Mega Man 2 is one of the finest gaming accomplishments of the 8-bit era and was developed by Capcom.
I’m sure that if you’re reading this review you know the story already, but just for the sake of formality, let’s first go over what we’re talking about. Mega Man 2 puts the player in the robotic legs of a futuristic hero as he battles countless enemies and eight vicious bosses in his quest to stop the evil Dr. Wily from controlling the world. The game utilizes simple run, jump, and shoot mechanics in a side scrolling world, but also sets itself apart by awarding you with different gun variations each time you defeat a boss. It’s unique in that you can have just as much fun trying to figure out which scenarios are best for each gun as you can just trying to make it through levels using only the default buster shot. Mega Man 2 truly is brilliant in it’s design, but it’s also famous for its difficulty. Like most iterations of the Mega Man series, players will find themselves having a heck of a time getting through the pixel-perfect platforming, numerous bottomless pits, overwhelming enemy spawns, and (mostly) insane boss fights. Unlike most games that withhold this sort of difficulty, Mega Man 2 has always managed to give the player a fun experience, and as such, it is regarded by all critics as a gem that should be treasured forever.
If you’re a Mega Man fan, or fans of video games in general, you’re undoubtedly aware of the hugely popular Mega Man 2 game which debuted on the original Nintendo Entertainment System roughly 20 years ago. Most gamers will say that it is their most memorable Mega Man experience, and rightly so. Mega Man 2 is packed with intense action, incredible platforming, a glorious soundtrack, varied stage themes, and an overall nostalgic experience which has justified countless ports and inclusions in anniversary packs – not to mention helping to spawn a franchise that would remain to this day with an insane amount of sequels and spin-offs.
When I first saw Mega Man 2 appear on the iPhone app store, my eyes lit up like a little boy in a video game store. The idea of hopping into a stage on the go, hearing the music, enjoying a romp through the pits and enemies, using my buster-shot… it seemed too good to be true; unfortunately, almost immediately after I made my five dollar purchase, I realized I was right. Mega Man 2 on the iPhone is a prospect that is simply impossible to execute properly, and this release proves it.
To understand why the idea of a good iPhone version of Mega Man 2 is impossible requires just one play of this game. It boils down to two big reasons: First, as previously mentioned, Mega Man 2 is a difficult game. Even if the port was perfect, the precision controls required for the platforming and shooting cannot be emulated on the iPhone’s touch screen. What we get with the controls of the iPhone version is the typical “fake” joystick and buttons on the bottom of the screen controlled by touch. These controls work, but aren’t reliable enough to allow for a successful and frustration-free experience. Second, to help alleviate the difficulty and lack of accurate controls, changes would need to be made to the game. The developers realized this, but failed to see that the changes that were made completely change the game experience altogether.
Changes to the gameplay are horrendous. While some changes were accidental, such as enemy spawn rates, other changes give the impression that the developers were trying to baby you through the game because they were aware of the fact that the game is unplayable. Health drops are never a worry, extra lives drop at least three times per level, the B button has automatic turbo functionality, Mega can take more damage and dishes out more damage, knockback when taking a hit is reduced, longer invulnerability time, the list goes on and on. These changes completely break the game, and I found myself able to literally rush through entire stages without worrying about health or firing a single shot. The worst change of all, though, is that Mega Man now jumps higher and falls slower than a feather, allowing him to float freely across almost the entire screen. To compensate for this travesty, Mega Man’s surroundings move slower than molasses. At first you might think the game’s framerate is lagging, which would be inexcusable, but instead, the game is meant to be played at a constant FPS of negative thirty. That may not make sense, but neither does this port.
Did I mention all of the bugs?
On the upside, the aesthetics of the game remain intact, and in screenshot form, this is the exact same Mega Man 2 as the original. The pixelated side-scroller has a moniker that has become very famous, and I don’t doubt that some of you out there have a t-shirt with this 8-bit boy’s face on it (I see you smirking.) The game can be played in both portrait and landscape mode, and the emulated arcade board has a background taken straight from the game’s original box art. This nod of fan-service brought a smile to my face and almost made me forget that I wasn’t playing the same game that I remember.
Mega Man 2’s soundtrack is amazingly well done, and extremely nostalgic for long time gamers. The nerd inside me even compels me to divulge that I have a few ringtones on my phone taken straight from the game. It’s almost become a sign of nerd status to be able to recognize each boss theme, and the amount of remixes, dedications on YouTube, and officially licensed discs is enough to tell you that this is a game whose music will continue to be remembered throughout the ages. It pleases me to tell you that every bloop, bleep, jingle, and song makes it’s triumphant return on the iPhone. It displeases me, however, to tell you that the game’s slow performance and chugging nature occasionally cuts out sound effects or pieces of the song during action.
It’s not how you remember it.
As if it wasn’t bad enough, my experience with the game was also riddled with bugs. Standing in lava, and being unable to jump off of a cloud in Airman’s stage are some of the highlights. At the very least, these bugs should have been removed in later updates. Sure enough, later in the game’s life, a “Classic” mode was added to the game. I was hopeful, and while it did remove some minor bugs, it more importantly took out several of the forced changes that made the game more easy. By doing so, the inaccurate controls became even more prominent, and the game remains unplayable. While it’s nice to know that the developers saw it fit to try and fix some of the issues (Most of which they caused themselves,) it is all for naught. Mega Man 2 on the iPhone cannot be fixed.
As stated several paragraphs up, there are two main reasons why this game cannot be executed on the iPhone. In the default setting, you will fall victim to both, but even with the classic update, you’re still getting hit with the first reason: that the game cannot be controlled well enough to enjoy. If it’s not one reason, it’s going to be the other, and this dilemma seems somewhat impossible to avoid. In the end, Capcom is a business, and Mega Man 2 on the iPhone is obviously nothing more than easy money for them. It looks like Mega Man 2, and it sounds like Mega Man 2, but there are too many faults in it’s execution in gameplay to be Mega Man 2. As a gamer, it’s your job to recognize these faults and do your part to help the industry. In this case, your role is clear: don’t buy this game.
…Unless you want a really cool app icon on your home screen… or are looking for a “Mega Man 2 Soundtrack” app that has a very convoluted menu system… it is only five dollars… someone slap me.