Despite Capcom's best efforts to forget that he even exists, Mega Man's popularity with players endures regardless of the lack of fresh outings. Such is the gaming public's adoration of this pint-sized hero that they will gleefully crowdfund spiritual successors (Mighty No. 9, we're looking at you) in lieu of a genuine Blue Bomber adventure. Thankfully, Capcom is perfectly happy to mine the back catalogue of this iconic character for profit, so in addition to the many re-releases that we've seen on services like Nintendo's Virtual Console, we're getting Mega Man Legacy Collection, a compilation of the six 8-bit titles which arguably established the series as one of gaming's greats.
It's often said that gamers have it too easy these days, and while this tends to be a rose-tinted exaggeration rolled out by 30-something retro addicts who simply refuse to accept that the '90s aren't coming back, in the case of the Mega Man games, it might actually carry some weight. These are unforgiving and relentless experiences which call for memorisation of enemy patterns and punish even the slightest lapse in concentration. Pixel-perfect leaps combine with a surprising amount of on-screen projectiles to create the perfect platform-based storm, and when humbled by these games today it strikes us as amazing that Capcom expected kids of 10 and under to last more than 30 seconds. Yet those old enough to recall those glory days will point out that survive they did, largely because there were endless days to hone skills and learn every inch of these stellar titles.
Today we might have less spare time on our hands but thankfully Digital Eclipse – the studio responsible for this collection – has taken this into account. Save states allow you to return to the game at a later date or even save right before a tough boss fight, while the all-new Challenge Mode allows you to practice sections of levels which are proving to be particularly tricky. This mode also stitches together disparate sections to create all-new levels, which expands the longevity of this package dramatically. You can also challenge the boss characters – arguably the stars of each individual release – outside of the main game, and leaderboards give an impetus to improve your talents and show your skills.
The porting process is so faithful that it feels like you're playing these titles on original NES hardware, which is surely the highest compliment that you can give to such a project. Digital Eclipse has wisely decided against embellishing the package with cosmetic improvements and smoothing out the kinks, and has instead presented the games as authentically as possible – right down to moments of sprite-flicker and slowdown when the action becomes particularly intense. Screen filters – which add those all-important CRT scanlines – are the only admission that Digital Eclipse has made to progress, and ironically these merely serve to make the games look even older. It's clear that a lot of attention has been paid to make sure that these titles look, sound, and play just like they did two decades ago, right down to glitches which veteran players will be happy to learn can be exploited just like they were in the 8-bit originals.
In terms of fan service, Digital Eclipse really has gone above and beyond the call of duty with Mega Man Legacy Collection. Concept artwork, promotional art, and bios for each Robot Master is included in the game's Museum and Database sections, and truly dedicated followers will appreciate the attention to detail that has been lavished on this portion of the package.
However, it's a shame then that when compared to the only other Mega Man anthology released so far – 2004's Mega Man Anniversary Collection – Digital Eclipse's offering lacks Mega Man 7 and 8, and the bonus titles Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. Presumably if Legacy Collection sells well enough, we could see the 16-bit outings get their very own compendium.
It may not have as many games as the decade-old Mega Man Anniversary Collection, but Legacy Collection is a much better effort when it comes to overall presentation and ensuring that each game is reproduced as faithfully as possible. These conversions are absolutely spot-on in every regard, and the supplemental features – such as the Museum section and inventive Challenge mode – augment the experience neatly without sullying the purity of the original releases. Fans will appreciate the fact that all six NES titles are now in the same package, while newcomers can finally see what all the fuss is about. With Mighty No. 9 now delayed until 2016, Legacy Collection is the perfect way to fill the gap until Mega Man's much-hyped spiritual successor emerges.