It’s safe to say that I really enjoy Halloween. It’s like being on stage – instead of being a basic, boring white guy, I can play the role of a more interesting, repercussion-free white guy. This year, I was Mega Man.
Mega Man holds a dear place in my heart. I only played Mega Man II a little bit as a kid, but never owned them until I was older. I did, however, love the series. Cool fact: Did you know the voice of Mega Man in the animated series was the amazing Ian James Corlett? You’ve heard his voice before. He plays Goku from Dragon Ball Z, Bob from Reboot, and voices hundreds of other roles in video games and animation.
I really fell in love with Mega Man back in the 90’s when a friend bought Mega Man X on the SNES over. It’s not a game about Mega Man, but instead his predecessor, X, and it’s one of my favorite games to this day. Even though the originals aren’t necessarily my favorite, I can definitely appreciate them for their ambitious (for the time, anyway) game play mechanics, frustratingly challenging puzzles, and great design. The controls weren’t very tight and there were a lot of unfair “trial-and-error” puzzles that forced you to repeat the level over and over until you finally had a decent run without losing your meager three lives. Oh, and has anyone noticed how intense the gravity is? Granted, if you fall off a platform, you probably aren’t going to jostle yourself onto some stable footing if there isn’t anything, but Mega Man falls like he’s bounding around on Jupiter and the pit below is tempting him with bacon.
So Mega Man has been around for a long time. In fact, the original was released 29 years ago. I was thinking about holding off and being Mega Man next year to celebrate his 30th anniversary, but I was compelled to do it this year. You see, Capcom, the developer and publisher behind Mega Man and many other titles that you haven’t heard from in a long time, haven’t been giving the Blue Bomber much love over the years. Granted, they’ve published a lot of Mega Man games over the past three decades – the original 8, the X series, the Zero series, the ZX series, Mega Man legends (which totally deserves a sequel), new but old-school styled sequels Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, the Battle Network games, a Pokemon-esque EXE series… The list goes on. However, there just hasn’t been that big leap that we saw between the original Mega Man series to the Mega Man X series that we experienced back in the 90s. They tried jumping into 3D, but the execution felt phoned in. The lack of enthusiasm for some of the newer, washed down titles probably lead to Capcom making the business choice to seal our Cyan Crusader into a capsule until the world was ready for him once more.
So what made me decide to be Mega Man this year? Keiji Inafune, one of the artists/designers behind the original Mega Man, wanted to start a new franchise since Capcom wasn’t interested in doing anything with Mega Man. This franchise was going to be the spiritual successor to Mega Man, called Mighty No. 9.
I was thrilled. Tons of money was pouring in through the Kickstarter. Big promises were made. Delays happened. When the game was finally released this past summer, it flopped. It had all the things that Mega Man didn’t need: action-stopping tutorials, awful cut scenes and voice acting, and predictable gaming. The new things it brought to the table were only satisfying for a while, but not enough to make it memorable or worth replaying. This wasn’t Mega Man – it wasn’t even a Mega Man knock off. It was a sad attempt at tugging at our heartstrings.
I’m not convinced that Mega Man is truly decommissioned. There’s still a lot the franchise can try, and to be honest, just going back and repeating some of the steps that made the property so appealing wouldn’t hurt either. Slipping him into Smash Bros was a nice tease, but let’s hope Capcom gets their act together and revitalizes one of their most beloved mascots.