If the initial Mega Man Legacy Collection that dropped about two years ago was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Capcom’s classic flagship platforming output then the recently released Legacy Collection 2 is the Danny DeVito, the “leftover shit”, so to speak. Add this to the fact that Capcom developed this joint in house, eschewing the services of emulation masters Digital Eclipse, it contains two fewer games than the first offering and costs five dollars more and you have the recipe for a soulless cash grab that should be avoided at all costs.
Or maybe not. Just like the latter NES Mega Man games were derided in their time for being too derivative of their forebears, so too were the single 16 and 32 bit numbered MM outings, respectively, pelted with figurative tomatoes at the time for just being “more Mega Man”. But what’s wrong with more Mega Man? Even these lesser installments display an almost supernatural understanding of platforming form and function, especially compared to debacles like the recent Mighty Number 9 and other such pretenders to good ol’ Rock’s mega busting throne.
Mega Man 7 is definitely the main attraction here. The 1995 Super NES installment was laughed at by critics upon release due to its relative simplicity compared to the then contemporary Mega Man X series. But the back to basics approach when it comes to window dressing serves the game itself well in hindsight, with typically tight controls and bright colorful graphics with large sprites that still feel perfectly maneuverable. Boss designs are actually pretty cool (the hulking, Juggernaut-esque Freeze Man and IG-88 doppelgänger Junk Man come to mind), avoiding the animal based ridiculousness from X (they can’t all be Chill Penguin). Light RPG elements make their way into the main series for the first time too, with an in game shop that can be accessed from the boss menu.
To fully chronicle the IP’s mystical journey up its own ass, look no further than Mega Man 8. The 1997 PlayStation/Saturn debut of the series sports lush 2D hand animated graphics that were Capcom’s specialty at the time, granting the game an almost Metal Slug look. The gameplay can’t quite keep up though, with everything feeling kinda-slide-y and delayed, probably due to the amount of startup animation frames that all of Rock’s movements have. The busyness of the onscreen action makes it difficult to discern foreground objects from enemies too, leading to cheap damage and deaths, and the difficulty here seems notched up from 7, especially in some of the title’s often laughable boss encounters (fucking Clown Man, really?).
Where this one really goes off the rails though is in the voice acting. Yes there are animated cut scenes and they aren’t awful, mostly your garden variety 90’s direct to VHS anime stuff, but it’s the voices that really damn the whole enterprise into the proverbial junk heap. Having seen my fair share of YouTube videos and memes about it over the years, I can tell you that after finally playing the game for myself, it’s even worse than people make it out to be, and it just about ruins what would otherwise be a perfectly serviceable 32 bit 2D action platformer.
One drawback I was actually surprised about though, in both MM8 and 7, was the music. Gone are the soaring, power metal aping anthems of the 8 bit series, replaced with simpler, more ambient and obvious compositions. Not to keep picking on poor old Clown Man, but it’s like “Are we in a carnival? Yup, it sounds like a carnival”. This is especially disappointing considering the CD quality sound possible with the PlayStation/Saturn and the beefy, reverb heavy monster that was the SNES’ sound chip. I guess Capcom really did have their A team working on the X series.
Which brings us to Mega Man 9 and 10. Initially released across the last console generation’s download services in 2008 and 2010 respectively, 9 and 10 ditch the large sprite work and heavy animation of 7 and 8 and reestablish the warts and all 8 bit aesthetics of the series on NES, even including overlapping sound glitches and the option to add sprite flicker. A charming novelty at their time of release, these games now just feel like bland retreads of the latter, less loved NES installments, especially given the widespread legal availability of excellent versions of Mega Man 2 and 3, which these titles lack that certain “instant classic” creative spark of. Given their modern pedigree though they are feature rich endeavors, with built in challenge modes (beyond the ones shoehorned in for this compilation), multiple playable characters and a decent number of unlockable bonuses. The OG NES sound team reconvened for these too, so the music is phenomenal.
Outside of the games themselves, the archival material here is bare bones even compared to the first game, which also lacked any sort of video or documentary content, but still included each game’s box art and a few descriptive blurbs. One cool thing though is that you can choose to fight each boss from their concept art selection in the gallery. Also troubling are the games missing from this release. The PS2 era Mega Man Anniversary Collection also included arcade fighting curiosities Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man: The Power Fighters, which are conspicuously absent here. The Japan only 1998 SNES release Mega Man and Bass would’ve also been a no brainer to include, as well as Japan/Europe exclusive PS1 cart racing oddity Mega Man: Battle and Chase, and downright bizarre SNES sports offshoot Mega Man Soccer, which did get released in America, unfortunately.
All of which leaves this release feeling mighty slim, and one I can only recommend at full price to the most pathetic of Capcom nerds (*raises hand*), despite the satisfying old school action platforming (mostly) on offer. Mega Man 7 is definitely worth anyone’s time, and 8 is good for a laugh as long as you don’t think too hard about how cool the game would be without a hideously botched localization, but you’ve probably owned 9 and 10 on at least one or two devices since their release, and probably because you caught them at a deep discount too. Stick with the first Legacy Collection for your retro platforming needs, and try to catch this one on sale at some point as well.