Friday, August 4, 2023

Rockman & Forte 2 - Mirai kara no Chōsensha (Wonderswan, 1999)


It's the most dynamic team up of two guys who hate each other since Hobbs and Shaw. This is wild though: With all the Mega Man that I've played over the years, and me trying to cover all of the classic and X series, I somehow missed this game entirely. I thought I'd finished the entire series and was done. Nope. This game was hiding in a cave somewhere like the guy from Highlander III. Considering I never even heard of it until recently, I have no clue what to expect.

Mirai kara no chosensha! Challenger from the future! The Wonderswan really is a great little system that I've just recently discovered. Too bad there isn't much on it.

Bass looks all constipated here. You choose one and that's who you play as for the entire game. Far as I can tell, it doesn't let you switch midway through, which has its pros and cons. They went with the X4 model which is more replayable IMO. Being able to switch characters whenever takes away some impetus to do a replay.

The intro tells us that a fearsome new robot has appeared that looks just like our hero!

...actually, he doesn't look "just like" our hero at all. They're basically telling us not to believe our lying eyes.

Argh, they're really going to run with this aren't they?

Bass is like "WHICH ONE DO I SHOOT??"

Is he blind?

It doesn't matter because he then switches to "I'll shoot 'em both! I'm hardcore!"

Bass comes equipped with an X series style dash which is pretty useful for jumping momentum, but not so much for getting into narrow corridors or avoiding foes. He also can't move while shooting, which is a huge handicap, and his shots don't do much damage. He can shoot in all directions though. His double jump is OP as usual, and he has a variety of major powerups in the shop that can make him incredibly potent if you put in the time to get them. He has a bit of a rough go at first though and the cons outweigh the pros until you can get what you need from said shop.

After testing out Bass, I decide to go with Mega Man for this playthrough. Here he is getting ganked by Mets like a goofball.

This game has very sub-par stage design that feels like it was crafted by a B-Team. ...or maybe a C-Team. They really, really like putting spikes on ceilings that you have to slide under, and they repeat this same "set of 3" thing so many times it's ridiculous.

First boss is the Green Devil, just like the previous game. It's much less of a threat than the Yellow Devil, that's for sure.

The stage select gives you four choices after the intro stage, and they're all blisteringly tough levels.

I go with this guy, who seems vaguely Samurai-oriented like Yamato Man.

Which reminds me, would have been awesome if this game had made use of some bosses from Mega Man 5 and Mega Man 6 to continue that theme from the Game Boy games.

The charged shot is a little bit anemic in this game.

Here I am unleashing it on a dastardly frog bot before sliding under the 88th set of 3 ceiling spikes.

The game also likes to do this thing where it puts ceilings right above where you need to jump over a pit, so you have to get to where you've got one foot on the edge in order to clear it. Not sure what they were thinking.

The minibosses are also pretty uninspired and follow very basic patterns.

Boss hallways don't have gates in this version. I think I know why:

...because the gates got added to the boss's HP meter instead!

Komuso Man is able to split into multiple images temporarily while attacking. During that attack he's invulnerable. And herein lies a big issue with this game: The bosses are invulnerable the majority of the time during their fights. It's super annoying. Did the High Max designer get to do an entire game?

They also have extra-long life meters. Here he is unleashing a nearly-unavoidable fire attack while I futilly try to pummel him with shots during this brief vulnerability window.

That was the hardest fight in the game (simply because I didn't have his weakness or anything from the shop yet), it's mostly smooth-sailing from here. His weapon is this potent dash-punch that's actually pretty fun to use, sort of the punch counterpart to Charge Kick.

Defeat a boss and their stage select portrait changes, which is a nice touch.

I farm the intro stage a couple more times to get enough bolts to buy the Super Armor. This powerup is the single most important powerup in the game for Mega Man, and permanently halves damage he takes. This is gonna make a HUGE difference in further stages and boss fights, and makes it so you can actually tank bosses and just trade hits with them if it comes down to it.

There aren't really any other crucial powerups for Mega Man, just some QOL upgrades like the Super Recover (doubles the potency of heals dropped by enemies) and the Energy Balancer. Bass on the other hand has a whole bunch of major powerups to get here, so he's got a lot more to spend bolts on.

Note the wildly-overpriced extra life. 200 bolts? Seriously? All of the permanent upgrades are either 200 or 300 and those are the only things anyone should be spending any money on. Most of the other things here are single-use and prohibitively expensive. Also, no E-Tanks in this game whatsoever. Yep, you have to do everything in one life bar. Though you CAN get Eddie summons that might toss out an energy capsule, but it's far from a sure thing. The good news is that you don't really need any E-Tanks, the Super Armor has you covered.

Next up is Danganman, who has a giant torpedo-dildo for a body.

"Fear me!" he says while vibrating uncontrollably and then torpedoing off into the distance.

This stage is mostly just...platforms, lots of platforms. Some of them drop, some of them move around.

The boss itself is vulnerable to the dash punch, and the main threat is getting distracted by his ridiculous dong-chest.

Next is a boss that looks like some sort of pressure cooker. Alright, I need to look up what these boss names mean in Japanese.

Konro - Japanese BBQ. Wait, is he a BBQ grill?

Dangan - A bullet or shell. Makes sense considering he's a big phallic object.

Komuso - A type of monk from the Edo period. So that first boss was indeed vaguely similar to Yamato Man in theme.

Aircon - This is just short for "air conditioner". Not a Japanese word like the others, nope, it's literally "air conditioner".

So we have two bosses that are home appliances, a bullet, and a monk. What a crew.

Konro Man's stage has little rhyme or reason, and nothing to do with BBQs. It's mostly just platform-oriented like the previous one.

It does have the best miniboss in the game, this groping grabby-hand that reaches up and tries to get ahold of Mega Man's nether-regions. Every time it does that it destroys part of the floor, and that quickly becomes your biggest concern. Don't win fast enough and you could run out of floor.

The boss mainly just spews fire everywhere. He's vulnerable to the dash punch, like Dangan Man. That's right, two bosses are vulnerable to the same weapon. Not sure why it didn't follow a set order. Not to worry though, Dangan Man's weapon has some use: The final boss is weak to it.

Oh, I need to go over the last couple of weapons: Konro's weapon is a flamethrower weapon kind of like the one in Mega Man X except it flies upward when you let go of the button. Dangan Man's weapon is a missile that breaks apart into 3 smaller homing missiles. That one is probably the best for using against regular foes in the stages. Super useful in a variety of situations.

Next up: Aircon Man? He's like if Wind Man or Air Man were designed by a fan instead of by Capcom.

...oh yeah, Wind Man WAS designed by a fan. (Not seen here)

Heh, "fan"

This stage is the one stage in the game that is supposed to be played vertically, and it totally changes the buttons around as a result. Playing this with a PS5 controller rather than an actual system, this means the controls are totally messed up for one stage. Had to flip the controller on its side and use an analog stick for movement. Just super-unwieldy. But whatever, the game's gotta get done.

Vertical screen gameplay: The Wave of Tomorrow!

I wish this were just a basic desert stage. No, the main thrust of this disaster is a series of long vertical hallways full of spikes, where you have no choice but to drop down. There's no way to avoid a lot of these even with good reaction time, so it's all trial and error and remembering where to fall next time. It's super lame. The shop does have purchasable Spike Guards if all else fails. All in all it's similar to the Quick Man level but not as difficult.

Miniboss here is actually pretty creative. A squid hovers overhead so you have to bounce shots off the hard hats so they hit it. In most Mega Man games, bounced shots become harmless as they fly off the screen, while in this game they still do damage post-bounce.

After that, more spikes! Except now you're going upward and using these balloon things to make your way up. I'll say this, at least this stage is nowhere near as boring as the last two, with their platforms.

This one part tells me that the poor, over-difficult level design in this game was in no way intentional after all. I need to hit this squid once with a normal shot to make it inflate into a balloon and ride it up, except it's too far down to hit. I can jump down to hit it, but I'd die on a spike.

Which means I have to - get this - jump down just right so I hit the squid, causing me to not die on the spike due to invincibility frames, then fire a quick shot and jump onto the now-inflated balloon.

It feels very, very unintentional all around, like this level wasn't properly tested.

Aircon Man himself is easily defeated by unleashing the flamethrower and letting it fly up and hit him. It always gets him twice on the way through, making this fight vastly easier than his terrible stage. Also we're back to normal horizontal screen proportions for this.

His weapon is the wildly-OP Barrier Wind, which fires a big energy wave that tears through everything in its path while also blocking enemy shots.

From this point there's no more stage choice to be had. There are 3 more stages and you do them one at a time in order.

First up: Clock Men. The first-ever "Men" boss in Mega Man.

This stage doesn't just have spiked ceilings, it has the kind that move up and down.

Most of the stage is basically a direct rip of Gravity Man's stage from Mega Man 5 though, which really makes me wish this game had officially made use of the later NES bosses that the Game Boy series didn't, even if it meant changing the story around so it'd make sense.

Clock Man himself is actually two different bosses who fly around in circles, like Gemini Man except they both take life meter damage. Barrier Wind shreds this guy in like seconds. At least we know the capsule room isn't going to be any major threat in this game.

His weapon is the Time Stop, which...does what it says. You can't shoot while it's active (meaning it's useless against bosses or mini-bosses) but you can pass through enemies without taking damage, so it's good for skipping an entire section of a level if you just can't be arsed anymore.

Next up: Mirai Rockman's most powerful goon, Compass Man. Not particularly intimidating. What does he do, tell you which direction is north?

Weird thing about these bosses is that they aren't Wily creations, so they're supposed to be future-droids that Quint brought back. Why are they so much worse than the contemporary bots?

This stage has these super-annoying springs that have to be used to cross gaps. They're unwieldy to use and don't function the way they would in, say, a Mario game. You automatically get sprung high off of them, but you have to wait for it to happen before you start moving to the right or you'll just step off of it. This makes it basically a death trap, for something that should be simple.

Compass Man sorta looks like Saturn from Mega Man V, but he doesn't really do anything interesting except break in half and jump back and forth.

No weakness for this guy really, and he only takes damage to that little ball joint in the torso. No special weapon from him either, which is kind of weird. I think they just ran out of inventory space. So we'll never know what Compass Man's weapon would have been. Separating your upper torso like the Enterprise-D's saucer, I guess.

One stage left, and Rockman Shadow finally spills the beans. We get this flashback to Mega Man II on the Game Boy, and...


He reveals that he was Quint! So did he already come back in time once, lose, and come back again with more goons?

Explains why he isn't counted among the "Mega Man Hunters" in their repeat appearances in later games. Enker, Punk, and Ballade are basically in a class of their own. Quint is much easier and...much lamer than they are so it's just as well that he's left out. Here we've got the explanation though. Quint was Mega Man! He was Mega Man all along!

They really had a boner for trying to turn Mega Man evil, didn't they? Future Mega Man is evil both here and in the Mega Man Zero series. Or at least he was intended to be, until they chickened out at the last minute and renamed the evil Mega Man to be a clone despite that the dialogue indicates that he was clearly intended to be the real deal.

Final inventory screen. I didn't get much for items or tools from the shop, just the Super Armor and the Super Recover. The latter is pretty helpful in general for staying healed-up, though if I did it over again I'd go for the Energy Balancer. Weapon energies don't get refilled between stages in this game, which gets pretty annoying after a while.

The final stage is pretty unmemorable, like most of the stages. I just played this game and the only stages I have any real memory of are Komuso Man and Aircon Man, and out of those only Aircon Man will probably stick with me in the future.

In any case, after some unmemorable platforming, we get a miniboss fight with a Skull Tank type thing. Except it's small and it stays on the ceiling. This is about as close as we get to a Wily boss fight in this game because he's nowhere to be found.

Also, no boss capsule room. Not that surprised, but I was prepared for one. Oh well.

The first stage of the fight with Rockman Shadow is super easy, he just jumps around and tries to stay on top of Mega Man racking up hits. Pretty annoying but not much else.

After he loses about a third of his HP he whips out his Sakugarne pogo stick and starts bouncing around with that, trying to land on Mega Man's head. He's a bit nastier now. Dangan Man's missiles seem to be the best weapon here.

It's a photo finish, as my first try ends with a win at 1 HP remaining.

Quint has a message for our heroes. Don't become a tyrannical dictator and try to take over the world like he did! Well, he was pretty bad at it.

Our heroes bury Quint and pay their respects. Surprisingly dark for a classic series Mega Man game.

The end credits show Mega Man Were they trying to cross over with as many games as possible?

Well, this was a weird game to say the least. It was basically an extra Game Boy Mega Man, with a completely different engine and lacking most of the design genius. Kind of surprised it even existed, and it was a cool thing to find in the couch cushions.

Here's the How Far Can I Get Without Dying for this one. The answer, as usual, is "not very".

Final thoughts? This game is too poorly-designed to recommend, and only the staunchest of Mega Man completionists might want to bother. It is one of the few particularly notable Wonderswan games, though, so anyone doing WSC emulation to see what that system was about might want this on their list as well.

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