Mega Man 7 is a strange entry in the Mega Man series. It’s the first main series game to be on a system other than the NES, though it came out after the first two Mega Man X games. In some ways it is a traditional Mega Man game, while in others it’s a massive departure.
The most noticeable change to Mega Man 7 is that Mega Man is comparatively huge compared to the NES games. The terrain is even larger in comparison, resulting in cramped rooms with a lot less going on per screen than in previous games. Your jump and slide cover much more distance than they used to, and as a result the game feels very cramped. There are a number of jumps made tough not by their distance, but by hazards directly above you that are hard to avoid due to the small play area.
Another big change in Mega Man 7 is that only four of the eight bosses are initially available. The other four become selectable after a certain point in the plot. This allows the design of the final four stages to breathe more, since the designers can take for granted that you have the first four weapons when playing them. However, it makes the boss order even more linear than in previous games, since the cycle of weaknesses still spans all eight bosses. Now, not only is the order set for you, the optimal starting point is as well.
Not all of Mega Man 7’s innovations backfired, however. The game introduced the currency known as bolts which give you an evergreen drop item and let you pick up spare energy tanks and such without having to replay particular stages. There are a number of special items to be found in the eight stages, most of which can alternately be purchased with bolts if desired. The two Rush suits from Mega Man 6 make a comeback, here combined into a single set of armor. The power of flight is changed to a diagonal air dash, but it’s still a fun set of armor to use. And don’t worry, the traditional Rush Jet is back for all of your flying needs.
Some of Mega Man 7’s bosses are seriously out of character for the series, like the vampiric Shade Man, but on the whole they aren’t a bad bunch. The proper weapon will have a more dramatic effect on a given boss, an idea introduced in the Mega Man X series, but the wrong weapon can actually power up some bosses. The weapons themselves are pretty middling by Mega Man standards. Several are genuinely useful outside of boss fights, and you can switch quickly between them with L and R, but most the weapons find little use. Still, there are some clever ideas, and the game’s shield sets a new series standard for both its effect and its animation.
It’s worth noting that Mega Man 7 has very nice graphics, though the sound isn’t nearly as memorable as tha of some of the early entries in the series. The art style is extremely cartoonish, which in truth Mega Man has always been, but it seems a bit exaggerated with the detailed sprites and wide color palette available on the SNES.
All in all, Mega Man 7 is a pretty forgettable Mega Man game. It doesn’t do anything particularly memorable, aside from having a brutally hard final boss, but it’s not egregiously bad or anything. The quality of the series has declined over time, and that hardly starts with the seventh entry. Still, if you can get it cheap via the Virtual Console or a collection, Mega Man 7 is worth checking out. (The price of the SNES cartridge, on the other hand, is not.)