Sunday, March 4, 2012

Worlds of Power: Mega Man 2 (A Review)

Isn’t it a little strange that our hero has chosen to attack Quick Man with his bare fists?

The Worlds of Power book series was a moneymaking scheme concocted by marketing extraordinaire Seth Godin to sell video-game based books to adolescent boys who spent most of their free time playing NES (though, to be fair, anything that helps adolescent boys enjoy reading can only be a good thing). The series included novelizations of Metal Gear, Castlevania 2, and Ninja Gaiden, as well as two junior edition books for younger readers: Mega Man 2 and Bases Loaded 2. All contained helpful game hints in upside-down boxes, though sadly, none included the quintessential center insert with eight pages of color photos.

In the Mega Man 2 novelization, author Ellen Miles imagines the eponymous character as a whiny eight-year old with a limited vocabulary and a penchant for clichés like “cool your jets” and “he was just full of hot air.” The plot proceeds as follows: Mega Man is transported to a robot boss’s lair, kills some enemies, then easily defeats the boss. Repeat seven times, and then add in a slightly expanded version for Dr. Wily’s castle. There’s also a poorly-developed subplot where Mega Man accidentally becomes human and must deal with his newfound emotions for the first time, but this was handled a lot better in the movie Blade Runner. Several times in the book, Mega Man encounters obstacles like oversized enemies, or weapons that seem to have no effect on the bosses, but each of these challenges is quickly remedied as the Blue Bomber continues on his quest (fortunately, the author leaves out the part of the game where you choose the wrong boss, find out that all your weapons are useless, and have to go back and choose another).

The most annoying loyalty to the game comes when Mega Man has to fight all eight robots a second time by going through teleportation machines. Instead of omitting this relatively unimportant scene, in an act of deft narrative summary, Miles describes each battle in a single alliterative sentence (“He wiped out Wood Man,” etc), leaving only Air Man’s battle described in minor detail (presumably because she couldn’t think of a destructive verb beginning with A).

To make things more exciting for younger readers, the author also litters the book with italicized KaBoom!s, Whump!s, Pow!s, and FWOOSH!s of the type one might expect from the Adam West Batman series. Even more annoying is Bubble Man’s habit of inserting underwater sounds into his speech, which is poorly handled at best:
Mega Man swam through the gates. Bubble Man was waiting for him. “Mega blorble man!” he cried. “How gurgle dare you enter my king-burrble-dom!
While I’m quoting, here’s a typical example of the author’s attention to detail:
The door to the Robo-Transometer* swung open, letting in a stream of light. Mega Man stirred. His head hurt.

“My head hurts,” he said.

*Robo-Transometer (n): a machine capable of both cloning robots and making them human.

The Game Tips (requiring the reader to turn the book upside-down like a Slylock Fox puzzle) range from revealing enemy weaknesses to laughably basic advice (“To kill Air Man, carefully jump the tornadoes to get close to him”). Amazingly, later in the book, the same tip is repeated twice within ten pages (“To get to Heat Man, use the C weapon to cut through the wall”), meaning that either the editor got a little lazy, or this tip was so important that it had to be repeated twice for the forgetful reader.

I’m probably being a little hard on this book considering it had a target audience of eight year-old boys back in 1989, but it was a fun way to kill a half hour. I definitely had a good time making fun of this book that I wouldn’t have had making fun of a book based on Call of Duty 4 because childhood memories of the gameplay, however cheesy, made it fun. While one can’t possibly attribute any objectivity to this nostalgia, it will add a noticeable degree of enjoyment for any twentysomethings who grew up with NES.

Or, you could skip the book and watch this video of James Rolfe reading it in its entirity instead.

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