Another chapter in the seemingly neverending Mega Man series, Rockman and Forte has spawned three incarnations over the years, and each plays somewhat differently. Amazingly, it took Capcom five years to bring the game to the states. I think that's a shame seeing as how the game would easily have been a best seller years ago, in my opinion. The animation of the sprites in the game must been seen to be believed. It is that impressive.

The first Rockman and Forte game was released in 1998 for the Super Famicom. The game is an unusual hybrid of graphics from Mega Man 8, sounds from Mega Man 7, and a dual-play mode from Mega Man X4. Players can choose to play was either Mega Man (Rockman) or Bass (Forte), with each character having different abilities. Mega Man is the blue bomber we've all come to know and love. He shoots, he slides, he jumps. Bass, on the other hand, sports a double jump, an aimable blaster, and dashes instead of slides. There are various obstacles in each stage that only one of the characters can pass, and knowing which path to take is part of the challenge. Furthermore, some items will be inaccessible to one character but are easy pickings for another. One a character is selected for play it is impossible to switch to the other character. Playing through the game twice is required to beat it: once with each character.

Like in all Mega Man games, whichever character you select must face off with eight robot masters. In this game they are:

Leading the pack is a mysterious robot named King who is out for world domination. If you defeat King, you'll find an old foe waiting behind the scenes.

There are 100 CDs hidden throughout the game, each one representing the data about a classic robot master (such as Cut Man, Guts Man, etc.). These CDs were part of a contest in Japan which is now over. The CDs do nothing to enhance gameplay. They are merely items to be collected for bragging rights.

Passwords are passe in this game, and a battery pack saves your progress as you progress through the game. There are three save states available that save your weapons, items, and bolts.

Speaking of items and bolts, your chosen character can collect bolts in each stage that can be used to make items at Auto's Item Shop. Items range from things such as 1-ups and energy to weapon enhancers and armor.

For those of us outside of Japan chances are the only way we'll ever get to play the game is through emulation. Most of today's modern Super NES emulators can run the game, and the ROM is out there if you search long enough. You might find the game listed as Mega Man 9, but that is an incorrect label if you want to be a stickler for details.

Rockman and Forte made another appearance in 1999, this time for the WonderSwan portable gaming system. The game is different from its 16-bit cousin. The game features new levels, different robot masters, and a revised plot. The core of the game remains, however. Choose between Mega Man or Bass, collect bolts, defeat enemies, and save the world.

The robot masters in this version are:

One unique aspect of this game is that at times you are required to physically rotate the WonderSwan ninety degrees, thereby adding a new challenge. Again, this game was only released in Japan.

In 2002 Capcom ported Rockman and Forte to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. The game is a direct port of the Super Famicom version, although the smaller GBA screen increases the challenge by placing some items and enemies out of view. The game has only been released in Japan so far, but an American release finally came in March 2003 under the title Mega Man and Bass. The biggest change to the game is that an auto save system much like the one in Mega Man Xtreme was added to make the game portable-friendly.

For those of you keeping track of such things, Rockman and Forte is the last chapter in the original Mega Man chronology, i.e. the Dr. Wily chronicles. The next game in the Mega Man universe timeline is Mega Man X.

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