Game: Mega Man 2
Released: Capcom, December 24, 1988
System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Game started: July 5, 2011
Amount completed: Metal Man, Wood Man, and Bubble Man defeated.
As we sat down to play Mega Man 2, I looked forward to Laura playing through the first five or six Robot Masters with ease, and then appreciating the difficulty curve of older NES games. This was not what happened. The passage of time made me forget that Mega Man 2 is hard. Balls hard, as some of my colleagues would say. This game is a perfect example of the classic NES difficulty traits:
-Very limited lives
-Little to no checkpoints in levels, often right before the “hard parts” of an area
-Getting hit by even the smallest of enemies throws your character back 20 yards, normally right into a pit
-Instant death spikes
Watching Laura fall down the immense waterfall of Bubble Man’s level 10-20 times due to a teeny-tiny frog-bot reminded me how hard the games of my youth were. How in the world did I ever get through this game? There were no strategy guides. There was no GameFAQs or YouTube(or any Internet, for that matter). Not all of us had an older/younger sibling to yell at, telling them to, “Beat this part for me!”
Relentless replaying of levels, memorizing when and where enemies appear, scribbling little notes or passwords; these things were the tools we had. These little strategies served us well, just as they were helping my girlfriend dodge the hellfire flames of the robot dogs in Wood Man’s level over and over again. How did I beat these games? I did just what Laura did: every time I asked her if she wanted me to help, be stubborn and yell, “No, I will kill this bastard myself! How can I ever beat Air Man it if you just do it for me?!”
Or she could just beat Metal Man first and Metal Blade her way through the game. Yeah, that will work too.
I used to be very fond of frogs. Their slimy little bodies, the way they hop about, their ability to alert us to trouble in our ecosystems by growing a few extra legs or eyes or something. But this game ruined all of that for me. For there is nothing more infinitely frustrating than the frogs in Bubble Man’s level. Not the fire-breathing dogs, the indestructible roadrunners, or the swarm of baby birds that manage to erupt from a single egg. No. These frogs were worse than all that.