29 Jul Mega Man Legends is a good game
You all know how much I love a good story. I don’t mean that in a video game narrative sense in this instance, though I appreciate a strong video game story. I love anecdotes of how people may have found a certain series or a title. Mega Man Legends has a nice little story from my end and I’m going to share it with you. I got Mega Man Legends for the PS1 on a warm Friday night in early September in 1998, just a few weeks before I got Pokemon Red on Game Boy, and from the same Kay-Bee Toys!
My birthday is in mid-August and I had received a sizeable gift card to Kay-Bee Toys. There was a shop in my local mall (Broadway Mall in Hicksville). On the first Friday after school started that year, I wanted to celebrate my first week at a new school by using part of my gift card to get a brand new game. When I got off the bus, my mom took my brother and I to the mall to go to Kay-Bee. I carefully walked around the video game section to see what I wanted to get. I think the gift card was for $75 or so, so I immediately jumped at Bomberman Hero for N64. N64 games were generally pretty pricey as the cartridge cost was a little high. I remember Bomberman being about $60-65 USD. However, while awaiting the clerk’s retrieval of the game, I noticed another title behind the counter, Mega Man Legends. It must have been brand new, because I did not see it anywhere before. Upon doing research now, the game was a little bit more than a week old in the States and about a year old in Japan. I was torn, I enjoyed Bomberman 64 but didn’t know much about Hero. I loved Mega Man games, and this looked different and new and it was also at least $10-20 cheaper. I deferred to my mom and asked “Mega Man or Bomberman?” my mom said “Mega Man” so I decided to get Mega Man Legends a game that I feel is one of the most underrated titles of the late 1990s.
How is it underrated? Firstly, it was released in 1998 (In the US) a year where even the biggest and brightest and best of games would get overshadowed by something twice its size. It’s super hard to compete with Ocarina of Time. Final Fantasy Tactics, a game I like better than OOT, is a forgotten classic that only a select few remember and appreciate. Mega Man Legends falls into this category too as something that is both a little revolutionary and a great deal of fun. This game is often written off because many gamers don’t understand what it’s trying to achieve and the sentiment is often misguided and I think that more people would enjoy this game if they went in with the right mindset.
Mega Man Legends does not seek to recreate Mega Man in 3D. It doesn’t feel like the 2D Mega Man games and it certainly doesn’t play like them at all. It’s built to reimagine the characters you know from the original series and put them in a different style of adventure. Whereas Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time sought to rebuild their famous games in the third dimension, Mega Man Legends completely changes the gameplay style. It’s not a fast-paced 3D action platformer, but a slower game about exploration, adventure, and pirates! The Mega Man and Roll of this series are similar to their original counterparts but in many cases it’s name only. My research also shows that this game actually takes place in the same universe as all the prior Mega Man games and spin offs, but very far in the future. Wily is in the game as well, but not as an enemy! He is a friendly boat salesperson who helps Mega Man and Roll on their journey. Mega Man Legends also contains a very 1990s anime style, to the point where I with THIS series was adapted into an anime!!
So if MML isn’t a 3D jump for the Mega Man series, then what is it? Mega Man Legends is a 3D adventure game that focuses more on exploration and discovery than the familiar blasting of endless waves of Enemies. Mega Man Volnutt, Roll Caskett, and Roll’s Grandfather Barrel, are stranded on an island called Kattleox and go on an adventure to repair their airship. The main focus of the game is to venture under the surface of Kattleox and “dig” up treasures found in the ruins of the island. Roll provides support by using junk and scraps to help you build new equipment and improve Mega Man’s abilities. While it doesn’t have outright RPG mechanics, the game’s usage of upgrades and exploration definitely make it feel very JRPG adjacent. This game is more Ocarina of Time than Mega Man, and it had released almost a year earlier in Japan!
Mega Man Legends does a lot of remarkable things for a video game in 1997/1998 that mostly go unnoticed. It is a colorful adventure game that contained a fully voiced cast before Metal Gear Solid. While Resident Evil also boasted character voices, both MGS and RE did not allow their characters to emote much. MML however, due to its animated style was able to create emotion on the face of its characters. It may look simplistic now, but this was a first step toward how game characters show emotion today. Most importantly Mega Man Legends is the first game I could think of that introduced a lock-on mechanic for 3D combat. While Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time gets all the credit for this concept, MML was the first game to employ it over a year earlier. Legends’ lock-on was a bit limited and didn’t allow Mega Man to move while locked, but it’s the first domino in the chain. It helped to create a mechanic that has become an integral part in almost any 3D action game as well as 3D action RPGs. OOT was the next in line to improve upon the elements in MML and in a way, it’s more sensible to compare these two games instead of making the comparison to a Mario title.
MML was a bit ahead of its time. Playing this game before the release of Ocarina of Time makes it feel a bit too odd in comparison as it’s not what Mega Man fans would expect. There are no master robots or mavericks. Instead your main antagonists are a family of Pirates who are trying to take the ancient treasures from Kattlelox for themselves while Mega Man is asked to help save the island multiple times by the Mayor. The Bonne Family are some of my favorite characters from video games in this time period and Tron Bonne instantly became one of my most appreciated characters while playing MML. I wish that her game on PS1 wasn’t so expensive on eBay!!! MML also introduced us to the lovable Servbots who are like if Capcom created the Lego people.
Mega Man Legends feels very different and as a giant Mega Man fan I always appreciate how Capcom was able to take some risks with their mascot character. It’s a quiet game that focuses on the spirit of adventure. It utilizes an overworld and underworld together to give the player a great deal of scope and mystery. The old world robots from under the ground look and feel vastly different from the cyborg humans at the surface. The game play is tight for the time period and while the controls may be a little funky, they make sense for the context of the game. Mega Man does feel a bit like a tank, but he still moves pretty well. I also like how remarkable the customization options are. Just like any Mega Man game, Rock has a large arsenal to choose from. You build your Mega Man the way you want to be built! Mega Man can have his normal arm cannon enhanced with equippable items, but you also have access to special weapons that further diversify your load-out. I’m always a sucker for the laser cannon as it burns enemies down very quickly.
It always bugs me when people strike this game down. It’s a title that people often trash without fully experiencing it, because it doesn’t seek to achieve the same goals as the original Mega Man and Mega Man X games. Legends may be Mega Man in name only, but it’s a special, little game that more people should play. Sadly, you can only get it on PS1, N64, and PS3 digital download. The fan community also received a massive blow in 2011 when Capcom cancelled the Mega Man Legends 3 project. Many still hold onto hope that this game will eventually be released on Switch, but it’s not looking promising. I would love for more people to experience this game as it’s one of the most important steps in the 3D action/adventure genre. I hope that these games see ports to PC or Switch sometime in the near future as I think they would perform better in the modern landscape than in 1998. This game is a great, fun, and colorful adventure game that offers a completely different flavor from other Mega Man games AND other adventure games like Ocarina of Time. It’s delightful.