The Anatomy of Mega Man 2 – III – Rearmed

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Leaf Shield

Not every Robot Master weapon in Mega Man 2 takes the form of a gun, but even the unconventional armaments are more useful than their equivalent from the first game. The Leaf Shield comes with significant downsides — like the fact that it causes Mega Man to become completely immobilized while it’s equipped — but despite its disadvantages, you’ll find several areas in which it can be a real life-saver.

The Leaf Shield, per its name, creates a rotating shield of curiously indestructible leaves that surrounds Mega Man. You can’t run while the Leaf Shield is active, but there’s a good reason for this: When you press the controller in any of the cardinal directions, the shield goes rolling in that direction, destroying everything in its path. Until you move, though, the Leaf Shield completely protects Mega Man from almost all hazards; the leaves have a piercing effect, meaning that they aren’t “absorbed” and don’t disappear when they null a projectile or strike an enemy.

The only things that can break the shield are the few enemies or objects in the game which are completely immune to Leaf Shield. Those hazards break the shield with a metallic “tink” and cause it to drift slowly down, off the screen. Likewise, when you throw the shield, it will be completely deactivated if it comes into contact with something it can’t affect.

Fortunately, there are very few things that can withstand the Leaf Shield, and its wide area of effect and piercing effect combine to make it one of the most devastating weapons in the game. Throw it at a group of enemies and watch it render them all into power-ups — so many power-ups in certain areas that they blink themselves out of existence to prevent overloading the NES, in fact. The Leaf Shield also comes in very handy when Mega Man finds himself surrounded by foes in tight situations where he can’t evade or aim effectively, such as riding moving platforms or climbing ladders. And the energy drain on Leaf Shield is per activation, not time-based. It’s a potent and practical weapon, if you know how to use it.

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Metal Blade

Of course, Leaf Shield has nothing on the weapon you earn from the game’s easiest boss, Metal Man. The Metal Blade is so powerful, so effective, so easy to get ahold of that its presence in the game almost constitutes a design flaw. It’s greatly empowering, but to such a degree that it discourages players from experimenting with the other parts of the game’s excellent arsenal. Considering how useful and balanced the weapons in Mega Man 2 prove to be, that’s unfortunate.

Simply put, Metal Blade is the single best weapon in the entire Mega Man series. It’s cheap, powerful, and effective. You can throw several blades for a single point of energy. It’s as effective as, and usually more so than, Mega Man’s default weapon. Only a tiny handful of enemies have resistance to it. And most importantly, you can throw it in eight directions.

Yes, the Metal Blade addresses one of the key failings of the original Mega Man’s weapons in that you couldn’t really aim them. Only the Thunder Wave attacked on the vertical, and that was limited and imprecise. The Metal Blade doesn’t fire in three directions at once, but it does fire left, right, up, or down, as well as at angles in between.

In short, there is very little in Mega Man 2‘s world that is safe from Mega Man when he’s equipped with the Metal Blade. It can reach anything on the screen with a rapid flurry of deadly discs. It even has a piercing effect like several of the other weapons that allows it to blast through a cluster of enemies in a single shot. There’s is literally no reason not to use this weapon for 90% of the game, aside from the intangible loss of experiencing the team’s hard work in creating a collection of weapons that are worth a crap.

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Time Stopper

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the Time Stopper. Capable of stopping most enemies and hazards in their tracks, the Time Stopper has a single critical shortcoming that reduces its value: Once you activate it, the only way to switch it off is to let it run out of time.

That one design flaw greatly diminishes the value of the weapon. You basically have one shot per stage to use it, so you need to make it count. Worse, if you use it in a situation where you’re up against enemies that aren’t affected by the Time Stopper, you’re totally vulnerable. You can’t switch out to another weapon as Time Stopper runs down, so you have to run around as a totally unfrozen enemy has its way with you… and usually, the enemies unaffected by the freeze are the big, dangerous ones, like the Sniper Armors. Have fun getting stopped by those jerks while you’re powerless to retaliate.

Since you can’t switch weapons while the Time Stopper is frozen, that means it also has minimal strategic advantage — you can’t switch to another weapon while you’ve immobilized your foes and destroy them in safety. So, what’s the point? Well, Time Stopper has value against one boss and in freezing certain environmental hazards… but that’s about it. Ironically, while Mega Man 4 is a worse game than Mega Man 2 in practically every way imaginable, its time-freezing weapon (confusingly called the Flash Stopper, thought it has nothing to do with Flash Man) rectifies all the Time Stopper’s flaws and actually proves to be a pretty useful power-up.

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Crash Bomber

And finally, last but not least (though also not best), the Crash Bomber. Crash Man (or Clash Man, or Crush Man — katakana, y’all!) wields a powerful weapon, and it’s equally potent in Mega Man’s hands. While you can’t aim it freely like Crash Man can, it works just as well for you as for him. The Crash Bomber fires a large timed charge that pierces practically every enemy in the game and continues flying until it hits a wall, at which point it clamps on and begins a brief (we’re talking like three seconds) countdown, then detonates. The resulting explosion has a sizable splash effect and causes heavy damage to anything caught in the blast.

In the rare case that the Crash Bomber doesn’t pierce an enemy, it still hits hard: The grenade detonates on contact, with the same explosive splash.

The shortcomings of this weapon come from its limited utility. The bombs are costly, with a full energy charge equalling a mere four shots. And while a fired charge is active (either clamped or exploding), you can’t fire another one, which leaves you somewhat vulnerable. Still, it’s pretty handy for its ability to blast open certain walls and pierce seemingly invulnerable barriers, like Wood Man’s shield. On the other hand, it’s a key element of the crappiest boss battle in the game, so that’s a strike against it.

15 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Mega Man 2 – III – Rearmed

  1. The time stopper might be a bit flawed, that’s true, but the beams of Quickman’s level (is that a spoiler?) would be too easy if you could turn it off and on at will. The way the level is designed, you try to get as far as you can before you activate it, and it will only rarely be late enough that you will get through completely. It is also very useful in Wily II, Air man and Crash man, and all in all I don’t think that’s too bad…

    1. I don’t know, a weapon designed around a single specific trap in a game designed to be nonlinear and full of free choice seems pretty bogus to me.

      1. Not to mention that said trap is in the same level as the one boss the Time Stopper’s actually useful against. You either use the Time Stopper to avoid the beams, or use it to tear off half of Quick Man’s health bar.

        The Sniper Joe Mechs at the end sure as hell aren’t the easily grindable types, that’s for sure.

        1. Exactly, the Quick Man stage involves a trade-off.

          I actually like that: every tool should have its good and bad aspects, so that there are different ways to do it and not one which is obviously far superior to all the others. Do you play safe through the beams and rely on your skill, Air shooter or Crash bombs to deal with Quick Man, or do you take the risk getting through the beams unprotected and then cheese away the boss?

          I hate it in RPGs when there is some sort of über-weapon at the end with which every boss is a walk in the park, and far prefer the solution provided in Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow (the only newer Castlevania I’ve played where the hero is not a Belmont-style character): in that game, every weapon is a trade-off between speed, range and power, meaning that there are several ways of approaching it. This is for me a characteristic which is important for good games. That the Metal Blade fails this aspect completely and I still love MM II to bits is testimony to the greatness of the game.

  2. It’s interesting looking at the later games and their attempts to refine the weapons in 2. On the minus side, this led to endless iterations on the same handful of weapons, but on the other, it’s sort of fascinating looking at the thought process that went into them.

    You’ve already addressed the Flash Stopper — it runs for a limited time and lets you fire while it’s active.

    The Shadow Blade is a nerfed version of the Metal Blade — it’s shorter range, takes more energy, and fires in fewer directions. It’s still probably the most useful weapon in Mega Man 3, but it’s not so game-breaking as to preclude the use of all the rest.

    There are a few different variations on the Leaf Shield (which I suppose you could argue is a variation on the Fire Storm). It’s been a long time since I played any of the later Mega Man games, but IIRC Skull Man’s version let you walk but wouldn’t let you fire it (and I think it also went away on contact with some enemies) and Plant Man’s version let you walk and let you fire it with a second tap of the B button.

    Mega Man’s charge shot in 4-8 is based on Heat Man’s weapon, except where Heat Man’s weapon has limited utility outside of one-shotting Wood Man on Easy Mode, the Mega Buster is so useful as to completely undermine the entire conceit behind the entire series.

    I think there was probably another weapon with a similar arc to Air Man’s in there (Knight Man?), there were a few variations on the Crash Bomb, and Search Snake is pretty much exactly the same weapon as Bubble Lead. There are plenty of other boomerangs, too, though nothing that quite has the Quick Boomerang’s arc and rapid-fire.

    Item-1 reappears in Mega Man 4 as the balloon, Item-2 is a precursor to Rush Jet, and Item-3 — well, I can’t think of an exact match for Item-3 in the later games, but there are plenty of other items that serve similar purpose (Rush Coil, the wire in MM4, the jetpack, the ball…).

    And that’s without even getting into the X, Zero, or ZX series.

    1. To be fair, Mega Man 4 was a shameless attempt to rip off Mega Man 2 in almost every way possible, right down to the Wily levels :P

  3. The Metal Blade is super handy for being a cheap weapon that can fire in eight directions and kill like half the bosses, but the other weapons are more useful in some situations. The Quick Boomerang can tear apart the moving drills, the Bubble Lead’s great for those robot bunnies climbing up the stairs in Wood Man’s stage, and the Leaf Shield is very handy for lifts and those robot birds that drop eggs with their murderous robot babies in them.

  4. I’m glad to see someone other than me who sees the use in the Leaf Shield. It’s actually my favorite weapon in the game. (Incidentally, it tears through the moving drills even better than the Quick Boomerang. Just wait a second or two, and then send the shield down the hallway, following behind it. If more come out while you’re still in the hallway, activate another shield, and repeat)

    Sadly, MM2 was also the last game in the series where all the sub-weapons were “piercing”. In MM1, all the weapons were piercing regardless of what happened, in MM2, all the weapons are piercing as long as they kill the enemy in one hit (otherwise, they vanish like normal shots), but from MM3 onward, all weapons can deliver one hit and no more.

    That’s really bad for all the shield weapons in MM4 and beyond, which invariably disappear in a single hit, making them more or less useless, unlike the Leaf Shield. And I think that’s how the Leaf Shield got its bad reputation – by conflating it with its far worse later-game counterparts. Leaf Shield is probably the only truly useful Shield in the series; it’s just too bad it’s in the same game with the Metal Blade.

  5. The best use of Leaf Shield is sitting at the entrance to Wily 1 (just like the screenshot!) and collecting 1ups off the birds :)

  6. I have to disagree about Time Stopper. Well Flash Stopper is better the original is no slouch. Almost every level in the game has at least an area were you can use it to just run through. Kill the first Hot Dog, activate it and then breeze past all the others since they won’t teleport in. Or later in the same level use it to avoid dealing with Pipis and the Mecha Monkeys and so on.

      1. Other effective uses of Time Stopper: the falling platforms and falling crabs in Bubble Man’s stage, disabling the giant Goblins in Air Man’s stage, and the conveyor belts / crushing chains / drills in Metal Man’s stage and Dr. Wily 2.

        What cracks me up about Time Stopper is that there are probably just as many effective uses of it as there are uses that you think will be effective but actually aren’t.

        1. Yeah, basically it’s Castlevania’s Stopwatch — occasionally useful, but just as likely to not be worth a crap.

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