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Mega Man: The Wily Wars Collector’s Edition Packaging Review

This feature contains no criticism of the actual software. This feature’s focus is on the packaging of the collector’s edition re-release of Mega Man: The Wily Wars by Retro-bit and how it compares to the original release. Please bear this in mind when reading this feature.

Although Mega Man’s relationship with SEGA only consisted of three entries in the (very) long-running series, we’ve been known to visit the year 200X from time to time.

One of the more beloved of these games is Mega Man: the Wily Wars – a 1994 Super Mario All-stars-esque remastering of the first three NES titles on Mega Drive/Genesis. By now, fans will be very familiar with the game releasing physically in Japan and Europe, but remaining exclusive to Sega Channel in the US. Until its inclusion on the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini in 2019, there was no affordable way to play the game legitimately without paying anywhere from £250-£900 for a boxed copy, depending on condition. But for those who love physical cartridges and a lower price tag, Retro-bit Games have an option in the form of a Mega Man: the Wily Wars Collector’s Edition.

Retro-bit are no strangers to SEGA products. In recent times we’ve seen them produce officially licensed controllers which are compatible with original hardware, in addition to modern consoles and PCs. Owning a couple of these ourselves, we can attest to the build quality and level of support Retro-bit aims to provide. Side note: at the time of writing, Retro-bit is planning a firmware update to their controllers for proper button mapping in Mega Drive/Genesis games on the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. This also isn’t Retro-bit’s first time producing boxed software for the system. Earlier in 2021, they released similar collector’s editions of four shoot-em-ups from developer Toaplan. Much like those releases, and perhaps as a let-down to some, Mega Man: the Wily Wars is presented as an officially licensed collector’s edition with extra goodies at a £59.99/$69.99 price point. With the context surrounding this release out of the way, let’s move onto the actual contents.

Included alongside the collector’s edition is a set of cards. These have a selection of heroes and villains with numbered stats, so you could pit characters against each other à la Top Trumps. They’re well-presented with nice graphics and come in a cool little cardboard case, but the real reason you’re here is the game itself.

There’s a good first impression made with the outer packaging. Sealed with a tiny Mega Man sticker, the outer slipcase is similar to the plastic box protectors that collectors will know well. A lovely touch is the artwork of Mega Man printed onto the corners either side, framing the cover of the cardboard box within. The box itself is also rather nice and features a lenticular cover that flips between the Blue Bomber and a schematic of his inner workings, a lovely nod to the intro of the game itself! This is actually a removable card behind a clear window and can be replaced with other characters included in the pack; this being Proto Man, Cut Man, Elec Man and Metal Man. Something that we especially like about this release is the use of in-game sprites to decorate different parts of the set. The lenticular cover folds back to reveal pixel art for all the heroes, robot masters and even the three special bosses from the Wily Tower mode exclusive to this game.

Opening the flap above this reveals the goods – a folded, double-sided poster and the game case itself. The poster is large, which is both a blessing and a curse. One side has the game’s excellent cover and while it’s nice to have this for display on the wall, the image is notably blurry/compressed when compared to the crisp logo above it. While this is a shame, it’s entirely plausible that Retro-bit or Capcom didn’t have access to a hi-res version of the original artwork and had to make do. The image on the opposite side is a vector reproduction of other promo art and doesn’t have this issue. The plastic case has a similar texture and build-quality to the SEGA originals and the cover artwork, in contrast to the poster, is very crisp. Matching their Toaplan releases, Retro-bit has opted to use the “Black Grid” style of earlier Mega Drive/Genesis games, albeit without the SEGA-related logos. It looks the part on a shelf when placed next to other cases with that style, in addition to differentiating it from the original release of Wily Wars. The vector artwork is included on the back as a reversible cover for those who want more characters.

Inside the case, we have the cartridge, manual and a blue envelope. The envelope looks great, with a design reminiscent of Mega Man himself and contains a premium-looking certificate of authenticity, individually numbered up to 20,000, with a small sticker book. While we don’t really feel the pressing need to stick Dr. Light to our Laptops, it’s a nice addition for any Mega Man fan (Mega Fan?) who has something they’d like to personalise. The manual is cleanly presented in full colour and has information on all the characters and basic operations of the game, in both English and Japanese. It is also worth noting that it contains the lesser-known plot of the collection and rather than just presenting them at face value like Super Mario All-Stars, 90s Capcom decided to provide a time travel-based reason for why we’re revisiting old games. Neat. A minor nit-pick we have is that while the envelope is tall enough to stay within the clips inside the case, the manual is ironically not, so be prepared for some rattling if you were planning to put the envelope elsewhere for safekeeping.

The cartridge itself is the star of the show here and having held a few cheap bootlegs in our time, we can proudly say that this is a far cry from those. The build quality is excellent, being made of thick blue plastic with a sparkly finish and a glossy label, this looks and feels like a very premium cart. It’s also worth taking time to touch on the interior components, the edge connector is properly bevelled and according to Retro-bit, the chips run at the correct voltage. No changkeys here! This particular release of the game is actually a new revision with some changes, both large and small, from the original 1994 release. The minor change is the copyright screen now mentioning that it’s been licenced by Retro-bit. However, the larger and more important change is the better PAL optimisation, resulting in a more consistent framerate and less slowdown compared with the original cartridge running on a 50hz console. We tested this using our European Mega Drive II and whilst the music was still slower, the gameplay was as fluid as you’d hope. Out of interest, we also tested the game on the Hyperkin RetroN5 where despite not being recognised as Wily Wars in their database, it played without issue. PAL optimisation is a length that Retro-bit didn’t necessarily have to go to when most would have been happy enough with an affordable release as is, so we have to commend them for taking the time and tweaking things to be that little bit better for those of us outside NTSC regions.

Constant references to build quality and nice little touches probably let you know what we think of this set. While we’d probably have forgone the extras in favour of a standard edition at a lower price and given the cost of producing this more bespoke packaging and the amount of effort that’s been put into it, we can’t help being rather impressed by the Mega Man: The Wily Wars Collector’s Edition, especially the PAL optimisation. The quality of the product and attention to detail in its presentation has us excited for more physical re-releases like these in the future. We’d love to see Retro-bit give more obscure or less obtainable games like Pulseman this treatment. It does a nice job of providing an affordable way to own a physical game that would otherwise be too costly, while being distinct enough not to devalue the original, if that’s the sort of thing that concerns you. As for the content of Wily Wars itself… we need to go practice because we still can’t beat Air Man.

Written by David Crint 29/11/2021

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