Summer is clearly the season for NES Nostalgia, considering the re-surfacing of Helena the 3rd yesterday. We had a look Mega Man: Day In The Limelight 2 back when it was an unfinished Beta, but the ambitious Mega Man fangame is now complete and free for all. As the title suggests, it’s time for Mega Man himself to stand aside and let the other Robot Masters save the world for once.
Day In The Limelight 2 is an interesting remix of the classic Mega Man formula. The folks over at Fusion Fangaming (the crew responsible for the sprawling Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, among others) have reverse-engineered pretty much everything from the first few games in the classic Capcom franchise, stripping out all the sprites, movement physics and quirky little gameplay elements and glued them back together in entirely the wrong order. That’s the point, though, as it’s a playful reversal of the formula, and an enjoyable game in its own right.
The whole thing feels right – the sound, the music, the controls, the way the Robot Masters move – it all feels completely authentic, right down to that tiny shuffle-step that happens before you start to run. The one thing that really breaks from convention is the level design, which is a little more playful and creative in its nature. An attack on Gemini Man’s stage has you constantly hounded by mirror images of him, and it doesn’t help that the assigned hero of the day is Bubble Man, who waddles awkwardly across the land and doesn’t really shine until you dive into a pool of water.
Each level is cleverly built around the strengths and weaknesses of the character in play, too. Rather than structure the stages around the generalized and expanding skill-set of Mega Man himself, there’s a lot more focus here. The lumbering (I’m so sorry) Wood Man has a stage full of laser turrets which can be blocked with his trademark Leaf Shield, or even clogged with thrown leaves. It’s not nearly as glamorous as shooting stuff with lasers, but it’s more creative. It’s amusing to think that Mega Man himself would be stumped on any of the challenges requiring him to shoot diagonally or upwards.
Of course, being a Mega Man fan-game, this one is hard. It’s full-on NES difficulty as you remember it. Most obstacles can be conquered through a little patience and observation, but there’s not much chance of you breezing through any stage on your first run through. There are fortunately plenty of extra lives and generous checkpoints, but nothing is going to save a careless player from the Game Over screen if you keep missing a jump over a bottomless pit or a row of instantly lethal spikes. At least there’s a full save system underneath the early NES-era aesthetics.
You can grab MM: Day in The Limelight 2 from the Fusion Fangaming forum, as well as the first Day in The Limelight, which is still an entertaining piece of gaming in its own right. An interesting additional quirk is that, for the most part, DITL2 has you playing as the bosses you defeated in DITL1. Both games were developed in Game Maker, and are for Windows PCs only. The first weighs in at around 7mb, and the sequel a slightly inflated 11.