With my LP series ending on such a sour note, a lot of people have asked me if I ended up hating Mega Man 10. The answer is tricky. On its face, I don’t like the game as it presents itself in Normal Mode, and as played by Mega Man. There are a lot of reasons for this, but they pretty much all boil down to this: without his slide and his charged attack, Mega Man just doesn’t have the tools he needs to blaze through things the way he does in earlier titles.
But Mega Man 9 didn’t have this problem, so what’s changed? If I had to guess, I’d say the biggest change was Capcom’s mission statement. Mega Man 9 was built as a return to form, after all. The dev team went back to the last game in the series that was universally praised, Mega Man 2, and used that as a template for a new adventure. By scraping away all the cruft that the series had accumulated over the years, they went on to create a masterpiece. Indeed, most fans I’m acquainted with hold MM9 as one of their favorites in the series.
They had to go bigger and badder in MM10, though, and that bigness and badness was injected directly into the boss fights. I cannot remember a group of robot masters that gave me as much trouble as the ones in this game. Even in the Skull Fortress refights, even after I’d figured out the proper weapons to use, the bad guys still give me nightmares. Mega Man’s arsenal in MM10 is so gimmicky and so difficult to work with that it’s almost worth just packing E Tanks and brute forcing your way through the fights just so you don’t have to deal with them.
Most of Mega Man’s weapons in this game have two stages. The first stage is the shot itself, which is useless. The second is some manifestation of the shot; an explosion, or a directional change, or a delayed attack. That’s the part you have to try and hit the boss with. You can’t just point your gun and blast away anymore. No, now you have to make sure your timing and positioning are precise or your attack won’t connect. (Or, it will connect, but won’t deal any damage.) Of course while you’re dicking with that the boss is hopping around and using his own attacks. You have to dodge these, not only making sure you avoid damage but also putting yourself in a proper position to fire back.
In every Mega Man game I’d ever played up through 2010, there were two ways to kill a boss: you could learn his pattern well enough to survive, or you could come packing that boss’s weakness. There were slight exceptions and variations on this basic premise throughout the course of twenty-odd games, but that’s the gist of it. But in Mega Man 10 you have to learn the boss fight whether you’ve got the right weapon or not. You can only hit Blade Man during specific parts of his attack pattern. You’ve got to keep a very specific distance from Pump Man, or your weapon will be ineffective. You’ve got to anticipate Nitro Man’s attack and counter it before he initiates it.
All my life, I’ve been able to outline boss strategies as “Top Man is weak to Hard Knuckle.” And while you can do that forMega Man 10 every such description has a little asterisk next to it. Trying to stir the formula after all these years just ruined the experience for me.
I realize a lot of people will read that explanation and not get it. Players who had fun with Mega Man 10 because of (or perhaps in spite of) this change in formula. Really, it’s the equivalent of the dudes who bitched about the physics and momentum changes in Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Many people didn’t mind getting used to the new physics, but a lot of veteran Sonic players didn’t understand why they should bother.
I don’t understand why I should bother learning to evade Nitro Man’s pattern just so I can kill him with the proper weapon. Not when I have so many other Mega Man games on the shelf that don’t make such demands of me. I liked the old formula; why force myself to like this new one?
I did have fun with some of my Mega Man 10 replays. It’s the kind of game that becomes more enjoyable through familiarity, and by “familiarity” I of course mean “memorization”. It’s also got Easy Mode and Bass Mode, both of which make the core experience more fun. It’s just a damn shame, though, that I can’t play the game as the proper hero on the proper difficulty and enjoy it.