One may think, Mega Man 7, first released in Japan in 1995, is a bit of a random choice to play. For myself, this is the first Mega Man experience I’ve had outside of playing with the character on Super Smash Bros.. I did choose it at random, but I have a particular liking for the SNES aesthetic, so, as the only core Mega Man game on the console, I was happy to give it a try. How does this retro title play in a modern day world?
The premise here involves Mega Man and his friends embroiled in another fight whit the maniacal Dr. Wily. The doctor is attacking with his army of robots and Mega Man sets out to stop him. The player takes Mega Man through a series of stages which lead to a boss encounter at the end. The central gimmick of the Mega Man series then kicks in; each boss wields a particular weapon which Mega Man adds to his arsenal upon victory. As one progresses in the game, our hero becomes much more powerful and the gameplay options more varied.
Incidentally, I believe I have described the premise of every core Mega Man game. A quick look at the reviews of the time suggest Mega Man 7 really hasn’t deviated much from the series’ established formula. Don’t hold me to this, bu the new here is largely some lovely 16-bit sprite work, a couple of new villains and a choice of only 4 stages to begin with rather than 8.
A nice touch at the beginning is that the player can choose their own stage order. However, it seemed every level was quite brutal on the first play through and had me second guessing whether I was just really bad at the game, or perhaps I lacked an appropriate weapon to complete it. Certainly, each boss has a weakness to a certain weapon to exploit and there are even secret areas that can only be accessed using the right firepower.
Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the experimentation involved with figuring these things out. Each weapon has a limited charge which can only be replenished by an item dropped by enemies or bought from the in-game shop. Plus, the game doesn’t exactly give the player lots of hints on how to use them aside from a short piece of dialogue from Mega Man’s father and creator Dr. Light. I found that by trying to work out how to use the weapons, I’d often have little to no charge left when it turns out I needed it most. Had there been more guidance, perhaps this wouldn’t have felt so frustrating. It felt like there was something counter-intuitive going on; the game wants me to experiment, but then feels punishing when I do so. There are some really neat surprises at times that will bring a smile your face, but it felt so very difficult to unearth them.
I figure this is more a modern day criticism of the game; no doubt developers considered that players would use the game’s manual or word of mouth to discuss and explore the best tactics for each stage. I had to download the manual eventually to find out there was even a shop to access from the level select screen. Where was that information in the game?! Not in the game itself!
Ultimately, I’m not convinced this game has aged so well. I have an inkling this is a solid Mega Man game, but one I think best left to the established Mega Man fans. For newcomers, the central gimmick can feel quite discouraging, especially when so little information is given to the player.
I played Mega Man 7 on Nintendo Switch through the Mega Man Legacy Collection 2. It also includes Mega Man 8, Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 to try out too!