Rank 10 “Hard to See Land” by ParmaJon
This level and many of the levels which come after it are more complicated than the ones which came before it. As such, you can expect to now see just one level per day, but there will be far more to discuss about each level.
This level is the first one which feels like it attempts to take creative risks; the risks don’t always work out and large portions of the level are forgettable, but I appreciate the effort. The reasoning behind the name for the level becomes clear soon enough as the background is completely black, which is used to make it more difficult to see bats and to hide spawners for Tellies and falling crystals. However, its main appeal comes from its usage of Top Man tops. The first time these spinning top platforms appear is near the start and you must cross several columns of rising tops while fending off a barrage of infinitely spawning Tellies. Like with the Rank 16 entry, the constant enemy assault while platforming provides a great chance to make use of your Robot Master weapons, but here it is undercut by the glitchy nature of the tops. Getting hit while on a top almost always results in Mega Man getting shoved into the top itself, which in turn results in Mega Man falling through it a moment later, either to his death or to a lower top if you’re lucky. Sometimes you don’t need to get hit at all and Mega Man will decide to fall partially through a top the moment he tries to land on it. It’s at least possible to complete the section legitimately, but I’ve found the glitchy tops to be enough of a pain that I relied on the almost equally unreliable Rush Jet to skip through the whole thing in the video above. It’s a shame since the design of the challenge itself is solid and the remainder of the first half of the level is largely forgettable, consisting of a few easy jobs, another Telly assault while on more stable ground, and some enemies and spikes scattered about here and there in largely nonthreatening ways.
The start of the second half sees the return of the tops and this is where things get particularly creative. At this point the play area becomes split into two columns by a wall and you must rely on tops to carry you upward. Parts of the central wall are composed of barriers which can be destroyed by Top Spin, so you must occasionally cross from one side of the screen to the other by jumping off of a top to a small platform or ladder or to the barrier itself and then use Top Spin in midair to safely destroy the barrier and pass through the gap. There are also several energy refills along the way and barriers, like always, remain destroyed even if you die so while the possibility of running out of Top Spin energy exists, it’s extremely low. There also aren’t any enemies in this section so glitches aren’t an issue this time around, though it’s not completely devoid of danger as you can still die to spikes if you wait too long to jump or miss your landing.
Unfortunately, the next segment, which is the final part other than a very trivial amount of platforming at the end, is the worst part of the level. Combining a large number of falling crystals periodically spewing out of invisible spawners with small moving platforms, platforms which break apart if you stay on them for too long, and flying enemies, this section is just frustrating to deal with. The first challenge of this section comes in the form of two Guts Man platforms, thankfully without any gaps in their paths, and a flying enemy to the left which shoots at you. Crystals fall down along the paths of these platforms so you need to jump around or move very close to the edge while riding them and they aren’t perfectly synchronized with each other so it can take a few trips back and forth on the first one before you can safely make the jump to the second. The real issue here comes from the fact that the flying enemy respawns and shoots at you every time the first platform makes it back to the left side, meaning you have to deal with dodging its bullets while dodging falling crystals while riding a small moving platform. After this initial challenge the section remains just as frustrating as enemies are continually placed to shoot you off of small platforms while crystals rain down in the most inconvenient locations possible, resulting in a challenging experience where you spend most of your time standing around waiting various factors to line up so you can finally jump to the next platform. The segment is thankfully on the short side, but it’s easy to die in and doing so means going through the vertical top challenge again, which is significantly less fun after the first time around when the challenge of using Top Spin at the right moment has gone away along with the barriers and you spend most of your time waiting for or safely riding on tops. I’ll give this part of the level credit for taking some creative risks, but the result is an experience which is just barely tolerable with a liberal use of Metal Blade for the enemies and Black Hole Bomb for the crystals. On the whole, this is a very hit and miss level which suffers from playing it too safe at times and taking risks which don’t always work out at other times.