MEGA MAN 3 / Capcom / NES
The Mega Man franchise is really built on the back of one game - Mega Man 2. Mega Man 2 was so good, reportedly, because the development team was being threatened with cancellation of the project, and they wuvved the game sooo much that they came in during their off time to work on it and make it as awesome as possible. I'm actually not sure how much of that is true, but there's definitely a notable spark of inspiration and passion in MM2 that doesn't quite seem to be there in everything that came after it. That's true of Mega Man 3 as well, but even though the level design is less interesting and they were already starting to reach for new "robot masters" in this one, on the whole it is still quality enough to be one of the top-tier action games on the NES, and one of the better run-and-gun platformers of all time.
This time out, Dr. Wily has apparently turned to the side of good ... but some new mysterious force is planting evil robots in random areas, which is apparently a threat to society somehow, so off goes the little blue boy in his underwear (now with a perpetual look of worry on his face) to evict them before they gain squatters rights. The robot selection this time out was, on the whole, pretty goofy ... I mean, "Top Man"? "Needle Man"? And I won't even touch the unfortunately named "Hard Man" ... once you play through the game you can see how a lot of the robot masters re-use attack patterns of previous bosses, just with a slight variation ... like, Needle Man is basically Metal Man, just with needles, and he headbutts you when he gets close ... and Snake Man is just Flash Man except he spews impotent snakes instead of firing an impotent beam. The levels are likewise a bit disappointing, from the robot cat who tosses yarn balls and robot fleas at you in Top Man's stage, to the long stretches of flat nothingness and rooms that contain only one pathetic enemy hiding behind a shield seen in many other areas. The game is longer than the previous two, but it does that by inserting four "Doc Robot" stages that are just four stages you've already been through with new obstacles and enemies thrown into them.
It still manages to be pretty well-designed on the whole, though. It's easy to be spoiled by Mega Man games because you expect each new one to be more mind-blowing than the next ... but even when they were disappointing, you still have to keep some perspective, put them up against like 90% of the other action games released for the NES and Mega Man still blows them away even on a bad day. That's the case here ... as a Mega Man game it's not tremendously outstanding, but as a general action game it's way better than most everything else of its time and still quite playable today.
* Gameplay Video
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