Top 100 Retro Games: Mega Man II
Mega Man II
Nintendo Entertainment System
Like so many others, it seems, the Mega Man series came into my life when Mega Man II came out. Someone in my neighborhood did own Mega Man I, but the cover looked really dorky. Capcom did a pretty bad job with their American game covers back then. Even when Mega Man II came out, I was pretty confused. Is he (he?) a robot or a person? A cyborg? According to Wikipedia, Mega Man is officially an android.
You know, like DATA.
We also never bothered with Mega Man because this friend had an original Megatron Generation One toy that still turned into a gun. He always had it pointed right at where you would walk into his room, which totally creeped me out. Often I just wanted to get out of there.
When someone got a copy of Mega Man II, the hype took over our neighborhood. We would sit at his house in the morning and watch him play. I was not allowed to play, for reasons I explained in our episode on Legend of Zelda, and sat mesmerized by what seemed at the time to be a rather epic side scroller. Over what was probably a week, this friend got to Dr. Wily’s stage, but got stuck at one point. I asked, as always, if I could try, and was told no way.
When I was a kid, one set of my grandparents lived with us. My grandfather died when I was pretty young. We used to go to flea markets together. He bought me my first Transformer and was really nice, but had a lot of health issues. My grandmother stayed with us until she died when I was about to turn 12.
Grandma had been a stay at home mother for all her life. She loved to spend money on us kids. We were a solid middle class home, but both of my parents worked hard for that. Her health issues were pretty hushed, but I have a feeling she knew that she only had a few years and wanted to see us happy. We would go to the Toys R Us a few towns over across the street from the local big mall and pick out a new game when it was featured in Nintendo Power. This particular friend though was who got Mega Man II first, if he got a game and would not let me play, grandma would get it for me. He was a jerk and his parents were too. I have a lot of memories of his mother being very rude to my mom because I “got extra help” in resource room, with the implication that it was some kind of cheating. This kid obviously had ADHD, but hid it well by interests in sports and playing drums. He did turn me onto Slayer and Metallica before they hit the mainstream. The first time I heard about bands like Black Flag, DRI, and Cro-Mags were from him or his friends too, although I would not know what to do with that information for a few more years.
I woke up the day after he got stuck in Dr. Wily’s stage and headed over in the morning. He was still at it, but I went outside to play basketball with his sister. I heard a triumphant YES! And he beat the stage.
I went home for lunch and found a brand new copy of Mega Man II sitting on my bed. I called my friend, who was oddly excited for me and told me to drop by later and let him know how far I got in the game.
I do not remember how far I got into Mega Man II that day, but I did have notes from what I remembered of the order that my friend had gone in. I generally start with Flash Man, although that level can be tricky, and then go from there based on whose weapons will hurt the next boss. After a few years of watching others play Nintendo so much, I was so happy every time I got a game of my own. I spent time that summer playing the game and eventually beat it. When I figured out, through a lot of trial and error, to use Bubble Man’s weapon on Dr. Wily I felt quite triumphant. When I remembered to use it during my playthrough on the Mega Man Legacy Collection, I felt the same feeling.
So, the plot of Mega Man II goes something like this: Mega Man defeated Dr. Wily! Oh, wait, in a shocking development, it seems that Dr. Wily is back! This time he created his own baddies. Mega Man must defeat him again.
Mega Man II got a feature article in the June 1989 issue of Nintendo Power. I LOVE the cover for this issue with a red Mega Man toy attacking Dr. Wily. I remember a neighbor down the street got the issue the day before me. He always did for some reason. I went to get the mail and saw it in the mailman’s pile and totally freaked out. I couldn’t wait until the next day and stared at that cover endlessly, and eventually taped up the cover, the only time I did that, on my wall. I own a Mega Man Amiibo. It sits in front of my NES Classic. I would definitely buy a new toy of that red Mega Man from Nintendo Power.
The game is given substantial coverage in the magazine. Each level is detailed with hints about defeating the Robot Masters. This was essential reading material back then. I am honestly surprised, looking back, at how much Nintendo Power goes into detail about these huge, brand new, games. It certainly was helpful.
The soundtrack to Mega Man II is amazing. In general, Mega Man games had great music, but Mega Man II really sets the bar high with levels like Wood Man, Flash Man, the intense Heat Man, and the slick and jazzy Bubble Man. I have so many memories directly connected to individual beats in various tracks and places in levels.
I replayed Mega Man II as part of the Mega Man Legacy Collection, which puts together the first six games plus a ton of extras. It is well worth picking up. While the first Mega Man game borders on excessively difficult, Mega Man II still feels “just right” and is both fun and challenging. This play through, I struggled with Quick Man’s stage because of those heat beams you have to dodge. I used to be so good at doing that, but this time it took me probably 10-15 tries to get it right. Nevertheless, I kept at it and eventually got through. Mega Man II is FUN. I like challenging games, but I like fun even more.
Each of the eight stages was compelling in its own way. I still feel quite accomplished when I gently glide through Bubble Man’s stage. I can hop the clouds in Air Man’s level from a deeply ingrained memory. Quick Man is so tough until you realize that Flash Man’s weapon will cut in health in half. The coolest part of Mega Man II is having to fight all eight bosses again. As a kid, this absolutely blew my mind. It seemed so grandiose and daring to essentially make someone go through the game again. I remember the first time I blew through it because I knew which weapon to use. It is pretty amusing that Metal Man is weakest to, well, Metal Man’s weapon.
The game also tricks you into thinking you have beaten Dr. Wily, but there is one more form to go. The silence in that level made my heart race as a kid. The silence seemed so ominous.