While I’ve saved it for last, Bomb Man’s stage – the sixth and (in this listing) final of the stages in which you can kick off your odyssey in this very first Mega Man game – actually serves as an ideal stage in which to begin the game. It offers the fairest level designs, a diverse but not unreasonable set of enemies, and a boss at the end who can be destroyed with a reasonable amount of skill even if you don’t have access to the weapon to which he’s weak. In short, it’s a perfect introduction for someone learning the ropes of Mega Man‘s mechanics.
The main downside, of course, being that Bomb Man’s weapon is as horrible and ineffectual for you as it is for him. The very feature that makes this Robot Master such a pushover means you won’t get much use out of the weapon you collect through defeating him. I consider that a small downside to having such a sensible and approachable point in which to insert yourself into the Robot Master chain of weaknesses, though.
Bomb Man’s pattern can seem intimidating to a newcomer, but it’s actually quite simple and easy to work around. He attacks primarily by leaping across the screen and tossing bombs while making the jump. Generally, he makes a couple of small leaps toward Mega Man before making a larger bound across the screen. Once he lands, he tosses a couple of bombs before repeating the pattern.
While he’s aggressive, he seems to move slowly enough that you can easily dodge his attacks. In truth, he doesn’t really move slowly, but he does make use of his weapon much less frequently than most of the other Robot Masters, so you have fewer moving elements to worry about. Whereas Fire Man moves constantly and fires constantly, Bomb Man takes and either/or approach: He’s either jumping at you or tossing bombs at you, but never both.
This doesn’t mean Bomb Man’s a shoo-in. His smaller leaps target Mega Man, and his movements describe an arc that uses Mega Man’s position when the jump beings as its landing point. And whereas Hyper Bombs have a delay fuse when Mega Man throws them, for Bomb Man they explode on impact – whether that impact is with the ground, or with Mega Man. There’s a moderate splash effect when Hyper Bombs explode, increasing their utility for the player but also increasing the threat they pose.
On the other hand, Fire Man’s weapon works really well against Bomb Man. Not only does it have extra-effective attack power against him, but the orbiting fire shield means you don’t even have to connect with your attacks to do damage. Because Bomb Man likes to get in close and hop over Mega Man with small, arcing leaps, he naturally intersects the path of the shield bit. It’s a great example of logic at work in the weapon/boss pairing – even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense to use fire to destroy a bomb, the mechanics of the Fire Storm subtly encourage you to employ it against him.
The hazards in Bomb Man’s stage echo the boss’ attack patterns. There are enemies who attack by shooting at Mega Man, but they tend to be stationary. And those who attack by leaping at him don’t use projectiles and usually appear separately from the ones that employ projectiles.
Bomb Man is a very pattern-driven enemy, and patterns play heavily into his stage. The screw turrets from other stages (e.g. Fire Man) appear here, attacking with a five-point radial spray of bullets….
…but later you also face the shielded gun emplacements from Cut Man’s stage, which fire off several bullets in an arc as well – but in this case they do it one at a time, posing a less direct hazard than the turrets that pop up from the floor but forcing you to recognize the pattern of their bullet spray and avoid stepping into an empty space that’s about to see a bullet pass through it. Timing and spatial management are paramount here.
You need to master a similar tactic around the pits that appear in the middle of the stage. Each pit appears adjacent to a two-tier platform (one low portion to the platform, one high) and disgorges small exploding football-like objects every few seconds. The footballs explode in mid-air, sending down yet another spray of bullets at regular angles (these falling in a shallow arc). The projectiles have a tendency to knock you into the pit if they connect, so it’s imperative to time your jumps over the pits carefully in order to avoid both the footballs and their shrapnel.
In contrast to the predictable regularity of the turrets and bombs throughout the stage, though, you have Sniper Joe. Fundamentally, he works like a Mega Man-sized Metool, basically. His shield protects him from all attacks, and you can only hit him when he lowers the shield to fire at you. That’s more easily said than done, however, as his shield comes down just long enough for him to let loose three bullets in rapid succession, and each projectile moves at about the same clip as Mega Man’s own default bullets. You have only a split second to dodge the bullets and return fire… though, handily, the Fire Storm works its indirect damage magic on him as well as it does most of the enemies in this stage.
Still, the similarity between Sniper Joe and Mega Man is one of the most interesting unspoken story elements in the game. Along with the Picket Men in Guts Man’s stage, Sniper Joe is the only humanoid, human-sized foe in the entire game that isn’t a Robot Master, and Joe seems a lot cannier than Picket Men. Where the latter simply chuck picks at you ceaselessly, Joe shoots, stands, and hops in place unpredictably. He uses multiple tactics and seems to respond to Mega Man’s actions, to a small degree. And then there’s the way he basically wields Mega Man’s own “P” arm cannon.
All in all, Sniper Joe makes for one of the game’s more intriguing enemies – and clearly Capcom agreed, as Bomb Man’s stage happens to be the only Robot Master level in which Sniper Joe appears… and the only Robot Master stage that lacks a Big Eye. Instead, you face off against another Sniper Joe at the end of the stage.