System: Nintendo NES/Famicom

Release Date: 1987

Megaman’s creator, Keiji Inafune recently funded a kickstarter for his new independent project, Mighty Number 9. Inspired by the buzz surrounding the new project, I went back and looked at the Blue Bomber’s original adventure with new eyes.

I didn’t have “Megaman” for my NES, but lots of my friends did, and I remember the games fondly from the early nineties. I also recall them being controller-threateningly difficult. I was curious to see how the first outing would stack up to my memories.

First of all, it is worth noting that the first game lacks the graphical and musical polish of the sequels. There are only six stages, and once the player determines the proper order for playing them, they fall rather quickly. Especially if you use the well-known ‘pause trick.’ Likewise, there’s not much of a story besides ‘You’re a good robot, they’re evil robots, go fight them.’ It’s the sort of fare from the era that is simple, but has been expanded upon greatly in the years since. For example, in the much-praised Megaman comic, put out by Archie Comics.

While I will agree that Megaman is hard, it was not quite so bad as I remember. Aside from a few of the end stage bosses, (and I am looking squarely at you, one-eyed rock monster) the deaths don’t feel cheap. Unlike other 8-bit era platformers, there is no countdown clock. The game gives you plenty of time to observe and experiment. Megaman really is the start of what later-generation indie developers would call ‘puzzle platformers.’ Most of the game can be best progressed by observing the challenge and discovering the pattern, or choosing the best Robot Master’s subweapon for the situation. For example, the flying torpedo enemies can often knock you into a pit when they explode, but freezing them rather than shooting them with your regular gun solves the dilemma. Most of the jumping puzzles can likewise be bypassed with the Magnet Beam.

This creates an odd challenge curve as the game actually gets EASIER as you gain new powers. The game’s non-linear nature lets you play the stages in any order, but the real challenge is figuring out an optimal path. each Robot Master has a weakness, and some levels, such as Fire Man’s stage, are practically impassable without the right weapon.

All in all, Megaman I is a solid entry in the NES’s roster of games. While its sprites and textures are a little less eye-popping than its successors, it is at the very least noteworthy for being the progenitor of something great, and a whole lot of fun. You don’t need to play it to get into the series, as there isn’t much of a story aside from the window-dressing standard to that generation, but it is certainly worth your time. Just watch out for those disappearing block puzzles.