IGN Review of Mega Man Powered Up
Depending on whom you ask, videogame remakes are either saintly or the work of the devil. On the one hand, it's nice to jump back into the shoes of old-school characters, but on the other, you can't help but want to play something new. Also, it's an easy way for companies to rake in quick funds. But once in a while you get a remake that lets you revisit the past while adding enough content to warrant a look from just about anyone.
And Mega Man Powered Up, from developer Capcom, just happens to be one of those latter remakes. Sure, it's built around a 20-year-old game, but Capcom didn't take the lazy route. Instead of simply updating the visuals or adding a few hidden bonuses, it stuffed Powered Up with improvements across the board. You'll find that every aspect of the game, including sound effects, visuals, music, characters and level design have received equal treatment.
Beyond this, fans of the original will find much more than an overhaul in the game's presentation. There's a treasure trove of Mega Man goodness like a full-fledged level editor, playable boss characters and bonus challenges. Plus, the main game splits between two modes: New Style and Old style, each of which offers a pretty distinct experience. That's a lot of stuff for a remake, especially considering this one finds its home on a handheld system.
And in case anyone's wondering, New Style mode lets you play a heavily reworked version of the original game. It takes up the entire PSP screen, for one, and there's added story as well. You'll learn interesting tidbits on each of the boss characters, the virtuous Dr. Light and the evil Dr. Wily. The Old Style lets you play a version that's almost identical to the NES classic, save for the updated visual scheme. Apart from that, level layout, music and enemy placement is identical. It's great that it's included. Most remakes "fix" or update games without paying much attention to the source material. Thankfully, that's not the case here.
The Mega Man series, including the Powered Up remake, has very distinct elements. It's classic for a reason, after all, and it's a good thing developers have kept the "soul" of the game in the latest incarnation. But for those who may not know what that means, here's a brief recap: you play the role of Mega Man, a kid-sized robot tasked with defeating a group of boss robots reprogrammed to be, well, bad. In order to beat these villainous droids, you have to lead Mega Man through various themed stages (one for each boss) and defeat them on their own ground.
Once defeated, each boss character surrenders a unique weapon, which can then be used against enemies and, most especially, other bosses. And that's really it in terms of specifics. About the only other thing the series is really known for is its degree of difficulty. These games are controller busting, brain-melting, punch-the-wall hard to beat. But while level and enemy design may seem overly obnoxious at times, most gamers simply wouldn't have it any other way. And fans will be happy to know Powered Up is just as challenging. Mercifully, though, developers added three difficulty settings for each stage, so if there's a particular level you just can't beat, crank that sucker to 'Easy' and try again.
Levels change dramatically depending on the setting, too. You'll notice extra platforms and crates on the easy setting, so you won't miss as many jumps. Tearing through enemies is easier too, since they can't tolerate much damage. On the hardest setting, though, things get devilishly fierce. Enemies run around with a ridiculous amount of armor and jumps become hellishly difficult. Often, if you miss a jump, you won't get to retrace your steps and try again - you'll just land in a pit of spikes and explode on impact. In short, the addition of variable difficulty (for each individual level, no less) is a divine blessing.
The original 8-bit adventure had you fight six boss characters, such as Cutman, Gutsman, Iceman and Fireman, but the remake throws in an additional two: Oilman and Timeman. Each is a cool, challenging boss - new while definitely keeping in line with tradition. And each has their own themed stage, of course. In Timeman's stage, you'll face swinging pendulums and timed explosives, while in Oilman's stage, you'll need to fight past fire-spewing bots and slippery environments. Each stage packs the kind of challenge fans have come to expect, and they're a fitting addition to the rest of the game.
As for the level editor, it takes a while getting used to. Once acclimated, you'll find that it's robust and well designed. And just like the rest of the game, it looks overly cute, too. You can decide enemy, obstacle and platform placement, as well as a host of other Mega Man-level staples. It's rewarding creating your very own dream level, something made even better by the fact you can share the level online through the game's infrastructure mode. Also, the level editor includes a pretty decent tutorial to get you used to the way things work, from building a level to dumping it online.
Finally, Powered Up also includes an all-new Challenge mode. For every level and boss defeated, you unlock 10 challenges. There are 100 in all, and they're definitely worth checking out. Think of them as Mega-Man themed obstacle courses, with each challenge having a specific restraint. In one, you'll have to clear a stage without using weapons, for instance, while in another, you'll need to need to destroy a specific number of enemies under a strict time limit. It's fun, addictive, and just as ridiculously difficult as the rest of the game.
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