Mega Man 7 is the seventh installment in Capcom’s Mega Man series. This 2D platforming shooter is the first 16-bit installment in the original Mega Man series to make its way to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. A lot of this will be old hat so I would suggest familiarizing yourself with some of the previous games or at least the general gist of Mega Man before continuing with this review. If you’re still here then let’s just get on with it.
The plot picks up after the events of Mega Man 6 where Wily was put behind bars again. Apparently he had set up some robots that were left dormant so long as they received some type of communication from Dr. Wily within six months. After being imprisoned for those months, unable to contact them, they were automatically activated and started attacking the city where he was imprisoned in order to bust him out. To cut the suspense short, you’ll find out right away that he does, in fact, break free and is back at his old scheming instantly. Or, more appropriately, he never truly stopped that scheming in the first place. You also encounter a new robot, Bass, that challenges you to a fight to test your strength and, upon his defeat, assures you he’s also trying to stop Dr. Wily. So once again it’s up to Mega Man to defeat 8 master robots, do some Wily stages, and ultimately save the day.
The gameplay is very similar to classic Mega Man with the abilities of jumping, sliding, shooting, and charged shots all coming back. Rush coil and Rush jet return. A new item, Rush search, can be used to call Rush into the level and possibly dig up secret items. There are E tanks and W tanks that refill health and ammo respectively. S tanks fill both but you can only carry one at a time. Beat can be found and used to save you from bottomless pits a few times. If you find the four Rush plates you can get the Rush Super Adapter which gives you a double jump via a jetpack and changes your charged shot into a rock punch but does not allow you to slide. There’s a shop where you can use bolts you’ve found in the levels and dropped from enemies to buy items. Some are permanent upgrades while others are refills. The game starts with an introductory stage before bringing you to the stage selection screen. Another difference is that you can only choose from four robot masters at first. Once you defeat these four you’ll have another fixed stage to beat before unlocking the second four. After that you’ll have to go through four Wily stages, including periodic battles with Bass and a rematch with each of the 8 robot masters before a final confrontation with Dr. Wily himself.
While I can see the 16 bit visuals and sound being a plus, I prefer the 8-bit style. The general gameplay feels good, though. The concept works. The boss fights are reasonable with their patterns not being too simple to make them a joke yet not being near-impossible to beat without their weakness. I also appreciate that there are so many little interactive bits tossed in, even if you can miss a lot of them. Using certain weapons on stage elements or robot masters can have unexpected results. For example, if you use the electric weapon on Turbo Man he’ll become even faster! Or if you use the fire weapon you can burn trees in the forest. It adds an interesting layer of depth to the game that builds a good sense of discovery the more you play and figure out because it’s not all just told to you or required to finish. And to be fair, the shop mechanic is a nice new addition to the console games. So there are some things to be positive about.
I guess I just find myself being more negative about this game because a lot of the things that are good are on par or a tad under that of other entries in the series. So all of the negative nitpicks stick out in contrast. The hitboxes can be a bit off at times. It’s kind of hard to judge how far you can walk off of a ledge before you’ll fall thanks to the animation and Mega Man’s standing stance. Most of the secrets in the game are hidden underground and require you to use Rush search to find them. This is okay for some of them, but some of the spots are so poorly marked that you’d never find them without a wild guess or a strategy guide. You can alternatively get many of these items if you find Auto’s hyperbolt which takes another stretch in exploration to find. And these two things kind of butt heads with one another because if you find the bolt then you won’t really need to use Rush search anymore other then maybe finding a few health and ammo pickups. If you get Rush search first then by the time you find the bolt all it will do is halve the prices of items in the shop, which is only now good for those consumables since you have all of the major items it unlocks there. Beyond that, the Proto Shield is a nightmare to get. Basically, you need to find Proto Man in two stages. One of those stages requires you to fall off of a ladder through an inconspicuous wall. After that you need to go to a different stage and walk through one particular wall, yet again not marked in any way, and fight Ptoro Man to get it. Why is this so secretive!? It just feels like they were begging to be featured in Nintendo Power or on some tip line or something. These types of secrets are not well designed. Most of the stages are on the short side and are only notably punctuated by a few annoying or bullshit sections. Small sections, but annoying or bullshit nonetheless. The final boss, on the other hand, is just a flat out bastard. You pretty much NEED to keep all of your E, W, and S tanks for the second form of the final fight if you want any hope of beating this game. That is… unless you’re just insanely skilled. If so, you might only need a couple of each. I can tell you… I am not that kind of skilled. So trust me and keep those tanks.
This section sort of needs to contain spoilers to justify its existence, so please skip ahead to the next one if you’d like to keep this spoiler free. Okay, so a lot of Mega Man 7 feels very by-the-numbers. You’ve got another 8 robots masters, Dr. Wily trying to take over the world, and doing the same old thing gameplay-wise to save the day. It’s Mega Man. The in-game story is even self-aware that this thing keeps happening over and over. The introduction is almost a bit of foreshadowing in that way. The mechanics aren’t nearly as deep as those found in Mega Man X which released earlier on the same system, so original Mega Man with a new coat of paint was almost like a creative box the game had to stay inside. It was painted into a corner by needing to upgrade yet somehow not change. The reason this section is such a spoiler is because I need to address the ending. After defeating Wily he surrenders as always. The thing is Mega Man refuses Wily’s call for mercy, saying he’s going to do what he should have done years ago. Wily, cowering in fear, tries to appeal to reasoning by saying how robots cannot harm humans, to which Mega Man responds by saying he is more than a robot. He also utters the words “die Wily” at busterpoint. Then the fortress quakes and traps Wily in some fallen wreckage. Mega Man inches toward him but Bass and his companion Treble swoop in and grab Wily before escaping, leaving Mega Man with, “He who hesitates is lost,” as the final thing for him to chew on. You then watch the credits as you walk away from the exploding fortress. This is such a strange feeling, but it makes for such a powerful ending. It takes the repetitive nature of the series and applies that to Mega Man’s mental state. He can learn and feel and just like humans he has a breaking point. Wily keeps getting put in jail but he keeps escaping. No matter how much Mega Man tries to follow his ideals of justice, Wily always beats the system and puts more lives in danger. Maybe the only way to stop Dr. Wily is to break those ideals so that no one else has to suffer. It’s a heavy moment, and hearing him verbally threaten to kill Dr. Wily in what has largely been like a Saturday morning cartoon as far as events from the series have gone, it’s an incredibly shocking moment. It gives me chills. The series definitely earned that moment. And imagine that we didn’t get a Mega Man game in a while. That would’ve been perfect! We’d be left with this strange, introspective send off and when it came back it could either be about Mega Man in this compromised mental state of figuring out what justice really is to him, or come back after he has disappeared for a long time in-game too and maybe be about struggling to return to the way things used to be. Mega Man 8 coming out so soon and not following that tonal storyline ruined that potential pretty good, but it’s perhaps the most memorable thing about Mega Man 7 to me. It’s this big payoff for all that setup, and that moment is one I won’t soon forget.
Overall, Mega Man 7 is fine. It’s a Mega Man game. If you like the others, you’ll like this one too. Want Mega Man with the SNES aesthetic? Here ya go. It’s also on virtual console and possibly a few other spots too if you look. I think it’s worth maybe about 15 to 20 bucks depending on how big of a Mega Man fan you are, but it’s definitely not a must-play. A nice budget way to appreciate its impact is to just look up the ending on YouTube, but if you’re on a Mega Man kick then playing it won’t disappoint. I’m almost relieved I have no way to play Mega Man 8 now because THAT looks bad.