In 2010, Capcom announced that Mega Man Legends 3 was in development for the 3DS. On gaming forums fans rejoiced, eager to play the next installment in the long-dormant series. Unfortunately their excitement would be crushed when the game was cancelled less than a year later. Fans created a Facebook group begging Capcom to resurrect the project, even putting out a documentary.
I was surprised by the vocal reaction. Didn’t Mega Man Legends receive middling reviews upon release? Weren’t its controls notoriously clunky? Did the critics get this wrong? Seeing the two MML games and spinoff The Misadventures of Tron Bonne on sale, I decided to investigate.
Mega Man Legends
Released before the Dualshock brought analog controls to the Playstation, MML had some difficult hurdles to overcome as a third person action game. The D-pad controls movement while the shoulder buttons handle turning. I eventually got a handle on it but it never felt intuitive.
Facing off against the first boss I discovered that the main weapon doesn’t travel far and moves slowly. These are bizarre design choices. Weak starter weapons are to be expected, but you would think projectiles would be able to travel across a small room at a reasonable speed. The lock-on function proved to be similarly frustrating. Mega Man can’t move while locked onto an enemy. It’s also impossible to select your target, the game will pick the closest enemy and automatically switch when another enemy moves closer.
Some parts found in chests and hidden areas can be developed into subweapons. Early in the game you can get the Machine Buster, which outclasses the main weapon in range and damage per second. Unfortunately you can only carry one subweapon at a time, so there’s little incentive to try out other options, especially once you’ve maxed out the Machine Buster’s upgrades.
The large portion of the adventure is spent searching the underground areas for parts to repair the ship. These areas are populated by Reaverbots, hostile enemies of mysterious origin. Besides battling these aggressive automatons, you can seek out chests and hidden alcoves. Not much differentiates these areas besides the textures on the walls and the occasional new enemy. They’re also devoid of music, which is an odd choice.
Where the game shines is its visuals and the friendly cast of characters. At a time when most companies were pushing for realism MML aims for an anime-like aesthetic. It’s a welcome change from the drab browns and greys plaguing other games and a choice I wish more publishers would’ve made. The characters’ mouths also actually move as they talk, which was practically unheard of at the time.*
Undoubtedly the breakout stars of the game are the Bonnes, a family of pirates who clash with Mega Man while he explores Kattelox Island. Tiesel vamps it up while scheming with his sister Tron to take down the Blue Bomber. They’re also responsible for the games’ best set pieces. Mega Man battles Tron’s impressively large robots in the land, sea, and air. The voice actors are decent quality for the time, although hampered by awkward mid-sentence pauses as the Playstation switches between voice clips.
With an estimated run time of seven and a half hours, MML is a fairly short, compact adventure. There were several sidequests remaining but most involved either grinding for money or tedious fetch quests. I was already sick of the repetitive town music, so I opted to move on.
Mega Man Legends 2
Immediately MML2 showcases its improvements over the original. Characters’ faces are more detailed and expressive. The map system received a much needed upgrade. The ruins have more variety and atmosphere. Most importantly, the lock on system is vastly improved, allowing you to move around and switch targets.
Even so, there are some frustrating portions. The lock on camera stays firmly behind Mega Man, which means that if you’re looking up you can’t see where you’re walking. This is especially problematic during one boss fight in a room full of lava. Some areas drag on too long, one underwater dungeon in particular felt interminable. Dungeon design is fairly simplistic. They mostly consist of a series of rectangular rooms connected by corridors.
You also still can’t switch subweapons on the fly. If you want to try out a different subweapon you have to trek back to Roll, who’s usually pretty far removed from the action. Once again experimentation was hampered.
The story sets up several mysteries in the beginning, but doesn’t address them until near the end of the game. I was thoroughly confused after one lengthy cutscene until I spoke to Data (Mega Man’s monkey assistant), who filled in some gaps. The Bonnes are back once again, accompanied by several new pirates. Unfortunately the voice actors for these newcomers aren’t nearly as good as Tron and Tiesel. Also, Mega Man sees a surprising number of the female characters naked, which was entirely unnecessary.
Despite all this, I had a good time for much of my playthrough of MML2. Exploring new areas, finding new items, then returning to upgrade and develop your weapons makes for a satisfying gameplay loop. The lock-on works well for most encounters. A few of the subweapons proved to be highly effective for certain situations. Overall, MML2 mostly delivers on the promise of its predecessor.
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne
Released six months before MML2, Tron Bonne sees the inventor go on missions to earn money and free her brother Tiesel, who’s being held for ransom. There’s no open world to explore here, missions must be selected from a menu.
The missions themselves are fairly middling. The best ones have Tron riding in a mech suit and taking her Servbot stooges to rob a bank or raid some ruins. There are also some puzzle missions that are a decent mix of intuitive and challenging. By far the weakest mission has Tron controlling a drone while exploring underground and encountering other, poorly-voiced explorers. Most of them require Tron to revisit previously explored areas as well.
In between missions Tron manages her crew of forty Servbots aboard her ship. Many of them have special skills and can gain new abilities if they’re given certain items. They can also train to improve their stats or develop new weapons.
Like the original MML, Tron Bonne would’ve benefited from some refinement. It supports the Dual Shock but plays closer to the original MML than its sequel. Tron’s mech lumbers around everywhere, leaving me begging for some sort of dash function. With tweaked controls and more engaging missions it could’ve been something really special.
Third person action games have come a long way the last twenty-two years, making it difficult to recommend Mega Man Legends, a game considered cumbersome even back in 1998. Its sequel fares much better while Tron Bonne was an interesting but underdeveloped experiment.
*I played all three games on a Playstation Vita TV. While playing Mega Man Legends the lip sync was WAY OFF for a few scenes. The audio would be as much as 30 seconds ahead of what’s happening on screen. I didn’t have this problem with the other two games and watching YouTube videos I can see it’s not an issue with the original game.