Last Updated on June 4, 2023
It’s the year 20XX and Mega Man is back! Continuing from its predecessor Mega Man, Japanese video game company Capcom released Mega Man 2, the second game in the series, with no real expectation (the first game had not been a commercial hit by Capcom standards.)
But in doing so they didn’t just create one on the best platformers on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but created one of the best platformer video games in history and helped Mega Man on his journey in becoming a video game character legend.
Mega Man 2 starts with a clever introduction sequence that’s scrolls up a building to meet the hero Mega Man at the top. While doing this a text box tells the story of Dr Wily returning to defeat Mega Man with a new set of robot masters. After the player has decided whether to chooses normal or difficult mode, (a difference only in how many hits it takes to kill enemies in the game) at the title screen they are placed into the stage selection.
The stage selection allows the player to select a stage by selecting any of the eight new robot masters in any order.
Like Mega Man, but different
This is much like the first Mega Man game, giving the player a nonlinear way to play, but with a slight difference. There are advantages in picking Flashman, Airman and Heatman early because in defeating theses robot masters Mega Man is given an extra support item. These items are designed to help the player in any of the game’s stages. The items are an example of Mega Man 2’s intentional design to be easier than the first game.
This design strategy continues with added energy tanks throughout stages allowing Mega Man to pick theses tanks up and store them in his inventory until the player needs to refill Mega Man health to full at any point in a stage.
The energy tanks are a great new feature and continue throughout the games that follow Mega Man 2. For the casual player, they are needed because of the comparative difficulty level. The stages are what makes Mega Man 2 so rememberable, they have some of the best-looking graphics on the NES and have some brilliantly constructed elements.
Woodman’s cyber jungle is fast paced with stunning colours and pixel art, with tricky robotic animal enemies throughout the stage, whether it’s the perfectly animated huge robotic fire breathing dogs called Frienders waiting for Mega Man in underground caves, or a robot mecha monkey waiting to swing into Mega Man’s path, the stage is dazzling.
Bubble Man stage is another stand out stage, starting with a vivid waterfall animated in the background, Mega Man must make his way across platforms guarded by giant robotic frogs only then to plummet into the water and battle huge robotic fish that flood the screen with robotic shrimps.
Mega Man 2 mood music
Each of the robot master stages try to build around the theme of the master robots and the player feels drawn into the stages not only by the richness of each stylish scheme but more so with the aid of the impressive soundtrack. Mega Man 2 has some of the best music to come from a video game, composed by Takashi Tateishi. Each stage has its own unique feel and energy shaped from its music.
Bubble Man, for example, has tranquil mood, the music is kind of haunting, and a transparent something that would easily fit into the modern atmospheric trance genre. Whereas Heat Man’s stage encases the player into a more techno vibe, fast paced with catchy synth patterns to create tension. The music from this game is so popular its not hard to find remixes and cover versions by fan of the game on numerous websites.
Once the player has made their way through the eight robot stages, they must then fight through the Dr Wily stages. There are four Wily stages and they are full of difficult obstacles and traps. The support items and energy tanks gained in the robot master levels will serve Mega Man well at this stage of the game, the game becomes very unforgiving with theses stages.
God in the (Wily) machine
Each Wily stage has its own boss; the infamous Mecha Dragon is a fan favourite in Wily stage 1, a wonderfully animated pixel sprite that Mega Man must beat by navigating small blocks while firing at the dragon. It’s such a memorable part of Mega Man 2, and it might be said that the fight in the platformer game Cuphead’s against a large green dragon called Grim Matchstick closely impersonates this Mega Man 2 special moment.
After the four Wily stages have been completed, the player must defeat all the master robots again in any order know as the boss rematches before facing Dr Wily in his Wily machine 2. A two-phase fight where the machine changes its appearance after taking damage from Mega Man. Once the Wily machine is destroyed, Mega Man is dropped into a music less stage, a cave that only has the sound of red droplets hitting the ground before the player must take on Dr Wily as an alien form in a room that is near to complete darkness other from the green glowing alien form of Dr Wily and parallax scrolling stars.
Does Mega Man 2 deserve the praise?
Mega Man 2 is on so many ‘best’ charts and it deserves this praise. The game stands out as a platformer against a genre full of so many classic games. Considering the game is 8-bit and built to run on the Nintendo Entertainment System, you wouldn’t think so. Memory, sound, and graphic limitations seem to have been ignored!
Unfortunately, it is a game that suffers from its time period. When originally built for a machine using analogue controls the input was sharp and responsive when playing Mega Man 2 on the NES. The conversions over the years onto different platforms specially on the Nintendo Classic Mini: NES and the Nintendo Switch re-release struggle with input lag from the emulation running the game and make the game in some parts very difficult to play.
Its reputation for being a NES ‘masterpiece’ to some has made it a popular collector’s item. Depending on the market it can fluctuate in price and is not always cheap to get an original copy, but in my view it’s worth the money and is a must play.
I’m lucky enough to have my original copy that I was given as a child and I think Mega Man 2 is and always will be, one of the best Nintendo 8-bit platformers.