scenes and phenomenal graphics, Mega Man 8 still manages to be an excellent game that will provide many hours of entertainment and is worth your time.