Stage: Now that the Robot Masters are out of the way we’ll be covering the stages before the bosses. This first stage follows the series tradition of initially taking place outside of Wily’s fortress and moving deeper into the fortress proper as it progresses. There isn’t a particular theme to this stage and it’s more about having a little bit of everything. Enemy diversity is likely higher here than in any other stage in the game as there is at least one enemy type from each of the previous eight stages mixed in here. The first part of the stage has several turrets embedded in the ceiling which can’t be destroyed and they shoot a downward triple shot spread. These turrets are often positioned in sets above small platforms to make their attacks much harder to dodge while increasing the potential penalty for getting hit. The second half of the stage has long stretches of jumps between single-tile platforms with various enemies popping out of pits and flying through the air in an effort to make Mega Man fall to his death, though there are plenty of spikes scattered about as well. Interesting landmines are also everywhere and hitting them or going near them doesn’t just make them explode, but triggers a chain of three explosions which seek out Mega Man and can be troublesome if the landmine is not dealt with from far away. Overall, this first fortress stage is a fitting collage of everything encountered up to this point with a few new surprises along the way and you can find a use for just about every weapon here.
Boss: The Anti-Mega Bulwark is the easiest boss in the entire game. This living wall has a barrier of breakable spikes and slowly advances towards Mega Man. The three eyes can only be hit while they’re open and each accounts for a third of the boss’s health. Its speed increases later in the fight, but hitting it just about anywhere will knock it backwards and there is virtually no threat of being crushed by the spikes. Though there is some shielding around the eyes and the spikes will regenerate to block shots aimed at them, the eyes are big enough targets that it’s not difficult to land a hit. The only real danger comes from shots that the eyes fire, which can get in the way when you’re climbing the ladder to hit the upper two eyes, but the damage is low enough that it’s unlikely to kill Mega Man unless he went into the fight with less than full health. This boss may look cool and imposing, but it is not even close to being dangerous.