Mega Man 8 is an action-platform video game developed and released by Capcom in 1996. It was directed by Hayato Kaji, who had previously worked on the series as an artist. Keiji Inafune, who was also an artist for the series, was given the role of producer after the departure of Tokuro Fujiwara who had been producer for the series since Mega Man 2. It is the eighth installment in the original Mega Man series, and was initially released in Japan on the PlayStation in 1996. The following year, Mega Man 8 saw a release on the Sega Saturn and was localized for both consoles in North America and the PlayStation alone in PAL regions. Upon its release, Capcom reached the franchise’s tenth anniversary. Mega Man 8 is the first game in the series made available on 32-bit consoles.
The plot begins as Mega Man is called to investigate a mysterious energy reading coming from a recent meteor crash on an island. Mega Man discovers that his nemesis Dr. Wily has beaten him there and immediately retreats with the energy source. Mega Man is charged with stopping Wily’s evil plans to use the energy, as well as discover the purpose of a mysterious, alien robot found at the crash site. Along with new animated full-motion videos (FMVs) and voice acting, Mega Man 8 features improved graphics and sound when compared to previous iterations in the series. Aside from a few minor conventions, the game utilizes the same 2D side-scrolling and platforming formula established by its predecessors on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems.
Many reviewers appreciated the aesthetic and gameplay qualities of Mega Man 8 when compared to its earlier counterparts. However, several other critics were displeased by this same lack of innovation, finding that it does not utilize the full potential of the 32-bit platforms; additionally, the English-language version of the game received considerable criticism for its voice acting, which was perceived by many as being comically poor-quality. This resulted in an overall average or mixed critical reception. However, the game was a moderate commercial success and was re-released on best-seller lines in both Japan and North America.
Mega Man 8 is a continuation of the original Mega Man series storyline. Cutscenes in the game are presented both in-game and with newly introduced anime-style FMVs. Like other games in the series, it takes place in an unspecified year during the 21st century (20XX). The game opens as two alien robots engage in a climactic battle in the depths of space. Ultimately both of them plummet towards Earth, critically injured. Meanwhile, on Earth, Mega Man and his canine companion Rush are caught in a skirmish with his rival Bass, who still wants to prove himself to be stronger than Mega Man. Thanks to the timely intervention of Roll, who was bringing a message from Dr. Light, Mega Man manages to subdue Bass long enough to leave. Bass swears that he will get back at Mega Man for his “cowardice”. Dr. Light asks Mega Man to investigate strange energy readings on a nearby island. On the island, Mega Man finds Dr. Wily flying away with a strange purple orb. Before chasing him, he sees a damaged robot and asks for Dr. Light to pick it up and try to repair it. Dr. Wily then releases four new Robot Masters to combat Mega Man: Frost Man, Tengu Man, Clown Man, and Grenade Man. Each time he destroys one, the robotic hero receives a purple orb like the one Dr. Wily confiscated. Each of the Robot Masters are empowered with a strange energy, and it seems that this power comes from the new energy cores that Wily has infused them with.
After Mega Man defeats the four Robot Masters, he returns to the lab and Dr. Light tells him that the robot he found should be fine if he rests for a while. Mega Man brings with him the energy cores that he retrieved from the fallen Robot Masters; when Dr. Light examines them, he realizes that they are a powerful form of energy which Dr. Wily must not have in his possession, lest it destroy the world. After Dr. Light and Mega Man leave the lab, the robot awakens, sees the energy cores, becomes enraged, and flies off into the distance. Mega Man follows suit on Rush. Mega Man finds him in a mine shaft on the other side of the globe, and after battling the robot, Proto Man shows up and tells Mega Man that Dr. Wily’s new fortress, “Wily Tower,” is just ahead. Mega Man goes ahead, but is captured by one of Wily’s giant robotic creations. The robot saves him, introduces himself as Duo, and reveals his purpose to Mega Man. Duo explains that the purple orbs are “Evil Energy,” and he has been traveling the universe tracking down this energy and trying to destroy it before it engulfs the entire world. However, Wily Tower has a barrier around it that prevents him from taking out the source. Duo tells Mega Man to destroy the four other Robot Masters that hold the key to the barrier: Astro Man, Sword Man, Search Man, and Aqua Man, while he collects and extinguishes the rest of the world’s Evil Energy.
Once the other four Robot Masters have been beaten, Wily Tower’s barrier is lifted and Mega Man makes his way through it, defeating the hordes of robotic henchmen inside, including Bass, who uses a piece of the Evil Energy to amplify his powers, and ultimately, the evil doctor himself. The “Evil Energy” is destroyed before it is allowed to spread throughout the world but it manages to infect Mega Man before being destroyed, and Wily’s newest compound is demolished with Mega Man inside, who is dying from the Evil Energy. Duo arrives, examines Mega Man, and seeing the goodness and justice in his heart, cures him of the evil energy, eradicating the last remnants of the Evil Energy on Earth. Proto Man catches up to him; Duo then says that his mission is done, and leaves, but not before asking Proto Man for a favor. Mega Man then wakes up in Dr. Light’s Lab and is reunited with Dr. Light, Roll and the others who tell him that Duo saved him. He then walks outside and finds Proto Man, who gives him a message from Duo: “Thank You.” Mega Man then looks up to the sky and says “Thank You” to Duo as his reflection is seen in the sky.
The gameplay of Mega Man 8 is similar to that of its predecessors. The player, as Mega Man, must complete various stages that contain side-scrolling action and platforming elements. The player can run, jump, slide, shoot and charge the Mega Buster, and change weapons (either in-game or while paused). Enemies in each stage can be destroyed to reveal items used to refill Mega Man’s health and weapon power. Like Mega Man 7, the player completes an introductory stage and is presented with four Robot Master stages (Tengu Man, Frost Man, Grenade Man, and Clown Man) to tackle in any order he or she chooses. At the end of each stage is a boss battle with a Robot Master; defeating the Robot Master earns the player its Master Weapon. Most Robot Masters are weak to either the Mega Buster or one or more Master Weapon, allowing for some strategy in the order the stages are completed. An additional four Robot Masters (Aqua Man, Sword Man, Search Man, and Astro Man) become available once the first four are defeated and an intermission stage is completed.
A noteworthy addition to gameplay in Mega Man 8 is the ability to display and use multiple weapons onscreen simultaneously. This change introduces a unique way of using weapons strategically. For example, Mega Man can place a Tornado Hold, jump into it and swing the Flame Sword while rising with the air current. The player also has the ability to use his Mega Buster at all times, even when equipped with a Master Weapon. Auto’s part shop from the last game also appears in the form of Dr. Light’s lab, where the player can buy new abilities from Roll in exchange for special bolts found throughout the levels. However, due to a limited number of bolts and powerup slots available, the player must carefully decide which power-ups to buy. Special power-ups involving Mega Man’s dog Rush are won by fighting mid-stage minibosses. This is also the first (and only) game in the series in which Mega Man can swim.
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