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Critical Reception: Capcom's Mega Man 9

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's retro-styled WiiWare (and imminently PSN and Xbox Live Arcade) sequel Mega Man 9, which reviews praise as "an unapologetic nod to one of gaming's greatest eras."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's retro-styled WiiWare (and imminently PSN and Xbox Live Arcade) sequel Mega Man 9, which reviews praise as "an unapologetic nod to one of gaming's greatest eras." Born as a series of side-scrolling platformers on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Capcom's Mega Man franchise has seen numerous sequels in the years since, with many earning a mixed reception. In a bold design decision, Mega Man 9 attempts to emulate the style of its 8-bit prequels, complete with era-appropriate graphics, music, and technical capabilities. The experiment appears to have been a success with critics, who average a score of 87 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Brett Elston at Games Radar awards Mega Man 9 a score of 9 out of 10, though he warns that the title may have limited appeal for less patient gamers. "Mega Man 9 is an old-school 8-bit NES game through and through, with pixel-perfect jumps, one hit kills and crushingly difficult boss encounters that'll shred wrists from here to Japan," he begins. "It does absolutely nothing to court new players, opting instead to cater directly to fans and longtime gamers who tire of recharging health meters and forgiving checkpoints. And that’s precisely why we love it to death." Elston describes Mega Man 9 as a pitch-perfect sequel in the 8-bit Mega Man series. "Gameplay is dead simple: choose one of eight bosses, make it through their level, acquire their weapon, then figure out which boss is weak against your copycatted arsenal," he describes. "Along the way you’ll have to make perfectly timed leaps, avoid spikes that shatter Mega Man when one pixel is out of line and tackle enemies that are dead set on pushing you into one of a hundred different bottomless pits." "If all of that sounds endlessly frustrating, you’re going to want to pass," Elston admits. "However, gamers who love a challenge, anyone who slaved through Mega Man 4 and 5, all of you are going to eat this up and love every single second." Corbie Dillard at WiiWare World also rates Mega Man 9 at 9 out of 10, praising its faithfulness to its source material. "Although the series and its spinoffs have continued to prosper over the years, many Mega Man faithful still consider the original 8-bit releases as the best the series has to offer," he notes. "Capcom obviously sensed this when they made the decision to develop a brand new Mega Man title and model it so closely after the original NES titles." "Not only does Mega Man 9 look, sound, and play just like the original 8-bit offerings," he continues, "it also comes jam-packed with the same controller-tossing difficulty as well." Dillard finds that Mega Man 9's presentation matches its 8-bit predecessors' completely. "In keeping with the 8-bit theme of the presentation, Capcom has also served up an NES-style soundtrack to go along with the visuals," he says. "Even the sound effects come off like they were taken directly from an NES Mega Man game. Capcom should really be commended for the job they did in keeping with the classic Mega Man theme both from a visual and musical standpoint." "You have to appreciate what Capcom has pulled off with the release of Mega Man 9," Dillard asserts. "If you're a classic Mega Man fan, then this is without a shadow of a doubt the game you've been waiting all these years for. And for those who never got the chance to experience the outstanding early releases, here's your chance." Over at 1UP.com, Ryan Scott gives Mega Man 9 a rating of B+. "As a lifelong NES lover and evangelist, I'm overjoyed," he writes. "It's a pretty daring stylistic choice in 2008 -- and, if anything, the 8-bit aesthetic underscores MM9's similarly old-school platforming elements, which are equal parts satisfying and difficult." Scott warns that Mega Man 9 is difficult at first, but emerges as a satisfying experience overall. "You'll wanna break your controller in half at times, but clearing an arduous section's extremely gratifying -- and after every hard-won victory, subsequent trips are almost like riding a bike," he says. "MM9's relentlessness molds you into a real expert by the time you reach the final chain of endgame stages." "MM9 is an unapologetic nod to one of gaming's greatest eras," Scott concludes. "It might've been made especially for nostalgia-crazed dorks like me, but it's something that any challenge-seeking gamer can dig." Reviewers are quick to warn that Mega Man 9 is a difficult game throughout, and may be of limited appeal to WiiWare's traditionally casual-oriented audience. For long-time fans of the series, however, critics recommend Mega Man 9 for its skillful duplication of the charm and challenge of its 8-bit origins.

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