Mega Man 3 – NES
Release Date (NA): November 1990
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
After watching fellow member InfiniteKnife blaze through Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3, and Mega Man 4 a few days ago via Nerd Bacon’s live Twitch.tv stream, I decided to revisit Mega Man 3 for myself. Mega Man 3 is one of those games I’ve owned for as long as I can remember. I threw countless hours at this masterwork as a kid, and I never could beat it. In fact, it never seemed to reach an ending, and I vividly remember how upset I was at making it so far and then getting stuck.
As I got older, I realized the merit (and occasional necessity) when it came to using Mega Man’s acquired powers, which finally helped me fight through the last stretch of the game. Ok ok, the Game Genie had a lot to do with my success too, but that’s just because a) the NES is hard, and b) Mega Man 3 is really hard. It just goes to show that even with the requisite Infinite Energy and Infinite Lives, Mega Man 3 is still a tough road to travel.
For those that may not know, the game begins by pitting Mega Man against 8 Robot Masters, each with their own appropriately themed level. Our pint-sized hero is free to hit the stages in any order, though it behooves one to take a quick glance at a strategy guide or two for the optimal order in which to traverse these stages. Why does it matter? Well, after defeating each master, Mega Man gains a weapon. In some instances, he also gains an additional ability for Rush, his robot dog. With certain bosses more vulnerable to certain weapons and some of Rush’s upgrades rendering parts of some levels way easier, the right order can make the difference between a healthy challenge and a frustrating exercise in improbability.
Mega Man 3 combines platforming and action elements, both of which can be extremely difficult. There are dozens of difficult jumps to master and time correctly (disappearing blocks, spinning tops, and platforms ready to slam you into a ceiling of instantly fatal spikes, just to name a few), not to mention the relentless armies of robots that will test and retest every reflex in your fingers. Between negotiating the perilous environments and trying to survive the limitless hordes, every inch of this game is a struggle. But hey, it’s not all bad; Mega Man does gain his slide in this game.
What I really appreciate most about Mega Man 3 is the amount of variety packed in. From the beginning, there are the 8 differently themed levels. And when that’s done, there are 4 more levels, each featuring a sort of “reincarnation” of 2 bosses from Mega Man 2. Then there’s a showdown with Break Man, followed by journey through Dr. Wily’s futuristic castle. The scenery never gets boring, there are always new enemies to see, and it’s all fairly impressive for an 8-bit game. Most levels have a very technical and/or industrial themed setting and the developers do a great job of using the limited colors available on the NES. I especially dig the stages housing Shadow Man and Gemini Man.
Controls are basic – jump, shoot, walk, and slide are Mega Man’s main activities. Like a lot of NES games, these aspects are invariable, allowing one to gain some level of mastery by determining things such as how far he slides, how high he can jump, his rate of fire, etc. The caveat here is Mega Man’s ability to use the weapons of defeated Robot Masters, which adds an appreciable degree of experimentation to the game. While at first optional, in later levels it becomes imperative to understand when and how to use certain weapons; for example, when going up against the “Yellow Devil,” Hard Man’s “Hard Knuckle” will make short work of the beast, whereas if you choose to stick with Mega Man’s default “M. Buster” the battle will be excruciatingly slow.
One of the biggest focuses of the second half is refilling these auxiliary weapons. At some point they stop automatically refilling after a level, so it’s up to the player to use these powers judiciously. These powers also don’t recharge after death, which turns out to be a real pain in the ass and one of my biggest qualms with Mega Man 3. This can make some sections almost impassible, so even with the Game Genie firmly in tow, I do make a note of the end of level passwords just in case.
There is a lot of really blasé music among NES games, but fortunately none of that music is in Mega Man 3. I actually find a lot of the music rather memorable and appealing. Snake Man’s theme has always stuck with me. For anyone interested in catchy chiptunes to manipulate, Mega Man 3 is a goldmine.
Mega Man 3 is often regarded as the pinnacle of the early NES games, though it’s also the hardest and probably the longest as well. Even with the omnipotence granted by the Game Genie, the game can wear on near the end, especially the endless difficulties encountered in Wily’s fortress. Compared to what Mega Man 3 does right though, these issues are somewhat forgivable. There’s an awesome amount of material crammed onto this cart, a password system to mark progress (except near the end, which must be done all in one go), some of the most imaginative graphics from the 8-bit era, and an appreciable number of options (such as the order of the masters and acquired weapons).
You may want to pass over this one if you’re impatient…or you could cheat…but keep in mind that even with the perks offered by the Game Genie, it’s still a reasonable challenge on the platforming front. Mega Man 3 really pushes the limit when it comes to gaps and timing so even Infinite Lives and Infinite Energy aren’t going to guarantee a win…but they sure do help!
Also be sure to check out FrozenMallet’s review of Mega Man 3!
Reviewed by The Cubist
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