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Critical Essay Series: Mega Man 9

To enthusiasts, nostalgia and videogames in many cases go hand to hand; which is the reason why developers have been trying to capture that essence for so many years. So what happens when you try to build a whole game around the idea of nostalgia?

Revisiting video game nostalgia can be a bit tricky. On one hand it could take you back to a simpler time in your life; to that moment in which you first found your love for videogames. Yet on the flip side of that coin, going back to an old game can be a harsh reminder how you can never go home again.

So when Capcom had decided to go with a “back to basics” approach with the Mega Man series, many had mixed opinions about the matter. Some applauded Capcom for hitting the reset button on the series taking it back to the “glory years of gaming”, while others criticized them on pandering to enthusiasts’ nostalgia. So who was right? Depends on how you see it.

Mega Man 9 feels dated, but that’s ok; it’s supposed to be. From the 8-Bit graphics to the fractious difficulty it definitely feels as if Keiji Inafune had created it in the 1980’s. In many ways it represents what was best about the Mega Man series, its gameplay. On its surface, the game mechanics of Mega Man are quite simple boiling down to essentially jumping and shooting.

However the ingeniousness of this game comes through in its level design. Much like Mega Man games in the 8-Bit era, all of the levels in Mega Man 9 are crafted to test your skills in platforming. But unlike the Super Mario Bros. series, that gradual curve in difficulty does not exist. Mega Man 9 is merciless from beginning to end. This is a hard game, in which it could cause a great divide for those searching for that piece of Mega Man nostalgia.

It is no secret that the video game medium has changed. So much so in fact that the expectations of what the player assumes from modern games has become a major factor in how they view the final product. All games can be broken down to the carrot and stick theory.

The games that come out today, unlike their predecessors, give the player more carrot then stick. In turn players today have become so depended on a constant reward for even the smallest achievements; they many look at a game like Mega Man 9 and actually be turned off by its difficulty. Which in all cases is a valid argument.

Mega Man 2 to many nostalgia seekers seemed to be a bit more player friendly. From patterns of boss fights to jumping puzzles always feel to straddle the line between gaming nirvana and gaming hell perfectly. Maybe that is why to many enthusiasts, the second game of the series of so revered even after all these years.

Sure the password system might be archaic and there are sections in the game where death is used as an instrument of learning, but that does not take away from the fact that it all just feels right. It is that same feeling which developers since the dawn of Pong have tried to grasp, but only a few games can ever achieve. So then, what about Mega Man 9, does it walk that razor's edge as perfectly as its older brethren. Many would say not quite. 

While Mega Man 9 has all of the elements to make a classic 8-Bit game, it some how just misses that 8-Bit perfection of Mega Man 2. For whatever reason, that intrinsic quality of a classic 8-Bit game seems to constantly elude it.  In many ways, Mega Man 9 is definitely one of the better Mega Man games in its long storied run, but the truth is this; Mega Man 9 is good, not great.  Though to say that Mega Man 9 did not attempt to capture that feeling of 8-Bit perfection would be false.

While Mega Man 9 may not have reached that upper echelon of gaming immortality, it did however perfectly balance the mentality of 8-Bit gaming with features that have become standards in this day of age. By including an in-game store where you can purchase things like energy tanks and spike resistant boots, it makes the game a bit more player friendly.

Also with the incorporation of achievements, Mega Man 9 had tried to create the environment of artificially creating enough carrot for players to bulldoze through. This moonstruck idea of mending the cannons of 8-Bit nostalgia with the perks of modern gaming for the most part proved fruitful. In my own experience, there were times that I would have just given up if it were not for the perks which the game had presented.

At the end even with all of the modern day implementations to the Mega Man series, this game was created for one core audience in mind; the rabid hardcore Mega Man fan. With the main focus of the game having implemented such things as leader boards and a Time Attack mode, this game was meant for those who still yearn for the days of 8-Bit gaming.

Thus for all this fan service that has been showered from Capcom to this very small, but core audience they will think this as more of a "Thank You" letter from Capcom for their many years of fandom. So then, what about the rest of us who are not Mega Man fanatics? For us as always, revisiting video game nostalgia could be a bit tricky.

Mega Man 9 is developed by Capcom and is a downloadable title on the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and the Playstation 3.

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