Discussions, debates, and verbal fistfights about games, gaming, geek cred, and the game industry.
In this edition of “Versus Mode” we have:
NATHANIEL HOOVER VS. JOSEPH MARTIN
Nathaniel Hoover is a GameCola staff member responsible for several Mega Man reviews and a surprising number of front-page YouTube search results for “funny mega man videos”. This is his third appearance in “Versus Mode”, having written previously with Meteo Xavier and Zach Rich.
Joseph Martin is a more recent GameCola staff member responsible for a few reviews, some fun on the fan fiction podcast “Hacks’n'Slash“, and other stuff that he probably should have thought about before typing this list. This is his “Versus Mode” debut.
How long have you been playing Mega Man, and how much experience do you have with the franchise?
Nathaniel: I’ve been playing Mega Man since I was a spud, a li’l tater tot of maybe six years of age (I had a beard back then, too). Mega Man 2 captured my imagination through a hand-me-down Nintendo Power magazine and plenty of time spent in front of the television at my friend’s house. Mega Man 4, the first installment I owned, cemented my love for the series while whipping me into gaming shape with its “challenges” and “difficulty”. Over the years, my collection grew. By the time I was a teenager, I was marathoning the old games about once a year, and beating most new games in a matter of days instead of weeks.
I was a slow adopter of the Mega Man X series, though—the Classic series had the perfect amount of complexity for my taste; X‘s wall jump alone made my fuzzy little head hurt, and I flat-out gave up on ever beating Sigma. It was years before I gave X another shot, and by then the other SNES games had become rare and expensive, and the series had continued onto the PlayStation, a platform that a diehard Nintendo fan like me would never own. This also precluded the possibility of playing MM8 and the Legends series, but things like the Mega Man Anniversary Collection and my friend selling me his PlayStation last year would eventually change that.
The joys of disposable income have made the last half a decade a busy time for collecting new Mega Man games. At the moment, I now own (or have at least played) close to 50 unique Mega Man games, with the number jumping to around 70 if you count remakes, re-releases, and Japanese versions. Astoundingly, there’s still plenty I haven’t played (curse you, mobile phone games that are incompatible with my ancient flip-phone!), but I can talk about Command Mission, ZX Advent, Battle Network II, the Game Gear Mega Man, the WonderSwan Rockman & Forte, and Mega Man Soccer with the best of them. On top of that, I’ve made a name for myself on YouTube as, like, the only person who’s figured out a use for Power Stone and Crystal Eye in MM5.
Joseph: One day, back in the yester-years of somewhere around 2007 or 2008, young Joseph stumbled upon a video from a series called “Until We Win“, featuring the original Mega Man. Now, I’m not sure what the deal was, but this guy made Mega Man out to be much harder than it actually was (he said a game over would send you back to the beginning of the game, like you have to fight all the Robot Masters again), so I ventured forth with my little knowledge of the Internet and looked up which Mega Man game was the best.
So then I bought Mega Man 2. I had fun with it, though I played on Easy…sorry, I mean Normal mode. But after I beat it, I guess I didn’t have any further interest in the series. It wasn’t until I saw some “funny mega man videos” that my interest was rekindled.
Since then, I’ve played almost every game in the Classic series; I’m saving 9 for a rainy day. I’ve also dabbled in the other series like Mega Man X and Mega Man: Battle Network, but suffice to say I’ve still got a lot of unplayed games to fill my future.
What is it about Mega Man that you find so appealing?
Nathaniel: Everything. Tight controls, insanely difficult challenges that still feel possible to overcome, the freedom to choose which stage to visit next, the ability to steal bosses’ powers, the variety of fun and useful weapons and utilities, the memorable stage and character designs, the level of detail in the graphics, the energy of the soundtrack, the nifty sound effects, the simple premise that evolved into a huge overarching storyline, a subtle sense of humor, the occasional throwbacks, the way the series prefers to refine rather than reinvent itself with each new installment…I mean, I could’ve said, “robots blow up real good”, but there’s so much more to it than that.
Joseph: Mega Man is a great example of how choice can really affect a game’s replayability. The choices, namely the order that you defeat the bosses, have real, significant, and fun consequences on the particular play through. The challenges are hard enough that they are a good challenge to conquer without assistance from the special weapons, but also very fun to pass by with ease by understanding the weapons and using them to your advantage. It’s unlike other games where your choices make it so your character comes off a little gruffer, or has no influence aside from, “Hey look, you could go to Level 4 first if you wanted to! It’s still harder than all the other levels though and it won’t make any of the easier levels any more fun! Aren’t we great at making replayability?”
In addition, it has some really catchy music that is really a perfect example of the potential of the NES sound system, producing melodic tunes that will get stuck in your head for years to come. The graphics aren’t shabby either, as they get consistently higher in quality with each installment and really pop out all over the levels.
How do you feel about the current direction of the franchise?
Joseph: I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone content with the current direction of the franchise. Capcom keeps pulling up games and then canceling them, which can’t possibly look good for them. I’m no business expert, but it seems like they really just don’t know what to do with the series. This doesn’t bother me too much, really; quite frankly, Mega Man has been rather lucky as a franchise and has tons of games in its encompassed library, especially compared to other beloved series. But honestly, with the advent of Street Fighter x Mega Man and how just not-quite-Mega-Man it feels even with the input of Capcom, I honestly believe that they just don’t know how to push the series forward.
Nathaniel: Direction? What direction? Cranking out samey sequels is a direction. Bringing existing series to their definitive conclusions is a direction. Creating and developing new spinoffs is a direction. Rebooting the franchise is a direction. Having nothing to show for Mega Man‘s 25th anniversary except for a last-minute free-for-download crossover game made by some guy who was doing it just as much for Street Fighter‘s 25th anniversary means there is no direction. Since Mega Man 10 was released in 2010, Japan has gotten a couple cell phone games, all of which appear to have been designed in an hour and/or appropriated the Mega Man license when somebody realized nobody’s gonna buy another Picross clone otherwise. Capcom isn’t making games anymore; they’re using the characters to sell merchandise and canceling anything that involves any element of risk whatsoever. The inside of a turtle shell is not a direction.
Where does Mighty No. 9 fit in?
Nathaniel: Mighty No. 9 represents Capcom’s ultimate failure to pay attention to their fans. All we’ve ever asked for is one more Mega Man game, and this is the longest we’ve ever gone without a true sequel or proper spinoff. Mighty No. 9 fills the void where there should be a Mega Man 11, a Mega Man X9, or a Mega Man Legends 3; if Capcom won’t make a Mega Man game, then Inafune will. Evidently the heart and soul of the franchise left the company when he did.
Best case scenario, Mighty No. 9 is (a) the kick in the pants Capcom needs to start making good, meaningful Mega Man games again, and (b) a critical and financial success that encourages Inafune and co. to keep making the kinds of games they—and, in turn, we—want to play. Heck, maybe Capcom will invite Inafune back with a promise of full creative control of the franchise. Worst case scenario, Capcom takes legal action, somehow manages to shut down the project, gets their entire fanbase even angrier at them than before, and starts cranking out awful Mega Man games as though that’ll make everything better. Either way, Mighty No. 9 seems fated to be a much bigger influence on the game industry and gaming community than your average indie game.
Joseph: What I worry about Mighty No. 9 is that there are many paths that this project could lead down, both good and bad. But there’s one path it can’t go down, and it’s not Inafune’s fault.
It can’t be a Mega Man game.
There are just things that don’t carry over to another series. The characters will be different; you don’t have the years of history to go on. Mega Man was a series that grew and developed over time, and it carried a lot with that. And if Mighty No. 9 is going to try to be that, to try to emulate all that in just one game, then it’s not going to do very well. Take, for example, Call (of Beck and Call, see what they did there?). Though the designs haven’t been chosen as of writing this, half of them are basically a reimagining of Roll. Now here’s the thing: Roll wasn’t very important to Mega Man, really—she appeared every once in a while during the NES era, and a little bit more once the console generation shifted. But it was okay for her to be around, because she was just a part of the canon, and had been for years. With Mighty No. 9, there really isn’t a reason to have a character like this, and we might see parallels just for the sake of it.
Remember Mega Man X? That was a reimagining of the Mega Man universe. Guess what? X is really the only direct parallel in the game. Sigma is a villain, but you have themes of him leading a robot revolution, rather than a man taking over the world with robots. Zero may be kinda like Proto Man or Bass, but there’s a clear distinction and you might not be able to immediately identify it. Even if these characters are supposed to be parallels, they clearly fit into the story and aren’t in there just because there were similar characters in the Classic series. But it still used things like the special weapons and stage selection that worked so well in Mega Man Classic.
These are just two examples, but they highlight the point I’m trying to make. The crew of No. 9 needs to focus on making a good game, not just a Mega Man game. I think they understand that, though, so I’m not too worried. It probably won’t get me my Mega Man fix, but if it can use elements from Mega Man to make a good game without spending all of its time just trying to be Mega Man, we’ll be cool. I worry about the fans, though, since by all accounts they seem to see this as the second coming of the series, and I don’t want the game to be received poorly just because it wasn’t Mega Man, when it never could have been.
What advice do you have for Capcom, if anybody there is listening?
Joseph: Look, Capcom, I get it. You don’t know what to do with the series. With tens of games, and maybe even more than 100 depending on how you count it, the series has a lot of stuff behind it, and maybe truthfully doesn’t have a whole lot left ahead. So you know what my suggestion is?
Wait, not like now! Get your hand off that button—it’s not that easy! I meant bring it to a end; you know, closure. Tie up loose ends and set everything right in the world. For example, for classic Mega Man you could take 1-3 games and tie it in to the X series, and do similar things for all the other series. You could even make an initiative out of it. You’d still have room for remakes and spinoffs, but it’d give the series what it truly needs above all else: closure.
I know I’m not making any friends when I say I think Mega Man may have run its course, but as a fanbase we’ve been extremely lucky with just how much content we’ve gotten out of this guy. Maybe it is time for the Blue Bomber to make one or two final stands before cementing himself in video game history.
Or, you know, Capcom could just keep shooting themselves in the foot for eternity. They seem to like doing that anyway.
Nathaniel: Agreed. I’ve felt for a few years that the Classic series needs to start making connections to the X series in preparation for a grand finale around Mega Man 12 or so. After that, the X series can work its way into the Elf Wars that provide the backdrop for the Zero series. In the meantime, the likes of Legends and ZX can keep doing their thing until they, too, reach an amicable conclusion, perhaps making way for a single spinoff series to be the focus of the franchise for a time.
That, however, would simply be doing what I want with the franchise. My real advice to you, Capcom, is to listen—truly listen—to what all your fans have to say. Listen to the ones who say Mega Man 2 is the greatest game of all time. Listen to the ones who say it’s overrated. Listen to the ones who say the plot for the Zero series is really confusing, who champion a return to SNES-style graphics for the next Mega Man X, who demand a fighting game where you can play as any character from any series. Listen to the thousands upon thousands of people who have signed petitions and joined Facebook groups to convince you they’ll buy Legends 3 if you make it. Play a fangame; watch a “Let’s Play” or two; scroll through the comments section on your own official blog. Get out there on the Internet and put your finger back on the pulse of your fans.
And then take a chance on the kind of Mega Man game we never knew we wanted.
Do you own or write for a videogame website or blog? Are you involved in the videogame industry? Do you…at least work at GameStop or something? Well then, you’re just what we’re looking for! E-mail Editor-in-Chief Alex Jedraszczak for details about participating in “Versus Mode”.