Mega Man Legacy Collection Review

The Mega Man Legacy Collection brings the Blue Bomber’s first six titles to current consoles.

Mega Man Legacy Collection on PlayStation 4

Alright, kids, it’s confession time: I’ve been a pretty big Mega Man fan since the Blue Bomber’s days on the NES. With that established, I was really, really excited at the announcement of the Mega Man Legacy Collection, a collection of the six NES Mega Man games for the modern console generation. Releasing today for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, this re-release of the classic games that brought hours of frustration and joy to those of us fortunate enough to grow up during the 8-bit era allows a whole new generation of gamers to see the iconic Capcom character in all his pixelated glory. It’s interesting to see how these titles hold up, and what extras Capcom has thrown in to sweeten the deal.

First and foremost, let’s make sure this is clear: the Mega Man Legacy Collection is not a remastering. Nothing about the games themselves has been altered or updated, so gamers can expect the titles to play exactly as they did back in the 1980s and 90s. While this may seem an odd choice in the modern world of remakes, it’s a solid choice by Capcom to not fiddle with anything and to ensure that the classics stand as they always have. I’m still on the fence as to whether this choice was the best, but that’s mostly because I’d personally love to see the old games retooled with the more recent character designs and some smoothing of the admittedly rough edges.

What Mega Man Legacy Collection lacks in modernization, though, it makes up for in true-to-form recreation of the source material. Players can even add a filter to their gameplay, causing the display to look more like the CRT televisions of old, or even an aged PC monitor. There’s some dead space left on the screen, which is a bit of a drawback, but if you simply can’t stand the empty look, Capcom has you covered with title-themed borders than can be turned on or off on a whim. I played mostly without these, because I found the extra fluff a bit distracting, but it’s nice to know that it’s there for the folks who’d want to have something filling the screen.

mega man legacy border

An example of the optional screen-filling border for Mega Man 5.

Now, let’s move on to the games themselves. As I said, Mega Man Legacy Collection includes the first six titles in the series, all released for the NES from 1987-1993. Players can pick any of the titles at their leisure, and the game even includes a save feature so that players don’t have to both scrawling down the series’ admittedly confounding passwords on scraps of binder paper like the good old days, though of course they’re still an option. This fluidity means that players can easily swap from one game to the next if they’re feeling stuck or simply want a change. It can be a bit disorienting, too, since not all titles have the same features, such as Mega Man’s power slide, introduced in Mega Man 3, or the charge shot introduced in Mega Man 4.

What struck me about these classic Mega Man titles as I dove back in, more than anything, was how intensely unforgiving they all are. A far cry from the more player-friendly titles that permeate the gaming landscape today, these classics are built on making players strive for perfection in every moment. A jump that’s not timed just so, a shot that doesn’t hit the mark, or even failing to equip the right weapon for the job can spell immediate disaster and death, and the games do not believe in second chances. To be entirely honest, playing through them again, I found myself wondering how I ever became so enamored with (or good at) any of them when I was younger and the titles fresher, but I digress. The point is, outside of the addition of an “auto-fire” button to allow players a rapid shot, nothing’s been added or tweaked to help with achieving success.

In addition to the six core Mega Man games, Mega Man Legacy Collection offers up a couple of other things for players to explore and try out. Each of the titles now includes an encyclopedia of each of its characters, showing all of the friends and foes that the iconic robot will face down. This even includes a graphical note about which weapon works best against each opponent, from the lowly encounters that fill each level to the Robot Masters that wait behind each stage’s doors. There’s also a collection of concept art and soundtrack for each title thrown in, so the truly dedicated will find a treasure trove of cool material to look through.

The concept art includes character palettes used in the original sprites.

The concept art includes character palettes used in the original sprites.

The biggest addition to the Mega Man Legacy Collection is the game’s Challenge Mode. Featuring snippets of levels from within the games, these challenges offer up title-specific “remixes”, custom-curated slices of various titles, and more. These are all timed events, with players able to earn medals based on their performance. Global leaderboards are posted so that players can see how their skills stack up against the best, and there are even video replays of the top scorers if you’re curious to see just how they’ve pulled it off. Since these are essentially the only all-new playable material in the game, it’s good to see that there’s plenty of them, with later challenges becoming unlocked by completing those that come before. I tried my hand at a few of these, and I’ll say this: they’re very tough, well-built, and frantic to take on, since even death doesn’t stop the march of time.

Despite these add-ins, it could easily be said that Mega Man Legacy Collection is playing it safe when it comes to the included material. While the bonus content is likely a must-have for devotees of the series, and the challenges offer up some new takes on the games, ultimately there’s not a lot of actual “newness” to it all. By making it a re-release rather than a remaster, Capcom kept things true to form and took little to no risks. It’s an established franchise, and many of the games have been re-released on various consoles in the past. If you’ve been hoarding these as they come out, there’s going to be very little reason to buy in to the newest release, but perhaps the Challenge Mode and other toss-ins are enough to tantalize you. I only owned a couple of the titles in any currently-playable platform, so I got a lot of bang for my proverbial buck in this pack, but it did feel a bit like Capcom could have added a bit more of a draw to pull in the truly dedicated fans.

While they may not be remastered, the games have been given a bit of an updated, HD look.

While they may not be remastered, the games have been given a bit of an updated, HD look.

If I’m being entirely honest, the Mega Man Legacy Collection was a little bit underwhelming. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it — after all, I grew up with these games, and it’s reviving a very specific portion of that childhood. There’s also the fact that the digital download runs a measly $14.99 on the PlayStation Store, Xbox One Store, and Steam. With such a low price on a full-fledged release of six classic titles and the various throw-ins, it’s clear that Capcom knows they haven’t built in enough to go after the higher ticket. Physical versions of the game are slated to release, as well, coming for Nintendo 3DS in December and home consoles in 2016.

All in all, the Mega Man Legacy Collection has just enough toss-ins and challenges to make it worthwhile, while not messing with the highly-successful formula that formed the foundation of this long-standing franchise. While those who’ve spent their time and money buying up the re-releases and other goodies along the way may not find much new, the global leaderboards and easy access to each of the first six titles still make a tempting offer. For fans of the series who, like me, allowed their ownership to fall off in recent years, this is an absolute must-buy that tosses in some goodies with the classic games.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go set my seven year-old down in front of some of the games of my childhood, and see how far he can make it before giving up in frustration.

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