Mega Man and Bass, oh boy where do I start on this one? This game was released in 1998 on the Super Famicom in Japan, not being released in the United States until 2003 on the Game Boy Advance. The reason it was released on the then outdated Super Famicom was so fans of Mega Man without a Playstation or Saturn could get their Mega Man fix. I do own a copy of the Super Famicom version and that is the version I played for this review. I unfortunately haven’t played the Gameboy Advance version. Mega Man and Bass is considered the black sheep of the Mega Man series, but is this black sheep worth playing today?
Mega Man and Bass’s story starts with a robot named King rebelling against humans and having a legion of robot masters join him. Mega Man and Bass have alternate stories where they each go after King, and, to nobody’s surprise, find out Dr. Wily is the brains behind this scheme. Even though the game follows the story formula that we know by now, Dr. Wily is discovered before King’s Tower is beaten, so instead of having to go through two fortresses, Mega Man and Bass only have to go through one. There are only four total stages after beating the final robot master this time around, making the game a possible but unlikely short experience.
The robot masters this time are Cold Man, Pirate Man, Burner Man, Ground Man, Dynamo Man, Magic Man, and returning from Mega Man 8 for some unexplained reason, Tengu Man and Astro Man. These Robot Masters aren’t very notable, but I enjoy using their weapons quite a bit. One thing interesting about the Robot Masters in this title is that they can’t be tackled in any order, instead there being icons for each stage mapped out on a screen. It’s very strange, you have a choice of three different masters in the beginning, and beating one opens up a route to fight more robot masters. I dislike this because it gives you the idea that you don’t have to beat every master to get to King, but you do.
This game marks the introduction of multiple playable characters, allowing you to play as Bass along with Mega Man. Bass handles differently than Mega Man, who handles the exact same as he did in Mega Man 8. Bass has a dash instead of a slide, a double jump, and can fire in multiple directions, sacrificing the ability to fire through walls, unless a power up is equipped.
Speaking of power ups, the shop is back in this game, and boy are there a ton of items to buy. I’m only going to mention the super notable ones and include a screenshot of the others. For Mega Man, we have the Auto Charger, which allows Mega Man to charge his buster automatically without any input from you, the High Speed Charge, which allows you to charge it quicker, Eddie, which serves the same person as previous games, the Auto Recover, which allows Mega Man to gradually recover HP, Beat, who shields you this time, Rush Search, and a CD Finder. CDs are optional collectables that are found throughout the game and provide character information. For Bass we have the Stronger Buster, which increases the power of his shots, the Hyper Buster, which allows him to fire through walls, the Hi Speed Dash, which allows him to dash faster, the Step Booster, which allows him to climb ladders faster, and the Treble Boost, which allows him to combine with Treble, his robot dog companion and rival of Rush, letting you fly and shoot three buster shots at once. Some of the power ups that can be used by both are the Counter Attacker which ups your power when your health is low, the Energy Saver which makes using robot master weapons cost less energy, the Damage Absorber, which refills weapon energy as you lose health, my personal favorite the Super Armor which ups your defense, and the CD Counter, which shows how many CDs remain in each stage.
This game plays just like every other Mega Man game, but takes after 8, mainly. One thing you’ll notice when playing this game is how difficult it can be. Some of the robot master stages, mainly Magic Man, Dynamo Man, and Burner Man, are incredibly difficult. I beat this game with both Mega Man and Bass, and I’m not joking when I say I probably lost all my lives about 50 times.
The level design isn’t good at all. The enemy placement in almost every stage is incredibly unfair and there is almost no room for error. Some stages require you to already know what hazard is coming before you see it, some require you to be fast and accurate with your buster while not taking damage, and every stage requires you to have incredibly competent video game skills, since there are no Energy Tanks in this game. Just like Mega Man 8, this game does away with a series staple, but unlike Mega Man 8, there aren’t halfway points in each stage that refill your health. This is very frustrating, since it means you have to master each robot master and memorize their attack pattern. I fought Burner Man upwards of 15 times before I could competently beat him.
There aren’t tanks that refill your weapon energy, so unless you’re using the specific powerups that help regain or save weapon energy, you’re screwed if you use a bunch of it against a robot master and lose. Playing with Bass is a bit easier since he’s more versatile, but both playthroughs of the game were frustrating. King Tower 2 is by far the hardest stage I have ever played in any Mega Man game. This specific stage makes you endure FOUR boss fights spread throughout, with none of them being easy, that is if you can even make it to the fight and not die to pitfalls, spikes, or enemies. This stage alone took me hours to learn and beat.
The boss rush at the end of the game, which is another Mega Man staple, is changed up this time. Ever since Mega Man 2, you’ve been allowed to choose any robot master in whatever order you want, and the teleporters to each fight are next to each other. In this game, the order is fixed, and in between each Robot Master fight is a corridor full of enemies, instant killing spikes, and some of the toughest platforming in the game. I personally think the boss rush and its corridors are harder than the final boss itself.
The difficulty isn’t turned up to 11 the whole way through the game, but it’s turned up enough to make me have to step away from the game more than once. It’s not a fun difficult either. If I want fun difficult, I play Mega Man 2 or 3, Mega Man and Bass is just ridiculous.
The controls are fine for the most part. Sometimes with Bass I can accidentally dash over an edge or too far, but that’s more my fault. The double jump is a very nice touch, and I had a lot of fun controlling Bass. When controlling Mega Man, it’s pretty much Mega Man 8’s controls mapped to a Super Famicom controller, no problem there.
The music of this game is fine. The sound is a mix of Mega Man 7 and Mega Man 8. The game is on a cartridge, but this was super late in the lifespan of the Super Famicom, and full advantage is taken of the console’s sound quality. The music is really good quality for the console, but none of it is super memorable. If the game was a little easier, I may have been able to relax and enjoy the music while playing, but alas.
This game looks amazing for the Super Famicom. Just like the sound quality, Capcom was able to take full advantage of the Super Famicom’s graphical capability, and the game looks very similar to Mega Man 8, which was what they were going for, so mission accomplished. The graphics are the best part of this game, which is a shame.
Mega Man and Bass wasn’t enjoyable to play at all. There isn’t a single stage that I enjoyed playing and instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment when I finished one, I breathed a sigh of relief. The addition of Bass as a playable character doesn’t make up for the unfairness of the level design, hazard and boss memorization, and patience that’s required to finish Mega Man and Bass. The game still looks and sounds good today, sure, but I don’t want to look at or hear the game anymore. Mega Man and Bass hasn’t aged well at all, but I honestly don’t think many people ever thought this game was very good in the first place. Unless you’re a stickler for playing the entire series in order, DO NOT play Mega Man and Bass.