Ah, Mega Man. A staple of classic gaming that endures to this day. And yet, one of its games – Mega Man 8 – has a curious history with the people. Over a decade ago, people branded it as the worst classic Mega Man game – hands down. Nowadays, you hear that the game isn’t bad, per se. If you ask me, it’s pretty good despite its flaws. The controls remain tight, the music is surprisingly slept upon, and the boss weapons pack a punch and utility. So why was it hated? Why did people shudder upon hearing “Mega Man 8?” Why is Mega Man 8 “bad?” One reason is obvious if you’ve watched YouTube in the 2000s, but that’s far from the whole story.
Voice Acting: The Wahwee in the Room
If you’ve heard of Mega Man 8, you’ve likely heard about its voice acting. It is legendary. Legendarily bad.
While English dubs in games were far from developed in the ‘90s, 8 puts bad voice acting to a whole new level. I’m talking more hilariously bad than Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Mega Man X4. If the voices aren’t funny, however, they’re downright cringey instead.
Mega Man sounds like a 5-year old girl, Duo gets drowned out by background music unless he’s yelling at the top of his lungs, and Dr. Light has a case of the Elmer Fudd’s. Roll and Dr. Wily sound fine, but everyone else is either super dopey or barely giving any effort. Oh, and it doesn’t help that Mega Man speaks in-game. I myself used to hate the constant “HAAH” and “POWER SHOT.”
If you’re wondering why the English dub sounds so rough, note that the voice actors have almost no experience outside of Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4. That said, the acting is a huge reason for 8’s infamy. It’s that bad.
The New Screws: An Unwanted Rework of an Unwanted System
Screws were first introduced in Mega Man 7. In both 7 and Mega Man & Bass, they could be used to buy consumables and upgrades. From what I can tell, players criticized this system for encouraging grinding from enemies (something you didn’t need to do unless you badly needed health and weapon energy), which detracted from the base game. On the other hand, you didn’t need to collect screws to beat it. You can simply search for everything that the shop sells – including Energy Tanks and upgrades such as the Super Adaptor. Even then, you technically didn’t need those either.
Then comes Mega Man 8. Just like 7, screws are used to purchase upgrades. But here’s the catch: 8 only has 40 screws in the entire game, and they are all found individually. Instead of acting as a currency system, they become more like collectibles. You can’t find upgrades in levels like you could with 7 (Rush capsules aside); they must be purchased with the limited amount available.
Also, some can be a pain to get – an annoyance to completionists. For instance, Clown Man’s stage has one that requires Rush Bike. You get one attempt per stage run to make the bike jump. If you fail, you fall into a hole that leads to the level checkpoint. You can’t even go back by dying because of that checkpoint; you have to start the entire stage over to retry. And here’s the real kicker: you have to beat the rest of the stage in order to exit. That is, unless you already beat the stage and bought the “Exit” item with other hard-earned screws. Not all of them are this irksome to obtain, of course, but that is a screw that you can get.
They may be optional yet again, but they still exist the way they do – a system that encourages deviation from the main path and repeat playthroughs. This is in contrast to the traditional linearity of classic Mega Man. And people did not like that.
Other Criticisms: Growing Pains
Screws and voices aren’t the only reasons for Mega Man 8’s reputation. There exist other criticisms that are certainly valid but not big enough to warrant their own major sections.
JUMP. JUMP. SLIDE. SLIDE.
Yet another notorious aspect: the snowboarding sections in Frost Man’s stage and the beginning of Wily Tower 1. The snowboards automatically move forward, and you get voice prompts telling you when to either jump or slide. Not only do the prompts never shut up, not only do they overlap at times, but they also don’t tell how far you need to jump until it’s too late. Wily Tower 1 is an especially big offender of unknown distances.
Apart from those snowboarding sections, the level design is mostly fine if you ask me. Astro Man’s stage has two giant, confusing, and annoying mazes, though.
Mini-Bosses Take Forever
No, really. Mid-stage mini-bosses take an eternity to destroy (aside from Sword Man’s, which goes down quick with the Flash Grenade). I guess the Astro Crush, Arrow Shot, and High Speed Charge power-ups speed things up, but you might not have either of them when you reach these tanks. Heck, in my experience, they only do so much against Aqua Man’s mini-boss. And yes, there’s a robot master named “Aqua Man” – a.k.a. “Handsome Guy.”
Some Levels Have Obnoxious Enemy Placement
Astro Man’s stage and Wily Tower 2 are the big offenders of this. Areas can be hard to navigate due to enemies and their projectiles denying large spaces. For Astro Man’s stage, grasshopper bots jump at you over pits – where they can knock you into instant death. In addition, there are enemies that jump out of pits, robots that fly and shoot, and black puddles with eyeballs that attack if you stand on them – almost all at once. Yes, Astro Crush can clear the screen of enemies, but such sections shouldn’t be such a nuisance without it.
Other negative or alienating aspects include the absence of Energy Tanks, Rush Jet sections dragging on, three out of four Rush capsules having limited use-case scenarios, and the Mega Ball replacing Rush Coil – an on-demand spring in other Mega Man games, now a somewhat clunky fusion of spring and weapon.
Mega Man X4: An Xtreme Reminder
About that other PS1 Mega Man game with terrible voice acting…
Despite launching a couple of months later, Mega Man X4 overshadowed Mega Man 8 ever since release. Look at the two games: X4 seems superior in every way—more complex and fast-paced gameplay thanks to wall jumping and dashing, collectibles that can be used on their own, arguably more memorable music and set pieces, and a more intriguing story than “Wily’s at it again.” Not least of all, you can play as Zero, whose swordsmanship brings a radically different playstyle from X’s traditional run-and-gun.
Mega Man fans fawned over the X series for these reasons, and X4 further bolstered the series’ reputation thanks to its advancements over X3. Meanwhile, 8 was seen as childish and downright weird.
Mega Man 8 did not gain infamy without reason. While its flaws may seem minor at first glance, experiencing it yourself brings a whole different story. I personally enjoyed the game, but with the awful voice acting, the screw system, X4 giving a debatably better experience, and a pile of other flaws, it’s not hard to see why people would dislike 8 – if not despite it entirely.