At last we’ve reached the middle of the road on contest entries and today we have some very middle of the road levels to be moderately excited about!
Rank 12 “Wily Combo” by Mitcheddar93
It’s the first level of Tier 3 and there is already a fairly noticeable jump in quality. This level takes inspiration from fortress levels in the official Mega Man games and while it’s unlikely to blow anyone away it also doesn’t do anything particularly wrong. To be honest, my favorite part about this level is the color palette, which is heavily saturated and green enemies in particular look fantastic. Spikes are frequent here, but the platforming never feels overly demanding and there are usually enemies nearby, which can be useful to have around, if a bit painful, for when you miss a jump and need to gain some invincibility frames to avoid instant death. This isn’t the longest level out there and most of its length is spent on two stretches, both of which are based around mechanics which somewhat suffer due to the glitches in the engine. The first of these segments is a Rush Jet hallway where tiers platforms with various health and energy refills and spread out between long spike pits with a few enemies along the way. Unfortunately, the Rush Jet is probably the most glitchy thing in this game and there were times when I couldn’t even get it to stay around for a single second while attempting this part. On the other hand, the spike pits are still small enough that you can cross them with well-placed uses of Rush Coil. In fact, Rush Coil is even useful in the single screen room immediately after this segment, which is based on one of the most poorly-designed rooms in the entire Mega Man series. This room consists of several small jumps where you need to reach a higher platform with the ceiling as close to Mega Man’s head as possible; there are non-lethal spikes between the gaps which protrude and retract periodically and the jumps aren’t at all fun to make because you’re likely to just hit Mega Man’s head on the ceiling and land back on your platform or on the spike, but you can at least glitch Rush Coil so that it’s still functional despite being halfway buried inside of the next platform, trivializing the jumps. The second major segment consists of upward and downward moving columns of Top Man tops with some Suzies thrown into the mix. It’s a fun and challenging section and I didn’t encounter any glitches in my playthrough, but those tops are definitely one of the less reliable objects in the game and I’ve had Mega Man get stuck in them or pushed off of them in other levels so the potential for glitch-based disaster is there. The remainder of the level is neither empty nor completely trivial, but there’s nothing which stands out as memorable about it either. This is a perfectly average Mega Man level devoid of significant weaknesses and lacking in high strengths, making it remarkably appropriate for the first level found in the middle tier.
Rank 11 “Napalm Forest and Caves” by Thoron
Through sheer chance this level is also primarily a remixed amalgamation of official levels, though it focuses on Robot Master levels with Napalm Man’s being the primary focus. The main route through this level is actually very close to the layout of Napalm Man’s level in Mega Man V with a few screens removed or modified in some way, usually by adding in or taking away enemies or spikes. While it’s nice to see a level so carefully remade, I do think it goes against the spirit of the contest somewhat to stick quite as closely to an existing level as this one does on its standard route. Plus, I think the majority of Napalm Man’s level is one of the most forgettable levels in the entire franchise other than the final segments so it’s an odd level to choose for a remix. Thankfully, the most significant way in which this level changes things up from the original is the inclusion of multiple branching paths in the form of a short spring and spike-filled shortcut and a length underwater segment inspired more by Bubble Man’s stage. The underwater segment is decent, though it also sticks far too strictly to the formula of placing spikes everywhere with a few robotic shrimp and other enemies thrown into the mix, but there is a strange graphical oversight where a black rectangle covers up spikes at one point. If you don’t take the alternate underwater path you encounter a more troublesome graphical issue in the form of a segment taken out of Napalm Man’s stage where waterfalls splash down on platforms and push Mega Man to the sides with the current, but here the waterfalls aren’t actually animated and it ends up looking sloppy. To return to the positive side of things, I did like that the invincible enemies which rush up at Mega Man from pits in the final stretch of the level are now partially visible while resting in their pits, which was not the case in the original level. With that said, this level ultimately feels like it has far too much crammed into it. I can understand wanting to go all out for a competition entry, but in this case the result is that the level ends up dragging in the final stretch. The first segment is very short if you take the alternate spring route, but it’s fairly long otherwise and then you still need to go through either the waterfall or the underwater section before going through the missile section and by the time I reached the end of the level I was just glad that it was over. Like the previous level, there isn’t anything particularly wrong or notable well-executed about this one, but the pacing issues cancel out its usage of branching paths and I would personally swap its rank with that of Wily Combo.