Friends and loved ones aside, the Mega Man series was my childhood. Not only did I spend hundreds of hours crushing Guts Man, slowing down Quick Man, and laughing in the face of Hard Man, but I even recorded myself playing Mega Man 2 on several occasions. Why, you ask? So that I could study my moves and tactics to improve my performance in some of the tougher spots. Yes, I know that I’m a huge nerd. While my heart may have drifted away from the series over time, 2008’s Mega Man 9 and all of its 8-bit, retro splendor reignited the fanboy flames that exist deep within my belly. Now, Mega Man 10 has Rush-Jetted its way onto PSN, WiiWare, and Xbox Live Arcade, giving me yet another reason to charge up my Mega-Buster and spend more pixel-powered time with the Blue Bomber.
Mega Man 10 once again looks and plays just like the original NES classics did several decades ago, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. New to this iteration is the ability to play as Protoman–who is more powerful than Mega Man but dies much quicker in battle—and the welcome addition of an Easy mode (more on that later). The controls are still as tight as ever, while the colorful 8-bit visuals are a constant delight thanks to the variety and ingenuity of the level design. From wild tornados that obscure your vision as you’re trying to navigate tiny, spike-covered platforms to controllable walkways that need to be shifted away from the oncoming waves of rampaging death, the overbearing sadism found within Mega Man 10 is daunting. Yet it is a true testament to the game’s sky-high fun factor that each of these seemingly impossible situations is greeted with cheerful exuberance, as the player’s will to overcome these odds will far outweigh their fears of an imminent, painful death.
The robot masters that rule over these palaces of pain are equally fun to combat; from the electro-charged Nitro Man, who can inexplicably transform into a motorcycle, to the giggly Sheep Man, who curiously shoots clouds of lightning. The various weapons that each of these bots bestows are delightful, from a damaging bubble shield that can be fired in all directions to a devastating triple-blade that locks-on to nearby targets. While some of the enemy designs can be pretty silly (Pump Man, anyone?), they do fit snugly within the established lunacy that the series has always been known for.
Of course, the teeth-grinding difficulty is still just as prevalent as ever, though things are a bit less frustrating this time around. Sure, enemies will still leap out of pits to knock you down into the endless abyss and certain missile attacks will still coincidentally hit you just as you leap over a spike, but the developers struck the right balance between difficult and frustrating. During my playthrough, I never felt that any of my deaths were outside of my control, something which is rarely true in tough games. For those with shorter fuses, the aforementioned Easy Mode eases new players into the pellet-popping fun by covering up some hazards and reducing the amount of enemy resistance. While this may sound simple, Easy Mode does a great job at making the series more accessible without dumbing the experience down, and acts as a wonderful introduction for new gamers to an incredible series.
At this point, you probably know where you stand with Mega Man 10; the level and enemy designs are fantastic, the chiptune music is catchy and well crafted, the 8-bit graphics are colorful and varied, and the ability to play as multiple characters significantly ups the replay value. The only real complaint I have is that it feels too similar to Mega Man 9, though that’s hardly a complaint given the supremely high quality of that retro revival. That said, if you’ve ever held a special place in your heart for Rock, Roll, and the bot-busting crew, Mega Man 10 will put an enormous smile on your face.