Although the current generation has already seen its fair share of old-school compilation sets with games such as Activision Anthology
and Midway Arcade Treasures
, few of them have focused on anything other than the pre-NES days of the early '80s. So while a legion of gamers already have experienced Pole Position
in a million different ways, a significantly smaller number of users have yet to partake in efforts like Clash at Demonhead
, or The Adventures of Lolo
. Unfortunately, our gut instinct tells us that this type of situation isn't going to change anytime soon, but at least Capcom's first Xbox omnibus, known as Mega Man Anniversary Collection
, gives us hope.
The reason Mega Man leaves us optimistic in the first place, however, isn't quite for the reason you'd first think. Instead of finding ourselves overly nostalgic and permissive toward Capcom's famous mascot because of the memories he's given us, we're alternatively impressed by how well he holds up against today's more elaborate competitors. To be truthful, the impact of it all is really quite shocking; as it's not the remembrance of deep gameplay and imaginative characters that make the Anniversary Collection so enjoyable, it's the reality of it.
Not only does Mega Man Anniversary Collection manage to bring us all the great classics that helped put the NES on the map with Mega Man 1 thru 6, it also treats us to a handful of Super NES, PlayStation, and arcade titles as well. Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8, and the previously unreleased Power Battle and Power Fighters really illustrate how far the Blue Bomber has come since his inception in 1987. But what really enhances the experience further is how the developer Atomic Planet has gone in and re-tooled certain aspects without destroying what made the games so entertaining in the first place.
Mega Man 1, for instance, is still as difficult as it's always been and remains mechanically identical to its original NES counterpart (in fact it could be even harder since exploiting the Pause Button/Thunder Beam glitch against the yellow devil no longer applies). But rather than leave the game as is, Atomic Planet has incorporated several elements from the PlayStation's Mega Man 8 to speed up gameplay and keep some consistency between the titles. More specifically, the quick navigational tool can now be used for all eight Mega Man adventures, which enables players to cycle through all of their robot master weapons without having to go into a separate menu to do so.
Another new addition is the rapid fire button for the NES versions of the series. Enabling players to hold the button down for three shots in succession rather than using manually controlled single taps, the auto-fire is particularly handy against airborne opponents and speedier bad guys. The great thing about this little extra is that you don't have to use it if you don't want too. Thus, old-school purists can stick with the same single-fire techniques that helped them muscle through the originals.
Fortunately, the programmers didn't go overboard with the mechanical enhancements, as other eventual gameplay maneuvers like slides and weapon charges have been kept exclusively for games in which they originally appeared. What this means is that you won't be sliding before Mega Man 3 and you won't be charging before Mega Man 4. That decision keeps all eight of the included action-platformers balanced with little more than an added touch of functionality; though it should be noted that for the first time ever, the difficulty setting and starting lives count for all eight games can finally be adjusted via the options menu. Cool.
But just because Capcom didn't change the gameplay very much doesn't mean that it didn't take this opportunity to leave the aesthetics unaffected. Including both original and remixed versions of each title, Atomic Planet has incorporated what's known as "Navi Mode" so that players looking for something a little different can find it. And while Navi Mode won't change environmental blueprints or enemy layouts like most other videogame remixes do (thankfully so, as the Mega Man series has always had one of the strongest 8-bit designs) it will change the user interface so that it matches Mega Man 8. Menus, weapon selects, and other such goodies all have updated artwork and players can also receive tips from Mega Man's cohorts complete with animated portraits with a simple tap of the select button. Best of all, Navi Mode also kicks off remixed soundtracks for Mega Man 1 thru 7, the likes of which kick ass all over the original tunes. Nice!
To reward players for finishing each of the included Mega Man games, Capcom has also provided several bits of bonus content that should keep fans busy between play sessions. Sadly these extras aren't quite as extensive as something like Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, though, they do include such unlockables as artwork, historical information, and platform-specific goodies for Xbox users (a full-length animated episode of Mega Man for Xbox users, plus a producer interview). And of course, the previously mentioned pair of arcade fighting games is thrown in for good measure.
Perhaps the news that will please the fans most of all, however, is that Atomic Planet has cleared up all the glitches we complained about in our preview just a few weeks ago. Load times are down considerably (about 10 to 15 seconds from the menu to each individual game with no loading after that) and slowdown and flicker from the original cart versions have been almost entirely eliminated (it's still in there, but it's only noticeable a few times per game). Consider us relieved.
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