Mega Man and Street Fighter are two of Capcom’s legendary franchises. Perhaps fittingly, they followed the same pattern: Breaking out with a rightfully praised and successful second installment after a less-than-ideal first one. And in both cases, the way they were clunky were the same: The very basics of what would make them so great were there, but they were incredibly rough around the edges.
Mega Man 1 thus has everything the later games have: Platforming, shooting, and defeating bosses to use their weapons. And in 1987, there wasn’t that much of a comparison. The problem is the second game two years later utterly obliterated it in terms of usability, difficulty, ease of play-everything, basically.
So in Mega Man 1, you have only six Robot Masters compared to the eight of pretty much every later game. But the game is overloaded with the kind of “cheap difficulty” even by the standards of the time. Spikes explain this very good. In later Mega Man games, falling into spikes kills you instantly-but if you were knocked onto them by an enemy and still had your brief recovery frames, then you had a small chance to escape if you jumped right away. Not so here-if you come into contact with spikes, goodbye.
There’s also no real good starting boss/level, and in true 1980s game fashion, the game is unwinnable unless you get a “secret” item in one stage. You could do worse for other vintage platformers, but you could also do a lot better. Like, say, one of the nine direct sequels.