An entry from the classic and long-running Mega Man series has been sorely absent from the Nintendo 64's library for most of the system's life, but this gap has finally been filled with Mega Man 64. The question is how well does it fill this gap? The answer: not very well at all. A port of the 1998 PlayStation action-RPG Mega Man Legends, Mega Man 64 is an entertaining game at its core. Unfortunately, the game's age and imperfections do a lot to hinder enjoyment of the game.
The Legends series is drastically different from other games carrying the Mega Man name. Instead of a hard-core side-scrolling platformer, Mega Man 64 is an action-RPG about a boy in another world, named after the popular video game hero. After crash-landing on a remote island, the boy-in-blue soon comes face to face with the comically nefarious band of pirates known as the Bonnes, and he begins to unravel an ancient mystery surrounding the area.
At the start of the game, you'll be guided through a brief tutorial by the voice of Mega Man's childhood companion, Roll. Basic maneuvering is accomplished using the analog stick and the L and R buttons, and you'll soon learn how to jump and cling to ledges, execute an evasive roll to the side, and limber up your trigger finger in the process. An auto-aim feature is always in place to help the player with slight adjustments. There's also a separate lock-on function, but you're required to use the L and R buttons simultaneously to enable it on the N64 controller, and you're unable to move when using it.
The controls may take a bit of getting used to, but once you've got things down, gameplay is simple and enjoyable. Throughout the course of the game, new events unfold and new areas become available both in town and out. Residents of the island will bring up new topics and engage in new activities regularly, and your interaction with the citizenry is rewarded with special items and information. Everything from trashcans to a rack of dirty magazines can be investigated for a description or hidden item.
By finding parts and items within ruins and spending his hard-earned cash, Mega Man becomes increasingly powerful throughout the course of the game. Some of the more useful equipment can only be acquired by tracking down several components that Roll can then combine into a single item. You'll also be able to shell out money to increase your life gauge, increase stats for your special weapons, and provide yourself with better armor.
RPG elements are fairly prevalent, but there's a good bit of action to be found along with the exploration and interaction. Mega Man clashes with Reaverbots and the persistent Bonne family above and below ground, and you'll also participate in air and sea battles--all complete with giant mechanical bosses begging to be sent to the scrap heap. One downside to the action is that even the town and outside areas are fairly small, and they are divided into segments and corridors like the dungeon that lies below it. It's also somewhat troublesome to have to exit a dungeon and talk to Roll every time you want to switch special weapons, but this is more of a design choice than an inherent flaw.
The major shortcomings in Mega Man 64 stem from the game's essentially being a straight port of a PlayStation game designed some four years ago. Engaging and colorful characters such as the maniacal Tiesel Bonne and the cute-as-a-button Roll do their best to make the game enjoyable, but dull colors and muted voices resulting from the port take a bit of life out of the game. Slowdown and choppy animation are painfully apparent in many places, and while unsightly jagged edges that populated the PS version have been eliminated, the N64 blankets the game with its trademark blurry textures.
While Capcom's official Web site claims Mega Man 64 contains twice as many environments to explore, veterans of the PS version will be sorely disappointed to find that nothing at all has changed from Mega Man Legends with regard to content. No new weapons, no added dungeons or bosses, and no added game modes are present in the remake. Some music and sound clips actually seem to have been lost in the transfer. Those who missed out on the PlayStation version could still find a good bit of entertainment value here, but this dated title simply can't compete on the same level as current software.