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Mega Man 3 Review Rewind

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On 08/30/2022 at 08:30 AM by Jamie Alston

A Robot Boy and his Dog

An example of good game design worthy of imitation, this is an excellent entry point for those unfamiliar with the early Mega Man series.

For years, there has been a heated debate among fans of the Mega Man series regarding which one is the best of the original hexalogy. After the facts have been laid out and philosophical life lessons thoroughly dissected, the debate usually boils down to Mega Man 2 vs. Mega Man 3. Which is the greater of the two? Well, no matter which side you’re on, we can all agree on the thing- the cover art for Mega Man 3 finally got it right! No more awkward stances or that pistol-for-an-arm-cannon nonsense. Of course, he didn’t look as good as on the Famicom cover, but that’s another argument.

We pick up sometime in the year 20XX when Dr. Light creates a peace-keeping robot named Gamma. And joining him is Dr. Wily- a reformed villain who totally isn’t planning to use the new robot for evil mad scientist stuff. However, Gamma can only be powered by eight crystals, each guarded by a Robot Master controlling heavily armed forces. Wily beguiles informs Dr. Light of the location of the crystals. So Dr. Light sends Mega Man out to destroy the Robot Masters and retrieve the power sources.

Mega Man 3 carries over the familiar gameplay elements of the previous game. Taking on 8 Robot Masters, the heavy platforming, the dot password system, and that freeze-frame when replenishing energy have all returned. There’s a clear sense of continuity between the sequels. However, the game also introduced several improvements that contributed to the early series’ reputation as one of the best action platformers on the NES.

For starters, Mega Man can now quickly slide a short distance on the ground. While it’s a minimal enhancement, it makes for a handy maneuver in battle. The new move can be advantageous when fighting Robot Masters that jump around frequently. You no longer have to worry about clipping them while attempting to leap over them. Mastering the slide technique does much to help you gain the upper hand and hold your own in battle. But most importantly, performing the move is easy, smooth, and natural according to each area's level design. It’s a welcome addition- so much so that I sometimes catch myself trying to perform a slide when playing the previous games that did not include that ability.

This game also introduced us to Rush- the robotic companion dog that became a staple of the original series. He replaces the generic helper items Mega Man received in the previous game. As you progress through the game, Rush will gain upgrades with multiple utility modes- coil, marine, and jet- that help Mega Man reach otherwise unreachable areas or traverse environments easier than without his faithful companion. This dynamic duo of Mega Man and Rush was just what the series needed.

This game is also the first to introduce Proto Man- Mega Man’s older “brother.” His identity isn’t fully revealed until the end of the game, but throughout the game, he drops in from time to time either to “train” you in combat or open up areas blocking your progress. With the new side characters created for the game, by the time you finish the game and see the ending, it becomes evident that Capcom was interested in giving more depth to the characters over time.

Apart from the previous bosses of Mega Man 2, the ones here are my favorite lineup of Robot Masters. Most of them put up a decent fight, even when you’re using the weapon they’re weak against. And while most abilities gained from defeated bosses are moderately useful, the Top Spin ability is nearly useless. You have to leap in the air to use it while crashing your body into an enemy. Unless your timing is perfect, you often take more damage than what you dished out. Thankfully, more useful abilities like the Shadow Blade and Magnet Missile make up for it.

The stages aren’t too difficult, especially if you’re already accustomed to the platforming methodologies common to the Mega Man series. You can expect the usual light puzzles and intentional enemy placements that require some muscle memory in order to survive with minimal damage. Once you make it beyond the initial eight stages, you’ll face the usual gauntlet of tricky platforming and former boss enemies. Thankfully, Mega Man can now collect up to 9 energy tanks throughout the game.

Much like the previous two games, the graphics do not disappoint. By this point, the design team had mastered the use of vibrant colors and well-detailed backgrounds. Combine that with the intricate construction of each Robot Master’s dominion, and you’ve got a winning recipe for an impressive visual presentation. Highlights include the starry blackout in Shadow Man’s stage, the colorful platforms in the lower section of Gemini Man’s stage, and the larger enemies throughout the game that take up about half the screen in length.

A few smaller details were also thrown in that added to the game’s personality. When selecting the stage you want to play, Mega Man’s eyes follow the cursor on the highlighted stage. And after a victorious battle against a Robot Master, he is shown absorbing their power, followed by that weapon’s meter filling up in the sub-menu. It’s a nice visual reward after a well-earned win.

The soundtrack easily rivals the great music soundtrack that is Mega Man 2. The music for the Magnet Man and Hard Man stages loop in a very intricate way that’s difficult to describe but very pleasing to the ear. Needle Man’s theme starts with an almost jazzy synth intro that perfectly sets the pace. The Spark Man theme likewise has a sort of galloping intro that smoothly flows into the main repeating loop. My only complaint is that the intros to both themes are so good that I always want to hear more before it goes into the rest of the melody. Overall, the soundtrack is one of my favorites in the series.

While fans of the series may never stop debating over the superiority of the previous game versus this one, Mega Man 3 is definitely the most polished of the NES sequels. Mega Man’s new sidekick and the appearance of Proto Man were great additions that would later help to keep the series running beyond its formative years. The superb audio and visual presentation round things out to give the player an action platformer that isn’t easily forgotten. And that’s at least one thing that every Mega Man fan can agree on.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

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A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




08/30/2022 at 09:45 PM

Mega Man was one of the few big NES franchises I couldn't get into. I think it was because I wanted to play it like Metroid, and it doesn't play like Metroid nor is it intended to.

I loved Mega Man Legends, though. I was disappointed that the third game got cancelked. I hope Capcom will consider making it for the Switch.

Cary Woodham

08/31/2022 at 03:58 PM

If Capcom made Mega Man Legends 3 for the PS5 or X/S, I would totally buy one of those.

Cary Woodham

08/31/2022 at 03:58 PM

Even though Mega Man 3 is my favorite of the NES titles, I could TOTALLY understand if someone liked MM2 better.

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