Retro Review: Megaman Legends (PS1)

ml1coverStory:

Narrative

Megaman Legends has a fun and simple story.  The world is covered almost entirely in water, with populations finding refuge on the sparse and scattered landmasses.  Megaman Volnutt himself is a “Digger,” meaning that he embarks on adventures underground to find treasures and unearth mysteries, most notable of which is a massive, legendary prize known as the Motherlode.  After one of these explorations, something goes wrong in his ship, the Flutter, and Megaman and party crash down on the unassuming island of Kattelox.  As Megaman, Roll, and Barrel go about trying to repair the ship’s engines, they find an eager and powerful group of Sky Pirates who have begun to attack the island, believing it to be the resting place of the infamous Motherlode.

It then becomes Megaman’s duty to protect the island’s citizens from this family of pirates known as the Bonne, and to unearth the increasingly stranger secrets that lie beneath Kattelox’s surface.  Ultimately, a grander story is uncovered regarding the unknown origins of Megaman, where he came from, and the role he was meant to play in the world at large.  This conclusive material is wrought with intriguing subject matter, but most of it is left unexplored until the sequel.

Pacing
These are the Servbots.  They work for the Bonne's.  They're awesome.

These are the Servbots. They work for the Bonne’s. They’re awesome.

If you wanted to, and knew your direction, you could blow through the story of this game in under two hours.  The pacing is naturally very fast and only slowed by how much exploring you want to do both above ground and below.  The exploration is one of the most appealing parts of the game, but there are also a number of additional activities to occupy your time.  Regarding the main story, actions are rather recycled.  You need to repair the Flutter, so you are tasked with finding a large refractor (energy source) to power it.  You move from one sub-gate to the next, exploring underground to find refractors, and you deal with the Bonne along the way.

Character Development

In way of character progression, it’s almost absent.  Megaman himself doesn’t change at all.  The person who shows the most development is actually antagonist Tron Bonne, who steadily reveals a gentle and apologetic nature underneath her immediate, hard outer casing.  Her older brother, Teisel Bonne, demonstrates a modicum of change towards the end as well, when he finally accepts the humble card that Megaman keeps serving up with each butt-kicking, and even goes so far as to thank Megaman and lend his aid when approaching the final opponent.

Setting

The surface of Kattelox is a very jubilant, pastel city with pretty much no negative vibes in any of its residents.  The abandoned downtown area is kind of depressing, but that’s the worst of it.  Everybody is happy and carefree, minus their mild concerns over the Bonne threat.  Even the hospital makes mention of how they don’t often get patients because everybody on the island is always happy and healthy.  For more mature gamers, this idealistic world could be a turn-off, but considering the aesthetics and general audience of the game, it’s not inappropriate.  On a personal level, I love the happy-go-lucky music everywhere I wander and the childhood memories that surge along with each area of the island.  The parallel of upper Kattelox and the subterranean world beneath is splendid, as the surface is very clear and comfortable while the atmosphere below is ominous, confusing, and sometimes unnerving.

Dialogue

The dialogue isn’t usually cheesy (though sometimes it can be), but it’s kind of bland.  The decent voice acting helps provide a necessary element to make it manageable, but even that can be shaky depending on the character.  Roll, Megaman’s “Spotter” when he goes on digs, can be annoying with how she will frequently interject something into your adventure that breaks you from the illusion.  This is often in the form of some random tidbit of obvious information, but will occasionally be something more pleasant, like reminiscing on past memories and providing a little character development.

Content Warning:

Language

I’m pretty sure the worst word in this game is “heck.”  I’ll just leave it at that.

Violence

Cartoon violence.  You never (directly) fight other humans, there’s no blood, no death, and when you defeat an enemy robot, they’ll make mild explosions.  Sometimes battles with enemy bots that are manned by the Bonne’s will result in the Bonne member being covered in soot and smoking like they were in a fire, but they’re never actually hurt.

Sex/Suggestive Themes

None.  The characters are all dressed quite modestly.  Roll is probably the worst, with short-shorts, but these are PS1 graphics.  There is one scene where you can accidentally walk in on Roll as she’s changing, but the camera is facing towards an embarrassed Megaman, who promptly leaves the room.  Roll then scolds Megaman, always reminding him to knock.  Not much else to discuss.

Spiritual Content

Virtually no spiritual material to speak about.  The general sense of morality may cater to a Christian audience, but shows no prompting of being driven by a divine purpose.  There is, however, a “legendary disaster” which threatens Kattelox in the form of an ominous tower, “Eden,” and is activated during the end-game as a weapon to purify the island of all inhabitants.  Eden here is obviously being derived from the Garden of Eden, where man was first created in the book of Genesis.

Drugs/Alcohol

Gotta love those soft drinks!

Gameplay:

For starters, the camera control is amazing.  The smoothness and utility of the camera makes navigating battles a delight.  The control is also a grace for the times when you can’t use the lock-on ability for fear of getting hit (as you cannot move while using lock-on).  It makes aiming and firing a breeze, and riding around on the jet skates only works because of the camera’s mobility and ability to adapt to your speed.

Megaman vs. Bonnes

Megaman vs. one of the Bonne’s strongest creations.

Megaman Legends operates in the typical 3rd-person perspective.  There is no multiplayer component.  Megaman is given plenty of room to upgrade throughout the game, harnessing the power of various modifiable weapons, spring boots, and skates that zip him around at nearly three times his regular running speed.  The boss fights make use of different terrain patterns, so there is no burnout on having simple arena fights like in previous Megaman iterations.  In addition to the main story, there are numerous side activities available.  The player can participate in a series of televised mini-games (the best of which is an obstacle course you must skate through), help restore the quality of a museum by adding antiquities you find on digs, donate zenny/money to help repair damages caused by the Bonne, visit and help an adorable girl who’s stuck in the infirmary, and go on a chase through the city streets to arrest some bank robbers.

But truly, the main selling point of the entire game is the subterranean map of Kattelox, which begins largely unavailable to the player but becomes more accessible as Megaman upgrades.  The map also rewards you for deviating from the set path by leaving bits and pieces available for your exploration ahead of time and indirectly encouraging you to muster up the courage to go deeper than the main story ever asks.  And yes, it can be scary down there.  There are traps, powerful Reaverbots, and walls that you aren’t sure were made to keep you out or to keep something else in–secrets, mostly; things you don’t understand: large, open spaces with a sky full of stars… underground; giant ziggurats and steeples that drain all noise from the room when you unlock them.  The worst of it, too, is that you have no idea where any of these structures came from, but people wonder.  People wonder within the game where it all came from, and what it’s supposed to mean.  There are even hints that there could be viable answers.  But you don’t get any of those answers.  And that makes it all the better.

Presentation:

Graphics

Considering its age, Megaman Legends holds up quite well, especially in the realm of facial expressions.  What the characters lack in fingers (everyone has balled fists… always), they make up for in dynamic expressions that can still hit the exact nerve they’re aiming for.  I’m thinking of one scene in particular where a character is thinking to herself and looks gingerly down and away, like she’s lost and helpless, and you can actually empathize with her.  That being said, there are obvious cookie-cutter characters inhabiting Kattelox, but there’s no shortage on cool, well-designed enemies.  The subterranean levels also suffer from redundant wall templates, with the same pattern repeating indefinitely throughout large sections of the dungeons.

Audio/Music
A glimpse at the world beneath Kattelox.

A glimpse at the world beneath Kattelox.

More than most games, I think Megaman Legends has a soundtrack with very subjective appeal.  I enjoy it, as I think the music is unique, yet still carries a little spirit from older Megaman music (though only a little).  I could also see why people wouldn’t find it quite so tasteful, however.  Some of the tracks rinse and repeat the same sounds more than they should, and the peppiness of the overworld music might be grating to some ears.  However, the function of the music is much more worthy of critical analysis.  With the exceptions of the first dungeon and last dungeon, no music plays underground.  Instead, there are only the sounds of your enemies wandering around, and sometimes cryptic reverberations from deeper in the tunnels.  Music will play for underground bosses, though, further emphasizing the significance of the battle.  This general lack of music underground, exposing you to only ambient noises and the clicking of wandering Reaverbots, makes you feel lost and vulnerable, a strong contrast to the gentle world on the surface.

Conclusion:

Megaman Legends stacks up well with its PS1 peers, with strong gameplay mechanics, a pleasant duality of worlds, and a fun (if sometimes one-dimensional) cast of characters.  In truth, though, it’s just a cornerstone for what is meant to come in the sequels.  Megaman Legends 2 surpasses its predecessor in most aspects, and will likely get a review in the future.  As for Megaman Legends 3

Well, that’s a sensitive subject.

God bless, talk like Igor because it’s fun, and always remember to smile.

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Verse of the Day – Psalm 4:4-5
“Be angry, and do not sin.  Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.  Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.”

Song of the Day – “Afterglow” by Nine Lashes

The Bottom Line

The third iteration of the Blue Bomber is more playful and adventurous than his 2-D predecessors and is definitely worth giving a chance if you happen to own a console that can play it.

 

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Cooper D Barham

Aspiring author, marriage and family therapist, and active behavioral health technician, Cooper fills his world with God, music, videogames, anime/manga, drawing, reading, writing, and some physical stuff in between. If you ever want to talk about the big or little things of life, fire him a message. Helping others through tough times is both his passion and way of living. 'Got it memorized?'

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