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ion ray avatar 3:53 PM on 02.26.2011  (server time)
Groundhog Day: In the year 200X...

When I first tried to think of a subject for this month’s musing topic, a few different ideas sprang to mind. Sure, I could have talked about the hours I’ve spent just wandering the mountains of Vvardenfell. I could have gone on about Arcanum, the game I’ve restarted so many times, yet never actually finished. But I would have had to ignore my instinct. I would have had to ignore that one, lone syllable that kept repeating in my mind when thoughts first crossed the topic.


I could not escape thoughts of a singular robot. Of course, I am talking about the Blue Bomber, Mega Man. Specifically, about Mega Man 2. I often think about what my top ten games of all time would be. The desert island list, as it were. While it always seems to fluctuate, there are certain games that will always remain on that list. Things like Chrono Trigger and Resident Evil 4 always make their way around on that list, but Mega Man 2 is the biggest constant.

Mega Man 2 found its way to North America in July of 1989. I honestly don’t remember when I first played it, being a month short of turning five at the time of its release, but I do remember being blown away by it. At the time, the graphics were nothing short of incredible. Sure, Mega Man himself had not changed since his first iteration on the NES, but everything around him was getting bigger and better.

As soon as I turned my NES on…then off again…then blew on the cartridge…then turned it on again…then hit the reset button a couple of times…I was eventually greeted with the greatest animation my young eyes had ever seen. An epic tale was being spun of the continuing adventures of the heroic Rock over the backdrop of the futuristic landscape of the year 200X. Up and up the camera rose as the music grew to an exciting crescendo…and then there he was. Helmet off, hair whipping in the wind high atop the tallest skyscraper, staring over the city he was determined to protect. I was right there with him, hands gripped around my controller (much more appropriately sized back then), ready to leap into the robotic fray.

I was hardly prepared for the challenges Mega Man 2 had in store for me. Now, there were eight robot masters, all hand-crafted by the nefarious Dr. Wily, all determined to make scrap metal out of the robot whose destiny I held in my hands. At first, Wily made good on his dastardly machinations. I was no match for the insidious traps that had been laid out before me. I was struck down, time and time again, even by the lowliest Metalls. I was terrified by the giant Hot Dogs that guarded the entrance to Wood Man’s inner sanctum. I had a deep-seated hatred of Sniper Joe and his blasted shield before I even laid eyes on Dr. Wily’s fortress.

But I pressed on, I learned from my pratfalls, copied down so many grids of red dots, and eventually (admittedly, with some help from the NES Atlas) was staring down the outer walls of Dr. Wily’s impressive fortress. My skills as a young gamer had never before been so thoroughly tested. Not only would I need to utilize all the resources I had collected, I would have to be incredibly precise in doing so; unlike the robot masters’ levels before, my weapon energy would not automatically refill upon defeating a boss. Each boss in Wily’s expansive, dreadful castle was a gigantic, beautiful monster, which both amazed and intimidated my childish mind. I had just learned how to navigate the dreaded disappearing blocks of Heat Man’s stage, and now the game expected me to jump for my life, one brick at a time, away from a huge, fire-breathing, robot dragon! Eventually, I made it through. Past the giant Mecha Dragon, past the enormous Guts-Dozer, though all eight robot masters again, and then there he was. Dr. Wily. I had made it so far, and was determined to see this adventure to its end. He may have had his deadly Wily Machine, but I would not let that stop me. After depleting his life bar not once, but twice, I thought I had earned my glorious ending.

It was a trick!

Wily escaped, dropping my most mega of mans into an ominous pit. There was no music. When I found passage at the end of the descent, there were no enemies, just corrosive, blood-red liquid dripping from the ceiling. I navigated to the end of the cave and there it was: the final gate. One last oh-faced jump through that one last shutter, where the only thing standing between me and the sweet, succulent nectar of victory was the twitchy brow of Doctor Albert W. Wily. I confronted my nemesis and he leaped in the air, transforming into an alien life form before my very eyes. I would not let this stop me. I had defeated every enemy Wily had put in front of me. This was the final stand!

I cleaned his clock.

With bubbles.

[Note: This video shows the ending. If you somehow haven't seen it by now and don't yet want to, don't watch this. And probably skip the next paragraph.]

In the end, it was another of Wily’s tricks. A hologram, which I had trounced, revealing the doomed doctor, who upon realizing his defeat, threw himself pathetically at my feet. I won! After so many defeats, my efforts paid off. Mega Man and I walked proudly off toward the sunset. The credits rolled, and Capcom thanked me for playing their game.

I still thank Capcom for providing me with such an experience. If I am at home with some time to kill, I go to Mega Man 2. Honestly, I play through the game almost once a month. Everything about it is still captivating to me. Every song is an incredible piece, always fitting. Every pixel is perfectly placed in my eyes. And so many of the enemies are insanely weak against the Metal Blade, especially Metal Man himself, which is still entertaining almost twenty-two years later.

Just as learning to do well at Mega Man 2 is about sticking to patterns, I have patterns I always follow whenever I play. I always play the levels in the same order, always ending with Wood Man, because I still delight in obliterating the absurd notion of a robot made of wood with one charged blast of Heat Man’s weapon. I always hold Up and A before the start of levels, changing the background of stars to robotic birds. I know the jumps and the timing to get through Quick Man’s lasers of doom unaided by Flash Man’s Time Stopper power. I still laugh at the large Air Tiki robots in Air Man’s level that look like The Simpsons' Moe Szyslak. And of course I leap like a madman through every robot master’s shuttered gate.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. The more that video games grow and change, and more importantly, the more I grow and change, it is nice to always have Mega Man 2 around. Playing it is like sharing stories of memories past with a close, long time friend, and realizing that as different a person I might be now compared to five, ten, or twenty-one years ago, some things will stay wonderfully the same.

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