Author: John Legendoffzelda
It’s clear that Capcom’s Mega Man 7 would like to be Mega Man X. The fact that both games were made with the same game engine handily symbolizes MM7 wanting to define what Mega Man is on the Super Nintendo. The main appeal of the Mega Man concept, going back to the first game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, is that it presents a variation on the model of moving and jumping founded by Super Mario Bros. Spiritually, the concept took an unused idea for that game – giving Mario a gun  – gave it to Mega Man, and created a new parallel experience. Where Mario jumped and mainly attacked through the vertical plane, Mega Man fired a gun and mainly attacked through the horizontal plane. The added ability to choose in which order to fight the Robot Masters, and to use their powers as additional weapons, created a sense of alternation and variety, and above it all the whole thing was so fun and structurally sound.
These things were what made Mega Man, and later its even-better-sequel Mega Man 2 (which tightened the mechanics and defined the look of the series), so beloved. But as time went on, four more games were added to the Mega Man series, to what became diminishing returns. Soon enough, the series became less notable for being good and more notable for carrying the NES well past its relevancy. A Mega Man game for the Super Nintendo would have had to accomplish the feat of making itself look completely fresh again, in both mechanics and image, and by all rights that game should have been Mega Man 7. Instead, the game was X, with both its new dashing and wall-climbing maneuvers and its pulp-Asimov story hook. 7 was released almost two years later, and it wasn’t so successful.
The overarching story hasn’t changed much; it’s still 20XX, Dr. Wily has escaped from prison and eight more robot creations of his are terrorizing the populace. Mega Man must stop Wily, but he also must figure out whether to trust two new characters: the robot Bass, and his robot wolf companion, Treble. While the previous games made all Robot Masters available to fight, 7 imitates the Game Boy titles and splits them into two groups of four. One group is defeated, then there’s a mini-boss (whose weak point is harder to hit than it should be), then the second group, then Wily’s fortress. Mega Man can still jump, shoot, slide, and charge his buster like before, but he’s noticeably bigger in this game. The camera is zoomed in further than in the previous games, and while this does make the sprites and level designs bolder and nicer to look at, it often times creates a sense of claustrophobia. That’s only a serious problem in enclosed spaces, though.
Mega Man 7 is a “big” game because along with the jumping and shooting, there’s a lot of farming and secret-finding to be done. The game’s a collect-a-thon. As usual, you can find items in the main stages like energy tanks and extra lives. However there are new things called bolts, which act as currency for a store managed by the new character, Auto. Here the player can buy items. But without one of Auto’s body parts (another item to find in the game), these items will be prohibitively expensive, and a lot of time will be spent collecting bolts if the player doesn’t want to look for items the old way. Hidden in the game and available in the store are also items that, frankly, should be available from the start. In particular, a device that lets Mega Man exit a stage he’s already finished and another that lets Mega Man refill a sub-weapon without having to select it first.
Rush is back, though his Rush Jet ability must be found or bought. He has a new ability called Rush Search; it’s how the player finds the aforementioned devices, and it involves standing in a precise, undefined spot and letting Rush dig until he finds something, if he does. If not, either move to another spot and try again or farm for bolts and buy what can’t be found. Further extraneous items include four plates that spell the word “RUSH” and give Mega Man a limited upgrade to his Rush Jet Adapter from Mega Man 6, the bird Beat hidden somewhere that requires the fire sub-weapon to find, and a “gift” from Mega Man’s brother Proto Man that requires finding him in three secret areas to obtain and is largely useless.
One thing that draws attention in this game is how many set pieces and ideas it copies from other Mega Man games. It’s possible that these are just references meant to make experienced players feel knowledgeable – the same principle behind the cameos by previous Robot Masters and the way that Slash Man’s stage invokes Jurassic Park and Shade Man’s stage invokes Ghosts N’ Goblins – but it just feels distracting. Cloud Man’s stage is nearly a complete remake of Air Man’s stage, right down to the enemies. Turbo Man’s stage lifts Quick Man’s stage’s beam corridor segment, while his Scorch Wheel sub-weapon is virtually identical to Fire Storm. Burst Man is conceptually indistinguishable from Bubble Man. Then there are the parts copied from Mega Man X, the game that this one trips over itself to imitate; the Freeze Cracker and Thunder Bolt sub-weapons strongly resemble Shotgun Ice and Electric Spark, and in the most telling flaw, there’s a similar introductory stage.
The flaw presented here turns out to be that the game expends the player’s time without teaching them anything in a useful way. The introductory stage has an in-game cinematic that lasts over two minutes, can’t be skipped or even fast-forwarded, and features Mega Man doing nothing relevant to the gameplay. Earning a sub-weapon activates a conversation where Mega Man and Dr. Light talk about what it does, rather than demonstrating the sub-weapon in any way. This game is all tedium: it explains itself by telling and not showing, and further expends time with all of its item-collecting and alternate-path-finding. The original Mega Man series went into a decline because of the increasingly detrimental ways the developers attempted to enhance the games, and those detriments are plain to see in the seventh installment.
The bad news is that Mega Man 7 is about the worst game in its series. It’s a pile of all of the assets introduced in the last six games mixed with convoluted methods of making the game “bigger”, placed directly over the core gameplay. The good news, though, is that it’s still a Mega Man game. The Mega Man concept is one of the sturdiest of all third-party video games. At its best, nearly nothing could be better, and even when it’s bad, it still has its core merits. Mega Man still controls tightly, the bosses are easy to beat with their patterns and weaknesses figured out and the sub-weapons are a blast to use in the stages. The stages themselves are bold and neat, and the music is a lot of bright synth sounds. Even with as many problems as there are, the core gameplay still remains strong; Mega Man 7 has a huge amount that weighs it down, but Mega Man himself is still strong enough to hold it all up.
1. “Did You Know Gaming? – Super Mario Bros.” Did You Know Gaming?. N.p., 1 June 2012.
Three out of five stars.
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