MEGA MAN 8 / Capcom / Playstation
Mega Man 8 rights the ship for the Mega Man series in a number of ways after the oddity that was Mega Man 7. The sprites have been scaled back down to a better ratio in regards to the screen size, but it's still full of brilliant color and detailed animation. The gameplay is now at a more crisp and familiar pace, with no more sludgy movement and weird delays in buster charging. And the one new aspect of MM7 that *did* work - Auto's shop and the collection of "bolts" to buy power upgrades - returns in a slightly modified form.
Unfortunately, you can tell the Mega Man X team had their hands in this one, and a number of the problems from that line of the franchise have now been ported over to this one. Foremost among these is the iffy, death-trap-reliant level design, that requires you to frequently die a bunch of times to memorize what's coming. It's not as bad as the worst of the MMX offenders, however ... at least until you get to Frost Man's stage, which I think is quite possibly the absolute worst level of the entire series. And unfortunately, it's a requisite to complete the opening four stages and open up the rest of the game, so if you get irrevocably stuck on it, the game is basically useless to you unless you cheat past it. The problem with the level is that it's made up of two long snowboarding segments, which are basically a long series of fast jumps and slides that kill you off if you screw up once. The control is so finicky, though, and jumps tend to be so weirdly unresponsive, that it becomes massively difficult to the point of controller-hucking frustration. Mega Man has certainly had little segments like this here and there, but never has the bulk of a whole level been built on such a stupid gimmick, and it's just a complete failure.
There's a few other, more minor issues. The first is complete unoriginality - I mean, literally, Frost Man is Frost Walrus from MMX4, just without the Walrus. The second is that there's a sort-of-port of this game on the SNES, called Mega Man & Bass, that's not only actually better than this game, but it looks nearly as good running on a 16-bit console. I appreciate pretty 2D graphics and fluid sprite work, but it was starting to seem at this point like Capcom didn't really care to try very hard. Finally, though Mega Man has clearly never been a "for mature audiences" sort of game, the tone here really shifts hard into Kiddie Anime territory, with some cut-scenes that look like something from the Mega Man Saturday cartoon, and some of the most halfassed and laughable voice acting in the history of gaming.
* Gameplay Video
* Brilliant dialogue
* Stirring voice acting