VS Bomb Man!
Land of Lollipops and Bullets
After rescuing Ice Man, or at least what was left of him, we got equipped with the Ice Slasher and are ready to seek out another one of Rock's lost brothers. This time, we are going to pursue Bomb Man. I mean, if his theme is bombs, he has to have a pretty cool weapon to copy, right?
We are taken to some kind of interesting futuristic construction stage. I am not sure what the big lollipop-shaped structures in the background are supposed to be, but they look pretty neat and are quite memorable.
The first enemy we encounter here is Kamadoma, a small "cricket" robot that was originally designed to keep pests out of crop fields, but has been repurposed by Wily to perform the villainous deed of... hopping around.
Kamadoma is actually one of the more troublesome enemies in the game. Its small size makes it harder to hit when firing at it, and this difficulty is compounded by the fact that they hop wildly toward Rock, making aiming at them a test of response time and precision both.
Fortunately, they only have two types of jumps: a very high jump that doesn't gain much horizontal travel, and a low jump that blasts far across the screen. The second can be quite dangerous if you miss a shot and find a Kamadoma flying rapidly toward Rock's face. The high jump can give you some time to prepare to fire your weapon, though.
The biggest difficulty with Kamadomas, though, is their strength in numbers. They always appear in groups, and since they each start their jumping patterns as they spawn on the screen and each jump can take different amounts of time to complete, you have to try to keep track of multiples of these difficult-to-shoot buggers hopping all around.
The best solution here, at least, is to make sure not to walk too far to spawn too many of them. Take time to aim at and shoot each Kamadoma as it appears, then walk a bit further to allow the next one to spawn. If you have memorized where each spawns and where each of its two jumps could take it first, they are predictable enough to make this opening segment easy.
After clearing the Kamadoma segment at the beginning of the stage, we arrive at a series of obstacles that repeat: some stair-like platforms followed by a hole in the ground.
The platforming here is not hard, but there is a surprise waiting in each hole that can damage you if you are not expecting it:
Bombombomb (yes, that is really what it is called) is a bomb enemy (lol) that rises from pits and then explodes into four smaller bomb parts, which then fall in arcs to the ground where they create small explosions upon impact. The trajectory and spawn points of Bombombomb are always the same, so you can just memorize some a safe space is to dodge the falling bombs and then run forward before another one spawns.
Since the layout here simply repeats itself, you only have to learn one safe spot and then reuse it for each Bombombomb pit. If you stand against the final "step" instead of hopping up it, you will not get hit. Then you can just move on and repeat until finishing this segment.
The next segment is a series of platforms of varying heights and sizes. Jumping around here is not that tricky on its own, like before, but the danger again is in the enemies. This time, we are dodging danger coming from below rather than falling from above.
Across the lowest level of this area are Screw Drivers, a simple but dangerous enemy. Screw Drivers look like small discs that sit on the floor or attach to a ceiling. When Rock approaches them (horizontally; his vertical position is ignored), they extend a bit from their attached position and begin firing a spray of bullets.
They fire two identical spreads, a symmetrical pattern of bullets making a fan-like shape. It is possible for Rock to shoot and destroy them, but his Rock Buster shots will fly right over them when they are in standby mode on the ground, so if you want to destroy them, you will have to wait for them to extend and start firing by approaching them.
But there is no experience point system in ROCKMAN, so we will stay on the high road instead of falling down to fight them only to have to climb back up again. Plus dodging bullets is fun.
You can simply wait out the bullets and Screw Driver will wait a bit before firing again, giving you the chance to advance. The biggest problem is that there are many Screw Drivers and the earlier ones will start firing as you approach the next ones...
While it is possible to rush through this segment jumping through bullet sprays at just the right time, I took a bit of a hybrid approach and rushed past the first two Screw Drivers and waited for a safe spot on the last. It tends to be the one that messes me up the most, and in the end, a no-damage run is about safety rather than speed.
And if you like bullet spray, wait til you meet our next enemy!
Blaster is a pretty traditional type of hazard -- it is a wall-mounted gun. It hides in a half-sphere enclosure, and at regular intervals will open up to expose its firing mechanism as it shoots out four bullets, one at a time, in four directions (going from high to low). Of course, it is only while the shield is opened and the gun exposed that Rock can damage Blaster.
Groups of Blasters always spawn all at once, as they always only appear in groups after a screen transition. This means that Blaster "rooms" will always have the same pattern of bullets, and it is possible to just memorize a safe "route" to run through them without getting hurt, and repeat this every time you play the stage without even paying attention to the Blasters or their bullets.
We encounter our first Blaster room after climbing the ladder at the end of the Screw Driver segment. For a first look at this enemy, I think it can be a bit overwhelming for a new player. There are four Blasters position down a wall to the left, which all start firing shortly after you enter the area on two different timing settings.
It would be natural for the player to try firing at the Blasters while hanging on to the ladder, since they can easily line themselves up with them and fire. But there are so many bullets on the screen that it is very likely the fire from the other Blasters will hit Rock unless you know just where to position him, causing him to fall off the ladder and transition to the previous screen. Because the screen has to be loaded again, it will respawn all four Blasters again, so any progress made in destroying them this way would be lost. At least the game is somewhat forgiving and has a Large Energy Capsule placed in the area to allow Rock to heal up the damage he lost learning the solution to fighting the Blasters.
We don't need Energy, though, so we are just going to rush through without trying to destroy any Blasters. The way I do this is to just climb up the ladder, but hesitate at the end. This lets one of the shots fly over Rock's head safely. As soon as it passes, finish climbing the ladder and head left to avoid more bullets. From here you will have a safe passage to just jump up and head to the end.
I quite like Blaster segments because they have a bit of a "bullet hell" feeling to them and I love bullet hell games. Pattern recognition is a lot of fun. I guess that's probably why I love the ROCKMAN series in general -- it's pretty much an entire game focused on pattern recognition.
There's also a pit of spikes here, though I am not sure why. We never have to jump over them or anything so you would have to intentionally walk into them to be hurt by them. Spikes are instant death for Rock, so maybe this is here to allow you to discover this yourself ("I want to walk on the triangles!") but this is a somewhat cruel place to put a learning experience such as this, as this is juat before the stage's checkpoint, meaning dying here will require you to play the entire stage over from the beginning. Not that we had to come too far, as this is a very short stage (perhaps even the shortest of the six main stages?).
Anyway, after escaping our first Blaster room, we climb up the ladder to the next area where the checkpoint is. Now we are going to test out our newly-acquired special weapon, Ice Slasher! Pressing the Start button opens the Sub-Menu, which lists all of Rock's acquired weapons and items and allows you to choose which to equip. It also tells you how many lives Rock has. The Select button functions as a more traditional "pause" feature, simply stopping the game, even though the game also stops while you're in the Sub-Menu.
Ice Slasher is a pretty fun special weapon, though I didn't really realize the extent of its usefulness until this playthrough, actually. Equipping it, Rock changes from his blue and teal color scheme to a blue and white one (I actually equipped it during the Bombombomb segment, if you have noticed he's been a different color in the screenshots), and instead of his normal Rock Buster shots, he now fires Ice Slashers like Ice Man's, only Rock's are much faster.
Unlike Ice Man's Slashers which simply dealt damage to Rock, Rock's Slashers do no damage at all, but rather freeze enemies in place. While frozen, an enemy will not move or act, though sometimes their programming may cause them to change directions or animation frames, which was probably just an oversight during development and doesn't impact the functionality of the Ice Slasher.
One of the best attributes of the Ice Slasher is that it can freeze even enemies that are using some kind of shield, such as the shield that Blaster uses ehen not firing. So if you were to hit a Blaster before it even opened, it would not be able to open and fire.
The Ice Slasher even moves through enemies after freezing them, so you can potentially freeze multiple enemies with a single shot. And while an enemy is frozen, you can even switch to other weapons to defeat an enemy while it is frozen! Its Energy consumption is pretty good, too, allowing you to fire 28 Ice Slashers with full Energy. I guess I should explain that -- unlike Rock's default Buster weapon which can fire an infinite amount of shots over the course of the game, special weapons require Weapon Energy to use. There's not a single Weapon Energy tank that powers all of the weapons, either, but rather each weapon has its own Weapon Energy gauge that individually powers it. Rock can pick up Weapon Energy Capsules to restore Weapon Energy, but it will only restore Weapon Energy to the currently equipped weapon! And if he has the Rock Buster or a weapon with full Weapon Energy equipped, the Capsule item is simply wasted.
With Ice Slasher equipped, we reach the end of the ladder and continue forward running into another new enemy. This little green guy is one of the most recognizable and memorable enemies in the series, and we will see tons of variations on it throughout the series.
Sniper Joe can be a frustrating enemy. It is a small humanoid-shaped robot with a gun and a shield. Mostly it hides behind its shield, invulnerable to attacks. Now and then it will drop its shield to fire, but unlike Blaster which fires in various diagonals, Sniper Joe fires straight ahead, where Rock has to be to fire back. So you have to attempt to shoot it while simultaneously dodging its shots. It tends to fire rapidly, too, and then quickly hides behind its shield again, giving you little opportunity to attack.
And you can't simply jump over it while its shield is up, either. If Rock gets too close and tries to jump over it, Sniper Joe will retaliate by jumping up itself, bashing Rock with its body, causing damage and sending him backward. And even then, if you use your invulnerability period after taking damage to try to run past Joe, it won't work either! If you continue beyond Sniper Joe's spawn point without destroying it, it will aggressively jump after you and continue damaging you.
This makes Sniper Joe one of the most well-guarded and tricky enemies in the game, with a counterattack for every option Rock has in his basic arsenal.
And, uh, I want to make a confession about this little dude. For some reason growing up, I always thought that when Sniper Joe was shooting, the canon on its arm was actually some kind of huge mouth, and that it was spitting the bullets out. Even after seeing concept art of the enemy which is much more detailed, seeing sprites in later games in the series that are much more detailed on more advanced consoles... Basically no matter how much obvious evidence I had to show me that that white thing in the front of the shooting sprite was its arm, I still continued to see it as a mouth and always thought it was so weird. All its other sprites and animation frames clearly show the arm with a canon on it, too. So I don't know what the heck was wrong with me.
And it wasn't until disturbingly recently as an adult, having been playing these games pretty much all my life since the release of Mega Man 2, that I suddenly just had the realization while playing. "Holy shit, that's ITS ARM!!!!"
And that is the story of how messed up my brain is. Well, on that subject, we'd only be scraping the surface, but you know what I mean.
BTW, thanks to The Spriters Resource for providing the sprite sheet created by -Shy Guy- that I took those sprites from. I love that site; props to everyone who rips and arranges all those sprites.
But anyway, poor Sniper Joe has no defense against the Ice Slasher. Freezing it even when the shield is up, making it unable to fire as you approach nor able to jump in retaliation when you hop over it, the Ice Slasher turns Sniper Joe into a simple hurdle in the road.
Moving ahead, we come to the same repeated stairway pattern like where we first encountered Bombombomb before.
The platform layout here is actually identical -- this "trick" was used in the programming of this game and many other Famicom and NES games. Since the layout is identical, it only needs to exist once, from a computer's point of view. This can save space on the game cartridge for more content, and, more importantly, saves space in the system's memory since the pattern only needs to be loaded once and reused. This frees up resources to use elsewhere in the game's design, allowing for more complex stages and game elements.
And it's only the platform layout that is reused; the enemy placement is unique, so traversing this area requires a completely different approach than the first time with Bombombomb.
Instead of anything coming from the pits to rain bombs down upon us, we now encounter Blasters stationed against the final "stair" in each set, where our previous "safe spot" would have been.
But we can't simply find a "safe spot" like before and try to take out the Blasters. This area is also a spawn zone for another new type of enemy which makes that impossible.
Killer Bomb is almost identical to Pepe, the penguin-shaped robot that we battled in Ice Man's stage. It spawns with the same pattern as long as Rock is in the proper area, and it even has the exact same movement pattern, too. The only difference is that when Rock shoots a Killer Bomb, instead of simply being destroyed like a regular enemy, it creates a large explosion that can damage Rock. So you have to either shoot them before they get close enough to Rock, or your only safe way of getting past them is jumping over them.
Similar to my strange interpretation of Sniper Joe, I originally thought that Killer Bomb's mouth pattern was actually one of its 'arms.' But I don't think this is nearly as ridiculous, since Torpedo Ted from Super Mario World had arms and was a similar shape, and I played Super Mario World before playing the original Mega Man (which I actually never got to play until the Mega Man Anniversary Collection was released on the PlayStation 2).
Fortunately, as long as you just keep moving to the right during this segment of the stage, jumping at the end of each final 'stair,' you will always pass over the Blasters before they start firing, and each Killer Bomb will swoop right under Rock as he jumps to the next set of stairs. But for a player who hasn't realized this yet, this segment can seem like quite the bombardment of bullets and bombs.
After the stair segment, the next segment's layout is identical to the segment after the first stair segment, too. But this time, instead of a variety of platforms hovering over a squad of Screw Drivers, this time the platforms are being patrolled by Gabyoalls, and we're still within the Killer Bomb zone, too, meaning we're now dodging enemies from a very different direction with very different patterns.
Fortunately, the Ice Slasher has a wider vertical range than the Rock Buster, and even while standing on the same platform as a Gabyoall, Rock can hit one with an Ice Slasher, causing it to temporarily freeze. Killer Bombs can also be frozen in the air with the Ice Slasher, so the solution I used here was to stop each Gabyoall as I encountered it, and then wait for the "perfect" timing to stop one of the Killer Bombs so it would not be in the way of dropping down to the lowest platform and climbing back up to safety.
The next room is a very simple one -- we enter on the ladder to the right, which extends pretty high up into the area. There are three platforms up high or one long platform down low, either one leading to a long ladder on the left. This area is only one screen long, so it doesn't scroll or anything. The only hazard besides the spikes at the bottom is that this is also a Killer Bomb spawn zone.
Taking the high route makes it easier to reach the ladder without falling into the spike pit, but you're more in danger of Killer Bombs swooping out of the right side of the screen and damaging Rock. Taking the lower route requires better timing precision in the jump to the ladder, as jumping too early won't give you enough air time to reach it, causing you to plummet to your spike doom. But it's very easy to evade Killer Bombs this way. Even though I shot one with an Ice Slasher just for fun, it's not necessary -- just walk across and jump and climb, and no Killer Bomb will ever touch you.
After climbing up the ladder, we come to another spike pit. Unlike the ones we've seen so far, this one actually is going to require some platforming to cross. There are three small platforms about the same width as Rock over the pit leading to the safe area beyond, meaning getting past the pit will require a bit more careful jumping. Jumping on its own isn't particularly difficult, but there's another hazard here attempting to trip us up.
Mambu is another shielded bullet spray enemy. It has a round shell and will travel with it closed in a sphere-shape across the screen. At regular intervals, it will open up its "face" and spray eight bullets in eight different directions. Like with Blaster, Mambu can only be destroyed while its shields are down and the inside exposed.
Unlike Blaster, though, Mambu moves. It's another spawn zone enemy, so they will continue to appear and fire at Rock to try to knock him into the pit of spikes. Fortunately for us, though, Mambu can be frozen with the Ice Slasher whether its shell is open or closed. And since we're not destroying it, no more Mambu will spawn while it's frozen, either! The spawn zone in this case is not very wide, so freezing the first Mambu that appears as soon as we can means we completely avoid the Mambu threat in this area and can continue on safely. Without freezing it here, more Mambu can spawn and fire at you while you have to climb a very long ladder that appears next. While it's not particularly dangerous, it's a bit tedious to have to wait for the Mambu so you can continue up the ladder. So Ice Slasher helps out in many ways here.
After the tall ladder, there's a thin gap to fall down through to continue through the stage. There's a little alcove above that we can enter, too, but it ends up in a dead end. There's also a Sniper Joe guarding the entrance, but there is a 1-Up as a reward for getting inside. Because the Sniper Joe is not at the same level as Rock, Rock can't fire at it while it has its shield down to fire, and if Rock tries to approach to enter the alcove, Joe will jump up and damage him. And since Sniper Joe chases Rock aggressive if he gets past its spawn point, trying to jump over would be futile any way. You'd have to take a lot of damage in order to get the 1-Up beyond quickly.
Getting close enough to Sniper Joe horizontally (while being already at a higher vertical position) can cause it to sometimes choose to jump. While jumping, Joe's shield is considered down, even though it's near the front of its body. I think it's supposed to be like it's holding it a bit to the side, exposing its body. So you can shoot Joe as he's jumping. But its jumps are fast, and you may only get one or two shots in if you even manage to hit it at all by reacting to the jump in time. And you can't just fire rapidly, as Rock is only allowed to have three Buster shots on the screen at once -- his weapon stops working until at least one of them has despawned by damaging an enemy or leaving the screen. So after three shots, you'll be unable to fire a while, and Joe could easily just hop up once before your shots ever leave the screen. And this thing has 10 Energy, meaning you'll have to shoot it ten times before you can get past it. And sometimes it seems to never want to jump...
But there's one solution that seems the fastest and most foolproof. And that is again the Ice Slasher! Simply wait for Joe to jump once and retaliate by firing the Ice Slasher. It will freeze mid-air and mid-jump, leaving it completely vulnerable to fire. While it's frozen right in front of you in the alcove entrance, switch back to the Rock Buster and quickly fire ten shots. Joe falls easily and quickly before it can unfreeze. Now you're safe to grab the 1-Up and come back.
Of course, we're not taking any damage in this playthrough, so 1-Ups are completely unnecessary. Normally I like to collect all the unique items like 1-Ups in these no-damage run videos, but the physics of the first ROCKMAN title are so wonky that multiple 1-Ups require luck to collect (or some kind of weird game physics manipulation that I don't know about), so I'm not doing it this time around. So we just pass by it. But I did only realize the way to get this 1-Up recently, so I wanted to share that information.
Dropping down and heading under the alcove, we approach the boss shutter. But before we can enter, yet another Sniper Joe hops out and guards the entrance. Similar to the last one, it's more difficult than normal to attack because it's on a different vertical level than Rock, though the open positioning and fact we're below it makes it a bit less tedious than the last. You'd have to jump up and fire at it between its shot volleys, making sure not to get hit by the shots and not fire too early or too late.
Or you can take the easy way out and shoot it with an Ice Slasher as soon as it appears, hopping over it and opening the shutter without any trouble.
The corridor within the shutter is a little different than the last one. This time, we find a ladder and must climb down through two screens of enemies before reaching Bomb Man's chamber, which is below a horizontal shutter at the bottom of this long pit.
The enemies here are kind of new to us at this point. We actually did pass by some in Ice Man's stage, but they weren't very relevant at the time, so I skipped over talking about them here. These little things are Adhering Suzy. Basically, Adhering Suzy is an eyeball with four suction cups on its sides. It has a very simple movement pattern -- it simple suctions to a surface for a while with its eye closed, and then opens its eye and flies to a surface opposite itself to suction on to that. It then closes the eye and repeats the pattern all over again.
It always will fly directly opposite the direction that it was suctioned before. So if it had its left suction cup against a wall to its left, it will fly straight to the right when it opens its eye. This means despite every Suzy having four suction cups, any individual Suzy can only move either horizontally or vertically, never both, travelling between the same two points and only using two of its suction cups.
While the starting position, speed, and direction of every Adhering Suzy is fixed, the amount of time a Suzy "sleeps" while suctioned to a wall is randomized for every nap they take. This means you can never predict when a Suzy will fly to its opposing position next. There usually is a minimum wait time, though, so they will never just move immediately after touching a surface, but they tend to come in groups, and you have to pay attention to all of them at once, which can be difficult. In fact, getting past some Suzys without destroying them requires pure luck or insurmountable patience, as they are grouped up over the path to proceed, and even just two Suzys near each other can cause you to be unable to run past or jump through them without risking a possible unavoidable damage form one waking up unless they both happened to "sleep" at the exact same moment, which could take entire minutes of waiting around to occur.
Of course, Suzy can be destroyed. It has five Energy, so it takes a few shots to destroy it, and when they're not level with Rock's Buster shots naturally, it can be a real chore to take them out. They can be frozen with the Ice Slasher, like everything can, but a lot of times they're in obnoxious spots where freezing them is not particularly helpful.
In our case this time, though, they all happen to clog up the left side of the pit, so we just simply have to fall down the right side. Two of them in the first room start out on the right, already set to their "awake" state, so they already start moving toward the left from the beginning. If you fall from the top screen, you'll fall a bit too fast and end up bumping them, but if you climb down the ladder to the second screen and then hop off the ladder, they'll have moved enough that you can just plummet down to the shutter without having to even think about the Suzys further.
Inside the shutter, we encounter Bomb Man (DRN-006). An interesting note is that while the name is spelled in romanized script as "Bomb Man," when written in Japanese, it is revealed that it's actually meant to be pronounced as "Bomber Man" (ボンバーマン). The English words "bomb" and "bomber" tend to be used somewhat interchangeably in Japanese media, though, it seems.
Bomb(er) Man was originally designed by Dr Right as a land reclamation robot, using powerful explosives for demolition purposes. This probably made Bomb Man the easiest of all the DRN series to repurpose for Dr Wily. He didn't even have to weaponize his abilities. He just had to change their target. Bomb Man's only two abilities as a boss are to jump and toss bombs. His jumps can vary in strength, though he always jumps pretty high, so it's easy for Rock to run under him. When tossing bombs, he will throw them directly at Rock, and when they hit the ground, they will cause an explosion similar to that of Killer Bomb that can also damage Rock.
Fortunately for us, Bomb Man's actions are directly related to his positioning relative to Rock's. At the end of one action, he will decide what to do next based on how close Rock is to him horizontally. If Rock is close enough to him, he will jump, most likely because throwing a bomb at close range would be dangerous to himself as well. And if Rock is far enough away, he will chuck bombs at him.
This makes for an interesting strategy to fight Bomb Man. Since his main attack is ranged, it actually helps to stay as close to him as possible. Rock has an opportunity to shoot him each time he lands. Sometimes Bomb Man jumps pretty far away, giving him enough time to toss a bomb. If you're not moving away from the bomb enough as it's thrown, you might not be able to escape the blast. Usually I try to run under the bomb so I can approach Bomb Man again, but if you mess up the distance and timing, you could end up reaching him too fast and be stuck between him and a bomb blast with nowhere to go, or end up too far away so he chucks another bomb and gets you stuck in that same predicament the second time.
Most of the time, it's pretty easy to just stay next to him as he hops over your head back and forth, shooting him as he hits the ground. So we didn't have too much trouble getting through this final part. Here's the full no-damage run of the stage:
And with that, we're able to secure Bomb Man's IC and take it back to Dr Right. And like with Ice Man's IC, Rock is again able to use it to modify himself to gain a new ability based on Bomb Man's circuitry, which we'll try out in the next episode.