Review – MegaMan Unlimited

The never-ending battle of how to write the robot’s name continues.

As the resident Mega Man enthusiast (aka lunatic) here at nJoystic, Capcom’s recent inability to give their beloved robot much life beyond that of a company logo has been pretty hard to sit through. I mean, even with the Legends series never really being my cup of tea, the cancelled Megaman Legends 3 would have at least been something that demonstrated that Capcom still believed in this franchise.

Instead, when Mega Man’s 25th anniversery hit, Capcom joined up to publish the fan-made Street Fighter X Mega Man. After all, developing a game themselves would only interfere with other pressing merchandise. Now, while SFxMM was certainly not bad for what it was, it definitely suffered from the problems I typically have with fan games such as looser controls, rougher level design, and just an overall feeling that the game is missing some polish. It was an interesting brand exercise from a fan which should be applauded, but slapping the Capcom name on the project was truly the least the company could do for their beloved character.

It still remains to be seen what Capcom is going to do with Mega Man besides slapping him on stickers and other crap, but thankfully, fans don’t have to wait for Capcom to lead the charge to get a quality Mega Man game anymore. For another fan had a Mega Man game in the works since before 2010’s Mega Man 10, and it changed every negative notion I’ve had about the potential of fan games.

MegaPhilX brings us Megaman Unlimited, and it is something special.

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Megaman Unlimited began its development as an unofficial sequel to Mega Man 9 but, due to the small team of developers working on the project purely on their free time, an actual sequel would end up beating Unlimited to the punch by a few years. Fortunately, this meant Unlimited would be able to borrow elements not just from MM9, but MM10 as well (such as the ability to switch weapons without going to the menu) which adds to the game’s own vision of the classic Mega Man experience.

Of course, before a fan game can execute its own unique vision, it has to be able to deliver on the series it’s paying tribute to, and that’s where I think Unlimited shines above all the other fan games that I’ve tried. The gameplay of Unlimited plays like an official title in the series. The tight feel to how Mega Man controls (Unlimited plays like a smoother version of MM3 complete with sliding ability), the precise jumps, and the variety of weapons all come together with a frankly baffling level of polish.

The game has the typical 8 robot master stages to go through in whatever order you can manage followed by the final Wily levels. All the levels visually capture the essence of Mega Man, and offer obstacles that are fresh and rewarding primarily due to how creative some of the weapons are. Between a lock-on missile to a space dash, the usefulness of the weapons always falls somewhere between “Power” and “Platforming” which separates the handy weapons from the absolutely essential ones.

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So, for any fan, Unlimited immediately gets props for capturing the feel of the classic series with such accuracy, but what might be more impressive is what the game changes in the formula. This is, of course, provided that you have a little mega masochism in you.

For starters, the levels are noticeably longer. Unfortunately, this will probably only be a positive for die-hard fans, because this makes Unlimited possibly one of the most difficult Mega Man games to finish. As tough as some of the challenges are, the fact that the levels are so packed with them is what really makes that midlevel checkpoint always seem so far away. Like any Mega Man game, your enjoyment of it really all comes down to how much punishment you can take while you’re trying to figure the game out.

That’s not to say Unlimited feels unfair. It, like all good MM games, just won’t pull any punches for you. Even when I was playing through the secret 9th robot master’s stage (an awesome level that takes the classic reappearing block concept and goes absolutely batshit with it) and getting served with deaths and game overs a’plenty, I always knew it was my screw up that was responsible. The game will beat the crap out of you and as it does so, gradually your reflexes improve, and your instincts and patience simply become better.

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For me, that’s the point where I knew Unlimited was not just “good for a fan game”, but a flat-out excellent Mega Man game overall. I’ve been playing these games obsessively for years, and the fact that one can still come around and make me feel like I’ve improved so much by beating it is not a small feat. Unlimited delivers the rewarding feeling I’ve come to love from this series by delivering a ton of polish spread evenly over both the areas of tribute and creativity.

Mega Man isn’t really a series you go for a story (even though Unlimited does have a pretty cool final level for anybody who might care about the continuity of the series), but you go to it for the unique, well-made platforming (not to mention great music). MegaMan Unlimited continues this proud tradition of the classic series while delivering a lot of twists along the ride, thus making this fan-game feel like a real next step for the series.

If you’re a fan, take my advice and stop waiting for Capcom to do something with Mega Man and go see what some of your own people did with a hell of a lot of time and work. And if you’re a series newcomer, well, might I recommend Mega Man 2? I’m just saying that you may want to work your way up to this one.

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MegaMan Unlimited is available for download over at the MegaPhilX website here.