Not content with releasing a remake of Mega Man X on the PSP in the form of Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X, Capcom went and unleashed a second remake on owners of Sony's portable in the space of a month. Mega Man: Powered Up is an overhauled and infinitely deeper remake of the very first Mega Man game ever, which appeared on the NES way back in 1987 and offered an intense 2D platforming and shoot 'em up action adventure that was unbelievably well-received across the globe. Capcom subsequently – and understandably – milked the series for all it was worth, spawning seven sequels and eight Mega Man X games, along with a plethora of RPGs and other spin-offs.
Believe it or not though, the original game that kick-started the blue bomber's superstar status still holds up exceptionally well after all this time, over twenty years after its original release. Admittedly, here it’s been tweaked and has also had truckloads of additional extra bits and pieces chucked into the mix, but the simple core gameplay that made the series such a winner in the first place remains untouched for the most part.
The year is 20XX – a vague yet perfectly acceptable time frame that Capcom has clutched to for eons – and robots and human beings live together peacefully. The world’s top scientist, Dr Thomas Light, creates a helper boy robot that he names Mega. With Mega’s help, Dr Light creates a number of more advanced robots, each tailored to carry out specific tasks. Suddenly, the evil scientist Dr Wily whisks them away, but not before getting into a stereotypically evil super-villain monologue about how he’s going to use them to rule the entire planet (™). Upon seeing that Dr Light appears to be more than a tad miffed over what has just happened, Mega urges that Light upgrade him so that he can pursue the demented Dr Wily and fight for the other robots’ freedom. Light obliges and Mega Man is born.
Perhaps Powered Up's most startling attribute lies in how the mundane story and cute-to-the-max presentation, rubbed in your face right from the outset, hides what is easily one of the most robust and nigh-on infinite PSP packages to date. From the title screen, it’s likely that you’ll be almost completely overwhelmed by the multitude of options on offer. Main mode is where you’ll find the… main mode; however, you’re not simply presented with one game. Oh, no! Not only can you play a remake of the original Mega Man – right down to level design, object placement and the like, albeit with the enhanced and cute visuals and sound that Capcom have lavished upon the entire package – but there’s also a 'new style' option, which pits you against the odds in all-new stages in which you battle two new boss robots and experience a ton of extra goodies.
Old style is as fun and challenging as it ever was, even if it is a little bare when compared to what’s on offer in the new style mode. The screen is compressed into 4:3 ratio here, much like the televisions Mega Man players back in 1987 would have spent countless hours on, so even the perspective and tiny character models – regardless of the fact they’ve been updated – remain akin to what they were 25 years ago. It just might bring a tear to the eyes of the more nostalgic Mega Man fans out there.
New mode, however, is where you’ll likely spend the bulk of your time. Boasting all-new level design and two new boss robots to fight, it’ll give Mega Man veterans something to sink their teeth into after they undoubtedly waltz through the old style mode on their first go. New mode also gives gamers the opportunity to play through the game in three different difficulty settings, the easiest of which serves well in letting the less experienced and younger gamers out there see the majority of what the game has to offer fairly soon. The hardest difficulty lives up to its namesake, as it makes Powered Up one hell of a tough game to get through, which incidentally brings us back to its unrelenting cuteness.
Seriously, this game is adorable. It’s so deceptively cute that you just wouldn’t expect a game featuring large-headed, baby-eyed characters to challenge you in the way Powered Up manages to. From the level designs and the character models to the voice acting and sound effects, Mega Man: Powered Up oozes sickly sweet adorableness from every orifice. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with this, as it's still a vastly challenging and engrossing affair and nobody in their right mind should be shallow enough to be put off by the cutesy presentation. Even the most hardened bandana-wearing, cigarette-smoking, cider-swilling, Mohawk-toting hard-nuts may find themselves pining after a life-sized Guts Man soft toy to cuddle up to at night.
Speaking of the boss robots, defeating each one not only grants you a new weapon to use on your quest for justice, but new style also lets you play as any one of the eight boss robots – Cut Man, Guts Man, Ice Man, Bomb Man, Fire Man, Elec Man and the two new additions, Time Man and Oil Man – provided you defeat the respective robots using only Mega Man’s default Mega Buster weapon. This allows you to only disable the defeated robots so that they can be taken back to Dr Light for repairs and a serious reprimanding over the errors of their ways, maybe in the form of a spanking — the game never goes into that much detail. Each playable boss robot has access to their own unique weapons and skills, which can be used to open up more areas in the new style levels, in turn granting you access to extra power-ups and other items.
Defeating and repairing each boss robot also unlocks additional content in the form of further stages in Powered Up’s challenge mode. Once you’ve unlocked every character, there are a total of one hundred challenges to take on. Each test basically consists of a very short stage with one seemingly simple objective, be it to just reach the end of the stage or destroy a set amount of enemies. A few of the earlier ones are not much of a problem, but the majority of them are hair-pullingly difficult to overcome. They’re the kinds of things that you’ll instantly figure out the solution to, yet putting your plan into practice will prove to be a nightmare, ramping up the just-one-more-go factor into countless hours of enjoyment and frustration in equal measures.
What does Powered Up also offer on top of – effectively – ten main games and a whopping one hundred challenge stages? Construction mode. Oh yes, that’s right. Powered Up allows you to create and play your own new style stages and, furthermore, to share them online with other PSP owners all over the world. Pleasingly, the construction editing tool is an absolute doddle to use, although Powered Up nonetheless insists on holding your hand as it takes you through a somewhat patronising tutorial beforehand. If you put proper time and effort into the creation of custom designs, you can build some truly nefariously challenging and near-impossible stages with which to challenge both friends and total strangers alike. Admittedly, you are limited to certain tile and enemy sets for each level you create – new sets become unlockable as you find them in the new style adventures in main mode – but that shouldn’t stop you from creating the most diabolical stages that your mind is capable of conjuring up. Believe us; having ventured online and downloaded a few for ourselves, we can assure you that there are some truly nasty Powered Up owners lurking on this planet somewhere. You know who you are, you twisted individuals.
Mega Man: Powered Up is a truckload of fun that controls tightly, never lets the player down with frame rate issues, offers an obscene amount of things to see and do, which all the while oozes charm, personality and unbridled quality from every one of its robotic nooks and crannies (now there’s a nice image to take with you). Its deceptively cute exterior houses a comprehensive package containing countless hours of 2D shoot 'em up platforming at its absolute best; it's undoubtedly an unmissable PSP game you really need to own.