Still got it

Remember how I was briefly pretty OK at Mega Man 10′s Special Stage 1?

Well, my time on clearing Special Stage 2 is holding up quite a bit better. Monday evening I managed to get the #6 spot on the leaderboard with a time of 2:27:83. The score was still there, albeit having dropped to around #27ish, Thursday evening. I then managed to slightly improve my time to 2:24:91, which is as of this evening at #22. That’s five days on the Special Stage 2 leaderboard.

I guess either the other players are having even more trouble with Special Stage 2 than I, or there simply aren’t as many people trying to get on the leaderboard this time around.

I don’t think I’m going to improve my time much more than 2:24:91, certainly not without figuring out a way to effectively use the Mirror Buster against Punk. It’s his weakness, but I have a really tough time trying to hit him with it. The only way to use it offensively is to reflect the enemy’s shots, and I haven’t figured out Punk’s pattern well enough to do it reliably. It takes me significantly longer to beat him with it than it does just using the Mega Buster on him, since at least with that I can hit him rapidly.

Also, it takes me about 1:40:00 to get to Punk’s room, which is about the same as the #1 score on the leaderboard to clear the stage entirely, so there’s clearly room for improvement elsewhere too. I have an idea what parts I need to speed up in (since they’re the ones where I’m not constantly moving forward), but it’s really hard to keep moving without getting hit and losing even more time from getting pushed back.

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#17 is the new #1

For a brief time in the late afternoon (Eastern time) on Monday, April 5, 2010, I had the world’s seventeenth fastest time on Mega Man 10‘s Special Stage 1.

What’s that, you say? “Pics or it didn’t happen“?

17  CAPTDERIV  2:54:86

By around 9 pm that evening, my score had dropped to #30, the very last place on the leaderboard. Since then it’s fallen off completely, and now the bottom spots are dominated by the sorts of times that were at the very top when I was #17. As of this writing, the current #1 spot is over a minute faster than my time. This blog post shall stand as the only persistent record of my accomplishment.

What was the secret to my fleeting success? Playing Special Stage 1 many times the day it came out, before the people who have way too much free time on their hands had a chance to fully learn the stage and claim the top spots. It’s easier to rank if everyone you’re competing against is just as new to the stage as you are.

If you want to follow my lead, Special Stages 2 and 3 get released on April 26.

Mega Man 10

Mega Man 9 was a great game. It took everything that made the early NES Mega Man games terrific and built on them, and avoided the traps that made the latter games me-too rehashes of the same basic gameplay. It played off of the player’s expectations of how a Mega Man game plays out, slipping in traps to trick and surprise anyone who grew up playing the original games. (And its increased difficulty modes in turn played off the player’s expectations from having played the game in normal mode, instead of just making enemies harder to destroy.) The weapons are nicely varied and often have dual uses, such as Tornado Blow hurting all enemies on the screen and boosting your jumps a bit thanks to the updraft. Mega Man 9 easily ranks in the same tier as Mega Man 2, one of the greatest games of all time, period.

Mega Man 10, on the other hand, is a good game. Not great, but good. It’s a pretty solid game, but definitely not as innovative as its predecessor.

The weapons are somewhat harder to use effectively. Several of them have a two-stage attack, and only the second stage deals significant damage. For example, the Commando Bomb‘s blast waves are more effective than hitting something with the bomb itself, and the Thunder Wool‘s lightning bolt is much stronger than the cloud that rises up from Mega Man’s arm cannon to fire it. It’s good to not have each weapon just be a differently-shaped projectile, but it can be tricky to aim for something near your target.

(Speaking of Sheep Man, I get the distinct impression from playing the game that he was originally supposed to be something like Thunder Man. They tried to make him look like a robotic cloud, but it wound up looking more like a robot sheep, so they ran with it. It would certainly explain why Sheep Man’s stage is electricity-centric rather than pastoral.)

The individual stages aren’t bad, though the gimmicks in them aren’t quite as fun to play through as they were in Mega Man 9. The disappearing blocks (heh heh) in Sheep Man’s stage are neat, but the see-saw thing in Blade Man‘s stage is more tedious than anything. Some stages have branching paths, which is then taken to a bit of an extreme in Wily Castle 1, where the branches themselves have branching paths.

I don’t think pointing out that Dr. Wily turns out to be the villain warrants a spoiler warning.

Wily Castle is the high point in the game. The bosses in particular are pretty great, riffing on past games and, in one case, a minor Internet meme? I really like the music for the Wily Castle bosses, and I think it goes particularly well with the first one. I also suspect that anyone familiar with Mega Man 2 will do the exact wrong thing out of instinct when they first encounter Wily Castle 3′s boss, like I did. That’s the subverting-player-expectations thing that Mega Man 9 did so well. And the final battle has a decent variant of the requisite fight against Wily Capsule.

By the way, Dr. Wily has tried to take over the world nine, or maybe ten, times already. Who keeps issuing him building permits for new Wily Castles? It’s not like he could build his latest Wily Castle in secret.

Why do I say nine or ten? Mega Man & Bass is a classic-series but unnumbered Mega Man game, so technically Mega Man 9 is the tenth in the series, and Mega Man 10 is the eleventh. Mega Man 9 supports this by referencing each of its nine predecessors in its ending. However, Mega Man 10 only calls out to the nine numbered classic-series games before it, completely ignoring Mega Man & Bass. And it’s not as though Inti Creates isn’t aware of Mega Man & Bass, since they developed both Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10. It’s odd.

The plot makes no sense, even by the low standards of Mega Man games. Ostensibly, Dr. Wily needs Mega Man and Proto Man’s help to recover the components of the Roboenza cure machine from the infected robot masters who stole it from his lab. And it is reasonable to think a mad scientist who spends all his time making killer robots would be interested in not having them infected by a virus. But it turns out that Dr. Wily was behind Roboenza all along! So… why wouldn’t he already have the cure stockpiled somewhere, or design Roboenza so infected robots didn’t steal his stuff? They were his robots, too, since they have DWN-series numbers. Any why would he give Roll a functioning cure capsule, if he wants to trade the cure for robots’ loyalty? Or why not just use his close access to Mega Man and Proto Man to infect them directly? Was Dr. Wily just hoping that Mega Man and Proto Man coming into close contact with the infected robot masters would cause them to catch Roboenza? It seems needlessly indirect, especially when he’s right there in Dr. Light‘s lab working on the cure machine.

Dr. Wily’s plan here makes the whole Mr. X thing in Mega Man 6 look downright genius by comparison.

Mega Man 10 does have an easy mode, which apparently has some people up in arms. Normally I’d say “if you don’t like it, don’t play it”, but you do need to play through it to unlock some of the challenges, without which you can’t get 100% completion on those. Easy mode also counts for the in-game challenges, which I’m not entirely sure I like. My second play-through was on easy mode to unlock some of the challenge stages, and without trying too hard I passed the challenges for beating the game under an hour, beating the game without dying, and beating the game without using any E-, W-, or M-tanks. (Granted, though, I did go through a few Shock Guards — even easy mode can surprise you with spike traps.) I’d like it better if the in-game challenges distinguished which difficulty level you beat them at, just like how some of the challenge stages distinguish between getting through the stage and getting through without taking damage. But beating the game without taking damage would be difficult even on easy mode. Doing it on hard mode… wow.

The challenge stages are a good way to practice fighting the game’s bosses without playing through the appropriate stage first, and they also give you a chance to practice with each special weapon and explore the full extent of its capabilities. I wasn’t aware, for instance, you could use the Wheel Cutter to climb walls, until I went through the challenge stage where it was needed.

If Mega Man 9 is on the same tier as Mega Man 2, I’d say Mega Man 10 is somewhere between the original Mega Man and Mega Man 4: still good, but a bit disappointing, especially when compared to its predecessor. I’d be apprehensive about the prospect of a Mega Man 11, since it doesn’t look like they’re going to top Mega Man 9 anytime soon.

Get Equipped With

I just learned what will be bumping River City Ransom off the first page of my Wii’s menu: Mega Man 10.

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