Mega Man Ultra Review by: BoxiaA worthy, if flawed Mega Man hack.
Mega Man games were always ripe for hacking. There are so many ways a single level can be modified and altered that the series was established as firm hacking ground almost as soon as it was possible to do so. Most prolific MM hacks are Japanese, but there were also quite a few English or, for conveniences’ sake, western hacks put on the net. The most famous of these western hacks is arguably Mega Man Ultra, a hack of Mega Man 2. The game boasts many of the features of any decent Mega Man hack, but also has a few original surprises thrown in.
The story is a carbon copy of MM2s' story. Dr. Wily is back at it with eight new robot masters in a refreshed attempt to conquer the world. The Blue Bomber must once again crush his nemesis, for great justice. I could accept the moderately rehashed story if this was vanilla MM2, but the fact that a new story, or at least alterations to said story were not made for this hack is astounding, as most hacks are able to throw in quite a few deviations. ?I must give extra points, however, for a slightly changed ending that makes for a passable twist.
Level Design: 8/10
Every level in this game has received a new look and feel, as with every good hack. The degree of change varies from "completely altered" to "significantly modified". For example, Wood Mans' stage was torn down completely and r
eplaced with one identical to World 1-1 from Super Mario Brothers. It's as awesome as it sounds. In other cases, the textures remain, but the stage layout is altered. Most of the time, this is done very well, and flaws are rare. But of course, there HAD to be a couple of stages (looking at you, wily 4) that were way too long, too easy, too bland, and too boring to carry any significant value or merit. These levels drag down the total Level Design rating, but not by much, thankfully.
Sprites & polish: 7/10
The sprites of enemies and bosses are highly polished, with few "cracks" or other deficiencies. This, however, is only when they're stationary. When in motion, the sprites are subject to all sorts of glitches, including flickering, parts of the texture disappearing, or vanishing all together. This only really happens when there are loads of enemies on screen, but that's common enough to make your eyes want to puke. Regarding the rest of the game, many graphical glitches from MM2 were fixed, but new ones were brought in. Pulling up the weapon screen sometimes causes the background to display the next screen of the stage, rather than the current one. All other such glitches I found were, thankfully, very minor, causing little to no interference with the game or with your eyes.
Music and Sound Effects: 8/10
The entire soundtrack has been r
eplaced with tracks from other, predominantly NES, games. The tracks have all had their pitch lowered, I guess so that they wouldn't be total copies of their original forms. Unfortunately, this change of pitch had a negative impact on the overall sound quality. Many songs now sound like they were played in tin cans and that noise was used for the soundtrack. However, the stellar choice of new songs and the fact that these new songs blend perfectly with their assigned stages means that some people might be able to overlook these changes in quality. All of the sound effects sound at least normal, and are never overused to the point of them being annoying. However, they never exceed "bloop" level complexity, so I can't rate that too highly.
There are two difficulties, just like vanilla. There's normal, and "Expert!!!” In normal, weapons, including the mega buster, do double damage and enemies deal half damage. In expert, these buffs are removed. Even in expert, however, the game proves to be a breeze for the most experienced players and a good challenge for the least experienced. The enemies, while usually plentiful, are often fun to fight, especially with the mega buster. The bosses are also good fun to duel with, though some are just unforgiving without their weaknesses. My only qualm is that the game gets much less fair in the wily stages. Swarms of enemies and unfair bosses dominate these final levels, and you'll likely need extra lives and e-tanks to make it through.
The robot masters all have new weapons that are passed to you after their defeat. The originality in these weapons never exceeds getting a new sprite, name, and/or sound effect. Some weapons also use less energy, but that's rare. Thankfully, the lack of creativity is largely nullified by how fun these weapons are. The metal blade (or in this hack, the saw cutter) is still immensely satisfying, the quick boomerang is still almightily overpowered, and all the other weapons find spots where they're good fun to use. In short, the weapons are a true testament to what helps make Mega Man games so fun.
Collectibles & hidden goodies: N/A
Extra lives and e-tanks, which refill your health bar, are as close to collectibles and hidden stuff as this game gets. ?Even those can be dropped by killed enemies, so they don't really constitute "collectibles". This category gets an N/A for that.
Total depth: 5/10
The game is about as expansive as any early Mega Man NES game. As stated above, there aren't any real "collectibles", so the depth all comes from the stages. There's thirteen stages total, eight robot master stages and five wily stages. The stages are about as expansive and engaging as any typical Mega Man stage.... with the exception of the last wily stages, but that's for later. The robot master stages aren't too long or difficult, but they'll satisfy most Mega Man fans with their (usually) evenly spread out enemies and challenging bosses that might take up to 20 minutes for an unskilled player. But the wily stages..... I have a feeling the developer figured that longer stages automatically equal better game play. He/she was wrong, the stages are lengthy, but the enemies are not placed proportionally, which results in a lot of empty space with nothing to do. The fact that we have so many stages with this much empty space is unacceptable, and that will hurt the depth rating.
Mega Man Ultra is as good, if not better than most Mega Man Hacks. It has numerous faults, but I still say that it's worth playing, for its good music, graphics, level design, challenges, and weaponry. If you're interested in Mega Man hacks, this is a must-play.