Capcom once again takes us to the mysterious year of 20xx in their newest game, Mega Man 10. With the tremendous success of Mega Man 2 in the late eighties, the company started a process of churning out games featuring the Blue Bomber, which enjoyed reached great heights but then sales began to deflate when one too many games were released with the Mega Man name.
After repeating the rise and fall of franchise with the Mega Man X series, Capcom took a good long look back at what made the series popular so long ago. In a move that surprised everyone, Capcom decided to put their faith in the retro gamers by making Mega Man 9 a classic style Mega Man game. When virtual console sales of Mega Man 9 more than doubled those of the previous game, Capcom knew they had hit a chord, and decided to continue the series with the NES-styled graphics, music and gameplay with Mega Man 10.
The story will be familiar to anyone who's played any of the last few Mega Man games, particularly Mega Man 9. Robots around the world begin to malfunction and turn against their human masters, and Dr. Wily claims innocence. This time the culprit is a virus called Roboenza, and Wily claims to be the only one able to cure it.
In Mega Man 10, you were given the option of playing as the Blue Bomber or Proto Man through nine stages, each guarded with a new robot master, before tackling the final fortress. As you defeat the boss of each of these stages, you gain a weapon from that boss. The weapons are essentially upgraded versions of those from Mega Man 2, including a spinning wheel weapon that acts like a faster-moving, wall-climbing bubble lead, a flame shot that splits in two, a shield that blasts apart to damage enemies, and a metal blade-like weapon that bounces off walls. All the robot masters are weak to a particular weapon, and while some may be obvious--solar man, who uses fire attacks, is weak to a water-based weapon--the wackier robot masters will leave you scratching your head. Who do I use to defeat Sheep Man? I don't see a Shears Man or a Lonely Hillbilly Man.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the controversial decision to add an "easy" option to the game. In easy mode, there are far fewer enemies, bosses are easier to kill, and some of the more difficult jumps are made easier by the addition of floating platforms. A large number of die-hard fans argue that making the game easier diminishes the value of beating the game, but in truth it merely allows less proficient gamers to experience the game without wanting to throw the game out a window.
Even if you don't buy that argument, the game has online leaderboards which are only accessible to those playing in normal mode, as Mega Man. I admit it, I started the game on easy mode, since I wasn't able to defeat even a single stage of Mega Man 9, but on easy mode even I was able to breeze through the game in less than two hours. My second playthrough will be on normal mode, but already it's kicking my ass. For those of you who think that normal mode is too easy, you have yet another way to make Mega Man's life difficult--an option in the shop allows you to remove Mega Man’s helmet, doubling all damage dealt to him.
As mentioned earlier, Capcom made the decision with Mega Man 9 to use the original Mega Man sprites, and create new ones with the same styling. Even using self-imposed retro color palettes, the game still looks pretty good. The level designs are fantastic, varied, and always interesting to look at, with one stage having the appearance of a baseball stadium and another being covered in circuit boards and other technological doodads. Enemies in Mega Man 10 are well-drawn and expressive, with the classic enemies like mets integrating nicely with newer ones like the robot masters. The game also features some full screen "cutscene" images with large, well-drawn pictures of Mega Man and company. It's pretty obvious that were this game designed for the NES, the cart would use much more physical memory than any of the other games on the NES. Music in the game, also run through the 8-bit filter, is a great addition to the game, with some stage themes ranking up there with the original series' soundtracks.
If you're the kind to play the game first in easy mode, you've already got some replay value built-in as you'll want to complete it using both Mega man and Proto Man. Easy mode is a great way to prepare for the real game in normal mode. The online leaderboards will beg you to play over and over again, refining your time down until you can compete with the big boys. Past that, though, there's no branching paths, no reward aside from some built-in trophies, and no real reasons to replay the game other than to challenge you. Capcom has plans for DLC which will includes another playable character, Bass, more levels, and different modes with some for free, but others for a price.
Mega Man 9 revitalized the Mega Man series by bringing it back to its roots, and Mega Man 10 is a worthy successor that looks and sounds just like the late eighties. It allows less experienced players to enjoy the game just as much as the hardcore. Toss in an old-style promotional cover, and the low, low price tag of $10, well you have an all-around excellent game experience for gamers of all kinds. I heartily recommend this game to anyone who has ever enjoyed Mega Man, or anyone who wants to introduce themselves to the series without the significant frustration involved with getting thrown into the deep end of platforming.