Enter the Wild World of Two Dimensions... and a Bit
Mega Man 2.5D
Despite Capcom's various attempts at taking the series into 3D game play, the Mega ManIn 1987, Capcom released Mega Man on the NES, a game featuring a blue robot that fought other robots and took their powers (so that he could then fight other robots with those powers, and on, and on). The series went on to release over 50 games in 30 years and become one of the most famous gaming franchises in the world. series has always steadfastly been a franchise rooted in two dimensional game play. Sure, Mega Man Legends has its fans, the some change ups were possible with the chip-collecting, battle arena-fighting Battle Network games, but, end of the day, when players think of the Blue Bomber they think of the classic, 8-bit era game play. That's the formula, and that's what Capcom has to work with any time they put out a new, mainline entry in the franchise.
There's something that feels right about seeing Mega Man presented in classic, 8-but graphics. Sure, the games released on the SNES and PSX were fun enough, but there's a reason the series went back to its 8-bit roots (in both game play and presentation) for Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10; it felt right to have the Blue Bomber back in his classic form. And as well received as Mega Man 11 may have been, with its hybrid 3D graphics on 2D presentation, there was something a little off about the whole package. It certainly doesn't ride high at the top of favorite Mega Man games, not like Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3.
But while Capcom moves the series in different directions (or ignores it entirely for years), the fans have picked up the slack. They've continued to make fan-games that give Mega Man the adventures he deserves. And as far as bringing classic Mega Man into the third dimension, no game has done it better than Mega Man 2.5D. As the name suggests, this is a game with a hybrid presentation, using 2D, pixel graphics (and classic-style tunes) but married to a 3D presentation. It creates a game that feel perfectly of a piece with the old school games while still adding just enough visual tweaks to keep things interesting.
Mega Man 2.5D features a selection of Robot Masters from across the 8-bit games (classic bosses like Quick Man and Snake Man joined by recently favors such as Tornado Man and Splash Woman). The game gives new interpretations of their stages, with additional gimmicks thrown in to keep things lively, all while still keeping that favored old school platforming vibe. This is a love letter to the classic games with enough touches from the series to make any fan nostalgic.
There are some inclusions that might annoy truly old school fans. For starters, Rush is here (unlocked after you get through the eight Robot Masters), and Mega Man can slide along with his basic running and jumping. Anyone wanting the oldest of old school vibes, such as was presented with entries nine and ten in the series, won't quite get that truly hardcore vibe. I personally liked the inclusion of the slide as it helped to change up the game play and make things move faster, but I'm sure there are some out there that would complain.
At the same time, this game its game play in the NES games realm. There are no power gears in this game, so Mega Man can't overclock his weapons and create powerful abilities. The only time slowing you'll be doing, meanwhile, will be from Time Man's Time Stopper ability. Fans coming into this game from Mega Man 11 will have to get used to the older approach to gaming as this title sticks to what worked through the classic era and nothing more.
With that said, the real reason to come here is to experience the oddball 2.5D graphics. While all the at is done in 8-bit 2D pixel art, the levels are designed with full 3D objects and, in some places, rotation. As you move Mega Man you'll see the edges of the platforms move with your perspective. Everything feels, very much, like it was built from 3D, square-cut objects. There are times where the camera will pan slightly up or down to reveal the vertical space ad Mega Man climbs and falls. All of these touches are designed to remind you, "hey, you're in 3D despite how this looks."
The moments that feel strangest are when the level hits a corner and the view shifts 90 degrees. Mega Man will slide around the corner, the camera will pan, things will lock on the new side of the stage and things progress like normal once more. It's very weird, even a little disconcerting, but these moments are also the tech-demo part of the game. Mega Man 2.5D was inspired by an artistic rendering done by Peter Sjostrand of 2D classic Mega Man rotating along with a 3D space. That led to the creation of this title, and those weird rotational moment were kept in because they're the fuel of the game.
Honestly, as strange as these 3D moments may be, you get used to them. Eventually you even start to enjoy them as they help to change up the space and keep things lively. They do feel like tech-demos, sure, but there are solid moments where the game actually uses the stage rotation and other effects for good use. A climb up a tower late in the game makes the effect a part of its visual language and game play, a key moment that actually adds to the rush and stress of the stage. It wouldn't be Mega Man 2.5D without.
As far as the actual game play, this title feels perfectly set within the classic Mega Man vibe. The Blue Bomber controls as you expect, right down to his jump height and firing speed. If it weren't for the 3D graphic effects this game would feel like another Capcom classic, through and through. That's a good thing, mind you, as it means the game delivers on its old school inspiration, giving fans another solid game in the series to play. This title will sate anyone's need for more Mega Man in their lives.
And I do love all the little touches that were thrown in. From the fan favorite bosses, to the new auto-scrolling sections in classic stages, improves Wily Castle boss fights, and so much more, this title has all the key moments you want with enough thought and inspiration added so the it doesn't just feel like a "best of" compilation. If Capcom were to make a game borrowing elements from all their classic titles, this is exactly the kind of experience we'd all expect them to deliver.
Fan-games get judged on a different level, no doubt. They're done by small teams, with limited resources, simply for the love of the property. The game is free, so this isn't some cash grab from a couple of fans, and that does help its rating out as well. But the fact of the matter is that even if this were an official game in the series, and even if it cost 30, 40, even 60 bucks, I think it would be worth it. Mega Man 2.5 is a game worthy of the Mega Man name and what makes it most impressive is that it was made by the fans.
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