Retro Review: Mega Man III (Gameboy)

For the Gameboy Mega Man games, in many way the third time was the charm. The four-and-four bosses system finally makes gameplay sense, and this feels more like a Mega Man game than its predecessors.

Once again, you’ll fight four bosses each from two NES Mega Man games, but this time the second group are actually found in named stages like the first. This alleviates the issue with the previous Gameboy Mega Man games where the core concept of Mega Man, figuring out what weapon to use against what boss, was largely defeated.

If there is an issue with Mega Man III, it’s that it becomes much harder in the second half, sometimes unfairly so. Ironically, the stages representing Mega Man 4, one of the easiest games in the series, are all quite challenging. They tend to be very long and filled with instant death traps and pixel-perfect jump requirements. Essentially, every stage needs to be memorized like the Guts Man or Quick Man stages from the NES game.

While Mega Man III does a good job making at least some of its special weapons worthwhile, enemies aren’t your main problem in Mega Man III. Your real foe is the size of the screen. With such limited real estate, all of the spikes you see are that much more threatening, and the game features some of the most evil crushing ceiling rooms you’ll ever find. If you’re a fan of this kind of challenge, you’ll love this aspect of the game, but it goes a bit beyond what I think is generally reasonable.

Most of the bosses are well translated from their NES incarnations, though due to the level design you’ll often arrive at boss rooms low on health and lives, which makes things difficult. Energy tanks are hard to come by in Mega Man III, so to win you’ll really have to learn each stage. The bosses outside of the eight robot masters are another story. You’re generally fighting in very cramped quarters, sometimes not even the whole Gameboy screen, and these bosses hit extremely hard. You’ll need perfect reflexes to dodge every attack.

The developers get a lot of credit for making a Gameboy Mega Man that really plays and controls like one of the NES games. They do sometimes overdo the amount of things on screen at once, leading to some pretty drastic slowdown, but the game doesn’t feel off like Mega Man II did at times.

On the whole, Mega Man III is probably the best of the first three Gameboy Mega Man games, though its difficulty should not be underestimated. The game can be frustrating, but the majority of it is solid Mega Man fun.

Review Score: B−