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Indie Nation #33: Mega Man 7, the 8-bit version

1:00 PM on 09.26.2008 // Anthony Burch

It's been a very Mega Man-filled week, and don't expect it to stop anytime soon. I've hopefully got a Rockman-related video coming next week, and, before writing his review of Mega Man 9, our own Jonathan Holmes alerted me to what eventually became this week's highlighted Indie Nation.

Mega Man 7, originally released for the SNES, was rather hit-or-miss. On the one hand, the level design was reasonably solid; on the other hand, the (admittedly gorgeous) sprites were simply far too big, making the game a cluttered  and -- to use Jon's words -- "claustrophobic" affair. The Mega Man games have always been about avoiding enemy fire, and Mega Man 7's sprites made this much harder than it really needed to be.

Enter the fan-made, 8-bit remake. This shockingly faithful mod/demake/port/labor of love changes all the original game's artwork into glorious, minimalist 8-bit. While I still prefer the visuals of the original SNES version, there's simply no question that this remake, with its smaller sprites and expanded camera view, plays much better than the original.

You can get it here (click the thing that says ver.final2). It's a free, downloadable application for the PC. Be careful: though you can only play this game on a computer, don't be fooled into thinking it's some sort of emulation. There's no quicksaves -- this is Mega Man at its most classic, no-holds-barred difficulty level. 

Hit the jump for more commentary and the controls.

Use Z and X to jump and shoot, Q for the inventory, R to reset, and A and S to switch weapons. Use the "CONFIG" executable to change window size.

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Graphics aside, the 8-bit remake also subtly shifts the game's structure to make it more in line with the original 8-bit formula. The SNES version forces the player to fight the first four robot masters, then unlocks the last four. This was unusual for the series, which, up to that point, always allowed the player to fight any of the eight bosses at any time, in any order. The remake reinstates this less linear format, and with good reason: apart from the fact that it makes the narrative delivery a little more convenient, there doesn't seem to be any real reason to split the game into two halves as the original does.

Speaking of narrative, the remake also does away with the lengthy, somewhat unnecessary cut scenes from the original. I think. I haven't actually beaten the remake yet, since I can't quicksave like the coward I am, but I'm at least positive that the bossless first level, in which Mega Man meets Bass and Treble, is totally missing from the remake. The remake also happens to be in Japanese, so I don't really know for sure, but I believe the information from that first story level is simply integrated with the opening, pre-title screen cinematic.

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Once again, I have to commend the creator's design choice. As big a fan as I am of integrated, ingame storytelling, that's just not what gamers go to Mega Man for. We play it for the gameplay, the level design, the inherent satisfaction in taking down 8 powerful boss robots by using their weaknesses against them. Being forced to play through lengthy, boring, story-driven levels just feels counterintuitive to what Mega Man is about, and I'm very glad that this remake shoves literally everything you need to know into the pre-title cut scene. After you hit "Game Start," you're playing a game, not waiting around for an irrelevant story sequence to finish.

That said, though, I do miss the adorable scene where Auto mistakenly gives Mega Man the wrong helmet. I seriously wish there were a way to play through the entire game with that thing on.

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I would never say that I was running the original SNES Mega Man 6 on an emulator because my douchebag Internet service provider would disconnect me, but if I were, then I'd also feel it necessary to mention that this 8-bit remake also runs a lot smoother than the original would on something like snes9x on a computer with only a gig of RAM. If that were the case.

I know I started a previous paragraph with the words "graphics aside," but I really can't express how goddamn great the game looks. Again, I prefer the 16 bit sprites, but the 8-bit art is so well done, so faithful to both the NES games' visual style and the actual look of the 16-bit characters from the original Mega Man 7, that after a half hour of distractedly switching back and forth between the original and this new version, I actually found myself momentarily mistaking the SNES version for the remake. The 8-bit upgrade looks that faithful. Even the opening cinematic, consisting of static pixel drawings of the boss masters, looks so good you could imagine seeing it in a "real" NES game.

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That's something else Jon told me, that I agree with: should Mega Man 7 hit the virtual console anytime soon, Nintendo would do well to upload this version in addition to (or rather than) the cluttered original. In addition to simply feeling more like a classic Mega Man game, making the transition to Mega Man 9 all the easier, it just plays better than the original ever did. That'll never happen, of course, but one can dream.

Anyway, get it. It's the only Mega Man game you can legally download for free, and it's good. Unless you hated everything about Mega Man 7, any Mega Man fan owes it to themselves to try this remake.




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