I had a moment over the weekend, so I decided to download the Mega Man 9 demo (the full version will be on all the current-gen consoles) while I was making a meal. The download was actually so small that it had finished before I even left the room, but I installed it, had my meal anyway, then got cracking at this “new classic Mega Man“. I watched the little intro movie, which shows an allegedly reformed Dr. Wily framing (we assume) Dr. Light and sending his robots out to conquer the world again. Mega Man and whatever his dog and bird robot friends are called immediately set out to protect everyone.
For the demo, you must choose to face Concrete Man’s level, which is immediately so difficult that you will wonder why the National Guard couldn’t just come out and help shoot some robots. Every step along the way reveals a new irritating little trick in the gameplay that could easily infuriate you. It felt a lot like I Wanna Be the Guy, truthfully. Here’s a step-by-step progression for as far as I could get in the demo:
1. Flying robo-owls drop what look like owl turds down on you. The turds usually fall just in front of you, but then they break up into smaller bits that scatter and hit you anyway. You basically have to shoot them first or else you’ll get hit, which becomes more difficult as multiple owls start to come at once.
2. What appear to be simple gaps you have to jump over are incredibly perilous. Chances are, you’ll immediately just jump, only to have a floating green turret thing pop up into you, which hurts you and drops you into the endless abyss, forcing you back to the start of the level. If you miss them, then the above owls may still drop turds on you that force you back into the gap.
3. Past several gaps, you come to a small cannon on a raised ledge. You can’t really jump over it, so you must simply blast away at it. Still, it takes extremely precise movements to actually dodge the cannon fire, which can be ruined by the floating turrets from before. You probably lose half your life, but at least you won’t die just yet.
4. Little spiky things scoot over several platforms, and you can freeze them for a moment by shooting them. The platforms are spaced just right to be difficult to clear, but just barely possible, in your short time allowance with the frozen spiky things.
5. Now you have to clear three huge elephant robot things, coupled with a deadly rolling ball they like to play with. You have to jump over the ball, not get sucked into the elephant’s trunk, shoot it a little bit, and get back over the ball as it rolls back, making for some hectic bunny hopping. The first one is easy, with a small ladder that helps you shoot it. The second one bounces its ball, making it slightly more difficult to jump over. The third one is freaking impossible, because there are gaps in the ground that will insta-kill you if you get hurt at all. If you die, go back to the start of the level.
That’s how far I could get in this tiny little sixty megabyte demo. So, um, it’s hard. Maybe if I had played more Mega Man as a kid, I’d know what I’m doing wrong, but I don’t. The game can be really infuriating. The sad thing is, this incredible difficulty feels enticing somehow when I’m not playing it. Speaking as a person who doesn’t particularly like coffee, it’s a lot like black coffee. It tastes bitter and awful, but there’s something about it that just makes you miss it constantly. Maybe it’s just the caffeine, but soda doesn’t scratch that itch. I want that bitterness again, even though I’ll hate it when I’m actually drinking it.
Anyway, the rest of the game is appropriately stylized to appear “classic”. The 8-bit menu music is shrill and stops abruptly when you choose a menu item or do anything else. The menu itself would be blank and uninteresting even for an NES game. They made sure that this felt like almost an exaggerated old Mega Man game. Most everything about it is frustrating and theoretically badly done, but the game entices me even now. After you run out of lives in the demo, a “Buy the full version!” screen pops up that seems almost insulting, and yet when I’m away from the game, I feel like I very well might buy the full version. I’m stuck in an abusive relationship with this game already.