Mega Man 3
Mega Man 3 is a pretty divisive title amongst the Mega Man fanbase, as itís seen by some as the culmination of all that is good in the series and by others as the herald of the mediocrity that was to come. In this way, it also literally serves as a dividing line between the games that came after it, all of which at their best lacked the spark of inspiration of the earlier titles, and the brilliance which came before. Nostalgia and fanboyism being what they are, it can be difficult to get a clear enough look at the Blue Bomberís third outing to determine whether itís more worthy of praise or scorn.
Before we make our assessment, letís go back in time a bit. Mega Man 3 started development in a difficult place. Its precursor had been a runaway hit and was widely considered to be one of the best games on the NES. Not only that, but it had been a labor of love into which its creators had poured all their best ideas. Itís hard enough making a good videogame on its own, never mind when you know itís going to be ruthlessly compared in every possible way to its own predecessor. So what was the development team to do?
Apparently, go for broke. Mega Man 3 had eight more great-looking stages packed with tight platforming action, this time set in some truly unique locales. Sure, Wood Manís robotic jungle and Metal Manís factory are classics, but Top Manís glass-encased forest and Snake Manís snake tower were certainly more exotic. The game even added four stages after the initial eight, grueling gauntlets of endurance where players had to battle through remixed versions of previous levels, this time battle damaged from Mega Manís initial assault, and defeat the robot masters from Mega Man 2 before heading off to Wilyís castle. It also gave Mega Man a new power in the form of an extremely useful slide maneuver and introduced two new characters that would go on to be central figures in the franchise: fan-favorite prodigal son Proto Man and Rush the robotic wonder dog.
The feeling one gets playing Mega Man 3 is that the developers knew they had a good thing going with Mega Man 2, and rather than risk spoiling it by changing things too much they simply loaded up the sequel with as much of that same quality content as they could manage. Now of course, this is the same thought process that eventually led many of Mega Manís later sequels to seem redundant and uninspired, but in this instance it produced a game that feels truly polished. Everything that was great about Mega Man 2 is great in Mega Man 3, plus thereís some extra stuff thrown in at no additional charge.
Regardless of whether or not itís eclipsed by its predecessor, Mega Man 3 is nevertheless an excellent game. Dismissing it because Mega Man 2 might be better would be like dismissing every other basketball player simply because Shaquille OíNeal exists. Fans of NES Mega Man games should have hearts that are big enough for two, because both of these titles, bastions of excellent 2D platforming that they are, are worthy of love.