This post is related to another one I’m writing on what this fan project means for Capcom. I HOPE to finish both around the same time, but bear with me in the event I don’t. Notwithstanding all the issues that come along with a fan made game, namely that they typically will be subject to take down notices for copyright infringement, MegaMan Unlimited is very good.
From what I’ve been picking up from the website of the creator, and random Google searches over the last few years, this was a 5 year project that came from the mind of one guy, who with the help of a group of programmers working for free made a classic Mega Man sequel. It does not appear to be sanctioned by Capcom, and I’m utterly confounded as to how it wasn’t blocked from release through the use of legal action. This game is free to download and has been reviewed by Screw Attack, Geek Insider, Destructoid, and others. It’s as legit a fan project as could be made. If you want like these old NES games and want a fun, challenging experience, download this before it’s taken off the net.
The level design, menu layout, cut scenes, and character design are surprisingly on point with the classic NES feel the game is trying to ape. Backgrounds and menus are generally colorful and animated. Primary colors that pop with bright animations are standard. In sum, it’s fun to look at, as it should be. There is even a hidden bonus stage that definitely ups the challenge even more.
Some flaws are present though. A careful eye will pick up that certain designs are not as expertly polished. One is the use of a “blurring” effect for certain boss animations that I certainly can’t remember from any Mega Man games on NES. The idea is that the original animation frames didn’t look good for slower, so a blurred frame which merges the animations together between the two was introduced. A sneaky and creative workaround, but also not standard. Capcom would have probably just figured out a way to do it with two frames correctly.
Some of the cut scenes and post-level weapon screens also have some expressions on character faces that don’t seem to be consistent with other games either. Capcom wrote itself into a wall with the original franchise. The games had deliberately campy stories, and enemies were menacing and goofy in a style that only anime can be used to convey. So it was difficult to have things like character development, or to treat the games as anything other than episodic. This manifestation tries to add a hard core edge to the series that was never there, and in fact seemed to be intentionally designated for the X-series of games.
Music is also another story. Most of the tracks fail to stand out, and a few are just annoying. It’s not easy composing with such a limited number of tools, and the music has the feel of a classic NES game, it just doesn’t give a high level of energy into the endeavor.
But overall, it’s an A- clone that could easily pass as a real Mega Man sequel.
The gameplay is supposed to be intentionally derivative here. It’s in the mold of a the classic Mega Man 3 format, the inability to charge up, but the preservation of the slide. Without an explicit NES emulator, the program works exactly in terms of timing and character abilities as a traditional Mega Man game. Controls are crisp, although I’d recommend the use of a controller for ergonomics over a keyboard. Keeping the original specs as far as movement is an important element, but another is the supporting cast of characters, which are carefully designed to not be do overs of other Mega Man characters, but are totally new to fit the new stage themes.
And the new stage themes all feature some unique feature that mixes up the game play. The Rainbow Man stage features the instant-kill beams from Mega Man 2’s Quick Man stage, but couples this with little geometry puzzles. The Jet Man stage introduces movable treadmill platforms. Glue Man’s stage features sticky surfaces that restrict mobility. These concepts are also combined with some recycling though, such as the use of the outer-space gravity jump originally seen in Mega Man 5 (which is really the same as the underwater jump if you think about it), and the reverse-gravity flip (again seen in Mega Man 5 initially).
What you’ll read in the other reviews is that Unlimited is quite difficult. It is, and at times it seems unfair. It’s fair to say it is harder than any of the actual original games on NES. That being said, the level design is deliberately challenging, but not impossible. Most of this doesn’t have to do with individual traps, but rather the number of traps. The stages tend to be about 30-50% longer than in the original games. Although that doesn’t seem like that much, it’s just enough to set it apart from the originals.
Another notable change is the timing needed. Tolerances are a little tighter here, and when you need to slide, the game makes sure you know it. Generally you’ll need to be a little quicker than some of the original games. With that being said, the slide was never that well integrated into the actual Mega Man games it was initially featured in. It just seemed like something that was thrown in. Here it is expressly needed in certain circumstances though, namely in boss fights.
One point I’d like to make though is that the difficulty is well-managed and very deliberate. Although there are traps that seem a little sadistic at first, there is always a correct way to get around an obstacle, and possibly a few with the use of special weapons. This isn’t the case where it wasn’t tested or was just thrown together. It was engineered. The special weapons range from rather limited in use, to very powerful, including one that gives both mobility and invincibility (which is definitely not standard). Part of the brutal difficulty is also mitigated by allowing carryover of lives and E-Tanks by allowing access to a shop.
Ultimately, as I explain in the companion post, Capcom should not have allowed this game to be made and distributed. It will be taken down at some point. Still, it’s interesting to see what a group of motivated fans with programming skills can do these days. It’s 95% as good as the real thing. In the meantime, if you have a cheap Logitech gamepad for PC and an interest in dusting off your rusty thumbs and testing your Mega-ing skills, download Mega Man Unlimited before it’s too late.