Little Big Planet and Mario Maker brought fan creativity to the forefront of gaming. These two platform games proved that if you give players the tools they can and do create some incredible levels. And a lot of junk. Lots and lots of junk. These games got us dreaming about what other games we could create our own levels and challenges for the masses. Mega Man was at the top of my list.
Unfortunately, Mega Man had been dormant for several years. Like a neglectful spouse, Capcom let anniversary after anniversary slide. The fire in the relationship has burnt out. Thankfully, Mega Man has many other suitors. Fans took up the torch and created Mega Man Street Fighter. Now Fans have brought us Mega Maker, a game that allows everyone to have a spin at creating levels to challenge the Blue Bomber.
The most surprising thing was that Capcom has not shut down this fan project. Nintendo often does not want its jilted characters dating anyone else (even if they have no interest in them). Until Capcom gets jealous, we get to create Mega Man levels and share them with the world. How does Mega Maker stack up to the professional level makers?
The game is split into two facets. The first is creating levels. I jumped straight into the level editor, confident I would be able to figure it out. Sadly, the game is not that intuitive. Nothing is labeled, or gives any pop up label when you roll your mouse over. Defeated, I went shamefully to get instructions. Guess, I lose my “man” card. In Mega MAN, that is a big deal.
The tutorial was cleverly put together. Dr. Wily and Dr. Light have humorous banter as they explain each section of the level editor. The pace stays rapid and never gets bogged down in detailing each tile, spike, or enemy.
The tool set is a few choice options from Mega Man 1-6 on the NES. There are some tweaks to some of the items and options, mainly things like enemy spawn points not fading into the background or being invisible. The classic Mega Man baddies are here. Metall (the yellow hard hat with the plus sign) is included. As is Sniper Joe, Robbit, Shotman, and the obnoxious Telly. The biggest selection comes when choosing spikes and ladders. It seems as though the game wants levels of just ladders and spikes!
The options feel endless at first. After creating a single level, it becomes clear how limited things are. None is more felt than the lack of enemy variety. It seems every shield/shoot enemy (modeled after Sniper Joe) is included in the game. I went to create themed levels and found it lacking on fire and water enemies. The fish like enemies are no threat, and actually give more life than they could dream of taking. I missed the frogs that shoot baby frogs. Most of all though, I missed the midlevel bosses like the Big Snakey, Tama (cat), or Friender (hot dog). Unless the level becomes a troll or overwhelmed with enemies then they never truly pose a significant threat.
Instead, difficulty is then achieved by making ridiculous jumps and spike traps. With infinite lives this feels like the only way to create a true challenge for the skilled Mega Man player. There are no game overs or benefits to picking up an extra life. While it can be fun, instant death gets very frustrating very quickly. This also limits the creativity to the diverse ways you can combine pits and spikes.
With these limitations in mind, I ambitiously set out to create a Mega Man campaign. Playing through my levels gives a power up for each boss defeated. Then in the next level, the newly acquired power up is crucial to passing the level. We have a Mega Man campaign in the making. (If you want to try it, then type “TB Mega Classic” and you will get all of the campaign so far, or check out Crosstix trying them here)
It was only after I began the campaign that I realized that the powers you can give Mega do not correspond to the bosses available. Where is Skull Man? Where is Star Man? Where is Bomb Man’s power? Or Stone Man’s? Being a fan game, it seems that the easiest to program, or easy to secure assets, were implemented into the game. This kills purity of the campaign style and the essence of Mega Man.
The second half is the game play. Each asset plays and moves just like the original Mega Man NES games. The jumps feel right. The slide, the water, and charge all act accordingly. In each level you try seems like you are playing a retro Mega Man game. Usually a poorly designed level of one, but a Mega Man game nonetheless.
Currently, there is little movement in the top rated levels. Most of the top levels are gimmicky levels that are poorly designed and hastily constructed. As an example, one of the top levels is a skull level. The designer has the whole level built around walking on spikes with the skull shield. There is little to no challenge in the level once you figure out to walk on the spikes. There is certainly no variety. Hopefully, as the game continues, there will be more interesting and challenging levels to play with that truly feel like a Mega Man level.
Mega Maker plays like a great first step for a “maker” type of game. There are many options, but not enough to get creative and unique game play. The enemy difficulty is minimal, which limits the challenge. If this game keeps building its library of bosses, enemies, tiles, and options then it could be something very special. At this time though it is a fun beta like game that is just getting its feet wet. Ultimately, lets starved Mega Man players do what Capcom should have done years ago. For that we are grateful to the creators of the game.