Mega Man 7 is a game that came at the wrong time. By the time of its original 1995 release fans were a bit beleaguered by continued rapid-fire releases, and interest had shifted from the portly robot that could to his slimmer, cooler younger brother - Mega Man X.
If you've played one Mega Man game, you'll be instantly familiar with how Mega Man 7 plays. The same run, jump, slide and shoot mechanics are all present and feel exactly how they did in the original NES titles. Unlike previous entries, Mega Man has instant access to his Mega Buster's charged shot, allowing him to deal some extra damage from the very beginning. The way the game begins, however, borrows a bit from the Mega Man X series.
Unlike previous Mega Man titles, Mega Man 7 drops you into an introductory stage when you start playing, as opposed to taking you directly to the robot master selection stage. After you clear this stage you'll get to select from one of four Robot Masters: Junk Man, Burst Man, Freeze Man and Cloud Man. As with some previous entries in the series, all of the Robot Master were designed by fans via a submission contest.
For this game Keiji Inafune, widely regarded as the father of the Mega Man series, passed his duties to Hayato Kaji. Kaji had played a role in previous entries in the series, but this was his biggest role to date. Mega Man 7 introduced two new characters to the Mega Man Universe: Bass and Treble. The pair serve as a foil to Mega Man and Rush, sharing much of the same capabilities as The Blue Bomber and his canine companion. The rough designs for them were created by Inafune, but their final look was done by Kaji. The pair are arguably the best thing to come out of Mega Man 7, as they have gone on to appear in a number of other Mega Man titles over the years.
From this point forward, the rhythm of the game is very much what one might expect from a Mega Man title. You shoot your way through some cleverly designed stages, fighting off a number of enemies and mini-bosses along the way until you reach Dr. Wily's latest evil creation. The boss fights are still about pattern memorization and exploiting specific weaknesses. As you defeat bosses, as with other Mega Man titles, you absorb their powers and make them your own.
There's value to replaying these levels, too, as using certain powers in certain areas will reveal hidden power-ups, both for Mega Man and for Rush, his robot dog. After defeating the initial four bosses four more will be made available to defeat, bringing the total number to eight. After you have successfully dispatched your remaining foes Dr. Wily's castle will open up for you to battle your way through. As with every previous Mega Man game, Dr. Wily's castle contains some of the most challenging stages in the game and houses multiple bosses.
The New 3DS version of the game runs identically to the Super NES original, for better or worse. Mega Man 7 suffers from some very noticeable slowdown at various points throughout the game, but again, this is on par with the original release. The Virtual Console version of the game does, however, include the added benefit of save state support, meaning that some of those more punishing traps - like the pillars of fire that can kill you in one hit in Turbo Man's stage - can be dealt with more quickly and without repeating a lot of screens.
Even though Mega Man 7 is missing Manami Matsumae's iconic stamp, staple tunes from the series are still in there as well as some new tracks, all of which are more than serviceable for an action platformer. They're not as memorable as some of the more classic entries, but they're still good. Sound effects are a bit different as well, but they still sound alright.
Mega Man 7 isn't the best entry in the franchise, but it's still a solid game nonetheless. Its good graphics, nice music and proven action platforming lead to a fun experience, even if it can sometimes feel like more of the same.