Mega Man games have always been closely associated to Nintendo’s systems, at least until the 5th Generation when they jumped ship to the PlayStation and the Saturn. But living in North America in the late 80’s and early 90’s, you probably played your Mega Man games on a Nintendo system unless you were one of the few people who had access to the Sega Channel. The Sega Channel was a service that plugged your Genesis into your cable television service and allowed you to download and play games for a monthly fee. One of these games was Mega Man The Wily Wars. The Wily Wars was released on a physical cartridge in Japan and Europe, but if you wanted to play this game in North America, you had to have the Sega Channel service.
I found out about The Wily Wars sometime after it’s release and around the time emulation was becoming popular. Until recently, I had only played the game using a ROM. I purchased a reproduction physical cartridge last year to finally experience the game in it’s intended format, and while it’s a pretty neat novelty, it doesn’t top the original experience. Mega Man games played much better on the NES than on the Genesis.
Mega Man The Wily Wars combines the first three Mega Man games into a single game, with an added bonus of a short game titled “Wily Tower”. Wily Tower is only accessible after finishing the first three games, and it’s also the best part. After beating the three included Mega Man games, you are able to take on an additional three boss master levels and a 4 level Wily Tower. You don’t get to capture the boss master weapons in this game, but you do get to select a load out before each stage. Yes, you get to get equipped with 8 robot master weapons from the first three Mega Man games of your choosing, as well as three items such as Rush Jet, Item 1, or the Magnet Beam. This is a real treat. I usually load up on the strongest weapons from all three games, such as the Thunder Beam, Metal Blade, and Hard Knuckle. Then I just throw in other fun weapons that I like to use like Air Shooter and Magnet Missile.
The graphics look great, with a TON of added detail that the NES could not have pulled off. Air Man’s stage looks so much better than the NES counterpart. Where the original was fairly sparse other than the Air Tikis and the one block tall platforms, the Genesis version adds so much extra detail that makes the whole stage much more interesting to look at. There are a few wonky missteps, like Proto Man only having a recolored sprite rather than a redrawn one, otherwise there is no complain here. The music doesn’t do a great job transitioning to the Genesis, in my opinion. The original NES chiptunes sound a LOT better. There are some added instruments in the compositions that make things sound a bit more interesting, however. While The Wily Wars gives Mega Man a 16 bit face lift, the games just don’t seem to play as well as they did previously.
Something about The Wily Wars just feels off. The controls do not feel nearly as tight or responsive as they did on the NES, and that may have to do with the Genesis controller. Mega Man is slightly taller in his Genesis outing than he was on the NES and in some cases it seems to throw things off a little when platforming. One instance that comes to mind is when you have to use Item 1 to bridge a gap between two ladders in the first Wily stage in Mega Man 2. Mega Man gets a little closer to the ceiling than he does on the NES, making your jumps a bit tighter. Additionally, Mega Man seems to move faster, though without doing a side by side comparison with video, I can’t confirm this is true. It’s enough to throw off your platforming at times, however.
The big complaint I have with Mega Man The Wily Wars is the slowdown. Sure, the original games on the NES had their fair share of slowdown, but the Genesis versions can get pretty annoying at times. While the slowdown helps you in some areas, it kind of takes away from the challenge that is really at the heart of Mega Man games. The Yellow Devils in both Mega Man and Mega Man 3 are laughably easy now because you don’t have to react as quickly to the yellow pieces of the monstrosity as he flings himself at you. Mega Man 3 seems to have the biggest hit in this area, and it gets very distracting. You’d think that a 16 bit system with BLAST PROCESSING would be able to handle a few NES games. Granted, there are 3 (and a half) games on this cartridge and the graphics are amped up and look as good as anything on the system, but it’s still a knock against the packaged experience.
I played this game all the way through in one night in preparation for writing this article and I’ll say that despite it’s issues, I still had a lot of fun with it. Mega Man The Wily Wars definitely doesn’t replace the original NES games in terms of quality, but it’s fun to see a revamped and more colorful and detailed world, as well as a really fun short romp with all the best robot master weapons from the first three games. Definitely give this game a shot via emulation if you get a chance. If you are interested in a reproduction copy, they aren’t too expensive and it’s always nice to have another system to play Mega Man games on.