Monday, June 3, 2013

Game Review: Mega Man Legends 2

Previously on the SDP, I reviewed Mega Man Legends, the Blue Bomber's 3D debut. Now the time is right to cover its sequel!
Mega Man Legends 2
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release:
    • PlayStation, 24 October 2000
    • PlayStation Portable, 8 September 2005 (Japan only)
  • Genre: 3D Action-Adventure
  • Players: 1
  • Save:
    • PSX: Memory Card, 1 block
    • PSP: Memory Stick, 360KB
This review was updated on 13 July 2016.

To sum up from my previous review, I thought Mega Man Legends was good, but not great. The two things working against its favour were its controls and its length. While not deal-breakers, Capcom nonetheless went back to the drawing board for a sequel, and what they came back with shattered all our expectations. ...Depending on what you, personally, were expecting.

The story of Legends 2 is more complex than that of its predecessor, depending on how deep you are willing to take it. It starts out once again on the Flutter, where Megaman Volnutt must put out a fire caused by Data, his monkey save-bot. (He probably was only trying to pour a bowl of cold cereal and milk. Harder than it looks, eh?) So with that crisis extinguished, in more ways than one, your new goal is to find the four keys that will hopefully unlock a treasure called the Mother Lode. There's also a race of moon-people who guard the Mother Lode, and Megaman's sister Roll is on the search for her parents, who went missing while hunting for the Mother Lode themselves. If you choose not to stick around for the cutscenes, all you need to know is that this game is longer than its predecessor: Legends 2 lets you play around in 8 dungeons, 5 of which are mandatory. A speed-run might take you about four to six hours, whereas working to build all the special weapons and complete all the side-quests will clock in at a grand total of 12 to 15 hours. And unlike the original game being focused around one environment, Legends 2 takes place on all manner of different islands, from the snowy Yosyonke to the desert Saul Kada and the ocean-platform Nino. So, that's one criticism fixed from one game to the next. Can Legends 2 fix my other complaint, namely the controls?
Megaman can move whilst locking onto an enemy.
Yes it does -- and without sacrificing the things the original did right. DualShock controllers are fully supported this time around, using what has since become an industry standard of using the Left Stick to walk and run, and the Right Stick to rotate the camera. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this was one of the first games to utilise this format. [citation needed] There's even an option to map the fire buttons to the triggers, making the game play more like the shooters we know and... I don't know about "love", but tolerate today. Even so, I ended up eschewing this in favour of the original control scheme. You know, the one where you use the shoulder triggers to turn? But the controls in Legends 2 manage to top the original in another welcome way. You remember how the first game had a lock-on function which didn't let you move around at the same time? Well, now it's been replaced by a lock-on function which does let you move around at the same time! Troubles may arise when you have to pick one target out of a group, but these moments are few and far between. More importantly, being able to stay aimed at an enemy whilst able to dodge its attacks is pure gravy, and contributes to a feeling of power, unstoppability, and most importantly, fun.

Speaking of unexpected upgrades, Legends 2 has numerous surprises for you if you compare it to the original. For example, certain attacks can deal status ailments, as seen in many traditional RPGs, such as fire, paralysis, and the dreaded Energy Drain, which not only empties your special weapon gauge at an alarming rate, but cuts your regular Buster's range to an unusable distance. Okay, so maybe that's not so fun, but I appreciate the effort to add stuff to the game. Like the side-quests and bonus games, such as the jet-shoe races and the trivia quiz. I'm not kidding about that last one. There are also auxiliary ruins, which do not provide plot coupons, but are good for money and gear. Not that I need all the extra swag as an excuse to take them on; dungeon crawling is the strong point of both Legends 1 and 2, so it was nice of Capcom to give us even more of it. Furthermore, the graphics got a huge boost from the first game. Textures are more detailed, and even the money pickups look better than before. That's the level of detail we're dealing with, people.
He can also suffer status ailments.
The good elements of Mega Man Legends 2 are so amazingly good, but -- pardon the spoiler -- I won't be giving this a perfect score. Although many elements were improved from its predecessor, there is one aspect in which it took a step back. In the first game, if you wanted to change special weapons, you could call upon Roll's support car and carry out this function from anywhere in the overworld. But this time around, that feature is gone. With scant exceptions, you'll have to backtrack to the Flutter's landing site whenever you feel your equipped cannon, missile launcher, or drill is not up to task. However, at any time, you are able to go to the pause menu and switch between your special weapon and the Lifter, to pick up objects. (Which, by the way, isn't used too often, but is another welcome addition to the Legends formula.) Would it be too much to ask for the ability to switch between even one more special weapon?

See, this is why I think the Mega Man Legends games sold as poorly as they did (the first game sold less than a million copies worldwide; Legends 2 sold under half a million). It's things like that which create an experience which is just similar to the classic Mega Man formula, but only on the most basic levels. It is my conjecture that if instead of the Legends we got, the first 3-D Mega Man followed the more traditional... traditions of playing levels in any order and using special weapons from the bosses, albeit utilising the exact same engine and control scheme of Legends, it would've been a more palatable experience for the rest of us. Then again, I'm guessing a lot of people who like the Mega Man Legends series like it for its story, so forget about it.

And then there are the underwater ruins -- two of them in fact, the second being optional -- where the frame rate takes a dive, pardon the pun. If you thought the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time was the worst water level in all of gaming... you'd be right, but at least it runs faster than this! (I'm told this was fixed for the PSP version, however -- once again -- it was not exported out of Japan. Yes, I know the PSP is region-free, but there's still the language barrier to get over.) Still, while this moment was not what I'd define as fun, it's only a fleeting moment of un-fun in one of the most fulfilling video game experiences around.

Recently, I've been trying to take stock of my favourite video games of all time. So far, my list includes titles like Super Mario World, Doom, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Half-Life 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Just Cause 2... notice a pattern? They all built off a previous title, but surpassed its predecessor in terms of both quantity and quality. In that regard, I can say with a clear conscience that Mega Man Legends 2 is both a stellar sequel, and a worthy addition to my list of favourite games. Once you experience such customs as the new lock-on system, you'll wonder how you ever managed playing the first game without it. And I'm not saying all sequels need to do that, but a good sequel should fix what was wrong about the first entry whilst expanding upon its strong points, and it is in that regard which Mega Man Legends 2 succeeds with flying colours.

Edit 13 July 2016: Oh yeah, and Legends 2 is finally available on the PlayStation Store, just US$10 for PS3, PSP, and PS Vita. Considering that original hard copies of the game have become quite rare and expensive, you now have no excuse not to check it out. Seriously, buy it now. That's what the Dragon Award is for (pardon the spoiler).

+ A far longer game than its predecessor.
+ Many interesting environments and characters.
+ Analog control support is available, if you're interested.
+ The lock-on function improves the flow of action.

- The lock-on function may not always pick out the right target.
- Dealing with status elements can be frustrating.
- Changing special weapons is less convenient than in the first game.
- The slow-paced water level.

Control: 4 Refractors out of 5
Design: 4 Refractors out of 5
Graphics: 5 Refractors out of 5
Audio: 5 Refractors out of 5
Value: 5 Refractors out of 5
The Call: 90% (A)

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