GameSpite Journal 10 | Rockman & Forte

Rockman & Forte | Dev./Pub: Capcom | Genre: Platformer | Release: April 1998

Think of the Mega Man franchise like a chrome-infused mangrove tree. Mega Man and Mega Man 2 form the trunk, and new branches (Game Boy, X, Legends, Zero, Battle Network, ZX) sprout wherever light and money take them. While some branches represent a new tangent (Legends), other new growth sprouts near the base of the tree (Mega Man 9).

The original mainline Mega Man series can be followed on one branch, from NES to SNES, until at the top the branch splits. On one side there’s Mega Man 8, a PlayStation/Saturn game that feels lazy at best, and rips off Battletoads at worst. On the other, there’s the better-late-than-never-era Super Famicom game Rockman & Forte. Like its Game Boy antecedents, Rockman & Forte utilizes the mainline’s strengths (in this case, amazing sprite art and, well, not much else) to create a tighter, deeper, more rewarding game.

If the quality of side-scrolling action games depend on what players can do, Rockman & Forte remains the furthest evolution of the classic Mega Man formula. Not only are there two lead characters, each with natural and precise control, but the acquired arsenal is possibly the best in the whole series. Take the Ice Wall -- while typically earned first, it’s the game’s most useful tool and a powerful weapon. Given a quick push, the ice block gains momentum on its slippery path, until it collides with an enemy or reflects off a wall. Players may ride the rapidly-accelerating block en route to higher platforms or across long, perilous distances.

Given its 32-bit heritage, Rockman & Forte’s graphics are unmatched by other SFC titles. But the game’s legacy lies in those intuitive details that both elucidate the gameworld and simplify play.

In Pirate Man’s level, you’ll dive underwater and realize your flamethrower shoots bubbles, and ice blocks float to the surface and slowly melt. Rush and his gravity-defying Coil are no-longer necessary, but his job as item-digging canine finally makes sense. And with 100 CDs concealed behind every nook, cranny, and branching path, players are given gentle incentive to explore -- not just the levels, but all the wonderful abilities their heroes are capable of.

By Justin Fairchild | May 19, 2012 | Previous: Kirby's Dream Land 3 | Next: GameSpite Journal 11?