Mega Man Powered Up
He’s tiny and adorable, but he sure does pack a wallop in that little arm of his! Mega Man Powered Up is a complete reinvisioning of the original game that started it all. The very first Mega Man game has aged remarkably well, still being completely playable to this day and the target of many a speed runner. Admit it – we all thought it was the end of the Classic Blue Bomber with the Mega Man and Bass GBA port back in 2003, but where there’s a Capcom, there’s a way… and a well-fed cash-cow.
Another 21st century remake, so what else is new? I’m fully aware that a brand new coat of paint doesn’t make a game shine by itself, but I’ve got to say that the graphical and aural overhaul that has taken place here is absolutely incredible. Okay, so they Chibi-fied Mega Man so that that he now looks like he could play along with the Teletubbies, but by golly don’t the supporting cast look super clean and fantastic? Yes, yes they do. The PSP’s highest brightness setting usually reveals deficiencies in even the mightiest graphics engines, but the work done here is so extremely polished, as if Capcom sent it over to the dentist for a full mouth scaling followed by a premium facial treatment. With classic themes remixed to fit along with the light-heartedness of the visuals, this really is an extreme, next-gen, makeover.
“He now looks like he could play along with the Teletubbies“Powered Up is your typical Mega Man cake, but with layers upon layers of icing and sugar, enough to induce a state of hyperglycemia in poor old Dr. Wily. Speaking of which, that mad doctor has gone on a rampage, stealing a couple of the righteous Dr. Light’s robots and using them to wreck havoc upon the city. If you don’t ever remember this detail in the original game, it’s because there wasn’t really a story going on before; the interactions are all new in Powered Up and while the narrative won’t win any awards for originality, at least it has fun with the state of affairs it conjures up.
So off to save the world Mega Man. He knows the drill by now, and so should you. But if you thought that it was simply a matter of re-negotiating through old levels that look new, you’re in for quite a surprise here. Sure the classic levels are here, but the main attraction lies in the fully redone adventure mode. Here we have the same 6 robot masters that have since been inducted into gaming history, but with totally redesigned stages associated with them. The rules of Mega Man still apply here, so the gameplay nonetheless revolves around lots of jumping, shooting and dying instantly by those damn overblown spikes. And if that wasn’t enough we also have 2 new robot masters, Time Man and Oil Man, to cause some more masochistic headaches.
“The rules of Mega Man still apply here, so the gameplay nonetheless revolves around lots of jumping, shooting and dying instantly by those damn overblown spikes.”Want some fan-service? How does playing through the game as every robot master sound? Apart from having infinite use of their main weapon, their all-new unique abilities will allow you to get through the levels in slightly different ways. Take Cut-man (my favourite Mega Man baddie) for example. Instead of having to climb up ladders sluggishly, he can just wing it with his elite wall-jumping skills. Of course, I doubt you’d want to replay the game over and over again, with all 8 of the robot masters, through all 3 of the difficulty settings, within a short time-span. However, seeing as Powered Up happens to be one of the best pick-up-and-play platforming games ever, you’ll be back for more before you know it.
I’m usually stunned by how amazing these updated remakes look, but the initial ‘wowness’ soon wears off as you realise that it’s still the same old game and nothing much more. Maverick Hunter X, which preceded Powered Up’s release, was a wonderful update, but there really wasn’t anything we hadn’t been through before (Vile mode withstanding). Don’t get me wrong, it is still one of the finest remakes out there, but after playing Powered Up extensively I feel that much of Capcom’s heart clearly went out to this less serious title. Aside from the classic and modern update, we have also got 2 other modes well worth mentioning.
First up is the Challenge mode. There are 100 different bite-sized levels here, 10 for Mega Man and each of the 8 robot masters, and 10 more dedicated to boss rushing. If you thought that the original Mega Man was unforgiving (pause trick aside), check this out. Each challenge is quite short, averaging around the minute mark, and they usually have a single aim of reaching the goal, destroying a certain number of enemies, outlasting an onslaught for a set period of time, etc. etc. You can thankfully tackle them in any order, a Godsend seeing as nearly all of them are full of infamous Mega Man trickery that will have you relying on trial and error to make it through. Instant deaths/losses don’t bring the main adventure down so much as they don’t occur too often, but unfortunately this is what the Challenge mode is really all about. The fact that all you unlock is a playable Protoman isn’t much of a reward too, especially considering that you can just download him for free from the official website now anyway.
“(Challenge mode is) full of infamous Mega Man trickery that will have you relying on trial and error to make it through”Yep, Powered Up also has the ability to connect to a dedicated server and download a wide range of additional content. This brings me onto the Construction mode, where all your dreams and fantasies are built by your hands alone. Throughout the main game there are construction packs to be found and these give you sets of scenery pieces, enemies, gimmicks/traps and power-ups to toy around with. Creating you own levels is a very simple process, after learning the ropes in the excellent tutorial. Once done, you can then share your handiwork with others via internet. There’s a similar design- and share-your-own-level feature in another recent title, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 for the DS. Although Powered Up doesn’t have the advantage of touch-screen manipulation of objects, playing through fast-paced user-created platforming levels is (in this author’s opinion) more satisfying than slower puzzle-orientated ones. Sadly the community of budding developers has waned since the game’s release, and it’s too bad that there isn’t a lot of fresh new stuff out there now, given the incredible scope that the Construction mode offers.
As you can see there are lots of new additions to keep diehards happy for a very long time indeed.
But if you aren’t looking for all this extraneous content, the hair-ripping challenges and the chance to show how much of a better job you can do than Keiji Inafune himself, there’s still plenty to do in Powered Up. The new art-style is sure to catch the attention of both old(er) and new gamers alike, and the revamped levels provide us with what is ultimately the next proper iteration of the Mega Man Classic series. If you never took to the style of gaming Blue Bomber is renowned for – that is the copy-weapon system, precision jumping and those fat pointy spikes that spell your doom with just a feather touch – underneath all the spunky flair it’s still a game that probably won’t hold you.
“Creating you own levels is a very simple process”If you can cope with the obvious limitations that a remake has in following its source material (although the sticky movement – Mega Man not moving for a millisecond when you command him to from a stationary pose – could have been done without), Powered Up is the ultimate bang for your buck. Will it last for a protracted 20 years like the original NES version has? Probably not, especially with PSP exclusivity being one of the main barriers. But there’s no denying that Capcom did a resplendent job here, and given their propensity to churn out all-too-similar titles at a furious rate, if there’s finally a silver lining amongst the mass of dreary clouds, it would be wise not to miss it if you can help it.