The original Mega Man was a solid game that wasn’t without issues. With Mega Man 2 Capcom challenged itself to fix those issues. The number of Robot Masters went from 6 to 8. Mega Man was given new modes of transportation like a jet board and hover platforms. A password system was added so players could continue from where they left off without losing their hard-earned progress. Energy Tanks were added so players would have a little leeway during boss fights and tricky sections. Even the enemy variety was upped for each level. No longer would player encounter just 2 or 3 different enemies per level.
All in all, Mega Man 2 was everything anyone wanted out of a sequel!
These few key gameplay mechanics allowed Capcom to turn Mega Man 2 into a breakout success. It ended up as the best-selling game in the franchise, selling over 1.5 million copies in Japan alone. It’s been the inspiration for numerous fan works, like the YouTube famous songs “Okusenman” and “Airman ga Taosenai”. When Nintendo released its popular NES Classic hardware in 2016, Mega Man 2 was the only game from the franchise that showed up. It’s a definitive game for not just Capcom, but for the 8-bit era of gaming as we know it.
The core mechanics of the original Mega Man are still there. It’s still got the same simple-but-satisfying run-and-shoot combat as the original, but it gets a lot more mileage out of it thanks to its increased scale. In Wood Man’s stage, for example, you’ve got to make your way through 3 screens fighting a giant robo-wolf on each one. The layout for each room is slightly different and ramps up the complexity with each new encounter. First room only requires you to jump in place to avoid the wolf’s fire, but by the time you hit the last room you have to keep running in pattern and shooting the wolf when you can. The sheer size of the opponent combined with the rhythmic pace of the stage really drives up the sense of the action.
And the best part? That’s only one segment of the level! Later parts of the level have you dodging ostriches by standing in place while they jump over Mega man! Or fighting off gorillas that dangle from metallic branches underneath you! It’s simple by today standards. However, for the time, this diversity was almost unheard of. Each stage was defined not by just one, but several different concepts. Metal Man’s stage consisted of conveyor belts! Stacked enemies that would fall on top of you if you shot them once! Drills that came out from underground! Air Man’s stage had you jump on giant oni-heads in the sky as you leaped from cloud to cloud! This while fighting to see where you were due to other clouds blocking your vision in the foreground! Each stage was uniquely intense and kept you guessing about what could be next.
Art and atmosphere
For the most part, Mega Man 2 went with a darker color scheme than its predecessor. There were still some stages that were heavily blue, like Air Man’s and Bubble Man’s, but it wasn’t as distracting when the blues were there for creating a specific theme rather than just the default background. Crash Man’s stage made clever use of this. In this stage, you start against a sky blue background and as you climb through the stage it slowly darkens into a starry black scene in space. Touches like this really enhance the experience of playing even if they have no direct effect on gameplay.
Otherwise, most stages have much greater color diversity when it comes to their areas. Wood Man’s stage consists mostly of brown and green with some black in there to convey the density of the woods. Heat Man’s stage is red, orange, and brown. And so forth. The point is that Mega Man himself stands out much better as a point of focus on the screen now as opposed to the original game. Plus, the added colors just make for a much richer overall experience.
There’s a reason why it took Mega Man 2 for the franchise to explode in popularity. It didn’t change much to the core mechanics, instead if simply built upon what worked about it. The result was a classic 8-bit game, one of the few to rival the popularity of SMB on the NES.
Even to this day, Mega Man 2 is a killer action game worth playing.