For all the successful franchises Capcom has brought into the world over the years, it's hard to imagine where the company would be today had it not given figurative birth to everybody's favorite heroic, light-blue tinted robot boy, Mega Man. Since Mega Man's NES debut in 1987, the courageous robot has starred in plenty of classic action games, including two of the best side-scrolling action platformers ever made in Mega Man 2 and 3. In more recent times, Mega Man has been subject to a bit of branching out into other genres, including role-playing games (with the Command Mission series) and card battling games (in Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge). But for a moment, forget all of that nonsense, because Mega Man Anniversary Collection is here, and it brings you none of that. Instead, this love letter from Capcom to Mega Man fans everywhere brings you the first eight Mega Man action titles in all their beautiful side-scrolling glory, complete with plenty of unlockable extras and the magic that is the autosave feature. In short, in a time when a deluge of halfhearted classic gaming collections are flooding the market, Mega Man Anniversary Collection manages to get it right.
As classic gaming collections go, they don't get much better than Mega Man Anniversary Collection.
If you're reading this review, you should know by now what a Mega Man game is and how it all works. If you were born after 1992 or have suffered from an unreasonable fear of friendly blue robots up to this point in time, we'll give you a quick rundown. Essentially, you (as Mega Man), the protagonist of the series, are a robot with a gun for an arm. The evil Dr. Wily is your primary antagonist, and he has a penchant for creating oddly themed evil robots, ranging from the likes of Air Man (who is essentially just a big fan with eyes and a gun) to Yamato Man (a robotic samurai with a spear). You shoot, slide, and jump your way through each robot's assigned level, eventually defeating each of the robot masters. Of course, that's not all there is to the Mega Man games. Once you've defeated each evil robot master, you gain his powers in the form of a new weapon. These weapons are often especially useful for beating specific bosses. Additionally, you can choose to take on any of the different robots in any order, so the strategy in gaining the right weapons for the right bosses comes into play. After you dispose of all the different robots, you then eventually go on to tackle Dr. Wily and another one of his crazy doomsday contraptions, once again attempting to save the world from peril. Lather, rinse, and repeat over the course of eight different games, and that's Mega Man Anniversary Collection in a nutshell.
Each of the eight primary games featured in Mega Man Anniversary collection is an absolutely perfect port. Nothing's been lost in the translation between generations of hardware--not even the little bouts of sprite flicker many fans will remember from the early NES days. However, while nothing may have been lost, a few things have been gained--thankfully, none of which is a detriment to the whole experience. Essentially, a few of the conventions from later Mega Man titles have been imported into the older games. Pressing the triangle button on the PS2 or the Y button on the GameCube fires an automatic three-shot burst from your arm cannon, and in every single game, you now have the option to automatically equip any of your weapons or Rush items (or just "items" as they're known in Mega Man 2) on the fly, thus saving you quite a bit of time. The nice thing is that these additions are purely optional, so if you're some kind of crazed purist who demands only the most refined Mega Man gameplay, you'll have it as well.
Another optional change made to the game is the addition of "navi mode." Essentially, this is the onscreen heads-up display from Mega Man 8, made available in every game. This interface shows you how many lives you have, what direction you need to be going in, and when danger is on the approach. Navi mode also turns on completely remixed audio tracks for Mega Mans 1-7. Interestingly enough, however, it apparently only does this for the PS2 version and not the GameCube version. Each of the tracks, though much higher in production value, manages to still sound completely faithful to the original. All told, if you're looking for something a little different, navi mode is certainly a nice change of pace. Again, if you demand purity, you can simply leave it turned off.