After gifting SNES owners with two high quality Mega Man X games, Capcom shocked the world when it released Mega Man 7 in the fall of 1995. By then the SNES was starting to wane as 32-bit war machines and 3D polygons became all the rage. The PlayStation was unleashed that same month to much hype, and it was clear the SNES had seen better days. But can Mega Man 7 prove there’s life yet in the Super Nintendo and the Blue Bomber? Let us take a trip back in time. The original Blue Bomber is back, but is it a happy homecoming?
DEATH, HOMEWORK AND MEGA MAN
Growing up in the late ’80s to mid ’90s I was blessed enough to witness the rise of the classic 8-bit NES as well as the SNES. Along with that, my friends and I got to play a crapload of Mega Man games. There were a whopping six of them on the NES. The second one remains one of my favorites to this day; it still holds up remarkably well even 25+ years later and was a defining game for many of us. The rest of the sequels all had their good points. It was nearly a certainty back then that with each passing year there would be a new Mega Man title to play, and eight more robot masters to conquer. It was death, homework and Mega Man for many kids. While the series peaked for me at number two, I can vividly remember playing parts three through six in one fashion or another. There wasn’t a single bad Mega Man title among them. They might not have been as epic as Mega Man 2, but with these games I could always be guaranteed a certain amount of polish. Like a comfy old pair of sneakers, Capcom rarely let me down.
In many ways I consider Mega Man as the horror movie franchise of video gaming. Like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, it seemed like every year a new sequel was made. Just like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, you couldn’t kill Mega Man or his nemesis, Dr. Wily. And just like the horror film franchises I cited, there was usually one stand out in the group, with the following sequels never quite living up to the standards set by the best entry in the series. Still, the sequels nevertheless held a certain charm for the diehard fan. For the Halloween series, it was the original. For Mega Man, it was part 2. In the early ’90s I was clamoring for a Halloween sequel as well as a 16-bit Mega Man. Finally, in September 1995 HALLOWEEN 6: The Curse of Michael Myers came out. And that same month Capcom gave us MEGA MAN 7, bringing the original Blue Bomber for the first time to the Super Nintendo. My wish had come true and I was psyched! [Be careful what you wish for… -Ed.]
It was a homecoming for both Michael Myers and Mega Man in the fall of ’95. The Boogeyman returned to the silver screen after a six year long absence while the Blue Bomber made his classic series debut on the Super Nintendo. Yet again the town of Haddonfield is steeped in danger and cold blood as a masked maniac roamed the streets. The film followed the sordid exploits of the Shape stalking his unsuspecting victims both day and night. And in his penultimate role, the legendary Donald Pleasence returned one last time to reprise Sam Loomis — Michael Myers’ former doctor turned boogeyman hunter. The theatrical version was universally panned. Rightfully so, as it was a mess. However, hardcore Halloween fans know there is a producer’s cut featuring 43 minutes of alternate footage (including a different ending). It tied up some of the loose ends of the shoddy and heavily edited version shown in theatres. It’s one of my favorites but the theatrical version, not so much. Michael Myers had a rough homecoming. How did Mega Man fare?
Mega Man 7 couldn’t have arrived at a worse time. It came out the same month as the PlayStation. While the SNES was very much still alive in the US, it was clear that its best days, commercially, were over. Next gen became all the rage, and in the midst of all this, Capcom decided to resurrect the original NES series. Had it came out two years prior, it would have been hailed as one of the great comebacks of the 16-bit generation. Instead, it got lost in the shuffle and was largely deemed as redundant, outdated and ultimately forgettable. It was seen as a Capcom cheap cash cow attempt to milk a classic franchise for a few bucks from loyal 16-bit owners before moving to 32-bits. Mega Man 7 did garner some solid reviews but no one really noticed as it quietly went as quickly as it came. But one of the great things about this hobby is the ability to explore any game in-depth, even if it flew under the radar back in the day. With that said, let’s take a look at the 16-bit debut of the original Blue Bomber.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING IN LIFE AND GAMING
Isn’t it amazing how big a role timing plays in life? Today complete copies of Mega Man 7 can reach as much as $700. Back in 2006 I got it complete for a measly $25. How times change. I took this pic on a Saturday morning of April 1st, 2006. I’m thankful I got back into the SNES scene when I did. I was lucky the nostalgia bug bit me a few years earlier than it did for many others, as the retro market began to rise just 2-3 years later. Speaking of timing, it’s a well known fact that Mega Man 7 was rushed; it had a developmental time window of just three months. While the programmers look back on the tight-knitted experience fondly, with designer Yoshihisa Tsuda referring to it as being fun like a sports team camp, they all admitted they had different regrets. Ideas they wish they could have fleshed out more with an extra month of time. It’s easy to see where their sentiments stem from. Mega Man 7 is flawed but plenty of fun with a few twists along the way, in addition to its familiar traits. Plus it had cameos galore from Mega Man’s 8-bit gaming past.
THE STORY GOES…
One by one, these top secret robot masters awoke from their six month long slumber…
With the city lying in ruin and countless casualties, the world needed a hero to step up…
Sad but true: his Mega Buster has been toned down. Normally, the charge shot counts as 3 regular shots, but here it’s been reduced to 2. It pissed off quite a few diehard fans.
Speaking of pissing off, Mega Man 7 also had another big change in the classic formula that was not very well received by some pundits. Rather than giving you all eight bosses to pick from right off the bat, now you begin with four. Some complained that this killed the strategy component of the original concept. On the other hand, it allowed the four back end levels to be harder… based on the fact that the programmers knew you had to have gained certain skills prior! It’s a give and take. After a while I honestly didn’t mind it one bit.
Sliding effectively is the difference between the agony of defeat or the thrill of victory.
Freeze Man has one seriously, pardon the pun, cool ass boss entrance.
When he said FREEZE, I didn’t think he meant it literally!
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE LAB…
THE ROBOT MUSEUM HALL OF FAME
Home to some old “friends,” the Robot Museum is an awesome bit of fan service.
You’re too late. Guts Man is going back to the lab to be reinvented. Wily exits and in his place comes forth the corpulent Clown Robot.
Forget shooting it anywhere on its body other than its shrunken head. The Clown Robot can be an annoying mid boss due to its massive size yet small hit box. Once you knock its head off, shoot like crazy as the head will soon reattach and the whole process repeats itself.
Now that you have beaten the first four, the final four is unveiled. These last four levels are a bit harder than the first four since the programmers knew you’d be coming in with certain boss weapons equipped. I kind of dug this format.
You can’t help but miss the awesome Ride Armors from the previous two Super Nintendo entries, Mega Man X and Mega Man X². Perhaps as a result of knowing that, they gave us this. Er, okay. There is no comparison between this friendly robotic dino ally and that of the magnificent Ride Armors, but at least it helps to break up some of the action.
It’s also thanks in part to how it rumbles after you as you desperately flee to the far right. Until it finally corners you into a duel to the death. Attacking with its flame breath and fireballs, it’s easily the best and most memorable mid boss fight in the game. Fusing the best of Mega Man and Jurassic Park, it’s simply awesome.
It completely changes the way you approach controlling Mega Man as he goes from gunslinger to a badass killing samurai! There’s something about getting up close and personal to slice robots apart that can’t be beat. One of the best weapons to ever come out of the series due to it fulfilling a childhood dream… what if you crossed Mega Man and Strider? You get the Slash Claw. Pure total destruction at its finest!
Whew, a close call there! This is a neat little section that kind of brings me back to 8-bit gaming. In a lot of ways there is a bit of a vintage feel to Mega Man 7.
Shade Man’s level starts out in the pitch black of night as Mega Man looks out… only for the darkness to slowly peel away, revealing a full moon in the distance. Brilliant stuff. It’s made even better if you did the Ghouls ‘N Ghosts code to get the Ghouls ‘N Ghosts theme going! ^_^
Not quite the sinister Pumpkinhead demon from horror movie fame, but nonetheless makes for a solid mid boss battle.
Damnit, your shot still bounces off it harmlessly. Guess if you’re gonna go all the way then you’ll need to wine and dine its ass first…
Finally it opens up. But not for very long, so make each time count with a well placed shot. It’s all a matter of patience and being on point.
ALL YOUR BASS ARE BELONG TO US
BOSS WEAPONS: POWERS AND ABILITIES
Like all Mega Man games, the formula remains the same. Beat a boss and gain its powers. One of the unique things about 7 is that the weapons not only serve as offensive tools, but they can also aid you through various levels and situations, too.
The Noise Crush bounces off walls and can be caught, giving you a mega blast.
Try out the various weapons! Each boss has a weakness but there are also some weapons that will cause different status changes. For example, see what happens when you fire the Thunder Bolt at Turbo Man. But whatever you do, don’t use the Freeze Cracker on Freeze Man. Trust me…
Call on the Super Adaptor for a major boost. “IT’S MORPHIN’ TIME!”
Call upon Rush to fuse with you into a super power known as Super Adaptor. This is a combination of powers from Mega Man VI (NES) and Mega Man V (Game Boy). It’s just another example of how Mega Man 7 pays homage to its previous entries.
The Super Adaptor is a game changer. You can jump and then hover, which allows you to leap distances far away from a ladder and in one smooth motion grab a hold. It turns the Blue Bomber into an efficient killing machine!
Instead of shooting the Super Mega Buster when charged, Mega Man launches his Rocket Punch.
When you activate the Rush Search, Rush appears on the scene to sniff out any nearby goodies. When there’s nothing of use, he’ll dig up a bone. Thanks for the help, bud. But he can also find dolls, dead fish, dentures, robot toys and a Game Boy. Real funny, Capcom.
SHOP SO YOU DON’T DROP
Even better than buying a 1-UP was killing an enemy only to find a 1-UP left in its place. It rarely happens too, which only adds to the great feeling of when it does happen.
Show of guilty hands here… how many of us have “farmed” at some point while playing a Mega Man title over the years? Yep, guilty as charged here. I try to avoid it for the most part, but there are a few times where I slip back into it.
HIDDEN “STREET FIGHTER II” MODE
Indeed. Remember how I mentioned that the programmers expressed regret that they were rushed to roll out Mega Man 7? They only had three months to create it. This mode would have been more fleshed out if only they had an extra month of programming time… it’s too bad, eh?
It is ironic, eh? Mega Man X is considered to be easy while Mega Man 7 is viewed by many as one of the hardest entries in the entire franchise. Somehow I was able to beat 7 but not X (yet). Strange but true.
For those who don’t wish to be spoiled, skip this block of text. In the end, Wily apologizes for the trouble and grief he’s caused. He also promises to go quietly. Unlike previous adventures, Mega Man knows better this time. He charges his Mega Buster and tells Wily he’s going to do what he should have done a long time ago. It was shockingly violent (and satisfying). Wily counters by reminding Mega Man robots can’t hurt humans. Then, in total action hero movie mode, Mega Man utters the hauntingly brilliant one-liner: “I’M MORE THAN A ROBOT… DIE, WILY!” I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that. Blew my mind to know the Blue Bomber was about to kill Dr. Wily by blasting him square in the face. But of course, before he can, Bass and Treble come to the rescue. They whisk Wily away, and the whole place starts to blow. In the closing sequence we see Dr. Wily’s Fortress exploding in flames. Mega Man is seen walking away, never once glancing back, like an action movie star. Nice ending.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Mega Man 7 received solid, if unremarkable, feedback. EGM gave it scores of 8.5, 7, 7 and 7. GameFan hyped it up big time in previews but never reviewed it. Super Play rated it 79%. While the numbers were certainly respectable enough, the consensus seemed to be along the lines of “Good game but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.” This was made evident by such remarks as EGM reviewer Danyon Carpenter saying, “Get ready for more of the same.” Al Manuel added, “With all the good things going for it, this game really needs a revamp. The engine is getting old and tired.” On the flip side, Sushi-X defended it. “I can understand some people getting burnt out on the concept, but I love the action and challenge of this classic game with an excellent feel.” It’s hard to deny that by late ’95, the Blue Bomber was looking a bit conceptually outdated…
When the first Mega Man title burst onto the scene way back in December of 1987, it was a revelation. The sequel refined the process and dazzled the gaming world with its visuals, amazing music and non-linear gameplay. But of course, like with the original Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street films, many years and many sequels later, the once fresh concept has now grown more than a bit stale. Mega Man X managed to reinvent the series by taking it in a different and radical, more mature direction. By the time Mega Man 7 came out in late 1995, for many fans it felt like a step back. People were now used to X’s athleticism, yet here comes the original Blue Bomber without the dashing or wall climbing abilities. It’s easy to see why Mega Man 7 sort of became the black sheep of the SNES Mega Man legacy. When I first played through it in 2007, I, for one, really liked it. Then I went online seeking other people’s opinions of the game and I was mortified to see all the venom people were spewing at the game. The hatred was so thick that it felt like Mega Man was being stoned to death by these vociferous gamers. I can understand the criticism, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still really like Mega Man 7 a lot.
The most common complaint is that Mega Man is too big compared to earlier models, specifically X. 7 is much bigger and less agile than X. If you love X’s faster and more mobile capabilities, naturally, there might be a disappointment with 7. 7 is more of a plodding, methodical adventure. It goes back to understanding each game for what it intended to be. The X series was all about refreshing changes and new gameplay mechanics to go along with a much darker storyline and tone. And the X games do a splendid job of that. But 7 was meant to go back to the original roots of the series — a more cartoon-ish, light-hearted affair. The sprite is full of character; it’s totally Inafune. Sure he’s a bit clunky, but I actually enjoy the way he looks. His size didn’t bother me, and I still had a blast with the game. That’s all that really matters to me. Credit Boxed Pixels for this comparison shot.
Mega Man 2 was one of my earliest video gaming memories and a defining game of my youth. I liked Mario growing up but was always more of a Mega Man guy. There was an entire generation of 8-bit gamers who couldn’t wait to see the Blue Bomber make his SNES debut. It proved to be worth the wait when he finally did as Mega Man X is considered one of the finest games in the franchise. Capcom’s decision to continue the original NES series on the Super Nintendo in late ’95 was a bit of a shock. But I love how we can look back on the history of the SNES and say there was at least one classic original Mega Man game made for it. In a lot of ways, it’s close to how I imagined the series would look and feel in 16-bit. Mega Man 7 may have its fair share of critics, but it’ll always have a special place in my gaming heart.
Though many view it as a step backwards, I found it to be a refreshing return to its roots. Sure, 7 has its flaws. A chunkier sprite means the action is more methodical than fast paced. The charge shot is nerfed. On the bright side: Bass and Treble are great additions to the franchise. It’s cool to see Rush back, and the Super Adaptor is a killing machine. The ability to use weapons in multiple ways was brilliant. Various nods to the past are made giving the game a good bit of fan service. And what’s a Mega Man game without menacing monstrosities? The ones featured here are among the most memorable in Mega Man lore, ranging from a towering T-Rex to a roaring evil big rig. The bolt system and shop added a new wrinkle to the classic formula. It proves handy as you progress throughout the game especially for the final battle, which is hailed by most as one of the hardest Wily fights ever. Despite falling short of its potential, Mega Man 7 is a quality action game. It’s no Mega Man X, but I don’t think it was ever meant to be, and perhaps that’s where the charm lies. Sometimes you want refreshing. Other times you’re in the mood to return to your roots. Mega Man 7 manages to do a bit of both all at once. I’m not saying it’s perfect. But it hits sort of a sweet spot for me. While it isn’t his greatest outing ever, there are a lot of underrated aspects it brings to the table. Approach it with an open mind and you might appreciate it, too.