Just over nine months ago, Capcom released its love letter to Mega Man fans everywhere in the form of Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the PS2 and the GameCube. Featuring the first eight Mega Man titles, two previously unavailable arcade Mega Man titles, and a gang of bonus materials, this collection turned out to be one of the single best classic gaming compilations ever put on disc. Now, Capcom is bringing the Mega Man love to Xboxes everywhere. Despite being late to the party, the Xbox version of the game is absolutely no worse for the wear. Though you won't find anything especially new in this version of the game, you will find all the same classic Mega Man goodness that was on the other versions, and at a slightly cheaper price at that.
If you're reading this review, you should know by now what a Mega Man game is and how it all works. If you were born after 1992 or have suffered from an unreasonable fear of friendly blue robots up to this point in time, we'll give you a quick rundown. You (as Mega Man), the protagonist of the series, are a robot with a gun for an arm. The evil Dr. Wily is your primary antagonist, and he has a penchant for creating oddly themed evil robots, ranging from the likes of Air Man (who is just a big fan with eyes and a gun) to Yamato Man (a robotic samurai with a spear). You shoot, slide, and jump your way through each robot's assigned level, eventually defeating the robots' masters. Of course, that's not all there is to the Mega Man games. Once you've defeated each evil robot master, you gain his powers in the form of a new weapon. These weapons are often especially useful for beating specific bosses. Additionally, you can choose to take on any of the different robots in any order, so the strategy in gaining the right weapons for the right bosses comes into play. After you dispose of all the different robots, you then eventually go on to tackle Dr. Wily and another one of his crazy doomsday contraptions, once again attempting to save the world from peril. Lather, rinse, and repeat over the course of eight different games, and that's Mega Man Anniversary Collection in a nutshell.
Each of the eight primary games featured in Mega Man Anniversary Collection is an absolutely perfect port. Nothing's been lost in the translation between generations of hardware--not even the little bouts of sprite flicker many fans will remember from the early NES days. However, while nothing may have been lost, a few things have been gained--thankfully, none of which is a detriment to the whole experience. A few of the conventions from later Mega Man titles have been imported into the older games. Pressing the Y button on the Xbox fires an automatic three-shot burst from your arm cannon, and in every single game, you now have the option to automatically equip any of your weapons or Rush items (or just "items" as they're known in Mega Man 2) on the fly, thus saving you quite a bit of time. The nice thing is that these additions are purely optional, so if you're some kind of crazed purist who demands only the most refined Mega Man gameplay, you'll have it as well.
Another optional change made to the game is the addition of "navi mode." This is the onscreen heads-up display from Mega Man 8, made available in every game. This interface shows you how many lives you have, what direction you need to be going in, and when danger is on the approach. Navi mode also turns on completely remixed audio tracks for Mega Mans 1 to 7. The listing of tracks is basically the exact same as the PS2 version (the GameCube version had some songs, but none were available to listen to in-game). However, also like the PS2 version, there are some strange omissions. For instance, you can play through much of Mega Man 2 with the remixed audio, but a few stages, like Metal Man and Flash Man, just don't have them. All of the remixed tracks, though much higher in production value, manage to still sound completely faithful to the original. All told, if you're looking for something a little different, navi mode is certainly a nice change of pace. Again, if you demand purity, you can simply leave it turned off.
The one addition made to the game that isn't optional is its use of autosave in between each level completed. This replaces the old password system used to save your progress in between bosses--so you wouldn't have to go back to play Quick Man's mind-achingly irritating stage over and over again. (Don't lie. You know you hated it.) Frankly, it saves plenty of time and effort. And, hey, you can always go back to just start a new game if you really feel like schooling Crash Man in three hits with the old air shooter over and over again.
But what would a classic gaming collection be without a bevy of extras? Though Mega Man Anniversary Collection isn't rife with unlockables, there are more than enough for any Mega Man freak to eat up. Aside from plenty of production art and remixed audio tracks, Anniversary Collection also features two arcade Mega Man fighters, only one of which ever saw any sort of release in the US. These games are Mega Man: The Power Battles and Mega Man: The Power Fighters. In these games, you basically just go through a bunch of boss fights against some of the more memorable robotic villains from the Mega Man lexicon. They're pretty light on gameplay or lasting value, but they're certainly worth checking out. The PS2 and GameCube versions both presented platform-exclusive extras. On the PS2, you were treated to a full episode of the Mega Man animated series, while GameCube players got several producer interviews. Now, on the Xbox version, you actually get both. Perhaps this is something of a gift to make up for the Xbox version's lateness--or maybe the extra space left on the DVD was used to fit both onto a single disc. Regardless, they're both cool extras.
Apart from the fact that it features more extras than the last installments, the Xbox version of the game is practically identical to them. Control differences are practically nil, and when compared to the PS2 version's mapping system, the Xbox's system is just about the same. Obviously, when it comes to visuals, neither version of the game really looks any different from the other--and if it did, then there would be something seriously wrong. When it comes right down to it, these are really, really old games that were--for the most part--designed for ancient hardware. If you have a problem with playing games that feature crusty, old sprites and very little in the way of visual detail, then Anniversary Collection isn't going to cut it for you.
However, if you don't mind outdated graphics and if you have any interest in Mega Man whatsoever, then there isn't a single reason why you shouldn't pick up Mega Man Anniversary Collection--unless, of course, you've already bought it on the PS2 or the GameCube. This is simply one of the richest, most well-put-together classic compilations ever made. It manages to refrain from sacrificing key elements of gameplay for the sake of making the hardware transition process easier, and it makes improvements that are great and that just make sense. Not to mention all of the neat unlockables that are sure to please any longtime fans of the Blue Bomber and his many adventures. And on top of all of that, you can't forget the fact that you're getting 10 games for the price of your average budget title. So, to put it all in perspective, if you already own Mega Man Anniversary Collection on another platform, don't sweat it, as you won't find anything new here. However, if you missed the previous versions, and profess yourself to be any kind of proponent of classic gaming, you should not skip out on this one.