Today I finally finished a game of Megaman 10. I can't think of a more frustrating game experience (says me who has Psybadek downstairs, a game that has a level that's impossible to solve due to buggy programming). I have some options open to me: play through again on hard (yeah right), play through again with Protoman instead, but I'm going to pick the best choice: never play it again.
You're no doubt wondering just why I played this game if I have such a low opinion of it. It's more complicated than that.
For just £7 I thought I'd spend my remaining free time playing through it, considering that it's an installment of a really popular and long-running franchise and it was made using the same engine used for the original NES games. So I was looking forward to a nice retro feel, a platform game (a genre I do enjoy playing) and being able to experience the magic that grabbed its fans. The graphics are charming and colourful, and I could hear why the Megaman games were well known for good music (which were also midi blips to keep the retro feel). The puzzles are engaging and you're encouraged to experiment with different techniques and weapons against enemies in order to learn how best to defeat them.
Thing is, I was beyond surprised at how short the levels were. Nathan's theory that old games were made very difficult so that people spent longer on shorter levels thus saving the developers from expending too much technology, time and money, became more and more believable. But the end of the game feels to me like a massive cheat. At first you have to complete 9 levels and defeat each of the bosses. That's fine, 'cos after each one you can save your progress and continue from the next level. In the meantime you can also use the screws you've collected to buy items that can help you.
The next bit feels like a slap in the face. You have to go into Wily's fortress, initially made up of 4 levels. During the 1st level, you have to cleverly work your way around between 3 boss chambers, that contain a machine that replicates the attacks of older Megaman bosses (I didn't know which ones from which games and I don't care). In the 2nd level you have to work your way along conveyor belts and avoid huge stamping machines while also defeating 2 sub-bosses that you had already come across earlier in the game. At the end of that level you have to destroy some limbs on a giant robot to defeat it. It takes a while but it's not hard. The 3rd level is sub-boss free, but you still have to avoid getting impaled on spikes through various means and then the level boss is a cube, made out of the floor, walls and ceiling and its only weakpoint is a robotic eye, which also happens to be its brain and weapon, which also does not have a perpetual presence. That boss takes ages to do. When you're not dodging lasers and flying cubes you're waiting for the cube to form and for the eye to reappear.
The 4th level begins with a pair of ladders that lead you to the top, offering some goodies on the way (the left path is the easier). Then you have to defeat all 9 bosses from the main game all over again. No I'm not kidding. Survive that gauntlet and you finally face off against Wily in his massive floating robotic tank...thing. (Wily's the arch enemy btw) Except you have to defeat him twice, since you're basically shedding his armour. But it's not over yet!!! Suddenly Megaman is transported to Wily's space station (as typical for 8-bit NES-era stories, the plot is daft and over-the-top) where he has to make his way through a desolate metallic maze while constantly under attack by drills. You think I'm joking? Then you FINALLY face off against Wily in his space pod, but you must make sure to hit him and not his doppelganger. Defeat him once and that's the end of the game.
So what's the problem? Well if you use up all your lives, you start again from the beginning of the level. But if you save and quit, no matter how far into Wily's fortress you may be, you're forced to start from the first level. So it becomes an endurance test. After a while the earlier levels become easier as you learn how to best progress through the levels and to defeat the bosses quickly, but as the very end kept revealing itself to me well tactics be damned! Through my various attempts to actually reach Wily (I only managed it today) I had built up a massive inventory of extra lives, energy recharges, weapons recharges, a couple of pot lucks, a 'mystery box' (recharges everything, can only carry one at a time) and armed myself with the damage reducer in (what I thought was) the last level, making sure the hits I took took less damage. So towards the end I ignored all the attacks that landed on me, was constantly pummelling Wily and used up most of my recharges (that's the funny thing, I never used them all!) and couldn't care less if I was acting like the worst Megaman player in the world.
I understand now why the Megaman franchise is so popular, but I just can't like the game. I don't regret purchasing Megaman 10 (playing it on/off for nearly 4 weeks means it was certainly worth the £7 purchase) but I'm just not impressed by it. The charm is childish and goofy and there's little to admire in the game, while I was honestly gnashing my teeth rather than grinning in enjoyment. The game really is designed for the most hardcore of hardcore gamers. I took a look at the trophies available and...my...God. If they're reflective of the genuine challenges that Megaman gamers put on themselves...I dread to think. They include such achievements as: play the whole game without dying, play the whole game without ever using a special weapon that you earn after beating a boss, never use any bonus items, play the whole game without getting hit. Without getting HIT?!?
Just thinking about it is making me exhausted.