On the subject of the best Mega Man game, there are generally two schools of thought; those that think it’s Mega Man 2 and those that are wrong.
After the original game’s disappointing sales, Capcom would only allow for a sequel if the developers made it in their free time whilst working on other projects. Inafune said that it was one of the most rewarding experiences that he’d ever had at Capcom and it shows. There’s a care and polish throughout Mega Man 2 that could only come from a passion project, determined to give the character a rousing send off, unsure there was ever to be another sequel. Funnily enough, it saved the franchise.
Mega Man 2 is undeniably easier than the first game, partly due to just how many more items are at your disposal (E-tanks especially), but also because of how simple it is to break. When I think of my time with the game, I generally get a mental image of an olive drab Mega Man, raining hot bladed death on everything around him. The Metal Blade is comically overpowered and is very easily exploitable in certain areas, due to its near-unlimited ammo and ability to fire in eight directions. For this most recent playthrough, I tried to curb that a bit and play a more “legit” run, which helped me get a fresh perspective on how to tackle a game that I can mostly slaughter at this point. It reminds me of those initial attempts with the first game and the process of relearning patterns that I had to go through, after all, even the easiest Mega Man is still tougher than most other titles, and perhaps no game of that era quite captures the same level of replayablity.
It’s comfort food, for sure, but MM2 is one of the rare cases where I allow my nostalgia to go a bit wild, putting myself back in the shoes of that kid that replayed the first Wily stage so many times he eventually came up with lyrics for it. Sadly, that masterwork is lost to time, but I could never imagine playing through the game without that memorable music, making the same movements every time as if I were reenacting a scene from memory or were scripted to do so.
I feel a bit easier about that knowing that I’m not simply looking through rose-tinted glasses and that it’s still regarded as a classic. In fact, I could immediately drop whatever I’m doing right now and go back to it from the beginning without feeling fatigued, which is something I find difficult to emulate in a lot of other games today. I suppose I could attribute that to an old-school bias, but even other entries in the same series feel lacking in some way, all being great games in their own right (Mega Man 4-6, in particular, are underrated as hell).
That is the ultimate curse of Mega Man 2. It saved a series that was unable to ever improve on it. After all, it’s hard to beat perfection.