As always there is a video version of the review below that this script was transformed into. Overall I love Mega Man Legends a lot and hope some day we’ll get a Legends Collection, a remaster, or a 3rd entry. Until then it’s definitely a game I hold near and dear to my heart.
The Mega Man series and I have a rough history together. That history being, I suck at 2D platforming games and I really want to like them. Perhaps because I grew up more playing 3D games than 2D games my habit of over-correcting my jumps in 3D games has translated to 2D games as well. Either way, seeing as a large number of Mega Man games involve 2D platforming, I feared that I would never have a Mega Man game I would be good at; then Mega Man Legends came into my life. As a child I was gifted Mega Man Legends thanks to my parents who allowed me to buy one game with my new PSone back in 2000. At the time I could not think of any games and let my parents choose, a choice I wouldn’t regret as they picked out Mega Man Legends due to the age rating and the bright colors on the cover. Surely enough, after playing the game I was hooked within the first half an hour and as time has progressed my love of Mega Man Legends has only grown with each passing year, as evidenced by how often I’ve covered this game for the channel.
Mega Man Legends was released for the Playstation in late 1997 for Japan, and late 1998 for the United States and Europe; created and developed by Capcom Production Studio 2, the studio known for creating the Mega Man Battle Network series later for the Gameboy Advance Mega Man Legends was the Blue Bomber’s chance to jump into 3D, something he still doesn’t really do too often even to this day. Series producer Keiji Infaune stated in interviews that he wanted to create a whole new type of experience with Mega Man when designing the Legends series. Wanting primarily to create an experience that was fun for people of all ages to play, and to take the Mega Man series to new heights I would say he succeeded in some of those aspects. While Legends was released to average reviews and middling praise, the game oozes with charm and personality way more than the Classic series and X series do in my eyes. This charm is also present within the story and helps create a memorable experience when looking back at Mega Man Legends’ story as a whole.
Our story begins with our main protagonist, Megaman Volnutt, exploring an ancient mechanical ruin for treasure with the help of his navigator and step-sister Roll. After narrowly escaping the ruins and flying away on their airship, the Flutter, Mega Man, Roll, and their grandfather Barrel begin to have engine problems and are forced to crash land on the nearby island of Kattelox. After crash landing and getting visited by the police to see if there are any injuries, the family, alongside Megaman’s robotic monkey Data, are stranded on Kattelox and must find ways to make repairs to the Flutter so they may continue to try and find Roll’s missing parents and the world’s most elusive treasure, the Mother Lode.
However, not long after crashing on Kattelox, Megaman and his family get caught up in the city’s problem with the notorious air pirate family known as the Bonnes. The Bonnes plan on attacking Kattelox island and its inhabitants in order to find a legendary treasure said to be buried on the Kattelox by forcing the Mayor to give the Bonne Family the keys to island’s multiple ruins. Upon dealing with the Bonnes’ schemes, Megaman is instead given the keys to Kattelox’s ruins and becomes more intertwined with the Kattelox’s legendary treasure, as well as the disaster said to occur if the treasure is unearthed.
But the Bonne Family are not the only antagonist in the game, and while I won’t go into detail about this character in particular due to spoilers for the finale of the game, I will say that this characters shifts the tone of the entire game dramatically to the point where I believe it sours the game as a whole. Mainly because of the tonal whiplash, but also because of the fact that he isn’t really given much characterization due to be an 11th hour villain which is a shame. Lore wise for the Legends series it makes sense as to why they needed to introduce this character, but honestly the writers should have found a way to weave them into the story better so then it didn’t seem so jarring.
Overall the story is serviceable, but with the amount of charm placed within the setting of Kattelox as well as in most of the characters I will say the presentation of Mega Man Legends definitely is better than the Classic or X series was at the time, although I do know I have a lot of bias in that statement. I’m not saying it’s the best Mega Man story to ever exist, as I believe that goes to the interconnected Zero series on the Gameboy Advanced, but even then presentation wise Mega Man Legends’ story is pretty good especially by 5th generation console standards. I just really wish the game kept its consistent tone throughout the whole adventure or managed to weave in the Legends’-lore stuff better or earlier because as it stands now the last 30 minutes always sour the game for me.
So, while the story itself has really only one sour note to speak of in my eyes, how does the gameplay stack up? Often games during the fifth generation age horribly in gameplay department or controls given the transition to 3D, so does Mega Man Legends follow that trend as well? Let’s take a look shall we.
Classic and X Mega Man games were always characterized by three traits: choose a robot master or Maverick to fight, play their stage with platforming challenges, and defeat the boss at the end of the level to gain a new weapon to use in other stages. Come to the Legends series and those traits are thrown right out the window. Using a mixed style of light-RPG mechanics with adventure game elements and you are in for a different kind of Mega Man game. Graphically the game is very expressive; the main characters all have very expressive facial textures that look nice on the models, and still look good to this day and can even be praised given how this was originally a late 1997 game. Even the environmental textures look nice, if one can handle the frequent clipping that occurs with the environment. As for Megaman himself, he’s rocking a whole new slew of changes as well.
To start with, Megaman himself cannot change specials weapon whenever he wants now. If given access to all weapons at once, it would make an already easy adventure a little bit too easy; at the same time the developers probably wanted a reason to justify why the player would return to Roll besides crafting new items and enhancing weapons. A difference though is that the special weapon Volnutt has can also be used in conjunction with the Buster Gun, which is always equipped, except in civilian areas, and can be upgraded with Buster parts at any time in the pause menu. There are a ton of special weapons to craft with roll in the game, way more than Classic and X games have within one game. Certain parts are necessary to create special weapons and can be found around the island itself within the many dungeons that are Kattelox Island.
For dungeons on Kattelox there are a few optional ruins scattered on the island with plot important ruins being more obvious. Defending these ruins are its guardians the Reaverbots, robotic sentries programed to deal with looters. There are multiple varieties of Reaverbots in the game, with some boss Reaverbots as well within the multiple inter-connected ruins of Kattelox island. Reaverbots are also the main source of money within the Legends series: Zenny. Whenever a Reaverbot is destroyed, multiple different colored diamonds spew out of them, and these diamonds are Zenny. Zenny is used for multiple things in Mega Man Legends such as upgrades for your weapons from Roll, items from the Junk Store, and pay for repairs inflicted on the city from the battles with the Bonnes. What can be annoying with Zenny though besides the fact that it disappears within a few seconds, maybe 5 to 7 max, are that the later weapon upgrades can be expensive with Zenny payouts from enemies generally go up slowly over the course of the game. You’ll have to destroy army’s worth of Reaverbots to get enough money to even come close to buying some upgrades, E-Canteen refills and expansions, and much needed armor upgrades.
The other inhabitants of the island, including Megaman’s family, also provide interesting sidequests and dialogue for the player to discover. Most sidequests lead to more weapon upgrades parts or junk parts which is nice, and there is only one main sidequest that I don’t like, the bomb defusal one from the police station, but all others are interesting with some changing the island as a whole. You can do these sidequests whenever you want as nothing is ever locked out based on time in the game, and aspect I greatly appreciate in an adventure game such as this.
Now an aspect of this game that has not aged well to many are the use of tank controls for Megaman himself. Megaman can only go in one direction and the player must use the R1 or L1 buttons to rotate Megaman himself. This leads to the game feel a bit stiff in the control department, but one thing to keep in mind is that Mega Man Legends was released in 1997, long before the DualShock analog controller was made so the design for tank controls doesn’t seem too unreasonable. However, one major criticism I shall give the controls comes in the form of the Lock-on function, which has Megaman fire his Buster or Special Weapon at a single enemy at a time by holding the R2 button. What I majorly hate about the design in Legends 1 for the lock on is that fact that Megaman himself cannot move while locked on and must disengage the lock on before being able to move around. In a fast paced environment where you need to dodge attacks this can be very detrimental and is why I don’t use Lock-on most of the time in the game unless I absolutely have to.
Overall, for Megaman’s first foray into 3D the gameplay works rather well for this style of game and the really responsive controls, even if clunky, combined with the active setting of Kattelox island helps the player feel immersed while on the island. But, one other standout feature of Mega Man Legends has yet to be mentioned, and that is its sound design.
Right upon booting up Legends the player is greeted with a scrolling text wall, fully voiced to set up the world-setting of the Legends series. Benefiting from the added space that a CD-Rom provided, Mega Man Legends was given the full voice acting treatment once more after *checks notes* Mega Man 8…oh no. Now I know what many of you are thinking, mid-90’s Capcom game voice acting? Oh no it’s going to be bad. But the thing is, it actually isn’t. While Capcom has had many examples in the 90s of bad voice acting, be it from Mega Man X4, Mega Man 8, or the Resident Evil 1 Mega Man Legends’ voice acting is very well put together and the delivery isn’t as bad as those other games I mentioned. Capcom really put more effort into voice direction in Legends after probably hearing the reception of games such as Mega Man 8 and Resident Evil 1 from the previous year. Didn’t help X4 though.
Music on the other hand is something that I think Legends 1 is pretty weak with. For the Legends series composer Makoto Tomozawa would lead sound design and music arrangements. While none of the tracks are bad in Legends 1, they are rather underwhelming when compared to his work on Mega Man 7 with really the most famous track coming out of Legends 1 being the Flutter VS. Gesellschaft battle theme. While music is rather lackluster in my eyes, I won’t say the same for the sound effects in Mega Man Legends, which all have a crisp, Playstation quality sound to them. Explosions have a great impact and sound as though they have weight to them, with explosions further away sound lower than nearby explosions; buster shots sound great to fire, be they in short bursts or rapid streams, and the voice balancing throughout all of this is generally well done, with again only one or two main issues popping up in the game. Overall, great vocal performances, with crisp sound effects and a slight underwhelming soundtrack give Mega Man Legends a decent audio experience.
In the end, Mega Man Legends remains a game that did take the Mega Man series to new heights in some regards, but also remained the same in others. With decent presentation and charming and memorable characters Mega Man Legends cemented itself as a nice side series for Mega Man. Introducing a new world setting far removed from the Classic series and slightly removed from the X series helped in some aspects, but the need to lore dump at the end of the game results in a more soured experience, something I’ll get more into with the eventual Mega Man Legends 2 review. Should you experience Mega Man Legends for yourself though? I think if acquired at the right price it wouldn’t be a bad time sink at all. Luckily Mega Man Legends has numerous ports since its launch and given the recent resurgence of Mega Man within the last 2 years I wouldn’t doubt more ports, or possibly even a Legends Collection, could come to fruition. Although if Legends were to get a collection, I’d definitely be one of the last Mega Man compilations I’d see coming out given how few games there are for the series when compared to Battle Network, which can be bundled with Star Force like how Zero was bundled with ZX and ZX Advent. To go through the list of ports for Legends we have Mega Man 64, which I personally believe is the worst version of the game, the Japanese-only PSP ports with controls optimized for the PSP in mind, and the PSN port which can be played on PS3, Vita, and PSP; finally the rare PC port that can get almost as pricy as a PS1 original copy at times due to the higher resolution the game natively runs at. There are problems with each port, PSP having bit-crunched music, N64 having muddied textures, choppy framerate, and highly compressed audio; PC has worse audio quality than PS1 natively and key-rebinding is a pain; PSN copies having emulation issues on Vita if boosting load speeds with PSP digital versions not having the Japanese exclusive’s optimized controls. If I were to choose one that should be played I will always say PS1 original, but PSN isn’t a bad second choice and this version often goes on sale for dirt cheap which is an added bonus.
So, with all those ports in mind, play Mega Man Legends for yourself and see the game that capture the focus of many people from back in the 90s. Maybe one day the series will get a conclusion, but until then this has been Neronium, and I’ll see you all next time.