Alright, now that we've gone through the first eight levels, it's time to take a look at the special weapons Mega Man has been collecting. Metal Blade
They fire in eight directions, cost 1/4 of a bar to use, kill most enemies faster than the normal Buster shots as well as most of the bosses, and can take out a line of small enemies at once. On top of that, you can get them from one of the easiest stages in the game, so there's no reason not to have them right away. Their only major drawback is that they can't damage Springers or Sniper Armors. These dominate the game, but there's at least a few things other weapons can do better than these.
These fire automatically if the button is held, and hit slightly above and below the player, which is helpful for a variety of situations. The arc also makes it very easy to hit the light on Anko. The fact that they return also makes it easy to take out a group of moles, since every shot has a good chance of hitting something. Like Metal Blades, they often deal more damage than the Buster to most enemies. It is also the cheapest weapon to use, with eight shots per bar. Unfortunately, you have to beat one of the harder stages to get them.
The fact that they kill Springers and Sniper Armors gives them an edge over Metal Blades, but for some reason they bounce off of eggs dropped by Pipi.
The Leaf Shield costs three bars, protects Mega Man from any enemies it can destroy in one hit while he is standing still, and is fired in one of four directions once the D-Pad is pressed (I thought it could fire diagonally? --Ed.). It is helpful in fewer situations than the previous weapons, but is very good at what it does. It can destroy Springer, Tanishi, and Mole in one hit, and can be used on the lifts in Crash Man's stage to kill all the Tellys.
Most notably, it will protect the player from birds on the ladder sections and is surprisingly helpful against Anko. The Shrinks will die to it, leaving Mega Man free to carefully jump and fire it at the light. This will kill Anko in three hits. The only drawback to this strategy is that a missed shot will bounce off of Anko, leaving Mega Man defenseless for a few seconds while it falls.
Atomic Fire can be charged for a large shot that'll kill nearly anything. The serious limitations here are that the normal shot is mostly useless, making it necessary to charge, and that only two charged shots can be fired before having to pick up more energy. There's enough energy left after the second to allow for a third shot with one small energy item. It doesn't last long, but if you need something dead and have time to charge, this'll take care of it. In Wood Man's case, this forces the player to choose between using it on Wood Man, a couple Frienders, or both and refilling in between.
These fire straight, and if there's a wall in front of them they'll latch onto it, exploding shortly after. There are very few uses for the explosion, and at four bars it's quite expensive to use often. Still, it can take out certain enemies in one shot that few others do, and it's worth the five uses it takes to kill a Sniper Armor with it if you don't have something better. It can kill Springers, but only does it in one shot if you use the explosion. It also explodes if it hits an enemy it can't destroy, which is useless except for killing Blocky.
Bombs also offer the unique ability to break through certain types of walls, allowing access to various goodies and shortcuts.
This stops all enemies and other objects on the screen from moving for a while, but also prevents you from attacking. This is useful for enemies that aren't already in your way, such as Monking, Pipi, Telly, Press, Mole, Flyboy, Claw, etc. If used against the Goblins in Air Man's stage, they'll still appear but won't produce horns or enemies, which is nice for the last two. Frienders won't appear while this is active, allowing you to skip two of them at most. Catching one in mid-teleport won't work, as they prevent you from moving to the next screen as soon as they appear.
Of course, the main use for this is in Quick Man's stage, where you have to choose between using it on the lasers or Quick Man himself. The last laser section includes a few refills and some extra items to encourage this.
Bubble Lead falls downward and moves along the ground. It gets two shots per bar, but the only enemies this is really worth using on are in these images. It's also an option for killing Scworms if you don't have something better, but the worms can prevent you from killing the thing making them.
This allows Mega Man to fire three whirlwinds in an upward spread for two bars of energy. It's a helpful alternative to Metal Blades for enemies above you, but since that's ALL it does, there aren't a lot of situations where it's worth choosing. There are also a lot of enemies that aren't damaged by it which further reduces its potential. For instance, it could be nice against the Battons in Wood Man's stage, but Robbits shrug it off. The only thing it stands out for is killing Sniper Armors in one shot if you're close to them.
Items 1, 2, and 3 are acquired from Heat Man, Air Man, and Flash Man respectively. Item 1 creates platforms (up to three at a time) that carry Mega Man upward slowly. Item 2 creates a jet sled that moves forward quickly after a second, giving the player a chance to hop on. Item 3 bounces forward, then crawls slowly up a wall if it touches one. Aside from the great advantage given in Heat Man's stage with Item 2, the only main use for these is to get to the goodies and side paths that require them. Item 3 is greatly overshadowed by Item 1, as vertical walls worth climbing are scarce and Item 1 can usually do the same thing more easily.
However, we have yet to see what opportunities the Wily stages offer for their use.
A few final thoughts on the weapons given what we've seen so far:
If we set aside the Metal Blades for a moment, the weapon selection here is actually pretty solid. The Leaf Shield and Crash Bomber are great for taking out certain enemies in one shot, while Atomic Fire can do the same for mini-bosses. Time Stopper can be helpful in a few places outside Quick Man's stage, and the universal utility of Quick Boomerangs is balanced by the difficulty in getting them. It's unfortunate that so many things are immune to Air Shooter and Bubble Lead, as their unique behavior would have been much more useful if they worked well against more of the things they can hit.
I think all the game needed for a strong weapon balance would be to make Metal Blades usually deal the same damage as the Buster (limiting their advantages to hitting in any direction and taking out multiple small enemies), allow Air Shooter to damage all enemies that appear above Mega Man including defending Battons, and let Bubble Lead deal greater damage to most things, given how awkward it is to hit with. Crash Bombs exploding on contact would be nice, but isn't necessary.