VS Elec Man!
Mean Beam Machine
We've now rescued half of Rock's brothers, and it's time to move on to the latter half. An interesting factor of ROCKMAN games is that since the stages are available to play in any order, they don't have progressive difficulty per se. But as you collect more weapons and items by clearing other stages, you have more strategies available to help you in further stages, so in a way, the difficulty decreases as you play through the beginning part of the game. But in the same way, a lot of players will find certain stages or bosses too challenging, so they save them for later, when they have powered up a bit to try to give them more of an advantage. So even though the stages do not change at all, in a way, they balance to your own strengths and weaknesses. I think this is one of the reasons that the series really stood out from other games during the 8-bit era.
Having said that, despite having collected three special weapons now, we're going to tackle what I find to be one of the more difficult stages in the game. I feel like it's a little longer than what we've seen so far, and most of the enemies and hazards here require not only pattern recognition, but also a fair deal of precision and decision-making skills. And while we do have the extremely helpful Ice Slasher, it won't help very much during this stage. And the Hyper Bomb tends to have very situational usage as is. And the Super Arm... well, you will see. When playing casually, I used to always make sure I came here with the Rolling Cutter or the Fire Storm. But we will have neither to help us out this time.
It's time to take on Elec Man's stage!
We teleport inside the electricity control tower where Elec Man is hanging out. This stage is a little different than the previous stages in that progression is mostly vertical. We'll be doing a lot of jumping and climbing, with many obstacles looking to knock us back down.
The first room opens up with three platforms spaced just far enough apart that you can barely jump between them, and each one is being guarded by a Gabyoall. It's possible to just jump up the three of them right away, and as long as you jump away quickly enough and close enough to the edge, you won't get hit by the Gabyoall and can just proceed. But I'm bad at trying to juggle both speed and precision at the same time. Plus, we're able to make use of our special weapons here, which I always enjoy.
As soon as the stage starts, we equip the Hyper Bomb and toss one up onto the first platform. When it explodes, it takes out the first Gabyoall. We could do this for the next two, but it would take forever, so we switch out to the Ice Slasher to freeze the next one, and then quickly hop to the third platform. The frozen Gabyoall gives us a little more free time to make sure we're close enough to the edges of the first and second platform to jump to each next one. Gabyoall actually isn't frozen because of the Ice Slasher's freeze effect, but from its normal 'stunned' response to being shot. The stun Gabyoall endures is much shorter than the Ice Slasher's freeze effect. It's just easier to hit with the Ice Slasher because it's much wider vertically.
After landing on the final platform, we shoot the last Gabyoall right away, which gives us plenty of time to line up and jump to the last platform.
After climbing the ladder at the end of the first room, we're taken to a room where we have to climb up two small platforms, each also guarded by a Gabyoall. It's also possible to hop up these quickly enough if you jump immediately as you land, and while the Gabyoall are in perfect positioning not to hit you, but it's much more difficult than the first room, so we definitely will use our weapons here.
Jumping and tossing a Hyper Bomb from where we start, we're able to land one just on the left edge of the first platform, allowing it to blow up both Gabyoalls with a single bomb. Very satisfying! This is one of the situations where Hyper Bomb can be very useful and fun, which is often overlooked. Probably because you could do this more quickly and more easily with Fire Storm or Rolling Cutter, but if you haven't collected those yet, Hyper Bomb can still be nice.
After climbing the ladder, we're taken to another room with the same layout as before, but now instead of Gabyoalls, the little devices on the end of the platforms shoot out electricity beams at timed intervals. The goal here is simply to watch for their timing and hop up when you know you won't get hit.
Climbing up the next ladder, we're taken to a room that is nothing more than a ladder and a small platform. This room actually repeats twice, too, so we have to climb up two screens of this long ladder. This is made much more difficult than it sounds thanks to a new enemy we'll meet here for the first time.
Watcher is probably my least favorite enemy from ROCKMAN. It doesn't appear often, but each time it does, the only thing it does is cause frustration. Unlike other enemies who can be dealt with in a fun or interesting manner by learning their patterns, the solutions to fighting Watchers simplifies to "waiting around," and if you've been reading my Four Job Fiesta diary, you will know how much I hate game mechanics that revolve around waiting. I'm fine with bits of waiting -- lots of enemies in the series require you to wait for the right time to strike, as you've seen with all of the guarded enemies we've seen so far. But there's something about Watcher that just frustrates me and makes it feel not fun at all.
Watcher is a little capsule enemy with two eyeballs attached to sticks. The eyes stay inside of the capsule until they near Rock's vertical position, at which time they extend on their poles and each fire a little lightning bolt thing at Rock. If you just sit and wait for them to reach Rock's position, you have plenty of time to shoot them before the eyes extend enough to shoot. The other solution to get past them is to wait for them to reach Rock's position and then make sure you move just between the two bolts so he doesn't get hit. And Watchers always come in packs of six, so you'll have to do this multiple times per area where they appear.
In this case, it's easier to just climb the ladder as quickly as possible, and then shoot each of the ones that appear from the top of the screen (they always appear from the same positions on the screen with the same timing) and rush to the top of the ladder and onto the next screen before the third can shoot, or to play it safe, wait and shoot the third, too.
And like I mentioned, this room repeats twice in a row, so we have to do this twice. Fun.
As we reach the next room, it looks like there is no way to advance. All we have is a small platform with some ladders that are well out of reach. But after standing here for a moment, some blocks start appearing, and we realize this is a disappearing block room. This room also begins a trend that we'll see for the rest of Elec Man's tower: there are actually two different paths we can take here.
Both path can lead you forward, but the right path is a bit easier to take, so we're going to take that path.
The next room has two entrances depending on which ladder we climbed from the last room. While it is possible to jump from the platform on the left to the platform that leads to the exit of this section of the tower, it requires a high level of precision, and it's very easy to bump your head on the platform above instead of jump around it, causing you to fall down. And if you look at the last five screens, you'll notice that falling down could mean you end up all the way at that room with the two Gabyoalls and have to climb your way all the way back up again. Perhaps this is why Elec Man's stage feels longer than the others, because mistakes here cause you to have to replay sections of the stage again, so for a new player, it will take much longer to clear the stage and feel like progression is quite slow.
Anyway, we took the right path instead of the left path, which leads up to a ladder that seems like a dead end. But some disappearing blocks form a bridge that we can inch across to get to the exit much more easily.
The next area is just a series of small platforms we have to jump around to reach the next ladder. I think this is meant to represent jumping between sides of the tower or different towers or something. It's not particularly difficult if you have a basic handle on the physics of Rock's jumps. Near the beginning of this area, there's a little alcove below where you jump off to reach these blocks that contains a Large Weapon Energy. If you're a new player or just not that great at the precision this stage asks of you, you probably got hit by many Gabyoalls and Watchers on your way up here, especially since some of those hits knocked you back down only to have to face the dangers again.
But this is a bit of a trap. The platform with the Energy Capsule ends at the same horizontal position as the platform above it, making the jump quite difficult, just like the previous room; however, unlike the previous room, falling will not send you back a few screens, but rather into a pit of instant death. It's a little cruel to trap players like this, but at the same time, I find these kinds of traps a bit fun. It's always funny to fall for them the first time, but they also can be a bit frustrating. In this case, you're not entirely trapped, but if you're going after this Energy here, it probably means you're not as practiced with the mechanics of the game yet, which is why you took enough damage to warrant picking it up in the first place, meaning you're probably not going to make it out alive.
Our next room is just more Watchers. The positioning of the ladders means it's safer to just stand on the ground and wait for all the watchers to appear and take them out one-by-one and then proceed up the ladders. Hooray for waiting. And like before, we have two options here, though if it is your first time playing, like before, you won't know which leads to which dangers. Eventually both paths will lead to the exit, though.
We take the right path, which leads to a few electric beam traps like we saw before. The left path has three Gabyoalls. The left path is easier and faster if you have the Rolling Cutter or Fire Storm, but we don't, so the right path is a lot easier.
The next room is another Watcher room. This is much easier if you took the left path, because it's easier to just hit the ones that come from above while you climb up and then leave as the ones from the bottom don't have time to catch up with you. But in our case, we're on the right, so we have two options. One is to wait around like we did in the last Watcher area and take all of them out, or the other is to climb that ladder quickly and try to position ourselves right between the zap attacks and escape off the top of the screen before the third can shoot at us. We're further away from the 'top' Watchers that we have a little more time to react if we're not perfectly positioned and try to correct ourselves, but it's still pretty risky unless you have the timing memorized. I just got lucky, I think.
And now we finally are able to use the Super Arm! The Super Arm is a special weapon that gives Rockman extra strength for lifting and throwing objects. This sounds neat, but it relies on the existence of objects that are throwable, and such objects hardly exist throughout the entire game.
After picking one up, Rock can carry it around and then throw it. When he throws it, it breaks into four smaller pieces, similar to how Guts Man's rocks did when he threw them against the corner of other rocks during his battle.
There are a few places in the game where you need to remove the large objects to continue, though the Super Arm isn't even the only weapon capable of removing them, further decreasing its usefulness. And then a couple places where they actually appear in a stage and can be used as a weapon. They're supposed to be strong against Big Eye, but there's a bit of a glitch with the way Big Eye takes damage from them and you can throw tons of them at a Big Eye and never defeat it.
The trajectory of the thrown debris a sort of fan shape, and each piece is quiet large, and they continue through enemies after hitting them, so it has potential to take out many enemies at once. But there's not really anywhere in the game where an opportunity to do so exists.
In our case, this is one of the times that we need the Super Arm to get through a certain area. There's an item hidden behind blocks here, and the only way to reach it is to take the blocks out of the way. The other item that can remove the blocks is the one we get for defeating Elec Man, so you would have to defeat him and then return to the stage and climb all the way back up here again to retrieve the item. So it's a bit more convenient to make your first trip here after getting equipped with the Super Arm.
The item we're retrieving here is another upgrade for Rock. It kind of looks like his arm canon, but instead of a weapon, it creates some kind of magnetic field that Rock can actually stand upon. This allows us to create platforms wherever we want within a stage, which allows us to bypass certain obstacles. You can imagine how powerful this can be -- this is the item I was referencing that can allow you to pass over Ice Man's Foot Holder segment altogether, or get past the beginning of Guts Man's stage without having to ride the conveyor lifts. You have enough Weapon Energy to create fourteen platforms total, and they can be made pretty wide as long as you hold the fire button down.
After picking up the Magnet Beam, we have an opportunity to use it in the very next room. Since we don't have a quick way to deal with Gabyoall and we need to get past three of them, instead of the intended route through this room, we'll just create a platform off to the left that lets us jump up to the last platform and climb the ladder to the exit without having to deal with the Gabyoalls at all.
The next room is just a continuation of the ladder we climbed up with two of those zappy beam things. Not even worth a screenshot.
The next room is a bit of an annoying one. You have to wait for the zappy beams to continue up the ladder, but there's also a Kamadoma hopping around at the top of the area. Depending on the pattern of jumps it chooses, there's a chance it will jump through part of the ladder, knocking you down if you're too high up. So you might want to wait even longer to climb up the ladder to see what the Kamadoma does.
The room after the Kamadoma room is that one space with the small square platforms over a big pit. This time, there's no Large Weapon Energy in the little alcove, though. Then after that, we reach another room with some zappies, and we're almost done...
The final area before the boss shutter is a small platform with a Big Eye ready to destroy us. This is where the Magnet Beam comes in particularly useful. Since Big Eye is on a platform above us, using the Ice Slasher here would be a bit difficult, since we'd have to continually jump and shoot, getting less shots in, and increasing the risk of it unfreezing before we can finish the job.
Inside the shutter, kind of the opposite of Bomb Man's shutter corridor, we climb a ladder to the top room of the inside of the tower, which is just two rooms of the same three zappy traps trying to knock us back down. A bit of careful timing and these things are no big deal at all.
And we've finally arrived at the top of this long climb and reached Elec Man's chamber! Elec Man (DRN-008) is one of the most terrifying bosses of this game. Originally designed by Dr Right to maintain nuclear power facilities, and was considered Right's most powerful creation. Reprogrammed by Wily, though, Elec Man now controls his own tower of electricity and, of course, uses his electrical manipulation abilities for destruction.
Elec Man is one of the most terrifying bosses of the first ROCKMAN game. He's very fast and his patterns are very difficult to understand, so he seems quite unpredictable. He runs and jumps around the stage, firing massive beams of electricity at Rock. When hit, these beams deal tons of damage -- enough to destroy Rock in only three shots from a full Energy bar.
His chamber is made a bit uneven by the large blocks on the left side. These can be thrown using the Super Arm, but this isn't helpful as picking them up and tossing them gives Elec Man a lot of opportunity to move and attack, and he resists the damage from the blocks being thrown at him anyway. Clearing them out doesn't necessarily make the battle any easier. Elec Man seems to fire his Thunder Beam less often mid-jump, and some players find it helpful to stand atop the blocks and fire at him, hoping to catch a shot at him mid-jump, knocking him back down to the ground, employing a sort of king-of-the-hill strategy.
But Elec Man also has an exploitable AI. While left to his own devices, he will move around quite wildly, there are some things he always does predictably based on his current situation, and we're able to manipulate that. We enter the room and fire a single shot at Elec Man, knocking him back and stunning him for just a moment. During this moment, we rush to the left to stand against the blocks in his chamber. From here, as long as we don't mess up the timing, we have locked Elec Man into an easy-to-dodge pattern.
Elec Man will run forward until he is a certain distance from Rock and then fire a Thunder Beam at him. Before firing the Thunder Beam, he will raise his arms for just a moment. If we shoot him while his arms are raised or just after he fires the Thunder Beam, he'll be stunned and knocked back again, and continue to repeat this until we make a mistake or the battle ends. To be safe, we try to shoot as his arms are raised, and then jump every time, just in case he does get the Magnet Beam off before getting stunned, that way we jump cleanly over his attack. As long as we don't move from this spot other than jumping, we can take him out easily. Once you get the hang of the timing, it's very easy to do.
And with that, the arguably most difficult stage in the original game has been cleared! View the no-damage run here:
And now we've rescued Elec Man and obtained the very powerful Thunder Beam ability from his IC before returning it to Dr Right for repairs, along with the useful Magnet Beam that we picked during our climb of the tower.. And we'll use it quite a bit from here on out, so look forward to seeing it next time!