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The rumors (and scans) are true - Capcom's officially making Mega Man 9 for WiiWare. It's been 11 years since the last numbered entry, and for fans tired of the numerous spin-offs, 9 is an ironically refreshing take on gaming's favorite robot assassin. We say ironic because, well, it's technically a huge step backwards. There's no angle, no new trick to the gameplay, it's a straight-up NES game with robot masters designed by series mastermind Keiji Inafune. Behold:
Right about now you might be asking, "why would they do this?" We talked to Inafune for the official answer, but our take is this - the recent batch of Mega Man games have strayed too far from the series' roots, and this is an easy, effective way to re-ignite interest in people who haven't touched a Mega Man game in years. WiiWare is the perfect fit for such an experiment, right at home on a console with so many other classic NES titles. If part 9 is a hit, expect to see WiiWare (maybe even XBLA and PSN) overrun by an old-school renaissance. Maybe we'll even see younger audiences embracing the classic design?
Mega Man 9's story and gameplay are the same as they've always been - Dr. Wily is running amuck and Mega Man has to stop him. This time Wily's convinced the populace he's the good guy and it's Dr. Light who's unleashed eight robot masters on the city (total lie, of course). There are even "Dr. L" doors in front of the bosses instead "Dr. W."
As before, you have to defeat each robot master, steal their unique weapons and use them on the remaining bosses. Each is weak and resistant to specific weapons, so you'll have to experiment to see which plan of attack works best. And by experiment, we mean "die a thousand deaths," as Mega Man 9 is easily on par or above the hardest games in the series. Hell, we played for two hours and only made it to three bosses, and even then only beat two. Not too surprising considering we don't yet know which boss is weak against the other, but damn, these guys are hard.
Capcom hasn't provided images of the latest robot masters, but we do have their names, including a Mega Man first - a woman!
Galaxy Man: level consists of portals that fling Mega Man all around the level, maintaining his momentum with each fling (a lot like Portal, actually), plus enemies that divide into multiple copies of themselves.
Plug Man: home to the required "disappearing block" puzzle
Hornet Man: bees, lots of bees
Jewel Man: there are swings here that you have to move with built-up momentum - we had to try it several times before we could make the jumps
Magma Man: lava and plenty of one-hit-kill beams
Concrete Man: the Guts Man of Mega Man 9
Tornado Man: scourge of the Midwest has one of the hardest levels with tons of mid-air leaps and spinning platforms
Splash Woman: yes, a woman robot master. Level features a hovering bubble puzzle we saw in Mega Man 5. One of the masters designed by Inafune himself
In essence, it's as if the year is 1990, there is no Super NES and maddeningly difficult NES games are all the rage. However, there are a few extra touches that acknowledge what later games brought to the series.