Mega Man (NES)

Game Review

Mega Man Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Fight, Mega Man, for everlasting re-release!

By now, if you want to play Mega Man you probably already have it. It's been previously released for the Wii and 3DS Virtual Consoles, after all. But if you've somehow managed to let the game pass you by — or just aren't sure if it's worth upgrading your old Virtual Console version — we're happy to walk you through the streets of Monsteropolis again. After all, Mega Man, for all of its faults, is still a huge amount of fun.

While a vocal group of fans has criticised the classic series for failing to evolve much between sequels, the fact is that this first entry pretty much got the formula right on its own. Rather than a series stubbornly refusing to change, it's more a case of a series that started out on such solid footing that there was little to do from there except smooth and refine the experience. As such, Mega Man is a game that will feel very familiar to anyone who's played later entries...though it might also be a bit rough around the edges.

The gameplay is simple: you jump with A and fire your weapon with B. It's gaming boiled down to more or less its most basic components, but what gave Mega Man such an identity at the time is something we take for granted today: an inventory of fun weapons.

When the game begins you'll be able to select from six stages, at the end of each you will face a Robot Master. Defeat the Robot Master and you'll reappropriate his weapon for your own use, and you can use that to make other stages — and other Robot Masters — much easier.

The idea of swapping out weapons this way was novel at the time, and it's still a lot of fun to play with today. There's definitely a problem of balancing — which, arguably, the series has never got exactly right — between the great weapons like the Thunder Beam and Rolling Cutter, and the borderline worthless ones like the Super Arm and the Hyper Bomb. They're all fun enough to experiment with, but the odds are pretty good you'll find the one or two that you like best and stick with them.

If you manage to defeat all six Robot Masters you'll be whisked away to the final stretch of stages, which are constructed to show off each of the weapons you've obtained...and the utility that you hopefully didn't forget to pick up in Elec Man's stage.

So far it sounds a lot like its sequels, but the first Mega Man game is, relatively speaking, a bit unpolished. For starters, the physics aren't as tight as they would later be, with Mega Man sliding forward a few pixels after he stops running. This doesn't sound like a big problem, but when a few pixels are the difference between life and death by collision, it can get frustrating to those who aren't used to it. There's also a strange thing that happens when the platform you are standing on — for instance, one generated by the Magnet Beam — vanishes: you "warp" quickly to the ground, falling with much more speed than you would have had you jumped down. This can easily catch you off guard, and is clearly a problem in the programming.

There are also wrap-around issues, which allow you to grab a ladder on the bottom of the screen by jumping up from the top, and can also cause you to take damage from enemies that literally couldn't be further away! Additionally you will die if you climb too high off the top of the screen, making the experience feel just a bit unrefined.

Of course, there are also "positive" glitches, such as the famous "pause trick" that will allow you to defeat bosses with a single Thunder Beam shot simply by pausing and unpausing the game with Select (or - ) repeatedly. These can be fun to play with, but also make Mega Man stick out as the glitchiest game in the series.

Additionally, there are stage elements set to a random number generator that can literally make them impossible without the assistance of the Magnet Beam, particularly in Ice Man's stage where his floating platforms will go wherever they want to go...and are under no obligation to ever get you over that bottomless pit.

All of this is fair game for criticism, but none of it detracts from this title's deep and satisfying charm. Mega Man may not live up to the heights set by its next few sequels, but it is absolutely a blast to play, and beating it — which the lily-livered among you can now do with restore points — remains one of the most satisfying accomplishments of the NES era.


The core experience of Mega Man has held up quite well, but it should come as no surprise when we say that it's a formula that was much refined for its two immediate sequels. This first entry is worth playing, but series newcomers might want to start elsewhere, as the unforgiving difficulty, lack of E-Tanks, slippery physics and unreliable stage elements might prove to be just a bit too daunting. It's fun, don't get us wrong, but its challenge is legendary for a reason.

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User Comments (48)



HeatBombastic said:

7/10? A little too much if you ask me. Sure, it has the awesome retro-charm, but the game just isn't as fun or good as modern games today. Yeah, it was limited by hardware, but it still isn't good.

I don't hate Megaman, I'm a big fan, but this one's overrrated.



hcfwesker said:

It is a shame most newcomers to this installment playing for the 1st time on wiiU will never truly understand the challenge ... save states will take the real challenge away.



NintendoCat14 said:

Unforgiving difficulty? This is one of the easiest Mega Man games, I've become really good at it. Mega Man 4 is unforgiving to me.



SwerdMurd said:

none of the NES ones are nearly as challenging as I remember... I didn't realize how insane the hard difficulty modes of megaman 9 and 10 are compared to...every other entry in the series.

1 has the most bizarre spikes in difficulty for sure, and is also one of the harder games to beat w/o using any robot master subweapons



Philip_J_Reed said:

This is one of the easiest Mega Man games, I've become really good at it. Mega Man 4 is unforgiving to me.

Interesting...I'd say 4 is the easiest in the classic series by a landslide!



MrL1193 said:

@NintendoCat14 Well, keep in mind that in addition to what the review mentions, Mega Man 1 has some rather harsh damage scaling compared to the other games (Ice Man and Elec Man can kill you in 3 shots), and it's also the only game in the series in which mercy invincibility doesn't protect you from spikes.

Oh, and by the way, @Philip_J_Reed You know those "slippery physics" that make it a little harder to start and stop running? The problem wasn't unique to Mega Man 1--Mega Man 2 had it as well. Thank goodness they'd at least fixed the falling physics by then...



TruenoGT said:

Wonderful timing on this review.... Just beat this version about 10 minutes ago, first time I've ever done it. This victory brought to you by... SAVE STATES! If you want to experience the agony without playing through it, check out the Mega Man episode of Game Center CX, it's one of the best!



HeatBombastic said:

@undead_terror Let me start this reply off saying I don't play Minecraft, or Call of Duty. Now that that's settled let's move on.

Old games shouldn't just be compared to old games, because we're not in that era anymore. Secondly, games only get better and better as the possibilities grow and new games get released. The older games stay like that, and only if they have timeless, classic gameplay would they be able to stand with the new ones that are released (Mario is still great, Megaman, not so much).

Whenever you review something you usually informing the consumer if it's worth the purchase, if you just compare it to other old games, how does the consumer know if he/she should buy a new game, or an old game?

Lastly, it should be compared to Minecraft, Call of Duty, and the such. Minecraft has much more refined and complex gameplay than Megaman. Yes, it was held back by its hardware, but that shouldn't matter since everyone says it's all about the gameplay.



Klimbatize said:

I had never even played a Mega Man game until the first one was released on the 3DS VC a couple of months back. I know, I was such a deprived child! (and I don't do the emulation thing).

I say that because I see people saying even a 7 out of 10 is overrated for this game. It's not. I really enjoyed it, and that's without seeing it through the lens of nostalgia. I think it's a solid 8 game. It's a challenging platformer that gives you a sense of gaming accomplishment after beating it. After I finally beat it (without save states) I felt satisfied that I had conquered a fairly well-designed, difficult game.

From my Mega Man newb point of view, it's not overrated at all.



Philip_J_Reed said:

The problem wasn't unique to Mega Man 1--Mega Man 2 had it as well.

Mega Man 2's movement physics definitely feel tighter to me. To each his own I guess but I notice a marked improvement!

Whenever you review something you usually informing the consumer if it's worth the purchase, if you just compare it to other old games, how does the consumer know if he/she should buy a new game, or an old game?

The game was evaluated on its own merits. I'm not sure where the confusion is, as I don't compare it to any other games, new or old. Apart from its own immediate sequels, which I think is a fair thing to compare it to!



Stuffgamer1 said:

Couldn't you mention save states WITHOUT insulting those who find it necessary to use them? To be fair, I HAVE beaten this game without them before...but it's far too much a pain in the butt to be very much fun. IMO, save states can do a LOT to aid in the fun aspect of a game without being overly cheap...of course, it does depend somewhat on how you use them. Like how I save between matches in Punch-Out!!...I don't have to redo fights I've already won just because I haven't figured out the new guy yet. It's just a lot more fair and fun that way.



HeatBombastic said:

@undead_terror I'm not complaining. I'm going to say "Oh boy, I wish Nintendo life fixed their reviews ((((". It's overrated, not as good as the sequels, and the early megaman games still have bad gameplay. It's trial and error. Yes, it can be bearable and charming for you and me, but reviews are supposed to apply to everyone.

I'm not going to complain about something that I can do something about. I can go to another site, or make my own review. I won't do either because I don't find it much big of a deal.



Melkaticox said:

@HeatBombastic "but the game just isn't as fun or good as modern games today."
No poopiedingalingdoodles.. That's like saying The Godfather doesn't LOOK as good as Transformers 3...



HeatBombastic said:

@Melkaticox Are you implying that older games can't be as good as newer games, and therefore shouldn't be compared with newer games? That's BS.

Look at Mario, Super Metroid, and tons of other titles. I'm hoping you didn't mean what I'm inferring, because I don't expect you to be that stupid.



OptometristLime said:

@HeatBombastic you know @Philip_J_Reed took the time to review this game - he even responded to your criticism in the comments. All you did was look at the score, say "nah man it's overrated," without ever providing concrete reasons for those feelings. But then it's rather trite to offer your opinion in place of a knowledgeable review... I wouldn't open my mouth except that you also fell into the trap of awarding Super Metroid and "Mario" God status, when I'm sure there are plenty of games you consider timeless classics that would be revealed as flaws by the weight of time.



Jaz007 said:

@HeatBombastic You should still remember you're playing an NES game though and accept some problems or limitations that were common on that platform to an extent. That doesn't mean you shouldn't ignore them completely, but you should give them some lenience and not get too worked up about them like you would in a modern game.



HeatBombastic said:

@Optimist_Prime Yes, I read the review, and his reply. I've played the game in my gamecube collection and the other Megaman series (i.e. battle network).

Not providing concrete reasons for those feelings? No one has provided concrete reasons for why it's "fun". I've played it, it's not fun. It's a gruesomely challenging game that has crazy retro charm. The physics are sloppy, and combat is unfair with many bosses (if not all). It's trial and error, and I can't write a counter-review in one comment, so I apologize.

I said the gameplay isn't nearly as "fun" as Mario and Super Metroid. I haven't reread my comments, so forgive me for not quoting. It's not as fun as those two, it's just hard (I don't own Super Metroid, I just played it at a friends house, so if it's not fun, forgive me). Games don't have to be fun, they can be poetic, inspiring, frightening, but people don't play platforming shooters for any of those reasons.

Megaman hasn't aged well. You have to do trial and error to learn get used to the physics, enemies, and levels. People say it's fun going through painful, repeating action. And I ask, how is that fun? Fun is lighthearted pleasure, and I don't expect to have a good time repeating and memorizing how to beat levels with poor physics (e.g. you encounter tiny moving platforms, but you fall too fast) over and over if it's fun. Yes, it's rewarding to beat the game because of the difficulty, but not everyone has the reflexes to do that in days or even weeks, and those people will quickly tire of it soon enough. Unless they're extremely passionate.



Tasuki said:

OK forgive me for asking but why do another review for this game? Didn't you just do one for the 3DS release a few months ago? Seems kinda pointless to do another one just because it came out on the Wii U I mean it is the same game.



HeatBombastic said:

@Jaz007 True, but I was never actually was worked up about those problems due to limitations. I still play Megaman even though I think it is very overrated, it has a certain charm to it and the difficulty adds to that charm.



OptometristLime said:

I appreciate you responding. While the technical issues you've identified would affect a score it's not enough to pan a game because it isn't "fun" in your opinion. Ultimately enjoyment is going to be a function of many factors, and it might take a seasoned old salt like @Philip_J_Reed to appreciate the unforgiving challenge despite cumbersome controls. Personally I would rather have an honest and positive rating for a divisive game because it will encourage that certain audience to go out and try it for themselves.



HeatBombastic said:

I have to apologize about something, I forgot that numbers for reviews mean different things for different people. Even though I disagree with some loosely stated terms in this review, I realize the 7 you read, may have not been the 7 I read.

Still think it's overrated though, far too many say it's the best game of all time, but that's simply not true XD



HeatBombastic said:

@Optimist_Prime When I say something is fun, I'm not saying fun for me, I'm saying fun in general. Fun is lighthearted pleasure. The intense feeling you and I get when you play a difficult game like Megaman, isn't fun, but rather focusing on the challenge. Some of us like reflex challenges in the form of entertainment, most probably can't appreciate it. I usually expect reviews to be objective, so when Phillip says it's fun (as in intense focus on a challenge, not the definitive meaning of fun), I don't think that your average Joe would be able to enjoy it unless he spent much time on an entertainment medium that he most likely isn't experienced with. Even if we were to say Megaman's gameplay was lighthearted pleasure, your average guy would prefer to play something different or mainstream to find lighthearted pleasure in.

I don't know what I was leading up to since I'm one of those "think as you write" sort of guys. If I write too much, I'll start to forget my thesis. I was never good at English class, anyways. I hope what I said made sense.



OptometristLime said:

Well, I still think you are on shaky ground by defining the word 'fun', but your message comes through. And I think this discussion was worth it for clearing up some initial confusion. The point you raise didn't cross my mind in reading the article because: a 7 indicates that the title will require specific expertise, and I also felt that the review took a very honest approach to revealing the flaws.



Olaf-symbiote said:

For me, the only flaws of this game are the short length and the awkward placement of the magnet beam (which means you can never play the stages in a completely random order unless you replay Elec man's stage). Also, Ice man is unfairly hard without Elec man's weapon.

I think a 7/10 is an appropriate score. It doesn't mean the game's bad; it's just a bit more unpolished than the others. Still, it's a very enjoyable experience in overall.



DarkEdi said:

I have Megaman Collection and MM X Colection on GameCube and it can be played on Wii, so no need to download each game appart.



Tasuki said:

@DarkEdi: Yeah but unlike the collection these have the original button settings instead of the reverse settings that the AC had.



PinkSpider said:

Did he seriously say that mega man on the nes should be compared to call of duty and mine craft? Ummm how exactly lol if your gonna compare it to anything modern maybe you should compare it to a modern day 2D side scrolling platform shooter. Would make more sense...



Geonjaha said:

No offense but is Philip going to be reviewing every Mega Man game from now on?

@Stuffgamer1 - That's something I've noticed quite a bit too - many reviewers are very judgmental of those who would use them. Maybe because people now can beat it with less of a challenge than they had to but it's really a childish thing to say - especially considering these aren't multiplayer or highscore based games. For the record, no, I dont use them - but I don't mind if others do, it doesnt affect how you play in any way, and if it allows more people to enjoy the game then it's a good addition.



WaveGhoul said:

forget the haters who didn't even play MM back during it's NES release. It was an entirely unique experience and there was nothing else like it back then. It's held up quite well and I still feel that it has some of the most memorable wily stages of the franchise! much better than 2's!

Nothing beats playing a game around the time it was released. One wouldn't beable to even appreciate something like the original super Mario bros. if they experienced it for the first time NOW after playing the later entries in the franchise(durp!) It's easy to dismiss the original MM when you started out with some of the later mega man games in the Classic series that naturally improved on quite a few things. If you're not playing the classic mega man games in order, than you're doing it wrong. MM1 is a classic. It was cutting edge and the first of it's kind in it's day. People need to respect the original and 2 especially which improved ENORMOUSLY over the first. play them in order kiddies!
I'd give it an 8/10!



ajcismo said:

I remember a time when Mega Man the NES cartridge was worth quite a bit of money because it was a fairly rare game that was difficult to find.

Fun, difficult, and really if you enjoy any of the later ones in the series, do yourself a favor and play it. There's no doubt its a flawed game, but a series has to start somewhere.

I wonder if the Start button glitch still works like it did on the NES cart.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Re: restore points.

It was tongue in cheek.

I thought the phrase "lily-livered" would make that clear. Nobody minds if you use restore points, but if you can't take a little gentle (and that's pretty darn gentle) ribbing about it, then that's a whole other issue.



WaveGhoul said:

Restore points are for babies. Play it like it was ment to be played boils & ghouls, it will put pixel hair on your chest! Scratch that, let me replace MM1 with MM10's 'hard' mode Also, Bomb man's Theme is quite possibly one of the most amazing Chip tunes in MM history.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@ajcismo: Didn't read the full review, did you? He mentioned that trick in it...which I thought was funny. Anybody who HASN'T played the game has now had the difficulty "ruined." Although as far as I'm concerned, the yellow demon boss is IMPOSSIBLE without it.

@Philip_J_Reed: Sure, you can argue that it's "gentle," but you have to remember that not everybody will view insults the same way. True, "lily-livered" is not commonly used outside of jokes, but that doesn't mean it's not the least bit demeaning. Personally, I would herald the availability of Restore Points as a massive selling point for the game, just because its difficulty is so unfair. I don't believe in games being too easy...just fair. I'm pretty darned good at Demon's Souls, for example...hard but fair. A lot of NES games failed miserably at that balance, so Restore Points are a good way to fix the problem.



Geonjaha said:

@Philip_J_Reed - Jokes are jokes, but when it's been said on reviews time and time again, its easy to see who actually feels upset about their existence, and feels the need to keep making these jokes at the expense of those who use them.

Don't worry, you haven't upset anyone - as I said I don't enjoy using restore points (Or oppose them unless it's a purely high-score based game like Balloon Fight, whereby they only serve to defeat the purpose of the games existence). They're here to stay however, so there's not much point jabbing at those who choose to use them - time to just forget about them and move on.



Philip_J_Reed said:

when it's been said on reviews time and time again, its easy to see who actually feels upset about their existence

I'll spell it out for you, and everyone: nobody on staff is "upset about their existence." Period. We make jokes about things. It happens. There's no ulterior motive or resentment involved.

time to just forget about them and move on.

They're features specific to this most recent release so, as always, we'll discuss them. Sometimes we'll think features are useful, sometimes we'll be ambivalent toward them (as now) and other times we'll think they're a detriment. Whatever they are, we'll say it, because that's how games are reviewed, and that's information reviews should contain.

That said, with my mod hat on, this part of the conversation is over. No harm was intended with a clearly jokey and gentle comment, and that's that.



HeatBombastic said:

@WaveBoy Just because it was phenomenal back in it's day, does not mean it's phenomenal now. I do love the classic charm, but it's aged, the gameplay's depth is stale compared to newer games.

@PinkSpider If we are to compare games to anything it should be to all. Why? Because the buyer still has a choice if he/she hasn't bought it before.

@Optimist_Prime My definition of "fun" comes from an episode of Extra Creditz called "Moving beyond fun". Blame them if I'm wrong, but I do know the definition of "fun" is abused similar to how "literally" is.

please, we can talk about games without making the arguments personal. thanks in advance! — TBD



Bass_X0 said:

Now that the original NES Mega Man game can be downloaded on every modern Nintendo console, I'd now like them to port Mega Man Powered Up to 3DSWare (removing the inclusion of the original NES game obviously).



Mirkhay said:

I really don't think the original is as unforgiving as people say, i find it rather easy, but i am a Mega Man fan so i may just have developed a natural skill playing it haha xD



WaveGhoul said:

You sir have one of the greatest Avatars on this site. Congrats for being the coolest NeoRad Nes-kid on the block.lol Seriously though, i agree in that the original Mega Man isn't as hard as most people make it out to be. Aside from MM5, i find MM1 to be the easiest in the franchies. Mega Man & Bass along with 10 are absolutely brutal in comparison! I've finished both, including 10 in hard mode which was frustrating beyond belief. Wily's 2nd stage says hi.



B3ND3R said:

@HeatBombastic But, this is a classic. When I look back at these games, I remember why I miss them. Unlike the games of today that are all about cinematics and graphics, the old-school titles are all about fun. It isn't about money with Nintendo, it's about the fun they can provide us. Some people are really happy to play NES Classics such as this one again, as it is an awesome classic that inspired many titles today. Plus there are those who have never experienced them before and really want to. I respect your opinion of whether you enjoy this title or not, but to many out there this is a definitive title to own.



Mirkhay said:

@WaveBoy haha i found this image by accident and it was too cool to not save it xD Yeah Mega Man & Bass is really brutal!
And that reminds me i still haven't played Mega Man 10 =/

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