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Mega Man 2: The Blue Bomber at his best

I didn't own a lot of NES games as a kid, but I did have Mega Man 2, and it was one of my favorites. It's full of great stages and great music. The prevailing wisdom, which I share, is that it's the best Mega Man game. Certainly it holds up very well after 35 years . Mega Man 2 follows its predecessor 's formula while ironing out all the wrinkles. The number of "robot masters" was upped from six to the canonical eight. Mega Man—the cybernetic humanoid created by Dr. Light—can face them in any order. They are Bubble Man, Heat Man, Quick Man, Crash Man, Metal Man, Wood Man, Air Man, and Flash Man. Once Mega Man has defeated, and obtained the weapon of, each master, he enters Dr. Wily's Castle. These four stages culminate in a multistage fight against the evil robots' maker, Dr. Wily. Each of the eight stages has its own theme, environment, and array of bad robots. Mega Man traverses a factory (Metal Man), an underwater area (Bubble Man), a forest (Wood
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Metroid: Zero Mission: 20th anniversary

Twenty years ago today Metroid: Zero Mission reinvented the original Metroid for a new generation. Improving upon the original by leaps and bounds, it's not so much a remaster as an entirely new game.  Metroid literally defined the "Metroidvania" genre, so you know what you're getting here. The protagonist, Samus Aran, clad in her armored, yellow Power Suit, explores a claustrophobic planet. She shoots alien monsters (like the iconic Rippers and Zoomers) with her arm cannon and, collecting upgrades and new laser beams along the way. These weapons and abilities allow her to access new areas. For example, bombs destroy certain blocks and floors. Missiles open locked red doors. She must locate and defeat the bosses of the nefarious Space Pirates: the monstrous Ridley and Kraid. Doing so unlocks the final area, where flying jellyfish called Metroids try to latch onto her and drain her life. At the end, she must defeat the Mother Brain living computer, then return to her

Mega Man X: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago Mega Man X brought Capcom's beloved blue bomber into the 16-bit era, to great acclaim. In a creative twist, Mega Man X (called X for short) is a new robot, not the original Mega Man . As with Super Metroid, Super Castlevania IV , and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past , Mega Man X uses the winning formula of remaking the original NES game but with more and better. Mega Man X, like his predecessor, faces eight robot masters, now called "Mavericks." Instead of "men," they are made in the image of animals: Chill Penguin, Storm Eagle, Launch Octopus, Spark Mandrill (a kind of monkey), Armored Armadillo, Sting Chameleon, Flame Mammoth, and Boomer Kuwanger (a Japanese stag beetle). An opening stage ends with X being defeated by the robot Vile, a henchman of Sigma, who wants to destroy humanity using something called "Reploids" (the Mavericks?). Fortunately, a "Maverick Hunter" robot named Zero jumps in to save X. He encourages

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: A delightful, quirky, entry-level RPG

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, created through an unexpected collaboration between Nintendo and Square, is Super Mario meets Final Fantasy . The mechanics of an RPG are simplified for a younger audience, then combined with a little platforming and characters from the Mario universe. That may sound like a dubious proposition, but the final result speaks for itself. Super Mario RPG came out late in the SNES's life cycle, just a few months before the N64 and Super Mario 64 . As a teenager, I scoffed at the absurdity of Mario characters being in a childish-looking RPG. (Like many children, I was closed-minded.) As an adult, I learned that the game has an excellent reputation. The recent remastering of the game for Switch prompted me to give the original a try, which is on the SNES Classic. In Super Mario RPG, a gigantic anthropomorphic sword named Exor crashes into Bowser's castle, casting him out and frightening everyone. To banish Exor and the leader of his gang,

Mega Man IV: 30th anniversary

Mega Man IV is the sequel to the Game Boy game Mega Man III . The Roman numerals are meant to distinguish this series from the NES games on which they are based. Mega Man IV follows its predecessors in taking four "robot masters" each from two NES games, in this case Bright Man, Pharaoh Man, Ring Man, and Toad Man from 4 and Stone Man, Crystal Man, Charge Man, and Napalm Man from 5 . The stages are remixed both so as to provide something new and because the Game Boy's small screen made it impossible to reproduce them exactly. As in all Mega Man games, when he beats a robot master, he gets his weapon. My main gripe with Mega Man games in general is the limited usefulness of most of these weapons (except in Mega Man 2, where the Metal Blade is superior). The default Mega Buster, which can also be charged up for a more powerful attack, is so versatile that it's rarely worthwhile to use another, except to exploit a robot master's weakness. Each master is weak to one

Kirby's Pinball Land: 30th anniversary

Kirby's first spinoff game (of many) is Kirby's Pinball Land, released on the Game Boy near the end of 1993. It combines classic pinball with elements from the popular Kirby games. It could almost be considered a sequel to Revenge of the 'Gator , another Game Boy pinball game made by HAL Laboratory. There are three tables to choose from: Whispy (the tree, misspelled "Wispy"), Kracko (the cloud), and the bomb-throwing Poppy Bros. Interestingly, you can travel between tables during the same game by beating that table's boss or catching a warp star. Once a boss is defeated (by hitting it repeatedly), you cannot re-enter that table. If you beat all three—not easy!—Kirby faces King Dedede as the final boss. I like how this mixes up the traditional pinball experience with the level-based video-game experience. The table layouts are basic and adorned with enemies from the Kirby games. Kirby bounces around, racking up points, and you use the flippers to keep him afloa

Secret of Mana: 30th anniversary

It's been three decades since Americans were treated to the action RPG Secret of Mana. Called The Legend of the Holy Sword 2 in Japan, it's the sequel to Final Fantasy Adventure . It builds upon some of its predecessor's unusual conventions, including a tedious weapon-charging system. What most sets it apart, however, is it supports two and even three   player simultaneous play. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past can't do that! Secret of Mana's threadbare plotline is a rehash of the first game. The Mana Tree and its eight sacred seeds are threatened by monsters, led by the villain Thanatos (Greek for "death"). A young hero, gifted with the legendary holy sword, must defeat them and save the tree. His ability to remove the sword from a stone, Arthur-like, is treated as a calamity by his village, which banishes him. But the young hero soon saves a blond girl and a "sprite." They join him as party members. A sprite is a fairy, but this person