With this being the final day of PSP Month, I thought that it would be appropriate to close it out with the game that started it all. Mega Man Powered Up is the reason why I bought a PSP all those years ago. As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, I didn’t care about the PSP, as I had been told so many times that it sucked, and that I should stick with the Nintendo DS if I was absolutely hard up for handheld gaming.
I don’t remember where exactly I had read about this game. It was another one of those nights where I was up all night on the internet, trying to find something after a hard day’s work. What that something was, I didn’t and still don’t know. Probably the same thing I’m looking for now. Existentialism and loneliness aside, I found some review or blog post about this game, and it caught my attention immediately. First of all, I fucking love Mega Man, something that I’m sure is obvious by now. Second, this is a remake of the first game, a game that after ten sequels and numerous spin-offs, is still really good. Not only is this a remake, but it’s a remake where you can play as the bosses? A remake that includes a level editor that lets you upload and download those levels? Sign me the fuck up!
Whichever team was in charge of doing this remake knew what they were doing. They knew what they were doing with the art style, if nothing else. The thing about Mega Man is that Mega Man is adorable. It’s a series about cute robots blowing each other up with guns, yes, but doing it in a cute way. They could have easily taken the taller, leaner Mega Man 8 Mega Man and slapped some polygons to him, like Mega Man 11 did to mixed results. No, they knew that the best Mega Man is the short little boy in his ridiculous blue get-up very obviously influenced by Astro Boy, and we got a cute 3D representation of that. Mega Man Powered Up is a cute game about cute robots jumping around and being cute. Everything, from the little Blue Guy, to all of the Robot Masters, to the standard enemies, right down to the platforms you jump on and off of, has that wonderful candy-coated sweetness to it that more games need.
The actual game itself is exactly what it’s advertised as; it is a remake of Mega Man 1, but with some more stuff. The levels have been redesigned to be less annoying (shout out to Guts Man), there are two new bosses to fight, returning bosses have new patterns and attacks, all types of cool stuff. You can also choose to play the original levels, though those also use the new graphics, and thankfully removed that weird inertia the Mega Man had whenever he stopped running. Those are nice to have, but the new designs are so good, that it wouldn’t be such a big loss if the old levels weren’t included; not like there aren’t several different avenues to play the original game.
Being able to play a version of Mega Man on the go that isn’t compromised in any way with several quality of life changes is enough of novelty to justify buying a PSP for it. The addition of all the extra characters; all the bosses, with their unique weapons and abilities, as well as Roll and Protoman, who themselves are unique on their own, that’s also awesome. If you’re reading this, then there’s a pretty good chance that you know what Mega Man is. Either you love him, or his games are too hard for you. This is a Mega Man game, and it’s a really fucking good one. The only real shame here is that Capcom didn’t give any of the other games this treatment. Go long enough to at least give us Mega Man 2: Even More Powered Up. But whatever, at least we got this one, which gives me another excuse to listen to another redone version of Elec Man’s theme, one of my favorite pieces of Mega Man music, mostly because it is blatantly ripped off of Journey’s “Faithfully.”
Now, before I get into the real meat of this game, I have to bring up the one big issue that it has. Something that any other company would have looked at, said “holy SHIT!” and immediately scrapped and pretended they never saw.
One of the new bosses added to this game is Oil Man. I don’t think I have to point out what exactly is wrong with his design; it’s pretty fucking obvious. But maybe this was an accident? It’s not like his look had to be altered in the US release or any-
OH MY FUCKING GOD
Yeah…yeah…this game, this great, awesome, cute game also has a character that looks like a horrible racial stereotype, complete with doing a little dance at the beginning of his fight. As much as I’d like to charitably describe this as an accident, this is Capcom, the same company that thought releasing Resident Evil 5 was a good idea, and has had several artists come out as extremely anti-Black in recent years. So who the fuck knows? It is very unfortunate, and I thought it was worth bringing up when I’m otherwise blasting metaphorical rope over this game.
Shitty racial imagery aside, the real meat of MMPU is the level editor. A good level editor, at that. The levels that I made in it all those years ago are terrible garbage, but working on them made those soul-draining shifts at my job all the more bearable. It’s simple enough for a complete idiot to use (see example: me), and is as much fun to make your own stages as playing the actual game, if not moreso. Put down some platforms, place some enemies on them, make it so that you only have access to Cutman’s weapon, whatever. Since the only limit to the number of stages you can have is the amount of space on your Memory Stick, you could conceivably make the equivalent of your own fan-game. Granted, you are still limited to the MM1 weapons and characters, but you can still make it work.
Unfortunately, due to Wi-Fi adapters changing how they connect to the internet, I cannot get my PSP online anymore. However, last time I checked, not only are the servers for MMPU still online, people are still uploading stages! As recently as 2019, people were still making their own creations in Mega Man’s level editor. That’s awesome, and shows that there’s still a tremendous community hard at work. Yes, there is that fan-made Mega Maker, which is fantastic by the way, but there is still something to be said about MMPU’s staying power.
Maybe I’m alone in this line of thinking, but I consider handheld games to be more of an intimate experience than ones on console, or even most PC games. Probably because you have to physically hold the entire system, and play the game on a screen too small for other eyes to see, but it does feel like more of a personal experience. With this, you get reminded that there’s nobody to impress here. You play through the game for you. You make the levels for you. You can make all the levels you want, you don’t have to upload them. There’s no quality control on your Memory Stick, fill it up with trash that’s only fun to you. Ultimately, I think that’s the lasting appeal of not only Mega Man, but of the PSP itself. Simply you, and a tiny, glowing screen, having a personal experience. In my weird opinion, I think this is why RPG’s and Visual Novels and Wizardry-likes ended up working so well on the system. Going through a chapter on the bus, grinding out a few dungeon floors during a lunch break, putting a level together in bed before going to sleep. There’s this intangible warm and fuzzy feeling I get from handheld games. Mega Man is just as important to this as any of those.
Mega Man Powered Up is, one very specific character aside, a game that I can’t gush about enough. Going through this game, and all these other games, I’m glad that I made the spur of the moment decision to cover the PSP for the whole month. It’s a hell of a system. Before I wrap up this post and this month, I think I’ll take a moment to list some other lesser known, good ass games I did not get around to writing about; maybe next year:
- Rengoku: The Tower of Purgatory and Rengoku 2: The Stairway to Heaven
- Ys: The Oath in Felghana
- Space Invaders Extreme
- Every Extend Extra
- Brandish: The Dark Revenant
- I Am An Air Traffic Controller- Tokyo Airport Hero
- Thexder Neo
- Konami’s other STG compilations (Parodius, Salamander, and Twinbee)