Today we bid a mildly fond farewell to Tier 2 with the final two levels in the area.
Rank 14 “Sunset Siege” by Scorpio
If nothing else, the name is certainly appropriate. The music here is from the fifth stage of Gunstar Heroes, which the very orange background in the first few screens is a callback to (the creator even says as much), though the background could really use a few more shades of orange or some objects to serve as reference points. This outside portion of the level is largely forgettable in the challenges it offers and mainly serves to give a sense of place as you scale and walk along the top of the building the rest of the level takes place in. The most notable challenge presented by the outside segment occurs when you need to cross a fairly easy path of the infamous disappearing Yoku Blocks in order to set foot on the roof; it’s a simple pattern and the fact that you can jump through these blocks to stand on them in this engine makes it especially forgiving, though I’m not overly fond of the fact that failure is likely to result in needing to climb back up through multiple screens. While you’re on the roof you can choose between entering the building through a hole or continuing off to the right to reach a fairly challenging room, but I didn’t notice any sort of reward in that room and the right side seemed to be a wall while jumping downward just resulted in death so I am not sure as to if it actually serves any purpose. The inside of the building is where the ‘siege’ part of the name comes into play as you need to make use of all of your weapons to take down various barriers as you go along. There’s only one barrier per weapon and barriers remain destroyed even if you die so it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll run out of weapon energy, though an easy source of energy recovery along the way, such as in the form of an enemy spawner, would have been welcomed. Overall this isn’t a bad level and it has more substance to its design than the previous one, but it’s also not particularly engaging and the only spots which provide a notable degree of challenge are the mysterious optional room and the second half of the final room, which combines conveyors with rising platforms.
Rank 13 “Sky Ziggurat” by MonkeyShrapnel
This stage looks nice, with the exception of a few oddly aligned tiles, has a catchy song which I feel like I’ve heard before even though I can’t place it, and certainly doesn’t feel empty or lacking in challenge, but large portions of it aren’t particularly fun to play through. The main issue here is that the level design often feels like it is actively hateful towards the player rather than; it is focused more on damaging the player or knocking them into pits however it can over providing an interesting challenge. The problem arises in the form of Mets placed on the opposite side of various pits in the first few screens, ready to knock Mega Man backwards to his doom. This isn’t an unusual scenario by any stretch, but the difference here is that you’re often jumping from a higher platform to a lower one, making it difficult or impossible to bait the Mets into exposing themselves; maybe you’re intended to land in a very specific location or maybe you’re meant to make use of the bullet-absorbing capabilities of the Black Hole Bomb, but I have otherwise not found a way to make these jumps without taking damage in the process. A particularly nasty spot in this segment occurs when you must jump across a gap from a very high platform to a very low platform, but the Met waiting on the other side is positioned far enough away that you can’t actually see it until you’re already in the middle of jumping and it is virtually guaranteed to knock you back into the pit unless you have jumped as far as you can. The middle of the level is much better and focuses on some ladder-based platforming and groups of Suzies, which can be safely taken care of with the Metal Blade and the Magic Card or you can choose to carefully climb between them. Unfortunately, the final, lengthy segment of the level returns to the design philosophy of the first segment, except now the focus is on combining bombs which fly up from pits and burst into shrapnel with groups of Mega Man’s equivalent of Bullet Bills flying in sine wave patterns, all designed to knock you into pit after pit. Move too far while dodging the shrapnel and the Bullet Bills will respawn, move too far while dodging the Bullet Bills and the bombs will respawn, shoot the Bullet Bills when they’re too close to you and you’ll be knocked into a pit by their explosion, do nothing at all and you’ll either take a ton of damage or get knocked into a pit. It’s not a fun segment and many of the bombs and Bullet Bills are placed to create ‘gotcha moments’, such as spawning while you’re climbing a ladder or immediately after you land on a platform. This may very well be the most carefully and deliberately designed level between all the levels found in Tier 1 and Tier 2, but so much of the care seems to have gone towards making sure the level was challenging without making sure that the challenge provided would be one most players would find enjoyable.