Here's a funny story from a Mega Man fandom old-fish. Mega Man X4 came to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1997, and Mega Man X5 came to the PlayStation in 2000. During that three-year stretch without a Mega Man or X game, we assumed the franchise was dead.
Ha ha! Three years. Know how long it's been since Mega Man 10 came to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii? Seven years.
All right. Well. At least we can visit and re-visit Mega Man's best years through game collections. 2015's Mega Man Legacy Collection from Digital Eclipse put on a great show, its only real failing being the lack of games beyond Mega Man 6. Digital Eclipse's Disney Afternoon Collection likewise does a loving job of bundling together some of Capcom's best work. When we got news about Mega Man Legacy Collection 2, we assumed Digital Eclipse would gather up Mega Man 7, Mega Man 8, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10 with the same passion and care it showed to the first collection and the Disney Afternoon Collection.
Then official word came in: Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 is an in-house job from Capcom.
I initially wanted to avoid cynicism. I tried to avoid telling myself, "Capcom saw how well-received the first collection is, and it wants to cash-in while saving a few bucks in the bargain." There's no beating around the Planty, though: Barely a stitch of the love and charm we've come to expect from Digital Eclipse's collections made it into Mega Man Legacy Collection 2.
It's not a bad collection – it's certainly not as dismal as 2004's Mega Man Anniversary Collection – and the games' emulation is solid. But there's a noticeable lack of effort in the bells and whistles that ought to bind the collection together. Even most of the handy-dandy game features Digital Eclipse cooked up for Legacy Collection and Disney Afternoon Collection are gone, and sorely missed.
Here's what makes Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 a tough game to review, though: The games themselves are great, and unlike Mega Man 1 through 6, they're not easy to find outside of this collection. Mega Man 7 can be bought on Virtual Console, but Mega Man 8 is a PSOne Classic (meaning you can only grab it for PlayStation 3, PSP, or PS Vita), and even though Mega Man 9 and 10 can be bought on the PlayStation Store and Xbox Marketplace, neither will play on current-gen hardware. Legacy Collection 2 also marks the first time either game is available on Steam.
In other words, Capcom had a chance to dress up these rare gems from its history, but it slapped a potato sack on them instead. Well, it's a nice potato sack, I guess. It's one of those sacks that has an illustration of a farm and a horse. It's not just a plain canvas bag.
Let's break down each game in the collection, then go over the features of the collection itself. Just let me get equipped with my spectacles and thoughtful grimace.
Mega Man 7 (1995, Super Nintendo)
Mega Man 7 doesn't top many fans' "Best Of" lists, but I think it's more a victim of bad timing than poor programming. By the time Mega Man 7 came out, Mega Man X and Mega Man X2 were already on the SNES – and whereas both those games made a point of advancing Mega Man's classic NES mechanics, Mega Man 7 made a point of going back to them. Unlike his future-brother, X, Mega Man has no wall-jumping capabilities, and no dash. He moves a little slower, and he's a little heavier.
It's easy to see what Capcom was going for, but reviewers and fans were clearly confused. They couldn't understand why Mega Man's skillset would go backward, and I suppose I can understand their irritability. Still, I love Mega Man 7. It has a highly unique look and sound that Capcom adopted towards the end of the SNES' life, then dropped for the 32-bit era. I love its giant enemies, its jaunty soundtrack, and its clever stage design. Its visuals also strike a pleasing balance between "friendlier and more colorful than the X games" and "someone in the art department took one too many sips of hippie water."
Is it perfect? No, no. Not at all. Enemies are bullet-sponges, and I expect the final fight with Dr Wily was designed on a coffee-sopped paper napkin. But I still feel unmitigated joy when I summon the Rush Adaptor and jet around.
Mega Man 8 (1997, PlayStation and Sega Saturn)
Here's one thing that makes Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 an interesting bird: It immediately reminds you how little uniformity there is between Mega Man 7 and 8. The former is a one-off SNES experiment, and the latter is a one-off PlayStation experiment.
Interesting as Mega Man 8 is, it's not my favorite in the series. I'm not overly fond of how stingy the game is with the Bolts that are necessary to buy upgrades and power-ups (though the hunt for bolts from stage to stage takes you to some interesting places you wouldn't think to look otherwise), I don't like how Rush is only called on for very specific circumstances, I don't like the game's lack of E-Tanks, and I don't like its pastel color palette. I really don't like the auto-scrolling jet sled portion of Frost Man's stage. Jump, jump! Slide, slide! Dead, dead!
I adore the awkward, atrociously-dubbed FMV scenes, though. How can I not? Oh, '90s CD games. When I die, my heaven wallpapered with grainy anime stills.
Mega Man 8 isn't my bag, but I understand why fans generally love it. It's good to have it within easy reach on a current-gen platform.
Mega Man 9 (2008, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
It's been nine years since Mega Man 9 was hailed as the Blue Bomber's savior, for whatever that revival was worth. Is it OK to admit I find this game far more frustrating than fun? I appreciate what it's going for, and I respect fans who enjoy letting the game hurt them (as long as a clear safe word is agreed upon first), but I don't dig how often the game asks me to conquer long stretches of single-block jumps while enemies swarm me. Also, the spikes. So many spikes. After playing Mega Man 9 for any amount of time, I see spikes in my dreams.
When I go back to older Mega Man games, they're certainly difficult, and there are certainly moments when they can be cheap. It just feels like Mega Man 9 goes overboard, plus it takes away Mega Man's slide. Why, Dr Light? Why? Did you sell the hydraulics to make money for ill pursuits? Just be honest with me. I promise I won't get mad.
Mega Man 10 (2010, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Am I the only person in existence who'd rather play Mega Man 10 than Mega Man 9? I probably am. That's where I stand, though. Mega Man 10 goes back to making classic Mega Man more hard than out-and-out frustrating, plus playing as Proto Man is a treat (so is playing as Bass, who was DLC in the initial release. You can unlock him in Legacy Collection 2 by finishing Mega Man 10). Also, can we just talk about how Proto Man spends his Bolts in a black market run by a shady merchant who is most assuredly Not Auto? I love that.
Oh, and if things get too intense for you, Mega Man 10 offers an Easy Mode that places safety platforms over difficult jumps and ups the drop rate of power-ups. Go on. Wail, snarl, gnash your teeth. I hear nothing. Nothing!
The Collection Itself
Here's where Legacy Collection 2 fizzles a bit, even if it doesn't outright plop. The basics are intact: Image galleries with nice, high-res images, music galleries (that are noticeably missing the songs that play in Mega Man 8's cutscenes), a couple of screen filters, and challenge modes with boss rushes and level gauntlets. There's also a feature that lets Mega Man take half-damage across all the games, which is nice.
But you start to miss Digital Eclipse's tender touch almost as soon as you navigate through your first set of menus. Unlike the original Legacy Collection and the Disney Afternoon Collection, Legacy Collection 2's presentation doesn't offer any custom art or shifting chiptunes. All the menus' graphics and sound are pulled straight from Mega Man 8. It doesn't look bad, nor is it hard to navigate, but talk about a let-down.
Bizarrely, Legacy Collection 2 offers no save states. Instead, the game makes automatic checkpoints as you play through each game, though these aren't made very frequently. Save states are sorely missed in Mega Man 9, and I'd sell my own mother to a horde of flesh-eating Mettaurs for Disney Afternoon Collection's "Rewind" feature.
Mega Man 7 even has one bizarre oversight in the PlayStation 4 version of Legacy Collection 2: If you change your button layout, you may wind up nixing the button that lets you visit Auto's shop from the Stage Select. It's not hard to fix by reverting the game's default settings, but it's still indicative of how the collection is a bit of a rush job.
And yet, I'm helpless not to recommend Mega Man Legacy Collection 2, even though I ask that you picture me throwing my hands up in the air as I do so. The games are great, they're emulated well, and they're not all easy to find and play otherwise. Have I been spoiled by Digital Eclipse's collections, or did Capcom phone in Legacy Collection 2? The answer is "yes."
Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 gathers up four great Mega Man games that are otherwise hard to find and play. However, Capcom's stitched-together presentation for the titles and lack of extra options leaves a lot to be desired in this post-Digital Eclipse world.