PSP’s equal time - Mega Man Powered Up | iLounge Backstage

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PSP’s equal time - Mega Man Powered Up

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Sunday, March 19, 2006
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Yes, as mentioned in the Nintendo DS Lite article from the other day, my PlayStation Portable (PSP)‘s been collecting dust for the last… well, while. But a few good games have come out in the last week, and I’ve been hooked on one of them. Having grown up during the heyday of the Atari VCS/2600 and original Nintendo Entertainment System, I have a soft spot for certain classic games from that era; Capcom’s Mega Man is one of them. I still vividly recall borrowing the first and second Mega Man games from friends, playing the third and fourth ones, and then basically fading in (and mostly out) of the series thereafter. Dislike wasn’t to blame. With only a couple of exceptions (the 3-D Mega Mans) the series never became bad, just too familiar.

In part, that’s because Capcom developed and just kept refining a brilliant formula - in my view, the best 2-D platforming dynamic ever invented. Mega Man is a robot out to save the world from evil “boss” robots, who are generally much more powerful than he is. You need to learn precise running, shooting, and jumping skills before you can challenge one of the bosses, and though you can choose the order you fight them in, some are basically impossible to defeat with the pellet gun you’re given. So here’s the twist: every time you defeat a boss, you get a new gun that’s especially effective against another boss. Fire Man’s gun will quickly defeat Ice Man, and vice-versa. Choose the right sequence of fights and you’ll win more easily. This smart formula has worked well in roughly 20 Mega Man games at this point, varying mostly in bosses and weapons.

Now there’s Mega Man Powered Up, which actually isn’t a sequel - instead, it’s a PSP remake of the very first Mega Man game. I’ve been loving it over the last couple of days, and it’s whetting my appetite for Capcom’s next big 2-D title, Extreme Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins. (Don’t even get me started on how excited I am for that one.) More details and screenshots are available through Read More below.

I’ve come back to Mega Man only a couple of times over the years, semi-ironically for the most NES-familiar titles (Mega Man 8 for PlayStation, and now this) rather than the myriad Mega Man X, 64/3-D, and EXE titles that have made more substantial changes to the formula, none of which have appealed to me. Powered Up for PSP is quite literally just the original Mega Man game, featuring the bosses I’ve just described, but remade to take advantage of the PSP hardware. I won’t go much into the gameplay beyond to say that the refinements have rendered it every bit as good as the more balanced early games (3-5) in the series, with enough new surprises and replay value to keep it fun for days.

Capcom made two smart moves in the remake, and one that’ll limit the game’s appeal to certain people. First, the company added new bosses to the mix (Oil Man and Time Man), and many more reasons to revisit levels, lengthening what could have been a much-too-short adventure, aided substantially by the PSP’s save feature. Second, there’s a powerful level construction tool that lets you build you own stages with pieces scattered throughout the game’s platforms. You can save your stages and even swap them wirelessly with other PSP owners, a cool idea.

Third, and as you can see from the screenshots, the graphics have been hugely overhauled. The good part is that they’re 3-D polygons, and though presented entirely from a familiar side-scrolling perspective, everything has a dynamic sparkle missing from most flat 2-D games. Occasionally, the camera will zoom in for a dramatic closeup, but otherwise, you notice a bit of added fluidity when characters turn around and animate. Powered Up also takes great advantage of the PSP’s wide LCD screen, filling it from edge to edge with color and detail.

My one and only reservation about this game is the theme of the redrawn art: Capcom went ultra-cartoony this time, using big-headed (“super deformed”) characters and actively kiddie backdrops. I understand the various views on why this could be a good thing - it may appeal to young new players, and otaku gamers. To that end, the dialogue has also been Disney-fied, with lame revisions (the “evil” robots are really “good” robots who were reprogrammed to think you’re evil), speeches on the nobility of merely disabling rather than destroying your brother robots - to make them playable characters - etcetera. But just as with the GameCube edition of Legend of Zelda (Wind Waker), I feel like I’m 10 years old again when I turn this game on, and not entirely in a good way. There are ways to make universally appealing cartoony games, but this one went a bit over the line, a shame only because the G-rated presentation may dissuade some players from gameplay that’s truly superb.

And yes, there is a way to play a more modestly reworked version of the original Mega Man, with its earlier maps and only six boss characters. A shot of that mode, which is intentionally less impressive, is above.

The most notable thing to me about Mega Man Powered Up is an impression that’s sure to spark another fanboy battle here, but it has to be said: when the PSP is good, as it is here, there is just no comparison between its performance and the Nintendo DS’s. As with the upcoming fighting game Tekken: Dark Resurrection, Mega Man somehow seems too good to be portable software - $25 at Fry’s, brand new - and I like that. Remade for this platform, even a 20-year old platform game looks and feels fresh and big, engrossing you with the screen, then surprising you with its pixel-level details. This isn’t normal for a handheld title, especially on the DS, which often uses screen-obstructing control schemes that draw you out of what’s happening. Unfortunately, I haven’t had nearly as many of these experiences with the PSP as I’d hoped… but if Capcom can deliver what I’m expecting from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, you’ll surely see more about it here.

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Comments

1

“...when the PSP is good, as it is here, there is just no comparison between its performance and the Nintendo DS’s.”

To make the fanboy-spark reply, the only problem is that PSP software is rarely good. The greatest hardware in the world isn’t going to make bad games good.

I speak as someone who’s just sold his PSP and games to upgrade to a DS Lite. A new 2D Mario platformer just over a month away (the first in over a decade) sealed the deal…

Posted by Xenex on March 19, 2006 at 10:32 PM (PDT)

2

Understood and agreed.

Re: New Super Mario Bros., I’m not going to use the industry standard phrase and say that I’m “cautiously optimistic.” Instead, I’ll say that I am hugely hopeful that it will come close to Mario 3 or 4, but having seen it at last year’s E3, I’m not yet sure that it will. Fingers triple-crossed.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 19, 2006 at 11:18 PM (PDT)

3

I don’t know about you guys, but I think it’s hilarious that a debate about two high-end portable gaming systems has been reduced to which has the better 80s-era 2D platformer. wink

Posted by Hrothgar on March 20, 2006 at 2:35 PM (PDT)

4

Hey Jeremy:

You need some Mega Man 1 backstory for your review. In the original game, Dr. Light had originally developed Guts Man, Elec Man et al to serve as construction robots. Dr. Wily stole them and reprogrammed them to wreak havoc. While I haven’t played Powered Up, that facet of the story is actually the same as in the original game.

Now, in every OTHER Mega Man game, Dr. Wily made the baddies simply for the point of offing Mega Man. But that’s neither here nor there. :B

Posted by Dan Vincent on March 20, 2006 at 3:21 PM (PDT)

5

I should clarify - it’s the Disney dialogue about the reprogramming (where your “brother” robots explain to you how they think you’re the evil one, so really, everyone’s just trying to be good) that irked me.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 20, 2006 at 3:30 PM (PDT)

6

As much as I loved the original Megaman game(s), this game does not live up to my graphic expectations for the PSP.  I would be curious to see what Capcom could do with Megaman on a DS, however, as Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow was a step up from the previous, excellent games.

I would love to shout insults at the bosses via the mic and have them answer during boss battles, for example.  (The PSP cannot do this, unfortunately.)

Posted by Jed Merrill on March 20, 2006 at 4:25 PM (PDT)

7

>I should clarify - it’s the Disney dialogue
>about the reprogramming (where your “brother?
>robots explain to you how they think you’re
>the evil one, so really, everyone’s just
>trying to be good) that irked me.

Ah ha. That is lame.

Posted by Dan Vincent on March 21, 2006 at 8:24 AM (PDT)

8

@ Xenex:

Isn’t Super Mario Deluxe for the Gameboy Color a 2D Mario platformer?  It’s not a decade old is it?  No, I got it in third grade when i got my color so it’s only like 6-7 years old.

Posted by Dan (papayaninja) on March 24, 2006 at 4:32 PM (PDT)

9

Jeremy,

I feel exactly the same as you described your experience playing mega man long time ago. I also grew up playing Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins :D :(. I remember be pretty good at both of them. Anyway… Thanks for the review. Cheers!

Posted by mLo on March 28, 2006 at 1:24 PM (PDT)

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