Back in 1998, I was in elementary school and only owned an N64. The only times I would get to experience PlayStation games were sleepovers at a particular friend’s house. One of the first games I ever played for the PlayStation, and one of my first experiences with disc-based games, was Mega Man Legends.
At the time, I was awed by the way it looked. The way that the PlayStation and the N64 rendered 3D space was different, which gave each console a distinct look. I didn’t understand this at the time, but all I knew is that it looked different and like nothing I’d seen on the N64. Of course, in 2000, the game would get a re-release on the N64 as Mega Man 64— which is where I was first able to play it through to completion.
I picked this game up a few months back and finally played through it on my PS3. My clear time was around 7 1/2 hours, but my total playtime was probably closer to 8.
Mega Man Legends is a story of mysteries; in a flooded world with a forgotten past and long forgotten technology, Mega Man Volnutt is an archaeologist/adventurer searching for Quantum Refractors to power their technology. Think Indiana Jones with a gun for an arm.
The story is what you make of it, as optional conversations with your compatriots and townspeople fill in your knowledge of the world and it’s backstory. There are several side plot characters you can assist along the way, which can affect Mega Man Legends’ proto-morality system (your character turns a lighter or darker shade of blue depending on certain actions).
There is a major revelation towards the denouement of the game that is pretty shocking. Mega Man is some sort of ancient creation called a “purifier unit” that performed some sort of important function in the “old world.” As a pre-teen, this revelation seemed cool. but as an almost-30-something, it seems tacked on, like an M. Night Shyamalan twist.
Mega Man Legends is a fun game… But sometimes it feels like the controls are the hardest enemy. The single most frustrating aspect of the game is that you are limited to using the D-pad. Despite being a game released in Japan the same year as Sony’s first dual analog controller, the game does not support analog sticks and unlike Resident Evil, we never got a dual shock re-release — perhaps the sales didn’t warrant it.
Once you’ve overcome the learning curve and mastered using the D-pad and the R1 and L1 buttons to strafe, you can maneuver pretty easily. Since a majority of the combat is strafing or circling around your enemy, this is crucial. There is a lock-on mechanic, but unlike Z-targeting in 1998’s Ocarina of Time, Mega Man must remain stationary when locking on to an enemy. Sometimes this can do more harm than good, but eventually I got used to it.
The gameplay is semi-linear. There are “major” events that need to be done in a certain order, but there are extra explorations and side quests that can be done in any order to get a better sense of the world. I liked this because I didn’t feel trapped in a storyline, but at the same time I didn’t feel lost by being in an “open world” environment. For Mega Man’s first jump into 3D I think this was a perfect balance.
Upon release, this game was described as a “realtime action RPG.” But the RPG elements are minimal. There’s collecting money to upgrade your items and buy new ones, but that’s about it.
I played this game on my backwards compatible PS3 on an HD TV, so I did not have the benefit of a CRT fuzz. The PlayStation version has absolutely no anti-aliasing at all (something that was added in the N64 version) so you get a whole lot of jaggies. This, in my opinion, actually makes the visuals hold up better than some of the game’s contemporaries.
There is some texture warping as you move closer to far away objects. This is especially noticeable in things like the lines on the ground, which are wobbly until you get close to them— at which point they straighten out. This is pretty par for the course for PS1 games of this era and certainly not a knock on the game.
Now that’s not to say I think it’s a bad looking game. The pastel color choice and cartoonish visuals actually gives a cel-shaded effect works well with stylish and anime-influenced the character and enemy designs.
Whether this is a game you had in your youth or are just discovering, it’s definitely worth a playthrough. Contemporary reviews gave it high marks, with IGN giving it an 8.4 and Gamespot a 7.2 and I think those are well warranted.