Mega Man 2 was an awesome game and a really good showcase for how the introduction of plenty of well implemented and integrated mechanics can add so much to a simple core game concept such as the platformer.
One of the standout features of MM2 though, to me, was the implementation of a game save option. After completing a level the gamer is offered a game save password which took the form of a 5×5 matrix into which 10 dots could be entered. Obviously the pattern reflected the current status of the gamer in terms of levels previously cleared. So its not dealing with anything complex, but adds significantly to the overall enjoyability of the game by not requiring the gamer to restart the entire game from scratch between sessions. So unlike Super Mario Bros, I was encouraged to keep coming back to try and complete the game. And the fact that I unlocked all the levels (as shown in the below pic) is a testament to how addictive this game became…
The ultimate objective of the game is to defeat Dr Wily. This can be done after defeating 9 robots that were created by him to specifically defeat Mega Man. But instead of enforcing a linear gameplay by pre-specifying the boss battle order, a great feature of MM2 is that the gamer is allowing to select the order in which they want to tackle the nine robots. This feature facilitates two dynamic gameplay outcomes. First, if the gamer is struggling with a particular boss, they get the option of tackling another of their selection therefore the still have a chance of progressing in any given gameplay session. Second, although the manual outlines that Mega Man acquires the weapons of the robots after he defeats them, it is silent on the fact that certain robot bosses are actually more susceptible to certain weapons over others (eg I found Crash Man almost impossible to defeat without Air Man’s “Air Shooter Tornados”). This meant that from a dynamic perspective there is conceptually a “best order” in which to tackle the bosses. While the game doesn’t necessarily enforce such tactical thought (ie I found that Mega Man’s standard blaster could be used for almost all bosses), especially in the normal game mode, it is a good game design tip to keep in mind.
Each level in MM2 has it own unique theme closely associate with the boss robot (eg the Bubble Man level has underwater stages). In addition to the standard side-scrolling of a platformer, MM2 integrates a more seamless approach to vertical movement within a level than Super Mario Bros (where underground sidescrolling levels were entered and exited via pipes in the above ground levels). Vertical movement is achieved through falling through layered levels, jumping, ladders and, most conveniently, through elevator and levitating platform “Special Transportation Items” which the gamer unlocks after defeating certain bosses. Some levels also introduced unique impacts on Mega Man’s movements which the gamer had to learn to take into consideration, such as buoyancy in the Bubble Man level and conveyor belts in the Metal Man level. Together with a raft of other interesting mechanics, such as invisible platforms in the Heat Man level (they only become visible after Mega Man makes a jump providing extra challenge to the gamer), the Jet Sled (which can be used to essentially “bypass” difficult sections of a level) and a wide variety of enemies (most requiring a slightly different tactic to defeat) meant that each level within Mega Man provide the gamer with a new and interesting challenge and which positively influenced the overall enjoyability of MM2. Coupled with the very simple but visually appealing level design meant that each level really felt like a new experience.
With respect to difficulty, at first the respawn checkpoints within each level appeared quite brutal. However, this was balanced by several mechanics which acted together to constrain any frustration that this checkpointing might cause. In addition to the game save mechanism outlined above, each level was relatively small. This meant that it didn’t take too many retries to learn the quirks of each level (in terms of enemy spawn points and level challenges, noting that Mega Man 2 did incorporate a level of randomness to enemy spawning which was a good) in order to get to the boss fight. Mega Man 2 also incorporated a partial invincibility mechanic whereby Mega Man was partially invincible after taking a hit by an enemy (with an associated loss of health / energy) which enabled him to pass through enemies for a short duration without taking any further hits. An obvious dynamic outcome would be to take a hit early in a known trouble spot in order to quickly pass through a high density section of enemies (eg the gremlins in the Heat Man levels).
Mega Man 2 did not incorporate a timer / countdown mechanic (this is true for the normal mode, I did not check the harder difficulty level). Given that defeating mid level enemies resulting in them dropping energy and weapon power ups, the lack of time pressure meant that gamer could indulge in a bit of “farming” to build up their levels before moving onto the subsequent stages in the level.
The use of weapons and special transportation items is constrained and the gamer’s ability to use them is depleted over time if not replenished through defeating enemies. Although not critical during the normal levels, resource management became a significant issue when attempting the first Dr Wily level, particularly for the use of the Special Transportation Items. I got to a point where I could not proceed as I had been careless in my use of the elevator and levitating platform items. After completing all the normal levels, the introduction of these sorts of new but simple twists in the latter stages of the game was an excellent way of keeping the gamer challenged and engaged.
Mega Man 2 was simply a great little game to play. I didn’t get to tackle Dr Wily yet, time conspires. But Mega Man 2 is definitely the first game I’m going to go back and try to beat after I finish the Retro Gaming Project.