Mega Man 10 has for the last several months just been Mega Man 9 2 in my mind, though I have to admit living to see the day when all those cute what-ifs of our innocent youth have finally come to pass is a little novel in an idiotic sort of Y2K way (Mega Man X? There haven't been ten games! You mean X doesn't mean 10 and X is the guy's name? What happens when Mega Man 10 comes out? Everyone will be so confused!! etc.).

The numbering of the sequels is really just a sort of bizarre mental construct anyway: nobody really thought of Mega Man 9 as a sequel to Mega Man 8, and Mega Man 10 is sorta just the game after Mega Man 9. "The second game in the Mega Man 9 series!" But the point is that here's Mega Man 10, the second of the new old Mega Mans, and they've done a damned good job of not tanking this series (again) yet.

For starters, Mega Man 10 is essentially a few possible Mega Man 10s rolled into one game. You can select your character, Mega Man playing it straight like the oldies: no charge, no slide, just jump and shoot. You can also pick Proto Man, who's more of the new-school. Charge and slide to your heart's content, deflect direct bullet hits in midair with your shield just by facing them (but take double damage from everything, and only two bullets on-screen at a time). This alone from the start is enough, really, and lets you pick how you're gonna take it on. It was a move with foresight, and ensures a play compromise that is future-ready without being insulting: old-school and new-school modes in the form of character selection.

What is insulting is the laughably true-to-its-name new easy difficulty mode, which replaces all instances of challenge in the game with floating red platforms and glowing images of Barney the Dinosaur (ok not exactly). Playing through the normal mode first (which is not nearly as frustrating as 9's due to a higher abundance of energy tanks, 1ups, and an abundance of "screw" currency to buy more of them) actually makes easy mode fun, though, as you cruise through your second play mindlessly, leaving husks in your wake. Play easy mode first, spoiling all the surprise and suspense, and be ready for a shitty time on normal? Hard mode is like having your teeth flossed with rusty knives, yet surprisingly enjoyable (until you die seven times in a row).

Where Mega Man 10 really shines in comparison to its predecessor is in its bevy of small tweaks and additions: for the wise among you who are now using a Classic Controller (or the even more delicious CC Pro), you can now (unlike this game's predecessor) mercifully swap weapons on the fly with L and R instead of bringing up the menu. You can even do this as you are transitioning between rooms, which likely marks the first time in the series any gamer will have had something even marginally useful to do between rooms other than pass through in mid-jump or mid-shot to watch Mega Man humorously auto-scroll through the boss door.

Another fantastic addition is the Challenge mode, which ala Bionic Commando: Rearmed gives you nearly a hundred little training missions to complete (usually with the parameters of finish this for the insulting rank, and finish this without getting hit for the awesome rank). These guys unlock as you play through the game, giving you immediate access to rooms which will have you training on your various acquired weapons to hit targets, a series of boss rushes (one for each boss's difficulty), obstacle courses testing your jumping abilities in a variety of scenarios, and levels where you face barrages of bullets and enemies and try to take them out without so much as a scratch. These things are un-timed and fantastic, and really give you a chance to work on your play outside of the occasionally stressful contexts of an actual level of the game.

Some challenges (like hitting the longest possible hittable jump) which only crop up far enough into normal levels for you fail repeatedly and need to work your way all the way back through to try again are mercifully available in the challenge mode, which ends up feeling like its own sort of Mega Man tutorial or sandbox game at times. There's also a time attack mode with leaderboards for the more speed-obsessed among you, and Capcom promises some full extra levels and an Endless mode similar to Mega Man 9's via some cheeseburger-priced upcoming downloadable unlock keys.

To pass judgment on the scenario of the game itself almost seems a little errant: are there actually people that play these games for the story? Spoiler: robots are attacking, and you have to shoot them until they stop, and then maybe you will go after the guy who made them do that, and once you shoot him, he may or may not stop making robots attack in the future? The designs of the bots themselves are at worst a little corny, but at least easily differentiable from each other: once you've remembered their weaknesses they all seem pretty logical and easy to keep separated.

The good news is that the weapons they provide are all actually kinda useful during the course of the game, and especially as you go through the final series of stages: one weapon fires at a convenient angle for picking stuff off from afar, another takes out barriers, one of them immobilizes enemies, one works like a shield. You also retain your traditional Rush Coil and Jet for a range of movement options. Unlike in 9, pretty much everything feels rather handy given the proper scenario (and bless the Challenge mode's heart for teaching you how to recognize what those scenarios are). Of course, it wouldn't be a Mega Man game if you couldn't take it all out with just your buster, and of course you can, with no glaringly sticky moments of obvious hellish inconvenience.

The levels themselves are often designed to mix in just the right amount of annoying old obstacles (jump over this pit oh ho ho here is a grenade that just launched up from it from off screen and now you are hit in mid jump enjoy your frustrating elimination), (tee hee now you have to make an underwater jump through a tiny corridor lined with spikes oh you died that is too bad) with new traps (we see you are trying to make a simple jump so now we'll cover the entire level with dust that blows you backwards and covers your view oh you died cause you couldn't see a real shame), (too bad you will never make it up this impossibly long ladder because stuff is always popping out of this fireball launcher to knock you off please try again later). There are even a variety of mid-level mini-bosses ranging from the laughable to the must-use-energy-tankable, and a fair share of stages containing annoying hopping mooks ready to jump right over top of your character and continually hit you and jump around so you cannot fire back. That said, there is nothing absolutely crafted from instant death hatred like Mega Man 9's ball-sucking elephants or the impossible swinging pendulum of death, and so for the most part playing through the game is less of a trial and error affair and more an effort which requires a fair amount of planned strategy.

It's hard to say whether Mega Man 10 is "a better game" than Mega Man 9, just as it's kind of hard to choose the best of the other ones. For me it was at least less frustrating, if necessarily, a bit over a year later, lacking a bit of the nostalgic pull that made the first game such an immediate draw. What it will ultimately boil down to is personal preference. Do you like Mega Man games? Do you enjoy the fact that there is a boss called Sheep Man? (I do.) The great part is that right now we don't need to pick favorites—all we need to do is cram a few bucks into our Wiis and play a brand new Mega Man game that we've never played before, without even going to the store or scouring Nintendo Power for passwords. If all this madness means Capcom might even consider something like Mega Man X9, sign me up (and send the kids of the past a garbage bag to catch all the goop when their heads explode at the possibility of co-existing Mega Man 12s and Mega Man X10s).