Finally, You Can Play Mega Man Legends Again
Mega Man Legends was one of the first 3-D games I ever played. It’s also the only Mega Man game I’ve ever truly loved. Since its release in 1997, however, the game and its sequel have languished in obscurity. To play them (legally) meant buying increasingly expensive PlayStation discs on the secondhand market.
Now—after neglecting the series for years and cancelling a potential sequel—Capcom will release Mega Man Legends on the Playstation Network today, playable on Playstation 3 and PlayStation Vita (though not PS4). If you haven’t played it, you should.
As a child, I found the side-scrolling Mega Man games overwhelming. Even if I was good enough to play through them, there were so many that I had no idea where to start. As new Mega Man for a new era, Legends was attractive to younger players like me.
It’s an adventure game more interested in evoking fantasy story grandeur than providing ultra-hard challenges. There is no Dr. Wily, no transforming dog, no themed armada of rival robots. There’s just a boy, human-like but still machine, and a civilization full of optimism tinged with subterranean pain. The boy, like before, has a laser gun on his arm, and he’s not afraid to use it, if he must.
The Mega Man you play as is similar to the classic hero, but older and lankier. He’s an archaeologist hunting for ancient technological artifacts that society needs to keep running. His world is a series of islands: Most of the planet has been overcome by ocean, and these small pockets of land-based civilization are all that remain. Alongside him are his adopted sister Roll (a mechanic), her grandfather, and, a robot monkey.
The player explores above and digs into the techno-ruins beneath. These ruins, which absolutely terrified me as a kid, are designed like vast circuit panels cleaved into the earth, sharp lines and metallic colors infested with insectoid guardian machines. So far as my mind was concerned, it was as if the PlayStation’s motherboard had come to life and was trying to kill me.
Mega Man Legends is a relic from the early days of console gaming in the third dimension, before design conventions were settled. It was a time when developers were mostly just muddling through, trying to translate familiar 2-D experiences to broader frontiers. As such, it combines its re-envisioning of Mega Man with a clunkiness that I find charming.
I vividly recall spending hours wrestling with the game’s controls, trying to wrap my mind around trying to manage Mega Man’s movements and the game camera at the same time. The boy robot controlled like a tank, an unfortunate relic of the early 3-D era that inadvertently highlights his stratified identity: He’s like a human boy, but not quite, from his blue chassis all the way down to the way he walks.
In terms of aesthetics, meanwhile, everything looks like a Saturday morning cartoon made out of off-brand Legos. The look simultaneously highlights and contrasts with the game’s themes, which revolve around rebirth, survival, and looking toward the future, even amongst the ruins of the past. It’s a post-apocalypse scenario disguised as a playset.
I can’t tell you how Mega Man Legends holds up, eighteen years later. The tics that seemed charming to me then might very well be deal-breakers for new players. But I can tell you how Mega Man Legends made me feel: adventurous and hopeful, even in a world in which I felt somewhat out of place. It’s the game that made me fall in love with Mega Man, and even if I can only offer my recommendation through the lenses of nostalgia, I’d suggest you give it a spin.