Mega Man 10, like its predecessor, takes us straight back to the mid-80s for a game philosophy that focuses almost solely on design. And most importantly, it does it well. The game's streamlined, back-to-basics approach is so entertaining, in fact, that I've already played through it three times and am currently in the middle of trying out its Hard Mode.
If you've played Mega Man 9, you know what to expect here--cleverly-designed levels, challenging gameplay, simple mechanics, great music. It's all here, it all works well. But one of the areas that I feel has been improved is in the replay value of the game. This is definitely attributed to the there-from-the-start Easy Mode and playable Proto Man, and the unlockable Hard Mode.
The first time I played through MM10 (and I recommend everyone do this), I used Mega Man on Normal Mode. As expected, learning the stages and boss patterns takes time, and when I'd restored everlasting peace by the game's end, I had already had about a dozen game overs. To illustrate just how much easier Easy Mode is, consider this: the second time I played through the game, I used Proto Man on Easy Mode. Now, Proto Man takes double damage
, although this is somewhat balanced out by the fact that he can use the slide and buster charge from the later Mega Man games. I ended up dying twice throughout the whole game on Easy.
Finally, on my third run-through, I decided to challenge myself by using Mega Man on Normal, but no weapons and no E-tanks. This is always a good test for the design in a Mega Man game. If it's impossible to play through without getting upgrades (I'm looking at you, Mega Man X6!), then there's something seriously wrong there. But lo and behold, I managed to complete it in just a couple hours without all that extra fluff. So I can attest to the fact that, like MM9, once you get good at the game, you won't have trouble. It's fun, creative, and extremely well-designed.
Then again, I just started Hard Mode and have used numerous continues after just two stages already. The enemy placement is suddenly devious. Baddies now show up everywhere, outside of their themed levels, firing faster bullets, more bullets, and in the case of those goo-spewing Slime Mets, longer-lasting debilitation. Bosses are faster and some even have new moves (I certainly don't remember Pump Man throwing his spigot like a boomerang!). Frankly, it's pretty amazing how much effort went into Easy and Hard Mode. You WILL NOT find easy-fix alterations like double-damage or half-damage. It's all in the placement of enemies, stage hazards, speed, bullets, and shot frequency. Like everything else in MM10, it comes back to design.
The replay is extended even further when you jump into the in-game Challenges. Not only do we have a dozen of the ones that unlock as you play ("beat the game without dying" and such), but there are 88 full separate Challenges that'll require every ounce of your gaming skill to complete. These range from platform-based trials that strip you of your weapons, to demanding you beat bosses without getting hit. Time Attack mode returns, but sadly has already seemed to have been hit by hackers. One other disappointment in the mode, in my opinion, is the fact that the timer runs while you're on the weapon select screen. I liked the ease of picking the right weapon for the job in MM9, and having it timed means you have to rely on the somewhat cumbersome A/B toggle.
The music has definitely grown on me, and I think most players will feel the same way. After all is said and done, I still prefer a few other MM soundtracks to it (2, 3, and 9 in particular), but it ranks on the higher end of things with its rather impressive mix of music styles. It helps that the game doesn't reuse several of MM2's "intermission" themes, which got old fast in MM9. In fact, MM9 often felt like it was obsessed with MM2 to a somewhat creepy degree, while MM10 feels more like its own game to me.
However, there're still a few issues with the game. For starters, this isn't my favorite Robot Master selection by a long shot. I think Sheep Man and Strike Man are particularly inspired in terms of looks and stage themes. But then you have guys like Nitro Man, Chill Man, Solar Man, and Commando Man, who feel a little too similar to past Robot Masters (Turbo Man, any ice-themed RM, any fire-themed RM, Napalm Man, respectively). I feel like I've seen Blade Man's castle in Mega Man 6 (Knight Man), while Pump Man is just interesting enough to get a pass. But I have to wonder, why is half the cast derivative of earlier RMs? Heck, we just got a fire-themed boss last game! Why can't we get more stuff that we haven't seen in a Mega Man game, like--to just throw out a few I thought up in a couple minutes--Phantom Man, Suplex Man, Art Man, Angel Woman? Of course, the levels themselves are still memorable and fun, which is the important thing, but did we really need a sixth
And that takes me to the arsenal of the bosses. All things considered, it's above-average, but not the intricately balanced selection that MM9's was. In a way, this is sort of refreshing--you now can't Tornado Blow or Black Hole Bomb yourself out of a sticky situation like before. At the same time, I feel that only about half of the RM weapons are useful outside of specialized situations (which is still a higher average than several of the MM games).
So overall, I'd put MM9 ahead of 10 for a few reasons: it's a daring, fresh, and brilliant design choice, the music is a bit better, the weapon selection is more useful and balanced, and the Robot Masters are a little more unique. But even so, MM10 is a great game and certainly one of the finest WiiWare games you can pick up. Bottom line, if you liked MM9 and want more, you can't go wrong with ten.Gameplay: 9 The word of the day is "design," and MM10 ranks up there with the best. Spot-on controls as always, plenty of challenge, and a decent weapon set.Art: 7 A tough category to rate nowadays. The character designs are all clever, enjoyable, and about what you expect from the series. However, it's not as daring a choice by this point, unlike MM9. And it doesn't seem like it's trying to "push" the NES, like the original MM games did.Sound: 8.5 Notable themes include Solar Man, Sheep Man, Strike Man, Nitro Man, Pump Man, Boss Theme, and Castle 1. Among the better soundtracks of the series.Character: 8.5 Possibly the "cutest" Mega Man story, particularly with Roll's role, and the ending. MM's world is as endearing as always, and the new baddies are cleverly done. Loses some points for reusing RM design themes.Replay: 8.5 A slightly longer quest would've been nice, but there's still plenty of fun to be had with the 3 difficulty options, 2 playable characters, the Challenge Mode, and some DLC next month.