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Features: 10 Life Lessons Learned From Mega Man

Posted by Philip J Reed

It's not just blasting, you know

Playing the Mega Man series is cathartic in many ways. You get to listen to great music, appreciate the impressively cartoony visuals Capcom wrung out of the NES hardware, and experiment with many unique and varied abilities. But overall, we tend to like it because it's mindless. It's a platformer with clear rules and obvious (though difficult) goals. We don't need to think too much.

But that doesn't mean we can't be enriched by the experience. In fact, if you keep your brain switched firmly on as you battle your way through the endless waves of Robot Masters, you're liable to learn a thing or two about the world around.

To help you on this quest of video game-assisted self-discovery, we've compiled a list of ten life lessons we've learned from playing Mega Man.

1) Master a Trade

One of the first things any newcomer to the series will notice is the clear and deliberate specialisation of the Robot Masters. They all have unique appearances and tools, and it's often easy to see how these would serve them in their daily (read: non-megalomaniacal) lives. Cut Man was a timber-felling robot, Snake Man was designed to explore narrow passages and crevices and Dust Man was a gigantic self-motivated vacuum cleaner, a sort of far-creepier ancestor of the Roomba, one who would probably stand at the foot of your bed and watch you sleep.

The trades of which these robots are masters are not always obvious, but it's at least clear that they do specialise. At first glance it might not be obvious what Needle Man and Plant Man do for a living, but it's at least clear that they do very different things. That's the beauty of the Robot Masters, and what gives them personality.

The Robot Masters aren't just mindless bosses or obstacles on your way to Dr. Wily. They have roles in the larger universe around them, and that's what makes them memorable. It's also what gives them their edge; they've been using their tools and weapons throughout the course of their lives. When you defeat them and take their weapons, you nearly always receive an underpowered approximation. Why? Because having a tool isn't the same as knowing how to use it. Mega Man might have access to all the tools in the game, but he doesn't specialise in any of them. He's a master of none.

2) Work Smarter, Not Harder

Dr. Light may have been kind enough to outfit you with an arm cannon and infinite ammunition, but when even rabbits and dragonflies take a barrage of shots to bring down, you know you're underpowered (the fact you resemble a toddler in blue Spandex doesn't help with the confidence, either.) That's why there's no shame in exploiting the myriad quirks, gimmicks and glitches of the Mega Man series in order to get ahead.

Go after Metal Man first and sling that over-powered blade of his around like there's no tomorrow. Double back to scroll Hard Man's bees and Spark Man's electricity traps right out of existence. Hop repeatedly on the Rush Jet to keep it from eating fuel. Keep pausing the game during the Yellow Devil fight so that you can kill him with a single Elec Beam (he'd do the same thing to you, you know...) And, yeah, you could memorise the long pattern of disappearing blocks over Heat Man's various death traps, but don't you have a nice, shiny rocket sled you've been meaning to try out?

It can feel like cheating to exploit a few of the shortcuts that the games (not always knowingly) offer up, but sometimes, in a world full of evil robots and death spikes and waves of enemy projectiles, you need all the help you can get. And besides, the ability to out-think one's opponent is at least as valuable as the ability to outfight him.

3) Never Judge a Book by its Cover

If there's one thing the Mega Man series seems to stress over and over again, it's this: the biggest, scariest looking robot master in the first game is also the simplest to defeat. A robot called Hard Man is laughably easy, and Ring Man, a robot designed for the specific purpose of brutally slaughtering our hero, is totally pattern-based and easy to avoid.

The Gemini Laser should be the coolest weapon in any game — just look at its name! — but instead it's cumbersome, inaccurate and instantly transforms any room into a laggy mess. The Dive Missile is a homing torpedo that never hits anything, the Search Snake is incapable of finding whatever it's looking for and the Power Stone deserves to have neither of those words attached to it.

You might have thought these things were frustrating, but really Capcom was trying to teach you an important lesson about having reasonable expectations in life.

Just... trust us on that.

4) Less is More

Mega Man 3 taught Mega Man how to slide; Mega Man 4 taught him how to charge his buster shots. Mega Man 2 didn't teach him much, aside from how not to suck. Somewhere around here is when things got out of hand, because by Mega Man 6 he was pulling his dog apart and snapping pieces of it onto himself like some deranged LEGO warrior in order to accomplish things he was able to do in the past without such tomfoolery. By Mega Man 8 things were even worse, as the Blue Bomber was now starring in sub-standard anime dramas with a voice cast that sounds like it only took the job for booze money and some bus fare home. Things had really gone off the rails by that point.

It's debatable how much was "too much." Players do enjoy the ability to slide, and some enjoy the charge shot. (Absolutely nobody, for the record, enjoys the Rush-as-cummerbund absurdity of Mega Man 6.) But there's no question that, at some point, the series overcomplicated itself, and the magic and fun was gone forever.

Or was it? 12 years after the last numbered entry, Capcom wisely decided to scrap everything and start fresh, and the result was, surprisingly, one of the best-received Mega Man games ever. Mega Man 9 reminds the world that bigger doesn't always mean better — there's a genuine magic to simplicity, and the step back was a welcome one. In a world where games are measured by the number of hours it takes to walk from one end to the other, it was refreshing to see Mega Man 9 announce itself as deliberately smaller and less complicated than the series has been in ages. It was more important for Mega Man 9 to be fun than to be enormous, and it's a trade-off that gamers and critics alike appreciated.

5) However Much You May Fight, Your Family Loves You

Throughout Mega Man 3, you find yourself followed around by an unwelcome, similar looking tagalong. Sometimes he just stands there and watches you. Other times he tries to beat you up. He repeatedly gets in your way while you try to accomplish your goals, and seems to want attention more than he actually wishes you harm. At the end of the game the big secret is revealed: he's really your brother!

Some secret. Aren't all brothers like that? It's in their genes. It doesn't mean they don't really love you, and considering how many times Proto Man has saved your bacon throughout the series — and how few times you've saved his — that love really is unconditional.

Even Dr. Light, the closest thing you have to a father, keeps sending you into battle to die, because he's too old / fat / lazy to slap Wily around in person. But give him a break; he's got a full-time job as a scientist and sometimes he just wants to come home and rest his eyes on the couch for a while. And really, is that too much to ask? Do you really need to complain about the guy just wanting a quiet night to himself? He sure works hard enough to keep a roof over your head and food in the refrigerator. The least you can do is pull your own weight every once in a while, you know. And would it kill you to clean up your room? Sheesh.

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User Comments (45)



TKOWL said:

I highly disagree with the one about "Less is more", where you basically insulted every Mega Man going up from 4. Mega Man 2 and 3 were blander than a white room, I highly regret ever playing them. Mega Man 4 perfected the use of the slide, as where it felt forced in MM3; and the Charge Shot was one of the best additions ever introduced. The Rush Adaptors were one of the most genius inclusions in the Mega Man universe: they were loads of fun to use and didn't have a separate energy bar! And the anime cutscenes added to Mega Man 8's charm. Mega Man 9 only took away from the visual department: its weapons were fantastic and did MORE. So your argument about "Less is more" kinda pointless.

And Hard Man easy? EDIT: Oh, sorry, he really is. Good point.

And about the weapons, nearly all of the stuff from Mega Man 2, besides the Metal Blade, were useless. Item 1, 2, and 3 are still the worst things in Mega Man's arsenal.

EDIT: I'm sorry, I just really don't like how overrated MM2 and MM3 are.



Ryno said:

I love how you guys regarded that overrated piece of garbage Mega Man 2 better than any other game on here.

2 is my favorite, thanks for loving how I regard it!

@Dragoon Your ramble was more entertaining than the article



JayArr said:

Oh lord. Only 3 post before some hardcore MegaMan fanboy cried and attempted to shred a light hearted article with over the top extreme purist comments while completely missing the point.

Great read Philip. Clever spin on the franchise.



WaveGhoul said:

Damnit, as soon as I saw the Mega Man Sprite i instantly thought "OMG, could this be Mega Man 11 news!?"

So much for that idea.

And MM2(especially, hands down) and MM3 ARE the best out of the classic 6 nes games...Although i haven't played 6, yet i think it's safe to say it's not one of the greats as it's even considered the worst out of the bunch, but i'll go into it with an open mind whenever it hits the Nes's VC.

And people razzing on MM2 which are in a hilariously small minority to begin with most likely never grew up with it or played it during it's release to realise just how amazing, unique and epic the entire experience was. Hell, the password screen alone blew me those awesome up beat tunes, and the unique way for putting in passwords was ace!

Bubble, Air and Wood man's stages are hands down thee best MM stages in existense imo from an art direction and imagination stand point. Throw in Flash as well, plus Heat's was alright. but for some reason I've always hated Crash and Metal man's stages...

MM2 and 9 are the cream of the crop!



Philip_J_Reed said:

Stand at the edge of the screen when he fires his Hard Knuckles. Ta-daa! He suddenly becomes the easiest buster-only robot master this side of Toad Man! (And why would somebody need their eyes checked if they think something is easy? Wouldn't the person having difficulty benefit more from an eye exam? )

And yeah, in case this wasn't obvious enough, this entire thing is tongue in cheek.

Thanks for the feedback guys! For those who don't know, I'm doing no-damage runs of Mega Man stages on youtube right now.

Parental guidance strongly encouraged. ahem.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Oh, and for the record, since no Mega Man discussion of any kind is complete without this:

9 > 2 > 7 > 4 > 10 > 3 > 5 > 1 > 6 > accidentally eating a dog turd > 8



Swiket said:

11) When you are about to face a boss fight, jump as you enter the boss door.

Nothing says "I'm gonna f you up, robot master!" like leaping through a doorway and levitating over to the next screen to surprise him.



WaveGhoul said:

I had a hard time tolerating 8 as a teenager....The cringe inducing hilarios voice acting(grenade man's voice made me bust a nut everytime, while Astro man sounded like some homosexual hair, horrible unfitting dramatic darker toned cold anime cutscenes which were depressing, Mega Man's extremely annoying girly voice...."POWER SHOT!" i wish capcom would of let you disable the voices at least...And we all know the legandary status of Dr. Light;s epic voice acting.

As for the music, talk about not sounding anything remotely in tune to anything MM before hand. It was like capcom went for a more a anime techno bubble gum-like grating ambience, and i couldn't stand any of it.

If anything 1 hasn't aged that well...I disagree big time with Dragoon calling 2 and 3 bland. MM1 was bland, but it was also the first of it's kind so we shuld all cut it some silly slack.

MM4, i felt had poorly designed kitchen sink designed stages for the most part, while Dr.Wily and Cossacks castles were horribly generic.
But I'll always have a semi soft spot for Dive and Toad man's stages.



Mabbit said:

@ post 9
Like always, I must now have an amazing debate with Chicken Brutus about video games.
I haven't played 9 or 10, so I'm gonna leave those out
2 > 5 > 3 > 4 > 6 > 1 > 7 > realizing you were screwing your own father at an orgy > 8



WaveGhoul said:

9 > 2 > 3 > 1 > 10 > 4 > 8

I'll be playing 5 tonight to see where it stands, it's been so long since i've played it.
While 6 and 7 will have to wait!

And I'm just not a fan of 10, 4 and 8....10 lacked in the creativity department, took itself way too seriously, was less colorful, the music i found was a let down and it just wasn't rocking that upbeat fun vibe that 9 had, not to mention the weapons weren't fun to use or even that useful and the bosses i found difficulty wise were irritating at first....I guess it was 'good' and it had some genious level design, but it's vibe, sound and look turn me off.



TKOWL said:

@WaveBoy MM1 feels completely different from the rest, and even so, it didn't feel bland at all. It at least kept your at your full-playing level every screen.

And horribly generic Cossack and Wily Stages in MM4? HORRIBLY GENERIC? Do you call tight-sliding, auto scrolling in the sky, Giant Robot battling levels generic? I think not. MM2's Wily Stages are only famous by the music: and nothing else.



Supremeist said:

The only time I've ever played Megaman was on my friends Wii one time, and it was pretty fun but challenging.

I just really hope we get something with Megaman on the eShop or a game. I really want some Megaman action.

Funny article btw. :3



Raylax said:

accidentally eating a dog turd > 1 - 10

/me hides

On a serious note, nice article CB~



Ryno said:

#11 Life Lesson: Use Mega as an adjective or adverb to explain something that is nearly to cool to be explained



tweet75 said:

lol whenever I hear mega man names I cant help but think they should be the names of porn stars



Tasuki said:

Nice write up there Chicken_Brutus. The only thing is and I must be the only one but kinda liked the Rush suits in Megaman 6. I thought it was much better than the change they did to Rush in Megaman 5 like make the Rush Coil a Pogo stick and how Rush Jet took off the moment you touched it even if you weren't on it good. The only thing they could have down maybe is had the Jet Suit and Power Suit separate as its own suit rather than a transforming Rush.



MeloMan said:

And, sure enough, a minor enemy just dropped a 1-Up for you.

Right on the spikes.

Right on the death spikes.

And you have to watch it, sitting there, smiling. Mocking you. Eventually it starts to flicker and it disappears. The game has taunted you.

LOL- to-death

@9 That's a winner, but I like to slide into the boss room in style personally

oh and...
10 > 9 > 3 > 2 > 5 > MM&B > 7 > 8 > 4 > 6 > 1 > Dognutt (trust me, not a classic candy bar)



SuperLink said:

I'm sorry, but I must say (at the risk of being "text-screamed-at") that Megaman 8 is one of my favorite Megaman games. I mean, other than the voice acting and the anime scenes, was it really THAT bad?

...anyway, I'm gonna go hide under a rock now...



Tasuki said:

@superlink64: Well I am not sure your situation but if you started playing the Megaman series on NES than yes Megaman 8 is that bad. If you Megaman 8 was the first one in the MM series that you played than you had nothing to compare it too. But the music as opposed to the other Megman games was terrible that bubble gum Asian techno beat just dont work with Megaman and the voice acting my god the voice acting. I have heard kindergarten plays with more emotion than the voice acting in MM8.



kevohki said:

11. Stupid design plans lead to stupid robots (see: Spring Man, Toad Man, Plant Man, Top Man, Toad Man, etc.)



motang said:

I am not much of a Mega Man fan, played them on the NES, but I like Mega Man X series more.



Punny said:

I know something like this has already been posted in the article, but another good lesson from Mega Man is "If at first you don't succeed, try try again." Dr. Wily does it all the time! Plus, many inexperienced players do this after dying so many times. Think of it as a follow-up to "Life is Hard".



Kid_A said:

Phil, have I ever mentioned to you that everything you write is wonderful? Because's true. Great read



the_shpydar said:

Phil + writing/vid'ing anything even slightly related to Mega Man = Win.
That's math, mofos.

Good piece, Phil. I especially love the "1-Up dropping on to spikes, sitting there smiling and mocking you" bit.
(now i'm reminded that i need to catch up on some of your channel vids)



Aviator said:

Very nice article Phil. Good to see you back.

there is a lone ')' in the first paragraph on less is more
I don't like the Megaman games, as I suck at them.



Link79 said:

This article kinda depresses me. There's been alot of talk lately about the Mega man series dying off due to Inafune leaving Capcom. considering the future without the man who created it is a scary thought.
We still have Legends 3 to look forward to. (so far)
Other than that it's not looking good.
Lots of great memories from this series.
It was fun while it lasted.



WaveGhoul said:

You know what I'll never understad? How most people consider MM1 one of the hardest if not 'thee' out of the 6 Nes titles? really? The only real trouble the game gave me was Ice man's stage...The bosses aside from Flame man were the easiest Robot Master battles the series has ever seen...PLUS when you had the weapon they were weak against, it didn't take more than 5 shots to take them out.

The final battle with Dr.Wily was also hilariously easy. MM2 was more difficult when you weren't playing on Easy. Quick man was such an A**hole. And then there's that iconic giant Robo Dragoon who would blast at you while you had to hop around on those tiny little itty bitty platforms. But the toughest boss goes to that trippy Machine system, where you had to blow up those blasters with Crash man's bombs. You had to get it perfectly, otherwise you'd run out of juice and you were screwed.

MM1 for me is the easiest in the franchise. I't's not even close to being the tough as nails bad boy as everybody claims it to be. I'll agree that it IS during those 2 giant pits(or was it one) in Ice man's stage where you have to hop around on those flying platforms that shoot at you from both sides.

And Dragoon I'll agree with you on MM2's Wily Castle....The level design was weak sauce, it's that damn Wily theme that everybody raves about, but you have to admit the bosses were wonderful! but those stages...Ya, they were basically the only thing i disliked about MM2.

Oh and actually I find MM1's Wily Castle to be one of the best in the franchise, much better than 2's I found. I revisted MM1 last Christmas, and Wily's Castle imo was the best thing about the game.



Link79 said:

The only reason people say Mega man 1 is the hardest is no E-tanks.
I find the most difficult parts without a free refill are these...

1.Yellow devil
2. Mega clone He still infuriates me to this day.
3. Boss gauntlet towards end.
4. Dr Wily.
Other than those moments the rest of the game is cake.



Sylverstone said:

I agree that life is unfair.

Also, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger... or in Mega Man's case - everything can kill you so don't screw up!



Wolfenstein83 said:

Mega Man taught me to wear blue underwear on the outside of my pants...hahaha!
Nah, but seriously, I love the series and this was a good article!



Fuzzy said:

Haha when I saw this article I thought it might have been by you. Nice read.

Those damn 1ups on the spikes laughing at me! I also agree with always getting weapon refills when you need some life energy. Always happens.



elbo21 said:

This was a great article! Fun read. MM2 is my all time favorite video game... period. I play it about once or twice a year. Easier to do now that I have it on my iPhone. Even with all of the amazing games out nowadays, MM2 is still tops for me. Level design, boss design, weapons... and of course, the music. Its my favorite game soundtrack, too.

I was so excited when MM9 came out... and I love the music. Everything felt like a MM game should be. But the game was a little too hard for me, so I never finished it. And MM10 was ever harder... and the music sucked, imo... so I barely ever played that one. Maybe I'll have to go back and give 9 another chance since everyone is saying it's so good. I know MM games are supposed to be on the harder side... but I just hate when a game turns frustrating. I don't play video games to be frustrated. I play to have fun. As soon as it stops being fun, I lose interest. I think MM2 has the perfect balance. Not too hard, but just challenging enough. I was hoping 9 and 10 would be similar.

@Swiket — I thought I was the only one who jumps up as I enter a boss door so I can watch MM float through the entrance! Hilarious. Its so second nature to me after doing it for so many years, I don't even think about it... its just automatic.

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