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Time can do some unexpected things to a good concept. Six times, Capcom offered the kinds of experiences that the classic series in the ranks of Mega Man titles that served as the basis for the rest of the pack (from the initial spin-off into the X series to the nerve-busting Mega Man Zero games) that often proved a tough excursion in game mastery. Yet although seven and eight cranked up the nerve factor a bit more for the opening timeframes of the Mega Man universe, the classic experience never made a full transition upward into later generations of visuals (and some fans were even a bit uncertain about the directional change of those two games).
So it was carefully planned for number nine to go back to the 8-bit style once the classic series was revisited once more after a lengthy hiatus, even so far as to emulate the approach to the series from the methods of the renowned second game in the set (as if many of the Blue Bomber's later abilities got lost with time, or were possibly even disabled by the after-effects of one of his encounters with rival Dr. Wily in the process of derailing one of the latter's attempts at world-dominating robotic terrorism). Of course, the series played all sorts of tricks on players in the history of the series, occasionally using the scapegoat approach to drop the proverbial wrench into the mechanics. Obviously out of respect for avoiding unnecessary spoilers I'm not confirming or denying that such is the case once again (although you can probably figure it out yourself) but upon starting the tenth entry you're greeted with a situation where Mega Man's sis Roll is hit with a case of something called "Roboenza" that ultimately turns out to be something like a forerunner to the Maverick strain in the X series. Yes, this time the fight against the endless armies of corrupted robots is personal. It's also the first numbered outing in the mainline series that gives you a few extra choices at the beginning as to how you start and play from the get-go (more on that later).
And though it may seem like the classic games have been done so many times as to make the point look dull (in a maner of speaking) the series fanbase (and perhaps a few others) managed to prove that the formula could still work in the old-school style by supporting number nine with such voracity that this tenth outing was virtually expectable. And like number nine, the tenth is just as good as the one before, as the following will attest.
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Let's take a look at the gameplay, for instance. Although there is some near-obvious expectancy as to when you take on certain bosses (and with what) it stil doesn't make a single dent in the categorical score, as it is simply a part of the overall experience (and has been for virtually every game in the series). It works something like this: each boss has a trademark offensive that you take from him once he's blown to oblivion, which you then use to help even the odds against your next opponent, and Mega Man 10 is no different.
For example, if you drop Sheep Man first, you get his Thunder Wool attack. Since thunder implies an electric shock, you look to find an opponent wo can easily get you wet upon dealing out the damage -- which in this case would be Pump Man. That's the fun of playing a game in the Mega Man series: it takes patience to figure out what attack works best against a certain boss.
Even in cases where the answer seems to be a bit too easy to figure out, the series ensures that using the acquired powers to your advantage gets more difficult as you progress through the game -- and often gives you the choice to pick the order in which you challenge each individual boss. This makes determining the easiest plan of attack a big portion of the series fundamentals, and thus serves as a large portion of the overall challenge. Combine that with every devious trap that Wily plops down in your path (from metal-breaking drops and environmental traps to body-piercing spikes and the constantly-annoying hide-and-show footholds) and you have a recipe for disaster that's just begging to be conquered to your advantage.
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As I previously stated, this is an 8-bit throwback in presentation, so this is rated solely on intent of delivery. Yet there's no denying that number ten does just as good a job at representing the NES graphical style as the one prior to it. From the pixelated characters and enemies to the on-screen visual effects and classic-style boss selection screen, Mega Man 10 delivers a truly authentic experience on par with the original series classics of decades past. Even the visual effects from taking out an enemy robot, whether boss or otherwise, is on par with expectations -- though number ten deviates from certain robot explosions styles of number two by as much as nine did, but such is not enough to make even a single dent in the ratings for this part of the experience.
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As one would expect, the authenticity of the design extends to the soundtrack and audio effects. Every part of the audible portions of the experience screams 8-bit at every twist and turn of the campaign storyline, and stays faithful to the games that entered the series canon prior. In fact, the only reason I took a notch off the score for this element of the game is because the soundtrack, while in line with the expectations of the series traditions is not one of the strongest out there, and nowhere close to the quality of the music from number nine (despite the IntiCreates studio's involvement as it was in the prior outing). Despite this, the storyline does in fact throw a sonic bombshell at you when the game's biggest endgame mission twist rears head-first in your direction which is a nice touch. The fact that number ten also utilizes all-new sounds and music for game menus, weapon aquisitions and the end-game missions intro (as opposed recycling from the second game once more like Mega Man 9 did) is a nice touch as well.
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The presentation is also of great quality, although some elements of the game are slightly out of place as far as the NES games are concerned. That said, these nontraditional elements of the 8-bit Mega Man approach are helpful enough to garner only a single tick off, as they provide some much-needed deviation from the older games in the series. The save function of number eight returns once more in classic-style translation, eliminating the need for the confusing password grids of the original games. On top of that, a helpful item-shopping function, originally built into some of the Game Boy offshoots and adapted to the mainline story beginning with Mega Man 7, makes another old-school transition as well to allow the trading of screws from destroyed robots to be used to manufacture assistive items like E-tanks and shock absorbers between levels. Challenging mini-boss encounters also mix things up with some added twists in the strategies for blowing them apart, and the return of the boss number countdown at the end of it all (combined with other implementations of fan service) add even more layers of authenticity to the package.
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Mega Man 10 also provides good reason to play repeatedly, as well. The game just begs for speed-runs with each time through, especially since the new easy mode goes by so quickly (in about half an hour, in fact) that it provides good reason to play through the game again on standard difficulty just to find out how much your playing ability stacks up among series veterans (especially since it gives you a spot on the leaderboards, in addition to unlocking an excruciatingly difficult mode of play). Oh, and speaking of leaderboards the time attack feature that made its debut in number nine returns to give you another speed-run capability based on individual boss missions. The ability to play as Proto Man from the get-go also provides a nice touch, as well as a deviation from the loss of certain abilities from the Blue Bomber himself (since the red one still has them, even at this point in the storyline) and the availability of a few DLC additions provides extra challenge by adding three new time attack levels, plus the return of Bass as a playable character. Special challenges are also available to give you a chance to put your skills to the test against an onslaught of opponents -- and a selection of mastery trials -- with additional challenges unlocked as you clear paths across the campaign storyline.
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With as much packed in as the one that came before, Mega Man 10 delivers a satisfying, old-school experience that will push you to the edge with plenty of challenge, features and other 8-bit style satisfaction that will keep you coming back every single time. This is as solid as classic Mega Man action gets, even if some portions of the experience (like the soundtrack) could have use some additional work. Series veterans will have a blast while playing through and figuring out the strategies according to series fundamentals, and the easy mode provides an effective means for introducing the series to rookie players with limited experience with games as difficult as the Mega Man series can get. The options for additional playthroughs are numerous across the board, and provide extra challenge long after the campaign storyline is cleared with all difficulty levels and characters utilized to full extent. Simply put, this is another classic 8-bit style experience done right, and a testament to the quality that players expect from this time-honored series that will keep plaers coming back for more.