Mega Man is one of gaming’s longest running and most recognizable series. Capcom has succeeded in nearly every effort with their blue bomber because they have been able to rejuvenate the basics of the game without deviating too far from what made Mega Man 1 fun back in 1987. Capcom has come full circle with Mega Man: Powered UP on PSP, as they revisit the original Mega Man game and enhance it with a face lift and additional content featuring a level building/ sharing system. Do these improvements create a more accessible Mega Man experience for everyone, or does the kiddy veneer only succeed in alienating anyone over age 10?
Mega Man: Powered Up’s enhanced graphics are incredibly colorful, and feature vivid, cartoony looking 3D characters. The art direction is decidedly less Mega Man and definitely more “Chibi.” That is, all the main characters have the cuteness dial up to 11, huge heads with big anime eyes, and small bodies. The music has even been cute-ified, featuring pre-school versions of your favorite Mega Man tunes with bright, cheerful instruments like xylophones and pianos. So for those of you that melt over adorable versions of your favorite characters, you are in luck. For everyone else, this game looks like Mega Man for kids.
But as we all know, the real meat of the Mega Man series lies in the gameplay, and in that department the game does not disappoint. The screen has been subtly stretched to fill the PSP’s wide display, and the gameplay does not suffer in the slightest. This zoomed-in view helps showcase the game’s Saturday morning cartoon visuals and makes things feel a bit more intimate than the old, zoomed out Mega Man view.
Mega Man: Powered Up contains all the original bosses from Mega Man 1, along with newcomers Oil Man and Time Man. There is even an intro level a la Mega Man X, which helps the player become accustomed with the controls. The game offers easy, normal, and difficulty settings so that novices and veterans alike will be able to get something out of the challenging platforming and boss battles. For the avid Mega Man fans that are able to blow through the remixed version of the game without breaking a sweat, there is the bonus of being able to play through the main game as the boss characters. This can be accomplished by playing through the game’s “challenge modes,” and completing various preset tasks that mostly involve reaching a checkpoint, or fulfilling parameters such as “don’t take damage.” The challenges themselves are interesting, and playing through Mega Man 1 as Cut Man or Bomb Man is a concept that will have any Wily basher brimming with curiosity.
The game also attempts to “power up” the original game by fleshing out the old story of Dr. Wily hijacking the Robot Masters in jealous revenge of Dr. Light. Ultimately, terrible writing and even more horrendous voice-acting sully an already thin story that never needed to be in the spotlight, anyway. For example, upon selecting Fire Man’s level the boss yells “time to burn the trash!” in a ridiculous southern drill sergeant voice. Cringe inducing dialogue occurs before every boss battle, as Mega Man attempts to reason with each renegade robot. Add this to Mega Man sounding like an 8-year-old girl, and you almost have a reason to play with the sound off.
Fear not, however, as the single player experience is also available in “old style.” In this old school mode the sides of the PSP screen are chopped off and the gameplay takes place in a standard square view rather than rectangular widescreen. Additionally, the classic 8-bit Mega Man music makes a return and only the original six Robot masters are featured. After playing through the “new style” mode of the game, returning to “old style” feels like putting back on your old pair of shoes after trying on new ones at the store; just as comfortable as your remember.
If the content I’ve described thus far doesn’t sound like enough to satiate your appetite, then look no further than “construction” mode. In this bare-bones level creator you custom build a level using preset enemy kits from any of the games stages, and position platforms and ladders where you see fit. You even decide which Robot Masters to set as the boss of your level. You gain more trinkets to use in your construction mode by finding “packs” throughout the “new style” single player game. After you acquire a good chunk of these packs, the only limit is your creativity.
However, if your creativity is lacking you are free to use the PSP’s wireless to download stages built by other Mega Man: Powered Up players. They are sorted by rank, hall of fame, etc. Here you will find a mixed bag of users’ first attempts at level construction, and polished veterans’ creations that could give Capcom developers a run for their money. If the idea of playing infinite Mega Man 1 levels of varying quality for as long as you please is enticing, you will find tremendous replay value here. The fact that you actually are downloading these levels and can play them at your whim without an internet connection is a huge perk, especially considering the Mega Man: Powered Up servers probably won’t be up forever.
Ultimately, Mega Man: Powered Up seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. Capcom has splashed a coat of cartoony, kiddy paint over a game that is punishingly difficult at times. This is akin to giving a German Panzer tank a pink paint job with rainbow decals. Kids will be drawn to it but may find it too difficult to enjoy, and longtime Mega Man fans may be too old to appreciate such childish graphics, music, and plot. The game finds itself in a no-man’s land, struggling to fit in with either crowd completely.
Mega Man: Powered Up should be considered only by hardcore Mega Man fans that can look past the copiously cute presentation, or virgins to the series that are looking for a visually appealing version of the game to cut their teeth on
The presentation is fresh and colorful, but the cartoonish graphics feel odd when applied to a Mega Man Game.
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Tight and precise, this is classic Mega Man platforming action in its purest form. The addition of playing as bosses adds variety to the gameplay, but it never feels quite as good as playing as the Blue Bomber.
The voice acting is unforgivably terrible, and the cutesy toddler music feels like a disservice to the classic Mega Man tunes. Thankfully, the original soundtrack is available in “old style” mode.
With the ability to download user created levels the replayability is incredibly high for hard core fans. However, endlessly playing rehashes of Mega Man 1 levels can only appeal so long to the passing Mega Man fan.
If you’re a die hard Mega Man fun, you’ll probably enjoy this game despite the kiddy appearance. If you’re a retro-purist that despises remakes of classic games that water down certain aspects of the game, then avoid this.