Mega Man 3
Based on: The difficult question that every creative genius must someday answer: How do you follow up on perfection?
I'm not sure what it is about Mega Man 3, but you can't seem to mention it without half the Internet crawling out of the woodwork to chide you for liking it. (Because Mega Man 2 was totally better, dude.) Then the other half emerges to tell them they're wrong, words like "fanboy" and "overrated" start flying, and it all goes downhill from there.
But anyone who does that this time around gets a swift kick to the ass. Games don't have to be an either-or proposition, Internet. It's not as if the existence of one totally great game negates the merits of another. They can live in mutual harmony, excelling equally or complementing one another's strengths. I realize that gamers on the Internet are mostly nerds who got picked on at school and sublimate their impotent frustration by lashing out against other nerds through the reassuring safety of online anonymity, but guys! Work out your passive aggression elsewhere.
So I'm declaring it officially OK to like many things. Such as Mega Man 2 and 3. Which is the better game? Based on a comprehensive survey of my own opinions, I'll have to go with "neither." Clearly, the second game is totally sweet -- in many ways the epitome of a perfect gaming experience, if I did say so myself -- but the third game? It has been categorized by science as "hella sweet." So which is better? Hella sweet or totally sweet? I'll go out on a limb here and say: who cares? Whether it's hella sweet or totally sweet, either way you're getting a sweet game.
Of course, it's possible to write off Mega Man 3 as the beginning of the series's slow slide into utter irrelevance. But you'd have to be pretty cynical for that. I mean, I'm all for pessimism, but that's a bit much even for me. Still, this postulate could hold water (if you were a joyless monster who wanted to press the issue), because Mega Man 2 possessed one important ingredient lacking in its follow-up: passion. MM2 was crafted by a small team of people who truly believed in what they were doing -- designed and programmed in the spaces around their real project. And the result is a masterpiece, a game with nothing astray. Every level was perfectly crafted to be challenging but not impossible, every weapon was practical in multiple situations without being overpowering -- Metal Blade aside -- every robot enemy or boss was placed and programmed to be at once interesting and challenging.
Mega Man 3, however, was a Capcom-sanctioned creation developed by a 9-to-5 team. It lacks the passion of a private crusade. What it does have, however, is polish. It's the difference between a director's heartfelt low-budget thriller and their big studio debut -- the difference between The Terminator and Terminator 2. The first has vision going for it; the second has resources. Two different approaches to the same concept, each with their own unique charms.
So yeah, MM3 has some issues. It features the series' first completely lame boss, Top Man, whose concept and design are so out of place (and frankly stupid) it makes you sort of hate video games in general. And the weapons weren't nearly as well thought out as MM2's; the slow-ass Gemini Laser was useless, the Hard Knuckle was...useless-er. And Top Man's Top Spin? That sort of goes without saying. Even Shadow Man, who rocked in every way possible, gave up a weapon that felt like the K-Mart house-brand version of Metal Blade. And sure, some of the enemies were pretty dopey. MM2's giant fire dogs? Awesome. MM3's giant cats who tossed robot yarn and robot fleas? Uhh...maybe not.
But these shortcomings are amply compensated for by MM3's numerous totally great parts. The level designs were more interesting, more expansive and more ambitious, spanning planets and sporting incredible graphics for the time. (And no, science hasn't yet come up with a good explanation for why Top Man's stage is on a greenhouse planet, or why there is in fact a greenhouse planet to begin with.) Canine companion Rush looked like a more retarded version of the already obnoxious Scooby-Doo, but the tools he made available were nevertheless jolly good fun.
Most importantly, MM3 expanded on MM2's design almost as much as MM2 had built on the original. What Mega Man lost here in the way of practical power-ups he gained in innate skills -- namely the ability to slide, which added more to the gameplay than you might expect. Being able to slide beneath enemy attacks rather than simply hopping over them really changed things (witness how much easier Mega Man Powered Up? is when you can slide). The eight-stage, eight-boss structure was retained, but between the initial stages and Dr. Wily's lair were four remixed stages featuring the bosses of MM2, which served multiple purposes.
One, they were an extra challenge -- the MM2 bosses were a cinch to beat with the proper MM2 weapon, but what about with MM3's arsenal? Chances are you'll never forget the nauseous sensation you experienced when you realized you'd have to fight "Quick Man" with that horrible Gemini Laser. Two, they were a nod to the past and a plot hint. (Yes, Dr. Wily was still all evil and stuff -- although even then, no one actually thought he had become a good guy.) And three, they were padding. But this was when padding was still a pretty new and interesting innovation in gaming. Plus, most games of the era padded themselves in far less exciting ways, like boring level-grinding. Ah, how little things have changed.
And it even had a decent story. Besides the Dr. Wily fake-out, I mean -- the giant "peacekeeping" robot made for an impressive final boss. And, of course, it introduced one of the series' most intriguing characters, Proto Man, and his mournful melody. No, his name's not Break Man. Keep up with the times, folks. (Incidentally, Dr. Wily dies pretty convincingly at the end of MM3, which suggests that the series was intended to be a trilogy and that MM4 and everything after are actually just horrible lies. Another point in MM3's favor.)
So in the final analysis, the question remains: is MM3 better than MM2?
It doesn't matter! Geez, haven't you been paying attention? Between the two games, you have the twin peaks of one of 8-bit gaming's greatest series, each with their own distinct strengths. If being online among frothing hordes of polarized fanatics has twisted and broken your mind so much that you can't simply enjoy them both without going on at length about how one or the other is totally overrated by people far less intelligent than yourself, you should check into Internet Detox for an intervention. I'll drive you there myself, if you'd like. Friends don't let friends be net 'tards.
Originally posted in Retronauts