|Platforms||:||Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Windows|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Early in the days of the original Nintendo, Capcom launched the game Megaman. Through solid gameplay and the publisher's persistence, it and its many sequels have remained on the gaming scene to this day, with Megaman appearing in more games than Mario himself. Now, a decade later, Megaman undergoes his greatest metamorphosis in Megaman Legends, for the Sony PlayStation (released as Megaman 64 for Nintendo 64) and Windows. [PSX version reviewed here]
Thanks to some revisionist history, Megaman is now a mega-boy of fourteen years. He, his friend Roll, and the old man Gramps are treasure hunters on a world of archipelagos, where there is rumored to exist a "Mother Lode" of ancient, energy-producing refractors. If Megaman can find it, he'll be set for life — but only if he beats the pirates to it!
As many gaming icons have lately, Megaman has made the leap to a 3D world. Now he must explore forests, towns, and dungeons, talking with people and finding items. Gone are the "choose the next stage" format of gameplay, InsertNounHere-Man foes, and the acquiring of weapons from fallen foes. The Indigo Invader still finds new weapons in his journeys, but can carry only one such accouterment with him at a time.
Exploration of this brave new world is seriously hindered by two flaws in control design. First, there is no support for analog controllers, an obvious oversight in today's 3D gaming market. Second, pushing Left and Right cause the Blue Bomber to strafe in those directions, instead of adjusting his point of view. Running where you can't see is pointless, so players are forced to make repeated use of the L1 and R1 buttons to swivel the camera. Other camera manipulation is not possible.
Except for these basic control errors, Megaman performs fine, running and shooting like the veteran he is.
The game is peppered with digitized speech, from the opening story to character interaction. The voice acting is not bad, but has a tone intended for a younger audience. The storyline and personalities are silly and immature, though sometimes something to smile about.
There is little to no music accompanying Megaman's quest, often leaving him to travel in silence. Sound effects consist of explosions and the like.
The graphics are colorfully simple. Characters are drawn in a style of Japanese animation (anime), yet are rough and polygonal. The environment is similarly designed; don't expect the rich, smooth, shaded worlds of Banjo-Kazooie.
I categorize the gameplay into three areas: exploration, in which Megaman is free to roam the towns and countrysides, meeting people; boss encounters against a single, powerful foe; and dungeons, where he makes his way through underground mazes. Boss encounters are plentiful, while spelunking is frustrating. Foes are abundantly annoying yet easy to defeat, while the maze layout is without rhyme nor reason. Gone are the simple, fun side-scrolling adventures of years past.
Legends is a challenging game, without being frustrating. There is rarely the question of where to go next, yet still giving the player the freedom to explore at his own pace. Many bosses are extreme trials at first but reveal their weak points through repeated battle attempts.
Capcom has branched many of its characters into many areas, often meeting with success; if it was inevitable that they failed, then Legends is the result. Although not as bad a hero relocation as Midway's Mortal Kombat Mythologies was last year, Legends takes all that is Megaman and replaces it with lesser elements. It's ironic, and unfortunate, that the Megaman legend had so little influence on Megaman Legends.
This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 21-Sep-98