Rockman & Forte Mirai kara no Chosensha (Mega Man & Bass: Challenger from the Future) Review
Platform, Shooter, Action
October 21, 1999
That’s the Bandai WonderSwan, introduced in 1999. It led a short life, quickly outclassed by the WonderSwan Color, which debuted at the end of 2000. As you might expect, the Color was fully backwards compatible with all normal WonderSwan games.
In terms of its library, it was a portable Playstation in the sense that a Game Boy was a portable Nintendo 64. The WonderSwan saw a number of franchises that appeared on Sony consoles at the time, including Final Fantasy, Klonoa, and—as you may have guessed—Mega Man.
Above: The Wonderswan’s size compared to a DVD case and a Nintendo DS.
I can’t speak for the Color model, but on the original WonderSwan, games suffer from that classic Game Boy blur. On the original brick Game Boy models with pea-green screens, action was often hard to follow because moving objects would blur on the screen.
There were three main ways to make a Game Boy game visible. Super Mario Land worked because the art style was particularly clean, so there wasn’t much to look at, and if anything did blur, it wouldn’t be hard to follow. Metroid II worked because its sprites were huge, so blur seemed small by comparison. Link’s Awakening worked because all of its screens were static; the game only scrolled between screens. In addition, the action wasn’t fast.
Rockman & Forte on the WonderSwan takes none of those suggestions.
The sprites aren’t small, but they aren’t large, either. The screens also scroll, increasing blur, although the parallax backgrounds do help in that regard. The two big offenders here, however, are shot speed and background complexity.
As you can see above, backgrounds get pretty hectic; in that screenshot, it’s hard to pick out the enemy at the bottom right. Thankfully, backgrounds rarely get this bad, but they are consistently distracting when used on the WonderSwan’s poor screen.
As for shot speed, certain enemies’ bullets move so quickly that they’re impossible to follow. I found myself memorizing when I would get hit by a bullet and use that to plan my movement instead of dodging the bullet outright. Most enemies will shoot slow, easy-to-follow bullets, but fast, blurry bullets are hardly rare.
Granted, I was playing on 13 year old hardware. Maybe WonderSwans age poorly—I know my Game Gear screen looked a lot better in 1995 than in 2005. Or maybe the WonderSwan was just better suited for RPGs. Another thing: while I can’t say this for sure, I’m willing to bet the image quality isn’t nearly as much of a problem on the WonderSwan Color.
Unfortunately, if you get past the difficulties in Rockman & Forte’s presentation, you’ll find nothing more than an unremarkable Mega Man game.
The gameplay is more or less what you’ve come to expect from a Mega Man game. The stages present platforming and enemies working in harmony to kill you. Design is as tight as ever, and not a single enemy is there just to fill space.
However, the enemy variety really lets this game down. For instance, you’ll see the same butterfly enemy a zillion times before you reach the game’s conclusion. They’re always cleverly placed so that their diagonal shots get right in your way, so it’s not like the stages are shoddily constructed; rather, it’s the fact that you see so much of the same enemies that is the problem. Dealing with the same guys over and over gets old.
That said, the presence of two playable characters helps to add variety. Bass (AKA Forte) can perform double jumps and aim in seven directions (he can shoot in any direction, excepting straight down). Even though Mega Man (AKA Rockman) can only aim straight ahead, his shots are stronger, and he can charge his shots for even more power. In addition, his slide can fit into smaller nooks.
With Bass, it’s often possible to avoid an enemy encounter by standing on some far-away platform and aiming diagonally at it outside of its range. With Mega Man, you have to get up-close and personal, but because he’s so strong, you can take out enemies in no time at all.
Essentially, you can cheese it through stages using Bass, while Mega Man provides more elegant gameplay.
Bass especially helps out during one stage in particular where you must hold the WonderSwan vertically. This stage is full of spikes, which are easier to dodge when you’ve got a double jump at your disposal. Plus, as you can imagine, the miniboss pictured above is much easier when you’re using a character that can shoot straight up.
I should note that Rockman & Forte Mirai kara no Chosensha in general is heavy on the platforming, meaning plenty of bottomless pits and one-hit-kill spikes. This makes Bass’ campaign a good deal easier than Mega Man’s, since the double jump really makes things easier.
The bosses may make you rethink that assertion, though. As is typical of a Mega Man game, you’ll fight bosses who yield special weapons, and each boss has a weakness to some other boss’ special weapon. Mega Man is strong enough to fight bosses with just his regular gun, although using a boss’ weakness surely helps. Bass, on the other hand, deals such piddly damage that bosses take an eternity without their weaknesses.
The bosses themselves are all unique to this game, and they all have some decent attack patterns. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for a Mega Man game, but it’s always fun to apply pattern recognition and suss out how to beat a new robot master.
As for the music, I’m fairly sure every track is from the Super Nintendo Rockman & Forte game, although the music in the WonderSwan release sounds something like an NES. That’s the general feel of Rockman & Forte Mirai kara no Chosensha; it’s a normal Mega Man game, just with everything scaled down. You’ll find fewer special weapons (only 5 in this one), a smaller variety of enemies, and fewer stages. However, what’s there is well used.
Pros: Rockman & Forte on the WonderSwan follows the standard Mega Man design philosophy, making each individual enemy a shooting and platforming challenge to overcome. Bosses are still hearty robots that require close observation and precise execution.
There’s battery backup saves, so you won’t need to jot down any passwords.
The two playable characters are distinct and offer unique ways to approach each stage.
Cons: The original WonderSwan model doesn’t handle the fast action too well.
While the stage design is still tight and well-considered, there aren’t as many unique elements as you’d find in a console Mega Man game. As a result, there’s nothing here to make you seek out this game over any other Mega Man.
There are an awful lot of spikes and bottomless pits in this title. Don’t make this your first Mega Man game.
Rockman & Forte Mirai kara no Chosensha is just one of many portable Mega Man titles. Have you played any portable Mega Man games? Which is your favorite?