If you're gonna remake a classic game, it had better be damn good. Otherwise, well, bad things happen. Luckily for Capcom, Mega Man: Powered Up isn't just good; it's damn good. It's one of the most interesting remakes we've ever seen, and contains enough retro-style platforming challenges to keep even the most ardent Mega Man fan busy for months.
The original Mega Man, on which this game is based, hails all the way back from 1987 and the Nintendo Entertainment System. Mega Man pitted a diminutive robot warrior against six themed androids, whose weapons he could steal for himself and use to exploit the other robots' specific weaknesses. Easily one of the harder NES platformers, Mega Man's distinctive formula would spawn dozens of sequels, of which Mega Man Powered Up is merely the latest.
Powered Up enjoys significant enhancements on the PSP. "Old Style" mode is a fairly faithful recreation of the original Mega Man, complete with the NES game's catchy tunes. However, the main attraction is "New Style" mode, which features remixed music, new level layouts, and two new robot bosses.
Most surprising of all is the ability to capture and play as the bosses - if you can beat them without special weapons, that is. With 10+ playable characters and three actually meaningful difficulty levels, there is no shortage of challenge on hand. More importantly, the level design and control are sharp as a tack, making Powered Up a perfect example of basic but finely tuned action-platforming.
It looks good, too. As in PSP's recent Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X, the 2D graphics have been completely remade in smooth, cartoon-like 3D. It's a fitting way to bring a classic but primitive-looking game into the 21st century, and the remixed tunes aren't bad either. The only technical problem is a tendency to slow down a bit too much, but it's easily overlooked.
The package is rounded out by Challenge mode (100 hard-as-nails mini-levels that will have you cursing up a storm) and Construction mode, which lets you create your own maps and even upload them for phenomenally easy worldwide sharing. User-made levels can't be as complex or pretty as the built-in maps, but the level editor is easy to learn and still offers plenty of possibilities. It'll be great to see what crazy levels the user community can come up with.
Mega Man Powered Up lives up to its name. Radically revamped graphics, a new adventure, an old adventure, unlimited challenge, and the amazing Construction mode add up to one very compelling package. Being a remake of the first game, the gameplay and design do feel a bit less sophisticated and refined than that of MM2 or MM3, but the many upgrades make that gap seem smaller than ever before. That said, if a remake of the first Mega Man can turn out this hot, then Capcom, please, we're beggin' ya: get to work on Mega Man 2 Powered Up!