Over the course of a single month and two separate remakes on the PlayStation Portable, Mega Man has gone from extreme to extremely adorable. Whereas Maverick Hunter X, released last month, was a remake of the original Mega Man X for the SNES using updated 3D visuals and some revamped cutscenes and character designs, Mega Man Powered Up goes back even further into the Mega Man lore--all the way back to the beginning, in fact. Powered Up is a remake of the very first Mega Man for the NES, using a similar method of upgrading. But where Maverick Hunter X was mostly content to just redo the original game with an additional playable character and some shuffled power-up locations, Powered Up goes the extra mile, making all of its various bosses unlockable, playable characters, revamping many of the core level designs, and adding a whole mess of crazy challenge minigames, as well as a full-fledged level editor. Beneath all the gloss though, this is still the original Mega Man you might have played nearly 20 years ago. But through it all, the gameplay still holds up, even in this day and age.
If you've never played the original Mega Man, why are you even reading this review? Dig up your old NES, find a used copy at a flea market somewhere, and discover that you've been living a foul lifestyle all this time, never having experienced one of the true classics of the action platformer genre (and arguably one of the hardest games of the NES era). Mega Man was equal parts love and hate. It invented the style of gameplay that has been a staple of the Mega Man series over the last couple of decades, but it also was the kind of punishing hard that might lead a lesser man to take his own life. Powered Up, for all intents and purposes, is very much Mega Man. All the same bosses are on hand, and if you pick the "old style" game, the level designs are basically identical to the 1987 version. However, the addition of game saves makes the whole process much more tolerable. Not having to blow through the entire game in a single sitting is a real relief.
The saves apply to the "new style" game, too. New style widens the screen to full PSP proportions, and adds a number of new things to the formula. For one, there's an actual story, of sorts. The game opens with a cutscene of Dr. Wily beginning his vile robot kidnapping rampage in an attempt to take over the world. This is all adorably voice acted, and plays out in an all-new opening level that acts as something of a trainer for the uninitiated. It's a quick level, and once you're done, you can jump right back into the game as you remember it--sort of. In this mode, the level designs aren't quite what you remember. They've been extended in some cases, and all of them contain new, hidden areas that are seemingly inaccessible to the Blue Bomber himself. That's because they are inaccessible to him. You see, as you play, you can actually unlock all of the game's eight bosses as playable characters. All you have to do is beat a boss without using any of the special boss weapons, and that boss will become playable.
Playing as the different bosses is kind of a strange thing. Though they all jump and move pretty much like Mega Man does, none of them have access to weapons other than their own. However, each does have his own special skill. Guts Man, for instance, can bust through certain ceilings and floors to access hidden areas, whereas Cut Man can bounce off of walls while jumping. These abilities are what allow you to access the aforementioned special areas that Mega Man can't get to. Unfortunately, playing as a boss does have its downside. Combat is just kind of a pain, since certain weapons just aren't conducive to defeating certain enemies quickly, and it makes a few boss fights far more irritating than they need to be. Still, if it's the difference between having them playable and not having them playable, the variety they provide makes them more than worth it.
If you've been paying close attention, you might've noticed that just a bit ago, we mentioned eight boss characters. The original Mega Man included only six, so who are the other two? For the purposes of this game, Capcom tossed in two brand-new boss characters: Oil Man and Time Man. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what their abilities are? That's right. Oil Man shoots oil. And Time Man slows down time. OK, so in no way are either of these bosses especially original, but in the context of the first Mega Man story, before Capcom went bananas with the boss-naming conventions, neither character seems out of place.
The graphics remain cute no matter which mode you're playing, but the old style game features authentic representations of the old level designs.
Unfortunately, neither of their weapons are what you would exactly call exciting. With Oil Man's weapon, you can shoot globs of oil to either trip up enemies or ride like some kind of goopy skateboard. Time Man's weapon lets you slow down time...and that's it. In all honesty, there wasn't exactly a dire need to add these bosses to the game, but they don't detract from the experience, either. And while neither boss is exactly tough, their levels are both challenging and unique enough to factor in positively to the flow of the game.
The last, and perhaps best, addition to the new style mode is the inclusion of multiple difficulty settings. If you're the easily flustered type and Guts Man's moving platform-happy stage is giving you guff, you can always bump the game down to easy to get some help moving through. If you're the masochistic type, hard mode adds another layer of pain to the experience. For the most part the three difficulties are different enough to make them each worth playing through, and you can choose a specific difficulty for each individual stage as you go through the game.