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Mega Man Retrospective Part 7 — All about that Bass, and Treble

Mega Man 7 is weird. It’s the only original numbered series Mega Man on the Super Nintendo, it had an extremely short development time of three months, but weirdest of all, it was released after Mega Man X2 and shortly before X3, which made it feel like a step down for the series. It takes place shortly after Mega Man 6, but still a hundred years before Mega Man X. But is this less edgy world all sunshine and rainbows? Have they managed to recreate that specific feeling that the original Mega Man games instilled in our hearts.

Wily drops the Bass (Story)

Following the events of Mega Man 6, Dr. Wily has been locked up for six months. Suddenly, four robot masters originally sealed in his secret laboratory are activated and cause a ruckus around the city. Mega Man, Roll, and a new robot called Auto are sent to investigate. However, the four robots only served as a distraction for Dr. Wily’s inevitable escape from prison.

Further into the city, Mega Man runs into a mysterious robot Bass and his robot dog, Treble. They claim to be after Dr. Wily and part ways with the more serious looking Mega Man. After the first initial Robot Masters are defeated, Dr. Wily breaks into the robot museum and steals a Guts Man replica. While distracted by the events of the museum, four more robot masters appear, forcing Mega Man to continue his fight.

During his fights, Mega Man runs into a damaged Bass. Being the good natured robot he is, Mega Man sends him to Dr. Light’s lab. Upon the eight robot master’s defeat, Mega Man returns to Dr. Light’s lab to find it in shambles. Turns out, Bass wasn’t after Wily, he was created by Wily. With more frustration than before, Mega Man then departs to take out Bass, Treble, and Dr. Wily hopefully, for good.

After Wily’s defeat, he once again gets on his knees to beg for forgiveness. But, Mega Man feels that this isn’t sincere. And why should he? It’s not like the mad doctor has done this six times already. Instead, he threatens to end Wily’s life. However, Wily explains that a robot cannot harm humans due to the first law of robotics. This makes Mega Man hesitate as the castle begins to collapse, trapping Wily under the rubble. Before Mega Man can make another move, Bass and Treble appear to rescue the the helpless Wily.

Mega Man, even more angered by his lost chance, walks away from the burning Wily Castle. Off in the distance, a shooting star streaks across the sky, setting up a new adventure.

What’s new in Mega Man 7

For the first time in this Retrospective series, the question of “What’s new?” is pretty complex. As Mega Man 7 has been released after X and X2, it has a few elements that have been carried over. For example, there is now an intro stage for the first time in Mega Man history, something that was started with the first Mega Man X.

But, unlike Mega Man X, the dashing equivalent, sliding, cannot be mapped to a button. You still have to resort to hitting jump and down at the same time despite having 4 more buttons to work with.

Mega Man 7 learned from its Rush form mistake in Mega Man 6 and decided to make both fans happy. Throughout the first four levels are four hidden RUSH letters. Finding all of these unlocks a special armor that allows Mega Man to hover and, if a certain item is found, shoot a rocket fist at enemies.

If you notice, I mentioned “first four” levels. This is because Mega Man 7 takes a unique approach and limits you to only choosing from 4 robot masters in the beginning. After these are defeated, you must go through a middle-stage and unlock the last four robot masters. This gives players a chance to get the RUSH pieces and the developers a good reason to up the difficulty in these later stages.

Proto Man makes his triumphant return as well. Instead of occasionally appearing mid-level to challenge Mega Man, he’s found in three secret areas to give you advice. However, in the third location, he’ll challenge you to a fight. If you manage to defeat Proto Man, he mentions that he is impressed and will give you his shield. With this, you can block certain attacks and unlike the Super Adapt suit, you can slide.

Proto Man is no longer Mega Man’s only robot-rival. Bass makes his debut appearance, creating a trio dynamic between him, Proto Man, and Mega Man similar to Vile, Zero, and X. He even comes with his own robot dog, basically making him “Mega Man, but a dick.” There’s even a two player “battle mode” in the game that can only be accessed via a password that pits Mega Man against Bass.

Finally, the shop makes its debut appearance in the series. While initially difficult to figure out how to access (press select on the level select screen), the shop contains various items that are often only found by using “Rush Search” on specific places. There are also a plethora of E Tanks and 1-Ups available as well.

How it holds up

The idea to go back to the formula of Mega Man 2-6 is an incredibly odd choice, but there is a certain “feeling” the X series isn’t able to replicate. The X series is more fast-paced, with a plethora of new moves added each game. Mega Man 7 keeps it simple, with all of the upgrades being completely optional.

While Rush Submarine was never a hit with the series, Rush Search is incredibly annoying if you don’t have a guide to work with. Most of the items in the shop can be found using Rush Search, but the locations in which they are found are ridiculous. At times, it feels like sheer luck that you’ll run into these spots. Even if it is the correct spot, you still have to wait for Rush to go through his entire animation cycle to use. But even with these upgrades, Mega Man 7 is no walk in the park.

This entry, by far, features the hardest Wily Capsule fight in the entire series. His shots seem almost impossible to dodge, and it feels like you need to fully stock up on E Tanks to even stand a chance. Even the fact that I was able to beat him is nothing short of a miracle.

Best Robot Master: Shade Man

In a word, Shade Man is cool. Even the beginning of his stage is dramatic when the clouds clear the way for the moon to shine on his castle. There is a distinct horror theme running throughout the castle, with the mid-boss even taking form of a three-layered jack o’lantern. This fight can even lead you down two different paths depending on how you beat it. The rest of the stage is very reminiscent of another Capcom game, Super Ghouls and Ghosts.

Speaking of which… this game features a unique easter egg. If you are holding down “B” while you select Shade Man’s stage (prior to his defeat), you’ll hear something a little different than the usual intro-music. The entire stage’s music will be replaced with music from Super Ghouls and Ghosts. This extra effort puts Shade Man above the other stages.

Shade Man’s battle is interesting. He’s bat-themed, so there is a small section at the top of the room that can make him slightly less-visible in the darkness. If anything, this is as silly as Snake Man’s looks from Mega Man 3. He’ll occasionally swoop down to attack you, but he isn’t unfair by any means.Simply put, he’s a cool looking boss in a cool looking stage.

Worst Robot Master: Burst Man

Burst Man’s stage acts as this game’s water stage, but has an explosive edge to it. However, it unfortunately has wasted potential to its hazards. We are introduced to the time bombs, which block your path until you activate them and walk away before being caught in the explosion. They’re only used for a brief period of the stage, and they’re more annoying than innovative as you’re forced to wait 3 seconds without any creativity to the hazard.

This stage also features the only instance of the disappearing blocks. But, they’re only used briefly, and above a pit of spikes, once again showing us how annoying they can be. While Mega Man 6 had an interesting stage that featured water coming from the ceiling to be used to jump over a pit, this stage has the opposite effect. At a certain point, rising water forces you up, and you have to time your jumps to avoid landing on the spikes. But the timing is very finicky and can cause a frustrating death.

Burst Man’s design is odd. He has a castle for head, and two fish tanks for a chest plate. At the top of his stage, in good old “water boss” flare, are spikes. These are a part of an incredibly frustrating attack that can one-shot kill you if you’re trapped in a bubble and pushed upwards. Even if you break out of the bubble, the bomb that drops after it pops is almost sure to hit you. His pattern is easy to get the hang of, at least, unlike Slash Man, he seemingly dropped random globs that’ll stick you to the ground until he attacks you. It was a close call between these two.

Can we talk about how Mega Man tried to kill Dr. Wily for a minute?

Because that was a thing that definitely happened. At the end of the game, Mega Man points his Mega Buster at Dr. Wily and threatens to do what he should have done a while ago. He charges his buster, as Dr. Wily states that a robot cannot harm a human, echoing Asimov’s three laws of robotics, which is weird in itself. Were all of those buildings over the past several years vacant? This causes Mega Man to say that he is more than a robot. This last line, of course, was added for the English version of the game, with Mega Man responding in silence in the original.

Mega Man has always been shown as a pacifist, only fighting because he feel like he had to. This scene throws a wrench into his character, but perhaps there is a deeper reason for it? When you consider the plot of the Mega Man X series, X was sealed away to be scanned because he had the dangerous conception of “free will.” This implies that throughout the entire series, Mega Man was only doing as he was programmed to do. But, if this were the case, he cannot kill a human… unless Mega Man was not like most robots.

Dr. Light sealed away X to be scanned for at least 30 years before he was unleashed on the world. X is considered Dr. Light’s most “advanced creation,” but where would he get the idea to create him? X is clearly based on the original Mega Man, but it’s never explicitly said that he wasn’t built from him. Could this interaction with Dr. Wily convince Dr. Light to reconsider putting free will into his creations?

Whatever the reason, Mega Man never ended up killing anyone, unless you count a few dozen robot masters. And sadly, even today, there is never a direct bridge between the Mega Man series and Mega Man X series besides “Dr. Light built X, Dr. Wily built Zero, local scientist in the future ruins everything.” Even now, it’s doubtful that we’ll ever know what truly happened. This can be frustrating, as for this and the next entry, the classic series and the X series will be developed side-by-side.

Final Thoughts

Mega Man 7 is an incredibly weird entry in the series, and it feels more like a half-chewed-up love-letter to the entire classic series. There are several gameplay references, and it ends with the same Wily Castle setup (with no asinine pre-castle castle) that we’re all used to. It doesn’t help that this was released alongside the X series, which arguably improved the formula drastically.

However, there is a certain charm that the classic series has that the X series will never replicate. Even though Mega Man was more “edgy” this time around, it still had the more “carefree” tone the first six entries had. One thing for certain, this isn’t the last time we’d see the original blue bomber revisited, but Mega Man 8 takes a step away from Nintendo and embraces the PlayStation.

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