The core of the games is still fine- it’s just, it’s surrounded by so many design choices that now seem archaic that you may find yourself wondering what the big deal was in the first place.
Capcom’s Blue Bomber mascot has a really storied legacy- dozens of games spread across a variety of game styles and genres, creating one of the most beloved series of all time. Of course, Mega Man has seen better days- there have been no new releases in years, and a bunch of ambitious projects starring him were canceled abruptly and with no explanation. The spiritual successor to the games, Mighty No. 9 by Keiji Inafune, who is widely credited as the man behind Mega Man, also sank after disappointing expectations bitterly.
The future is beginning to look better- there is a Mega Man 11 on the way, and the Mega Man X series is also getting re-released on modern platforms. Before all of that, though, Capcom is mending bridges with the Nintendo fanbase- the biggest fanbase for the Mega Man franchise- by bringing them the Mega Man Legacy Collection in one consolidated package. This is pretty much the exact same thing that you’ve gotten on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC already- the first collection brings us the first six Mega Man games, from his glory days on the NES, while Legacy Collection 2 brings us the weirder games that followed up, including the fantastic series revival that was Mega Man 9 back on WiiWare. Also included are the soundtracks to the games, as well as the concept art for each title, making these collections a sort of museum to Mega Man, and all of his fans.
But here’s the thing about Mega Man games- they were great, and they ended up having a massive influence on modern games, but they’re not the most welcoming for new players today, especially the NES ones. Stating up those games gives you no introduction, no context (beyond short movies giving you a story setup), and you’re just thrown into playing the games with little idea about what to do, where to go, and why you keep dying. This is how games were in the NES era, and to be fair, there is a certain satisfaction to be derived from deducing what you are doing wrong, and how to avoid it, and then slowly mastering the game based on nothing but your ingenuity and pattern recognition. But it is absolutely alienating to new fans, who already have to put up with dated graphics, and game design paradigms that no longer make as much sense as they did back then- such as the vaunted boss battles in the series. It’s easy to see why they are so beloved, and why they were as influential as they were. But they’re simply not as satisfying any more as they were back then. The games, for instance, don’t tell you which bosses you should start out with, and you are almost certainly likelier to pick a hard one that is going to make you quit in frustration than you are to pick one that you should actually start out with.
"But here’s the thing about Mega Man games- they were great, and they ended up having a massive influence on modern games, but they’re not the most welcoming for new players today, especially the NES ones. Stating up those games gives you no introduction, no context (beyond short movies giving you a story setup), and you’re just thrown into playing the games with little idea about what to do, where to go, and why you keep dying."
On the whole, it seems like the Legacy Collection is trying to be as faithful to the originals as possible. Everything is emulated perfectly, down to the screen tearing when the screen scrolls, or the glitches and bugs. Everything controls as expected (though the Switch’s D-pad is suboptimal for something requiring precision like Mega Man does). Very few concessions have been made to modern players.
Those that are, however, do help- for instance, Legacy Collection 1 (spanning the first six games) has a Rewind feature, so you can turn back time on a blunder that may have inadvertently led you to your death. It’s good, and helpful, and certainly helps to alleviate some of the frustration that comes from the games’ equivalent of “jump scare” platforming- as in, platforming where you are suddenly presented with an obstacle you had no time to prepare for and can’t guard against, leading to death, and the necessity of retrying, except this time with the knowledge of it happening which should hopefully help you survive it. Again, this kind of thing made sense in the NES era- now, having to redo a lot of the level because the level basically “cheated” isn’t looked on kindly.
Legacy Collection 2 goes one step further than even that, however- an Armor Mode has been added so you take less damage, and more checkpoints so you don’t repeat as much of the level. This is largely appreciated- of course, Legacy Collection 2 is the lesser of the two packages (only Mega Man 9 is a standout; 10 is fine, while 8, for example, is infamously bad). You kind of find yourself wishing something like it was made available for the first six games, which are as a batch better.
"Given the nature of Mega Man, seeing someone higher up on the board leads you to want to replay a level over and over, mastering it, shaving off your errors, maximizing how well you do. For the modern, Achievement hunting gamer, the addition of the Leaderboards may in fact be the best addition these Collections make to accommodate new players."
Capcom has also added online leaderboards, which actually do help in motivating you to do well. Given the nature of Mega Man, seeing someone higher up on the board leads you to want to replay a level over and over, mastering it, shaving off your errors, maximizing how well you do. For the modern, Achievement hunting gamer, the addition of the Leaderboards may in fact be the best addition these Collections make to accommodate new players.
Are they worth getting? It depends, really. If you’re a fan of the series, and want to relive the glory days, and have either not bought the Collections on other consoles, or want them on the go (or on a Nintendo console), then, sure, these are more than worth it. While the games haven’t aged the best, they are still fundamentally well designed, and you can wrestle some enjoyment out of them. If, however, you are a newcomer looking to see what the hubbub is about, and maybe to catch up with the series ahead of the launch of Mega Man 11? I’m not sure these Legacy Collections will be worth it in that case. As I said, the core of the games is still fine- it’s just, it’s surrounded by so many design choices that now seem archaic that you may find yourself wondering what the big deal was in the first place.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Faithfully emulated; still fundamentally good games at their core; the addition of Leaderboards and Rewind mechanics, as well as more liberal saving, helps smooth the games over for new players; loads of concept art and music from the games
The games are hugely uninviting to the modern player, and very few concessions have been made to make them more inviting to a new player, or anyone beyond hardcore series fan; the Switch's D-pad is ill suited to Mega Man
Series fans will find a lot to enjoy with these Collections, even though the games have aged worse than they may remember. Newcomers, on the other hand, may be left wondering what the big deal was with these games to begin with.