All Together Then: Mega Man: The Wily Wars

Mega Man's first compilation. But not his last, oh no.

Pity the poor Sega fans. Master System and Mega Drive owners were entirely starved of Mega Man while Capcom gleefully released six instalments on the NES, not to mention the superb Mega Man X on Nintendo's 16-bit. Thankfully, in late 1994, Capcom took pity on the Sonic serfs and brought us Mega Man: The Wily Wars, a compilation of NES megahits Mega Man 1, 2 and 3.

Akin to Super Mario All-Stars, Wily Wars revamps the presentation of these classics; graphics and sound have been overhauled for the more powerful console. Unfortunately it's also inherited the drawbacks of All-Stars without the content to mitigate them. While the original Super Mario Bros. suffers from problematic mechanical changes in Nintendo's compilation, its two sequels have no such issues. In Wily Wars, all three games are let down by input lag and general handling issues.

While Mega Man himself looks unusual, the Robot Masters do often benefit from the additional colour.

In order to explain why, I need to get into one of my personal hobby horses. For that, I apologise. But it's my contention - and it is contentious - that aesthetics are the most important thing about a game. That is, if the graphics don't fit the experience of playing, the game is irrevocably damaged. In The Wily Wars' case, Mega Man's stiff movement that made so much sense on NES simply doesn't pass muster on the 16-bit. There's an immediate disconnect between the game and the player - when you start to move Mega Man, he holds for a second then sets off. I'd expect awkward movement from the extremely awkward 8-bit Mega Man sprite, so when it happens in the originals I don't bat an eyelid. When you revamp the game but don't revamp the game feel, you're following a recipe for disaster.

It's to the credit of the source games included here that this slip-up doesn't irrevocably and immediately ruin Wily Wars. All three of these titles are classics to varying degree. As per popular opinion, Mega Man 2 is the best of them and the go-to representation for Mega Man as a series, while the formative original and the brilliant but bloated Mega Man 3 make this package a quality sandwich. These games are pure and good, and no level of meddling can really spoil that.

Some of the aesthetic changes can result in more generic, lacklustre visual design.

The collection brings a battery save to the mix as well as an additional mode unlocked upon completion of all three games; Wily Tower offers three new stages and three new bosses to tackle. Most interestingly, you can pick a suite of Mega Man 1-3 weapons and items to take in with you, offering plenty of variation. The included titles also feature bug fixes and a general difficulty increase, but if you can beat the originals you can beat these.

Mega Man: The Wily Wars is a curio, not least because it was released in North America exclusively for the short-lived Sega Channel download service. It got a cartridge release in other regions, but sells for high prices. Of course, the more modern Mega Man Legacy Collection is a much better way to experience Mega Man 1-3 (and many more), but the novelty of Wily Wars makes it well worth a look. The games were also presented in 2004's Mega Man Anniversary Collection, but that's a story for another time.