Grab your blue helmet and strap on your Mega Buster, it’s time for reTROviews’ first sequel, Mega Man 2! In what would become the most popular and highest regarded entry in the series, Capcom set the standard by which all future games would be judged. A combination of excellent level design, awesome character development, significant gameplay improvement, a stunning soundtrack, and, ultimately, the unabashed love the developers had for the project all work together to bring this incredible gaming experience to the world.
It’s true that the first Mega Man was well received, although it suffered from low sales. Despite this, the development team had fallen under the spell of the Blue Bomber and his never-ending quest for peace between humans and robots. Ironic that he fights for this peace by blowing robots to pieces. Anyway, the team was inspired after Rock’s first outing and decided to pursue a sequel. They wanted to make up for the shortcomings of the first game and continue the tale for creativity’s sake. Unfortunately, the higher ups at Capcom didn’t have much faith in a sequel due to the meager sales of that first game. Still, this was a different time in game development, a period in which teams were able to pursue projects they had a passion for…on one condition. That condition? Capcom would only allow the team to work on Mega Man 2 while on their own time, requiring that their present workload take priority (a game called Professional Baseball Murder Mystery).
That may have seemed like a daunting task, but when you’re working on something you’re passionate about, you find a way to make it work. I guess that’s what it really comes down to: this game is a labor of love and it truly shows. Everything about Mega Man 2 is an improvement over the first game. Level design, the Robot Masters, the soundtrack, just…everything! Now, I know I’m starting to gush, but I should point out that this is my favorite NES game of all time. Yes, I loudly and publicly criticized Metroid in my last article, but that is the essence of reTROviews. These are critical analyses of classic video games. They are also MY critical analyses of these games. Just because this is my favorite NES game doesn’t mean I don’t see that there are flaws and mistakes. We’re going to explore what makes this game so epic and also what makes it so aggravating… I mean, it is a Mega Man game after all. What, did you think this would be easy?!
Starting with the creation of the game, we can see that there was a very different feel in the design process. Keiji Inafune (credited as “Inafking” and the father of Mega Man) was approached by the team to come back for the sequel, something he excitedly leapt at the opportunity to do. Describing this particular entry as a “rogue effort” due to the process in which he and the team brought it about, Mega Man 2 is Inafune’s favorite game in the series because of how much fun it was to develop…although it also happened to be the most stressful to develop. Crafted over the course of roughly four months, this game brought about many series staples that would become the standard design for future titles.
Players would now face eight Robot Masters (up by two from the original game), this time all created by Dr. Wily himself. Here we discover that Wily is more than just some thief; rather, he is truly just as skilled as Dr. Light in regards to robotics and design. On second thought, Wily shouldn’t get all the credit. Why not? At the time, Capcom held a contest wherein fans could submit their own designs for potential Robot Masters. Out of a whopping 8,370 entries, eight were chosen for inclusion, though they would see tweaking from Inafune himself. This contest would be repeated for most future games leading to some of the most beloved (and yes, despised) Robot Masters in the series.
As I said, these Robot Masters are the first of the “Doctor Wily Numbers” (DWNs) and they are certainly some of the most imposing and memorable. This new set of Robot Masters was very different from Dr. Light’s original line-up. This series was designed specifically for combat and the ultimate destruction of Mega Man. An interesting concept mentioned in the manga and Archie Comics series was how the first set of DWNs reacted to the original Robot Masters designed by Dr. Light. My personal favorite has to be Metal Man’s introduction to Mega Man… “I’m Metal Man, the robot that Cut Man should’ve been!”
This menacing badass is actually my favorite Robot Master of all time, though he’s one of Inafune’s least favorites due to how simple he is to defeat. His weakness to the Mega Buster and the game breaking strength of his weapon, the Metal Blade, usually make him the first target when playing. Ease aside, Metal Man is just a wholly fearsome opponent. Designed with a light weight chassis for high-speed combat, he throws titanium saw blades with frightening accuracy. As Dookieshed pointed out in his “Top 10 Coolest Mega Man Power-Ups of all Time!” video, “Just think about it conceptually. What more terrifying weapon to use against an army of robots is there? What more terrifying weapon is there PERIOD?!”
And he’s right. By dodging Metal Man’s attacks and whittling away his health with your lemons, you acquire the Metal Blade for yourself and quickly find that there is almost nothing that can stand against it. If an enemy isn’t completely impervious to the flying saw blades, it sure as hell takes damage from them. For those of you that choose to play the normal way (i.e. using the boss weaknesses) you’ll be going after Bubble Man next. This submersible bot’s stage is an excellent opportunity to test out the versatility of your new weapon and find out that you practically never run out of ammo! Seriously, you get 112 shots – that’s 4 shots from a single energy tick! See why I love this Robot Master and his weapon so much?
On to Bubble Man but do try to contain your laughter. This little guy might look funny, especially considering a design flaw prevents him from walking and reduces him to just hopping everywhere, but he’s still an awesome addition to this game. Bubble Man is an underwater combat specialist that uses the Bubble Lead, a weapon that he can fire from his buster cannon or his head mounted blaster. This particular weapon can be used as a projectile, a trap that holds you in place, or even a shield against your lemons…that is, unless you have the Metal Blade by which this frogman is quickly sliced, diced, and prepared with a thick garlic sauce. The only thing weaker to Metal Blade than Bubble Man is Metal Man himself, something we’ll focus more on once we get to Wily’s Fortress.
Defeating Bubble Man grants you the Bubble Lead, which is literally a heavy bubble that pops out of the Mega Buster and rolls along the ground. Care to guess who might be weak to bubbles? That’s right, we’re moving on to Heat Man! This particular Robot Master is supposed to be an improved version of Fire Man, like Metal Man was to Cut Man, although not every Robot Master in this game follows this idea. Anyhow, Heat Man was inspired by a zippo lighter, which you can see in the box shaped body and lid-style helmet along with the flint wheel being part of his head. Heat Man is actually Inafune’s favorite boss in Mega Man 2 due to how gimmicky his design is.
Heat Man attacks by first surrounding himself in flames, making him temporarily invincible, then blasts across the stage in an attempt to tackle the Blue Bomber. In between these attacks, douse him with the Bubble Lead. Just be careful about something…if you happen to have defeated Crash Man prior to battling Heat Man, DO NOT use the Crash Bomber because it has a rather unfortunate effect in that it heals the hot head. With this zippo drenched, you get the Atomic Fire power-up, which means it’s time to go after Wood Man!
Ah, Wood Man, a very unique design for a combat robot, but a lovable and recognizable character nonetheless. Having been built from the hinoki cypress tree, Wood Man is resistant to most physical attacks, but let’s face it, this guy is made of wood! Most of his internal mechanisms are wooden! What happens when wood meets flame? It ain’t hard folks.
Plus, without the thin layer of metal coating applied to his chassis, he would eventually just rot. Okay okay, enough of what makes Woodie here a laughable villain, how about what makes him an interesting opponent? Well, for one thing, he happens to be one of Dr. Wily’s favorites, but there’s more than that (besides that fact that someone practically named “Dr. Willy” likes “Wood Man” the best but we’re too sophisticated to point that out).
Wood Man cares very much for nature and all the little woodland critters running around his stage. While it’s merely implied, as someone who creates a lot of stories in his head while playing, I feel that he would be completely enraged and absolutely furious with Mega Man for destroying even one of his little buddies. Then there’s his weapon, the Leaf Shield, a defensive weapon with offensive capabilities. It’s actually able to withstand a burst of Atomic Fire, then fly back at and shred Mega Man. It’s rather unfortunate that he gets reduced to a pile of burnt cinders, or chopped into a fine pile of fire wood, because I do have a soft spot for this guy. Upon roasting Wood Man, you get the Leaf Shield for your very own.
With Leaf Shield in hand, we move on to one of the most iconic Robot Masters in the entire series, Air Man! This guy is unique in that he is the first boss to have his face literally built right into his torso, which was supposedly done to make him more intimidating. This actually lead to a series of Robot Masters designed using the “Air Man Type” in later games. His attack patterns also make him a real beast to face, even with his weakness. This is because his Air Shooter follows a randomized pattern! There are times that no matter what you do, you can’t escape the damage!
During the fight, Air Man creates several tiny twisters using the Air Shooter, then sends them flying at you using the turbine in his chest before leaping across the stage. Luckily, the Leaf Shield clogs his fans with the proper timing, bringing the fight to a quick end. A lot of people find this particular Robot Master to be extremely difficult, so much so that there was even a fan song dedicated to this very fact. “Air Man ga Taosenai,” a fan song composed by Seramikarutitan, an unknown online persona, focuses on the extreme difficulty one player had while trying to beat this boss. With the Air Shooter in hand, we move on to yet another unique boss, Crash Man!
Crash Man was built to be an improved combination of Bomb Man and Guts Man, designed for high-speed combat and equipped with heavy armor built to withstand the Mega Buster as well as his own Crash Bombers. But there’s one more attribute that this explosive themed Robot Master has going for him – he is known to fly into sudden psychotic rages resulting in mass destruction. It’s been suggested that the cause of this psychosis may be based on the fact that he consists of two separate designs, but there is another theory hinted at by comics, manga, and even official artwork. Notice that Crash Man doesn’t actually have hands? Well, it could be said that seeing others with these appendages drives him into a jealous rage beyond the brink of sanity. On the other hand (pun intended), this could just be the way Wily made him.
Crash Man attacks by jumping and firing a Crash Bomber where the player is standing, then runs forward to repeat the attack. Interestingly enough, if you leap and fire a shot, Crash Man will just jump right into it. Proof of his self-destructive psychosis? I dunno, but it sure makes for an interesting theory. The Air Shooter makes extremely quick work of Crash Man and awards players the Crash Bomber, which means we’re closing in on the final two bosses!
Our next Robot Master is Flash Man…
Flash Man is unique in that he is shown with very different personalities depending on which media you’re currently facing him in. Described in the games as a miserable robot, but an extremely proficient leader, Flash Man is portrayed as a crazed sadist in the Mega Man Megamix manga, often licking his buster cannon and laughing maniacally as he attacks (suddenly that picture above doesn’t seem as bad, does it? OK, maybe not so much). Whichever version you subscribe to, this guy is a bad ass! From his design to his weapon, Flash Man is just plain cool. Created by Wily to actually stop time, he is also equipped with a rapid-fire buster to eliminate enemies that become stuck in his trap.
In battle, Flash Man charges Mega Man, freezing time for a few seconds and unloading a barrage with his buster. The Crash Bomber is his primary weakness, although Metal Blade also deals out a ton of damage and can even break his momentum. Defeating him grants players the Time Stopper, a weapon that seven of the eight Robot Masters have a built-in immunity to…all except for our final boss, Quick Man! Seeing as how these two have an intense hatred for one another that usually results in bloodshed, it only stands to reason Flash Man’s weapon would be Quick Man’s weakness.
We come now to the final Robot Master, who Inafune stated was designed to stand out above all the others and serve as a rival/primary antagonist for the Blue Bomber. I give you Quick Man, single handedly one of the most revered and reviled Robot Masters in the entire series! Right off the bat, we see that Quick Man’s stage select icon is very different. Unlike the other Robot Masters, whose faces are either covered or adorned with a scowl, Quick Man proudly wears an arrogant smirk. That alone should tell you something’s up with this guy, but if that’s not enough for you, take a look at the boomerang emblem on his helmet. Notice how it extends beyond the border of his select box? This was done to clue players in on just how difficult and treacherous both the stage and boss were.
Quick Man was based on Elec Man’s design and built from lightweight materials allowing for extremely high-speed attacks that would put the Flash to shame. Arrogant as all hell, this guy is the bane of many players due in part to his stage and in part because his attack pattern is completely random! He’ll begin the battle by launching three Quick Boomerangs that home in on you, then leap around the stage like a jackrabbit on speed! If that’s not enough, when he gets tired of the shoot-and-dodge game he’ll just tackle you! The worst part? His weakness to the Time Stopper will only deplete about 50% of his health, and that’s assuming you got to his room without using it on his stage. He does have a weakness to the Crash Bomber which helps to blow the Quick Prick to bits, but even so, it’s no easy task. With his fall, we add the Quick Boomerang to our arsenal and head out for the final showdown with Wily.