The ultimate Mega Man retrospective

Inafune considers part three one of the least polished in the series. It was released just one year after part two, which doesn't sound like a whole lot of time to develop a sequel to one of the most popular video games of the day. In 2007, he told Nintendo Power "if we had more time to polish it, we could do a lot of things better, make it a better game, but [Capcom] said that we needed to release it."

Seems like it was a sound decision, as part three kept the Mega train rolling for another year thanks to its many additions, the most notable of which is your robo-dog companion Rush. As you gather weapons from the robot masters, Rush also learns how to turn into a jet sled, submarine and launching pad - at the time they seemed really cool, but they're essentially the same items from Mega Man 2 (except the launching coil), only now in the shape of a red robot dog.

Other changes:

Weakness: Shadow Blade (Shadow Man)
Gives you: Spark Shock
What it does: Shoots a small ball of electricity

Plenty of ways to die here. Lots of electricity-based traps and enemies, plus another glut of one-hit-kill spikes. Another popular song that's remixed often.

Weakness: Needle Cannon (Needle Man)
Gives you: Search Snake
What it does: Little green snakes spurt out and follow the terrain

This has to be the "oh you didn't really want him in the game, did you?" of Mega Man 3. All the other robots, even from 1 and 2, had some kind of practical application, be it construction or reclamation. But what do you do with a robot that looks like a man in a snake suit? Laugh, we guess.

Weakness: Gemini Laser (Gemini Man)
Gives you: Needle Cannon
What it does: Shoots big needles straight ahead

Plenty of spiky objects here, not a lot else to discuss. Good music, fairly easy boss fight. Next.

Weakness: Hard Knuckle (Hard Man)
Gives you: Top Spin (not the tennis game)
What it does: Mega Man rapidly spins in the air

This is where we start to wonder if Capcom's running out of robot master ideas. MM3 is loaded with great ideas (Magnet, Gemini, Spark) but Top Man? A spinning robot on skates? Where could this possibly come into service? Maybe if we need a replacement washing machine he could oversee the spin cycle and that's about it. That unpleasantness aside, the stage is quite fun, with great timed leaps from one spinning platform to the next. Also, Top Spin is the first Mega Man weapon that makes you physically collide with an enemy to damage it.

Weakness: Top Spin
Gives you: Shadow Blade
What it does: Toss a blade in one of eight directions (a nerfed Metal Blade)

No, not Acclaim's sort-of franchise from the early 2000s. This robot's got nothing to do with Deadside, Jaunty and undead sex. Instead he simply turns the lights out every so often. Oooh, scary.

Weakness: Spark Shot
Gives you: Magnet Missile
What it does: Fires a magnet that can turn 90 degrees to strike a target

This is one of the few stages you'll see Proto Man, who'll interrupt the level and force a confrontation. On the Magnet Man side of things, we have to confess a profound love for the character. He's a robot with a giant magnet on his head! Wouldn't that constantly erase his brain or something?

Weakness: Search Snake
Gives you: Gemini Laser
What it does: Fires laser that reflects and bounces off walls

Really groovy tunes, but the level doesn't make any sense at all for Gemini Man. Aquarius would perhaps, as it's filled with what appear to be tadpole eggs and other weird underwater nuances.

Weakness: Magnet Missile
Gives you: Hard Knuckle
What it does: Slowly blasts a fist out of Mega Man's arm

Another construction robot and stage. Can't help but think there's a better name than "Hard Man," and perhaps a more interesting character design. Oh well, makes sense that the functional one isn't built for aesthetics.

Once they're gone, you'd think it's time for Wily's castle - nope! In a rather generous/punishing move, you have to now fight all the Mega Man 2 bosses in new bodies and bastard-hard remixed levels. Then Wily, then credits, then off to the next game a year later.

The first three Mega Man games were remade in 1994 for Genesis/Mega Drive, bundled into one package called The Wily Wars.

Each game received a visual makeover and some audio fiddling, but more or less stayed true to the classics. North American gamers only saw it on the Sega Channel, a service that charged about $15 a month for access to a large number of Genesis games. Why they'd avoid putting out a cart version of it when the series was about to go nuts with Mega Man X is beyond us.

Mega Man 3's box art was also used for two PC games, Mega Man and Mega Man 3, both of no relation to their NES counterparts:

The first game featured three bosses (Dyna Man, Sonic Man and Volt Man) and a computer villain called Crorq. The sequel (skipping number two for some reason) had Torch, Bit, Blade, Oil, Shark and Wave Man; Oil's namesake would later be added to Powered Up, and the name Wave Man would reappear in Mega Man 5. Behold the horror:

Luckily so few people bothered with these sloppy ports that Capcom wisely canned any further exploration. Leading us to...

Part four introduces another bout of changes that mix things up without really affecting the bottom line at all. You're still battling eight robots, stealing their goods and slicing the others up with your newly acquired arsenal. The biggest modification is the Mega Buster - now you can hold down the fire button to charge a more powerful shot. You'd think this would make things easier (having a better gun should, right?), but it seems like every enemy was amped up to compensate, thereby negating the charged shot. Enemies that would have taken a handful of shots to kill in MM3 now take two fully charged blasts, stuff like that. Still, a decent crop of robots and more excellent tunes.

What else you got:

Weakness: Pharaoh Shot (Pharaoh Man)
Gives you: Ring Boomerang
What it does: Tosses a giant ring that always comes back to you

Okay, maybe Chakra Man would be have been a better name for this dinky 'bot. Ring Man sounds like he's about to propose or start shilling "Every Kiss Begins With Kay" jingles at us. Jeeze he looks ridiculous... but of course the music is great and the stage itself fairly creative.

Weakness: Skull Barrier (Skull Man)
Gives you: Dive Missile
What it does: Fires a missile

If Hard Man and Dive Man stood next to each other, we'd barely be able to tell them apart. Guess he's supposed to be a submarine-y thing, that would explain the periscope sticking out of his head at all times. The stage has an overall Bubble Man feel to it, made more difficult by all the Mega Buster charging. It also contains the wire/grappling hook item.

Weakness: Dust Crasher (Dust Man)
Gives you: Skull Barrier
What it does: Skulls circle Mega Man, protecting him from harm

One of our favorite 'bots. Just love the idea of a robot dressed in bones when he in fact has no skeleton whatsoever. Good tunes, a neat stage, just an all around good experience. More of this, please.

Weakness: Rain Flush (Toad Man)
Gives you: Flash Stopper
What it does: Freezes screen, Mega Man can still move

Not only does he look ridiculous, but how nonsensical is it to have your main weak point be your entire head? That bulb is made of glass, and we all know how resistant glass is to lasers and bombs. The stage has a few nice moments though, like a series of robo-grasshoppers that transport you over spikes.

Weakness: Ring Boomerang (Ring Man)
Gives you: Dust Crusher
What it does: Fires a ball of garbage

Dust Man's music sounds like it's from some dystopian movie, where the teenage survivors just found out they're the only people left alive on a refuse-ridden planet. Amazing how powerful a stage can be if you only open your mind...

Weakness: Dive Missile (Dive Man)
Gives you: Drill Bomb
What it does: Fires an exploding missile (nerfed Crash Bomb)

Ah, here's an idea that makes total sense! Surprised they didn't have this guy around sooner. He's a rough fight too, drilling into the ground and rushing at you with large exploding drill bombs.

Weakness: Drill Bomb (Drill Man)
Gives you: Rain Flush
What it does: Satellite flies into air, drops of acid rain fill screen

Well, they had Snake Man last time, so why not Toad Man in part four? The sewer level is a nice touch, and his Rain Flush weapon is unique at this point in the series.

Weakness: Flash Stopper (Bright Man)
Gives you: Pharaoh Shot
What it does: Charged blasts of energy hurled at enemies

An initially interesting stage that takes a turn for the worse halfway through. Not sure why you'd need a robot to masquerade as a pharaoh, but at least it's a striking design, allegedly built to keep ancient curses at bay during archeological digs.

As before, toppling these eight 'bots reveals your next challenge: Dr. Cossack!

Aaaand it turns out it was Wily all along anyway, blackmailing Cossack into robot catastrophe. Cue another set of Wily castle levels, another batch of credits and we're off to the crushingly difficult Mega Man 5. Part four's ending, for you train enthusiasts:

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.