Mega Man is a franchise most people have at least heard of, but many don’t know that there were two parallel storylines between the console and handheld entries among the series’ output. Mega Man games on the Game Boy would use roman numerals in North American, African, and European releases (when applied) while in Japan the entries on the Gameboy were titled “Rock Man World”. The portable Mega Man games go from Mega Man 1-5 and usually mirror enemies and bosses of two Mega Man games per entry. Example, in this game, Dr.wilys Revenge, you will notice bosses from Mega Man 1 and Mega Man 2 alongside some newer enemies.
The Mega Man GB series houses its own storyline which advances in depth and complexity per sequel, and has unique stage design compared to the console releases. it also has a new type of enemy that appears in all 5 of the Game Boy games, the “Mega Man Killers”, robots specifically designed to destroy Mega Man and are usually the standout antagonists aside from the final boss.
So how well do the portable Mega Man games compare to the console counter-parts? Let’s find out with first. Mega Man: Dr. Wilys Revenge! (Created by Capcom and Minakuchi inc)
Mega Man DWR doesn’t play too differently from the NES(Nintendo Entertainment System) games, although he seems to traverse the stages faster which to me is enough of a change to give this game a few more points than the original Mega Man and Mega Man 2 on the NES. The play control is very similar and you’ll feel right at home if you’ve played any Mega Man title before. The big differentiator here is the stage design, how some of the enemies work, and the weapons.
Unlike Mega Man 1 and 2, which this game is based off of, the weapons in this game are used much more as utilities and are also much more balanced. An example would be that Elec Mans thunder Beam can be used to zap incoming enemies off screen before they can appear, and can cut through multiple enemies at once for a combo. The reflection barrier can be used to deflect attacks away, the carrier item, obtained later in the game, can create platforms for you to stand on, but if you are off the ground it will create a platform under you, preventing you from falling into pits, spikes, or enemies. It can also be used to circumvent those annoying vanishing/reappearing block puzzles.
When you start the game, you will have 4 robot masters on the title screen, Cut Man, Elec Man, Ice Man, and Fire Man. Each given a redesign of their NES stages along with new hazards, such as Cut Mans stage having saw wheels and conveyor belts etc. These stages are not able to be revisited, however unlike the original Mega Man 1 there isn’t a hidden necessary item you need to find. The carrier item, mentioned above, is obtained when all 4 robot masters are defeated.
The boss battles themselves are actually more balanced than the original Mega Man 1 with being able to, with practice, beat all of them with only your standard blaster. Elec Man is no longer the sometimes one-hit-kill jerk he was, and Fire Man is a bit less aggressive, but they still use similar attack patterns that you saw in the original Mega Man 1 for the most part. Once you defeat all 4 of the robot masters you go to Wilys Castle, and afterwards, Wilys Space Station.
Wily’s Castle and Wily’s Space Station are two entirely new stages not really based on anything from the older games outside maybe a few similar assets. When you enter Wily’s Space Station you go through the usual song and dance of using everything you learned so far (aside from the drills coming from the ceiling and the floor) to get to the end. When you are at the last part of Wily’s Castle, you end up at the teleportation room where you see the iconic boss refight hatches. Except these don’t work exactly the same. You see, when you go into any of the four hatches you don’t refight the previous four bosses, they each instead feature a boss from Mega Man 2: Bubble Man, Flash Man, Quick Man, and Heat Man. Defeating each one will give you their weapon as well as make a 5th hatch appear. This is where you will fight the first “Mega Man Killer” Enker. Enker is a complete push over and is so easy I almost don’t even want to mention his pattern. Basically, he stands there with his spear up, absorbing the damage you deal him (while also taking damage) then he slowly put the spear in front of him and shoots a small blast you just jump over, and then he switches to the other side of the room. But don’t think the game gets easy from here because as soon as you defeat him and get to Wily’s Space Station there’s a guy just of screen that, unless you know he’s there, will hit you out of nowhere in surprise!
The Game Boy is of course much more limited in graphical power compared to home video game consoles, and even it’s portable competitors, but Mega Man DWR is a game that actually is extremely impressive for a first attempt at trying to bring the NES Mega Man detail to a small black and white screen. For the most part it looks just like the NES games though everything seems a bit zoomed in. The only issues that occur are flickering and the occasional slowdown that only really happens in a couple areas, otherwise the game runs fine.
The Sprites, outside of the new ones, are basically nearly identical to the ones on the NES. For a first attempt, this is a standout title for the Game Boy and puts most other Game Boy games to shame in how bad many have aged. But this game does a great job of having clean backdrops, relatively fluid animation, and smooth pixels.
The Sound Track of this game consists of remixes of NES tunes for Fire Man, Ice Man, Cut Man, and Elec Man. Cut Man being a standout to me in how superior it is to the original in almost everyway. The rest of the tracks in the game are all new and do a really good job imitating the sound you would hear out of a home video game console for the time. The Sound track actually stands out as better than the original Mega Man 1 and a lot of Mega Man 2, the tones are more consistent, and the beat is more aggressive matching all the chaos going on in every stage. One advantage of the Gameboy games is that since the stages are generally shorter there’s less empty space so there’s always something happening with only periotic small breaks, and the music does a good job of conveying that. The track for the final stage in space however, is a bit more relaxed to match the atmosphere, though feels slightly out of place.
Audio mostly sounds as if you are playing on the NES with a bit more of a ting added on. But jumping, shooting, weapons sounds, and collision audio are all pretty much identical.
Mega Man: Dr. Wilys Revenge is basically a substitute for the original Mega Man 1 on the NES, while also having elements of Mega Man 2 (excluding item Machines and Energy Tanks) to create a kind of “best of package” while at the same time having enough new content to keep you engaged. It’s also one of the few Gameboy Games that have aged well and is faithful to the series as a whole. It’s a game I would highly recommend for those who want to have a fun challenge and for those who don’t want to play Mega Man 1 on the NES. The OST is amazing and stands out among most Gameboy games. The art design is almost identical to the NES despite this being on a weaker device. Capcom and Minakuchi have done a great job and bringing Mega Man to the palm of your hand.