Either you’re a Mega Man, or it’ll be the Bass that got away

Mega Man & Bass (2003)

Men live in their own delusions, you know, because it’s the only thing that keeps us from giving up. This really comes to the fore when you’ve got a new woman in your sights. You fancy a bit of her, and in your deluded state, you think that you’ve got a chance. But why would you? She will have bundles of interest from all kinds of male suitors, so what sets you apart from the pack? Nice guy? Unblemished record of holding doors open? You even open your wallet to buy them a drink every now and then? All well and good,lad, but you’re gonna need a bit more than that.

Look, it’s even happened to me. When it comes to women, or should I say when it came to women as I’m now a fully dedicated man, I never really tended to diversify my portfolio, you could say. I’d always go full bore towards one woman, who began to dominate my thoughts, though sadly, she’d usually dominate little else. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how I was never done for stalking and harassment. This was in the days before high quality camera phones and screenshotting capabilities, I suppose, and there’s still plenty of time for me to get cancelled.

There was one girl in particular I was giving the full lash, you know, texting her morning noon and night. She never told me to leave her alone, nor did she tell me where to go in a far less polite way, but I knew it was becoming imminent. She eventually found an indirect way of doing this – introducing me to a male acquaintance of hers.

By God, I felt like one of the alsoran sprinters when Usain Bolt rocks up next to them in the lane. Nothing had to be said aloud, because the message was now quite clear – this was the competition I was facing. He was far taller, fitter, more handsome than me, he wasn’t even a dullard either, and I looked a right sorry state to him. It was finally obvious to me that I had no chance really, none at all.

It’s why I felt so sorry for Mega Man when Mega Man & Bass came out, but before we get onto that, there was quite a story to this game’s release. It actually came out exclusively in Japan, on the Super Famicom, as late as 1998. To put that into context, this was after Mega Man 8 had already come out for PS1, and the SNES was way past its sell-by date. I believe that Rockman and Forte, as the game was called over there, even has the text ‘Mega Man 8.5’ present somehwere in the game’s code. Capcom’s intention, naturally, was to gouge 16-bit customers one more time. Well, the creator said that it was catered towards children who hadn’t moved on to a next gen system yet.

Designed for children? I know we’re talking about Japanese kids, the de facto best gamers in the world bar none, but bloody hell did the SNES-knowledged designers sign off with a terribly hard game for them. Mega Man & Bass, as it was later localised in the GBA release, ranks up there with the very hardest of classic Mega Man, with not an E-Tank in sight to refill your health, and bundles of instant death traps across pretty much all of its levels.

Incidentally, although only the Game Boy Advance version made it out of Japan, I can’t really recommend that one. The screen there is a bit too small and the sound obviously gets quite compromised. The Super Famicom version is fine, since you don’t need to be able to read the text to understand Mega Man, although I would caveat that by saying that there’s a very nifty selling point to this game – 100 collectible CDs throughout the game, each one of them featuring the previous Robot Masters in the series, with some of their art and a well-written bit of flavour text.

I love when games do this, when they give you unlockable references to past instalments in the series. It’s a lot better than having Rush dig up rubbish on every square inch of the stages, and better even than the 40 bolts in Mega Man 8, which was the precursor to this system. Not only that, but you’ll need to play through the game as both Mega Man and the mysterious Bass to get all 100, and this is where we arrive at that unfortunate truth – in this game, Mega Man gets absolutely kidded. That is to say, he gets sonned. He gets mogged, you know? He gets made to look a right beta.

Seriously, Bass has all the tools in his arsenal to succeed – he can dash like in the Mega Man X games, he can double jump, he’s got rapid fire, he’s got better upgrades, and generally he can just zip around the levels and get past obstacles like they’re not even there. Next to that, Mega Man, with his humble slide and his single jump and his fat little butt when he climbs ladders, is made to look… well, he looks like I did that day when I saw the man who I’d have to beat, and my whole world with its carefully crafted delusions came crashing down around me.

You’d better stick with Bass then because this game is harder than honours Maths, which is a bit of a pity because the game is one of the prettiest on the SNES – it takes sprites and animations directly from Mega Man 8, a game which itself looked juicy, and the SNES can really pull it off. I’m a big fan of the music too, and overall the package is a lot better than Mega Man 7. It might even beat Mega Man Soccer, you know.

There’s a strange progression to this game too – again they don’t let you pick all eight of the main levels at first, but you have a kind of branching path as you go. You’ve also got two Robot Masters from Mega Man 8 in here, although at least they have new levels and music themes, so not everything is recycled.

And actually if you really drill down into it, you’ll realise that many elements of the other six Robot Masters are rehashed from 8. But you’re not expecting much originality from the Mega Man series or its Japan-only spinoffs at this stage, are you? By the way, the plot of the game is that it looks like it isn’t Dr. Wily, and then at the last second, it is. Well, that’s another tinhg I wasn’t expecting.

This game is almost worth it just to track down the CDs, and also for its existence as a SNES curiousity, which you can get on your GBA as well. You’ll eventually have to brave through the game as Mega Man of course, so it helps that this game even has a save feature, a real luxury for earlier Mega Man games. But all the while, as you play as the boy in blue, you’ll be wishing you were the other lad – that bit stronger, that bit faster, that bit sexier, that bit more desirable. Still, Mega Man got a sequel out of it (or fifty), and I got a kiss out of it (or two). I suppose that’s something.

2 April 2021

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