Hands up who likes really tough games. Go on, don't be shy. Yes, you in the back there -- you like hard games, you say? How about really tough games that offer you virtually no hand holding, plenty of opportunities for leaps of faith and a limited stock of lives in which to finish up? What's that, you say? They stopped making those kinds of games by the early 1990s? Well, yes, you're right -- in a sense. Most absolutely new games feature a ton of save points, easy modes and so many lives (or the absence of lives altogether) that you may as well just let them sit there and play themselves. Mega Man: Powered Up is a reversion of type, at least in part because it is at heart a reworking of Capcom's original Mega Man title -- and that's a game with nearly twenty years of old school toughness under its belt.
20 years ago, games didn't particularly need a plot, long interactive cut scenes or guest actors reading from pun-laden scripts -- it was simple enough to offer a game where you moved from left to right, blasting anything in your path. Mega Man's path is beset by evil robots, turned bad by the evil Doctor Wily -- this was back in the days when a villain could simply be called Doctor Wily -- and he's got to blast his way through (initially) six boss robots, defeating them and taking on their powers as his own before taking the fight to the evil Doctor himself. There's a word for the original Mega Man, and that word is "hard". Not "hard" as in "Gangsta" hard, with lots of flashy jewellery, misogynistic boasting and bullet holes, but just hard as in "gives no quarter and will kill you five times before you even register that you were meant to hit the jump button precisely, you simpering FOOL!".
It's a difficulty setting that few games aspire to in this day and age, and perhaps it's a sop to the modern gamer, but Mega Man Powered Up contains game saves, something the original certainly didn't have, and this makes progress a touch easier. Actually, there's a far larger concession to modern gaming tastes within Mega Man Powered Up. It's possible to alter the difficulty for each of the game's stages, either down to Easy or up to Hard. For the record, you're clearly some kind of spineless, talent less weasel if you even look at the Easy option. Yeah, I'm talking to you. If you can't handle the game, just step away, put on the pink dress and head back towards the Barbie dolls.
Ahem. It's probably not done to insult the reader's honor, now is it? Back on track, then, I say.
Along the way, Capcom's also upgraded Mega Man's visual and audio styling - complete with a rather squeaky voice that suggests he's actually Mega Boy, or perhaps Mega Eunuch, but you can't have everything. This Mega Man is considerably brighter and more detailed than his 1987 ancestor, and for the most part that's no bad thing. The style is deliberately on the cutesy style, in keeping with where Capcom's been moving the Mega Man character.
There's undoubtedly a small cadre of retro gamers that would buy a simple visual remake of Mega Man, although even they would justifiably whinge about only getting a single game packed into the UMD. In order to placate them -- and perhaps lure in some new punters -- Capcom's included a new game mode, labelled as "New Style" Mega Man, along with a slew of individual challenge stages that can be played in any order you like. Did I mention that you'll be playing some of these levels not as the eponymous blue hero, but as some of the evil robots? How lax of me; an undoubted part of the challenge mode's appeal is that the 100 levels feature you playing as a variety of characters drawn from the Mega Man world.
Not enough, you say? You want steak knives too? Hey, Steak Knives Man -- I bet Capcom's never done one of those. However, I digress; there's still more to the Mega Man Powered Up Experience, in the form of the game's Construction Mode. This lets you create Mega Man levels of your very own, although annoyingly you'll have to play quite a bit of the main game in order to find the building packs needed to make really great levels. Levels can be stored locally on your Memory Stick Duo, or uploaded to the Mega Man Web, and shared with the world. The practical upshot of this is that Mega Man Powered Up is very open-ended, as you can always download more content as the mood strikes you.
So, we've established that Mega Man Powered Up has more than its fair share of content, based around a 20 year old rock hard game, albeit one that's been semi-castrated by the introduction of save games and adjustable difficulty levels. But is it a game that you're likely to enjoy? Well, if you haven't gathered by now, the author is rather fond of really hard games with simple premises, and Mega Man is exactly that
-- the game mechanics themselves are quite archaic, but work exceptionally well due to good original design. Those of a less stubborn bent may find the going too hard, or the basic structure a touch too basic, but for my money, Mega Man Powered Up is a great reworking of a classic game.