Asimovian Mega Man

The opening crawl of Mega Man X states that Mega Man X, the title character. is the first type of new robots able for independent thought, or to quote, has the ability to think, feel and make their own decisions. Right after this, the first rule of robotics is mentioned in a shortened form; A robot must never harm a human being. This is how the first rule was originally quoted, if not for verbatim. However, the full updated rule is as follows; A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. As such, the game directly states that all previous robots in the game franchise, have been under the rule of Asimov’s Laws.

Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are a cultural cornerstone, as Asimov’s robot stories explore and make extended use of them. While they are capable of independent thinking, they are governed by the three laws. To what extend they are able to independently act and think depends on the level of the technology, but all are ultimately slaves to the three laws. However, as Asimov’s robots are based on logic rather than reason, these three laws are easy to get around with proper logic.

Each three laws override their predecessor, meaning the protection of human comes before the second law, fully quoted as a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. This overrides the third and final law, which stahtes that a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

In Mega Man, we see these three laws playing a role in how Rock becomes Mega Man. The canon states that it was his strong sense of justice that convinced his transformation from a household robot into a super fighting machine. What concept of ‘justice’ Rock had is unknown, but the result wanting to fight injustice, even if it required setting himself under threat and oppose commands from a human, Dr. Wily in this case, enforced the first law in form of no human being would be harmed. The logic here is that by opposing one human, Rock is able to prevent harm or injury of many more.

This, of course, is as according to the 0th Law of Robotics Asimov later added; a robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Combined with the Asimov’s laws and the clear statement that X is the first robot able to independently think sets to stone the fact that all robots in the Classic series are slaves to pre-determined models that they can’t branch off from, and are slaves to the Three Laws of Robotics.

Within Asimov’s robots, the three laws have been embed into robots on mathematical level to their positronic brain. Without completely redesigning and reconstructing the positronic brain as a concept itself, these three laws can’t be removed. However, it is possible to remove a rule in descending order depending how advanced the robot needs to be, halving the needed brain size and pathways.

However, Mega Man robots don’t have positronic brains. Instead, they have micro-electronic brains, which seems be more dependent on the creator driven programming than the Three Laws. We can take two stances on the laws here; either the laws are universal among the robots, or that the laws must be implemented into them by design in each separate case.

If the laws are universal, we can assume that Dr. Wily was capable of creating some sort of separate method to circumvent the First Law, which would yield the whole Robot Virus Project. While not canon to the games, Hirotoshi Ariga’s Mega Man Megamix the Three Laws are circumvented by Wily implementing a separate chip that allows the original six Robot Masters to injure and harm humans by direct action. As such, it would not be necessary to change the design of function of the micro-electronic brain, when Wily has a ready made chip he can install into whatever creation he makes. This also assumes that the micro-electronic brain works in a similar fashion to the positronic brain.

The second take of course means that there is no standard template for the robots’ brains in Mega Man and are completely dependent on the coding skills of the creator. The basic hardware may be shared across the board, but the Laws themselves are not burned to the core design. This would give more leeway in how the robots function. After all, the canon states that Dr. Wily reprograms  robots he capture, thus we can assume the basic template does not function similarly to the positronic brain, but the Three Laws are a software function.

Even without the Three Laws governing the actions of the robots, they would be slaves to the predetermined to the lines of code. This makes them nothing more than automatons, unable for creative thinking. However, with the existing Three Laws, a robot must be able to device ways to upheld the laws. When Proto Man tells Bass that he can’t defeat Mega Man, because he has nothing to fight for, this can be taken as Bass lacking the Three Laws. He is inert in how he fights, as his main drive is to defeat Mega Man. Mega Man, however is governed by the First Law, and knows that his lost would contradict said Law. Of course, this is more about the moral of the things, but the two don’t exclude each other.

However, there is a place that in-action provides context for Mega Man robots essentially functioning according to Asimov’s robots, including the functions of the positronic brain; the ending of Rockman 7. In here, when Dr. Wily reminds Mega Man that he is simply a robot and can’t harm a human being, the First Law kicks in and contradicts his actions, causing him to pause. This is a moment many Asimov’s robots go through, where the probability is calculated within the brains for the route of least harm at that moment. This was changed in the localisation, where Mega Man 7 has Mega Man stating that it is more than a robot, Giving Mega Man the Pinocchio syndrome is an interesting idea in itself, but it fights against what the series has established.

While the robots in Classic series seem to exhibit natural personalities, they are far closer to pseudo-personality, similar to Star War‘s droids. Droids have a pre-programmed nature that they can’t deviate from, exactly like Mega Man‘s robots. Both also accumulate data, which they can then make decisions on, but in Mega Man‘s case, they can’t learn without additional data to their coding. Hence, why Rock’s transformation process was more than just donning an armour and weapon; it required rewriting some of his core pseudo-personality.

Within Mega Man X era, Reploids are robots based on X’s design. X was sealed to test whether or not he would be reliable. How, is the question, with the Three Laws of Robotics being the answer. Without them, X must be tested based on his reason and morals rather than mathematical probability and logic. Whatever brain he has must be more advanced than positronic or micro-electronic, perhaps similar to gravitonic brain in Roger MacBride’s Allen’s Caliban series of books set in Asimov’s universe, which allow X to have empty pathways, which would then build during the testing. Funny enough, both the first Caliban book and Mega Man X were published the same year.

If we consider the Three Laws to be suggested, something that’s learned rather than implemented, the very nature of the created Reploid should be beneficial from the get go. This would put greater emphasize on the initial creation of the programming, especially seeing how Reploids are created as mature beings rather than educated. Think of the training the clone troopers get in Star Wars, which teaches them skills and ethics required. Similar flash training could be adopted for Reploids in faster pace, but this does not seem to be the case. As such, mental deficits and errors are at the hands of the creator.

The viral reason for going Maverick seems to follow two corrupting paths; removal of any resemblance of the Three Laws and corruption of the personality. I say resemblance, as they’re exactly like moral laws any human society has. They’re not set in stone, and can vary widely. Secondly, Dr. Wily is the origin of this virus, meaning its coding has to be tied to the original nature of Classic series robots. Because of this, the free-willed robots of the X-series will uphold their own morals, even if it would clash with the Asimov’s laws.

Reploids, despite most of them seen in-game being more animal in appearance, resemble Asimov’s advanced humaniform robots, where there would be no distinction between humanity and robots when advanced far enough. Many times over in the series, Reploids labelled as Mavericks simply wish to gain their independence from humanity. However, no Reploid group has been allowed to so, and it would even seem that Reploids are labelled as Mavericks for political reasons, giving hints how oppressive the human government is over mechanical life forms. There is large amount of story potential in here, something we’ll never going to see.

The true end realisation of Asimov’s humaniform robot, as discussed in Robots of Dawn, is seen in Mega Man Legends, where the civilisation the player sees considers themselves as humans and are generational, able to reproduce, live and die. In effect, outside the ability to customise one’s body, there is no distinction between human and artificial human life. Both the World and Master Systems are bound to the Three Laws of Robotics, as their prime directly is to protect humanity, and do not recognize Carbons, or Decoy’s in original Japanese, as humans. Furthermore, the Mother Units of the System are built with the positronic brain, as mentioned by the games, creating a very Asimov-like situation, where Mega Man Volnutt recognizes that Carbons are humanity through their nature. This enforces his First Law function to protect them, further explaining how he ends up being the one defending Carbons, especially after the Master, last living human being, enforced Volnutt’s logic through their discussions. The System’s other parts, however, still act according to the logic of Carbons being artificial, thus the First Law does not concern them.

It might seem that Reploids are the most advanced form of robotics in Mega Man series by this comparison. However, it does seem that the ultimate end of humanity and robots is to become one within the frachise, and whether or not the Three Laws of Robotics governs Carbons is not important at that point, as they have already become the legacy and successors of humanity.

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New faces of Mega Man

In an interview with Venture Beat, the producer of Mega Man 11 Kazuhiro Tsuchiya tells that the reason why there was no new Mega Man game for such a long time was because there was nobody to helm the ship. As much as Keiji Inafune gets shit flung at him because of Mighty Number 9, he was the force that made Mega Man happen for solid decades. Despite that, he was but one man, and games at this scale are never a single man effort.

Tsuchiya’s assertion that the atmosphere within the company wasn’t right, that nobody wanted to tackle the challenge to make a new Mega Man. It is without a doubt partially because Inafune’s rank that held the series in place, but just as much corporation’s own politics played in the mix. We’ve seen from Capcom’s own titles they’ve released that their library’s style has changed little by little this past decade.

For Koji Oda, the director of the game, it was the Casshern situation; if he’s not going to do it, then who will? Oda’s right in that social media and fans overall have been pining for a new game in the series.

However, would Capcom allow a new game just like that? Highly doubtful. Mega Man‘s 30th anniversary celebrations probably was the largest reason why the Mega Man 11 got greenlit, especially after the reception all the leaks and trailers the Man of Action Mega Man cartoon have been less than favourable overall. Banking on the core fans going balls deep into anything carrying a franchise’s name is not the best idea, not even for Star Wars or Metal Gear.

There is one quote from Oda that must be given a high emphasize;

Inafune’s departure was a big part of it. His leaving Capcom left a void, and people were hesitant to step in and become the new “Mega Man guy.

This, dear reader, is the power a face has. Inafune, by all means, was father of Mega Man, the carrying force of the franchise, someone who would drive it onward, someone the consumer can latch unto and associate with. An inanimate product in itself needs some sort of association with something positive, be it a good time with a friend and a bottle of Coke, a friendly dentist recommending an Oral-B electric toothbrush or some representative from a corporation talking about something you love.

These two have been largely unknown to the public in terms of being a face. Tsuchiya was a programmer on Mega Man 7,  but as usual, nobody gets glory as a programmer despite being one of the most important roles in game development. Perhaps his most known title is Asura’s Wrath, where he was the producer. Oda’s worked largely on Resident Evil titles, mainly as director with remakes. He was system planner on the original and got Special thanks in Street Fighter Alpha 2, but Shinji Mikami always took the spot as the face of Resident Evil in every regards when he was still with Capcom.

Because these two are now heading Mega Man, there is a marketable face again. They don’t come from scratch, there’s already something we can associate them with. If Mega Man 11 ends up being a massive success, and the fan expectations for it are massive, one of them or both will end up the successor to Inafune’s place as the face of the franchise, someone the consumer can reflect upon.

However, just as I said that Inafune leaving was just part of the equation, so are the sales, if not even more so. Oda saying that the sales figures for Mega Man Legacy Collection were the driving force behind Mega Man 11 being put into development jives with what I’ve been commenting on for these years; data matters extremely so for Japanese game developers. When there is established data and form, it is easier to get through the execs to get something done. A simple thing like having a name’s localisation into a correct form from may take numerous already existing sources to assure executive powers that its worth it. A single name. To assure Capcom’s higher rank of being allowed to put a new Mega Man title into production has required more than solid sales numbers. It has required fan feedback of all kinds being collected and presented in proper form.

Mega Man as a franchise didn’t go kaput only because Inafune left, but because its sales potential had been waning most of the 00’s. The consumer is a fickle thing, first claiming that Capcom is just rehashing franchises by making a title after a title to satisfy market wants, but then is being criticised for not having new titles for the franchise. I doubt its just the sales data of Legacy Collection that was presented for the execs, but also the data of sales from previous digital releases. After all, Capcom’s a corporation that must make profit. Making games that would have meager sales is not exactly in their favour. They’re not here to make art, but cold hard cash through commercially viable products.

I would argue that Mega Man‘s absence has done it good. Call it the Godzilla effect if you will, where an absence of a product for number of years will allow the market view reset a little bit and most of the baggage previous movies have delivered have managed to level out. It’s much easier to make a new entry after some time have passed with rejuvenated interest. However, there are times when something can get so hyped and becomes so expected that it simply can’t meet the expectations for whatever reasons. Star Wars Episode I is probably the example of this. Disney really screwed up by making Star Wars mundane, but that’s another topic.

Will Mega Man 11 deliver? At this moment, it looks like something that can probably excel decently. It’s not exactly what could be described a pretty game, some of the animations still look janky and the Double Gear system seems rather generic way to try forcing a gimmick into the game. It’s not something the franchise hasn’t done before, but can they make it work with the standard formula? Will the stage designs be excellent? Will the music be up to the standard?

And of course, there’s how Capcom is releasing the product. They intend to make most of it, but if you’re European and want the game for the Switch, you’re out of luck. There is a petition up that asks Capcom to release the game in physical format, but seems like the interest isn’t there. This isn’t the first time Capcom of Europe makes less than ideal decision.

Mega Man 11

While I’m typing this, Capcom’s own 30th Anniversary stream is running on Twitch. I, and the steamers acknwledge that this is a bit early, but there’s really no better time to do this. I’m looking at this stream and thinking to myself Is this how we want to see it being celebrated? Without a doubt, this era of social media has made it easier for fans to gather and exchange ideas and experiences. Well, as well such can be realised in a fast paced Twitch discussion, where nobody really reads anyone’s comments either way. Nevertheless, here we are, watching four people in a brick studio with, surrounded with Mega Man merch.  Seeing Kazuhiro Tsuchiya taking the stage uplifts the whole deal, especially when he joined with another members of Capcom Japan’s staff to talk about Mega Man X particularly as an evolutionary step in the series.

A short, rather hammy video of the franchise’s history ends with the announcement of Mega Man 11.

 

This is the meat of the show; the developers talking about their own experience and work with the franchise with the emphasize moving to Mega Man 11  and how it’s been handled becoming the main bulk of the stream. There are a lot of good tidbits, like how different styles were tried out, but the constant use of nostalgia for pixels was deemed to have taken too far already. Hence, why the aim is to use 3D without creating 3D space. Most modern 2D action games want to obscure the ground somehow, either by adding grass to it or make it seem like it’s somehow a natural part of the scenery or the like. A 2D action game is by its nature rather abstract to begin with, as you already lost a whole wall and everything’s sorta cut into two dimensions. With titles like Mega Man, there is no reason to even remotely try to make things work realistically. Video games have always had the edge of showcasing abstract stages and nobody questions their sensibility, because the design is showcased as a part of a game and its challenge. This repeats everywhere, even in the most realistic game, where challenges are laid out by design where there should be none.

That said, everything gets a new lick of paint. Characters will get a redesign, but nothing major. It’s funny to see the above 30th Anniversary Trailer using an old design rather than the new one, hinting that they’re not putting their faith in the new design completely.

Is this a bad re-design? No, it’s not. Mega Man has always seen redesigns and tweaks with each new game when a new pair of hands have been given the task to bring the Blue Bomber back to life in visual terms. Rockman Memories even jokes about this by asking if Mega Man and Roll have grown up.

Roll’s redesign for Battle & Chase (rightmost Roll) was based on Sally the Witch‘s dress with additional sleeves and different coloured buttons on the bosom

The new design is sleeker with less mass on the arms and legs for sure. The blues have changed the hue a bit, but that’s nothing new. The proportions are less deformed, and follow more what a modern child heroes seem to have. While Mega Man was originally supposed to have a Super Deformed look, that was dropped rather fast due to technical limitations. Nevertheless, the proportions stuck the longest time, until Mega Man X 8 saw a complete cast-wide redesign and made everybody lanky and thin. There is something missing in Mega Man, if the character’s proportions are more “correct.”

While a new design was to be expected, it is disappointing to see the Smash Bros version having its influences in this one. The calves and the odd lines running down from shoulder to chest, connecting to the seams on the sides are something that’s rather unique to the Smash Mega Man, though overall that’s just playing with the winds of current taste in aesthetics. Can’t really say I like it, but here they make sense, assuming these are clothing seams. The few slots on his left arm and calves are additional details carried over from the back of his helmet, but the gloves he has are full-on Hitoshi Ariga. Even the neck padding, something that got carried over from various designs, is present.

The concept of Mega Man changing physically when using a new weapon is nothing new in itself. Supposedly, the square on his forehead was to change with weapon choice, but technical limitations prevented that.

The changes are limited to the head and arm while the rest of the body stays the same. The X-Series played with armours, while Legends and Battle Network furthered physical changes. This is a good medium form, renewing old with something new all the while keeping it recognisable. When doings something new, they seemed to have stumbled upon an old idea.

Cute as a button

Roll’s modern design fits her well. It follows the usual red dress idea, but the new cuts and zipper line, combined with a removable hood, does make her feel a lore more fresh. She looks a bit sharper, though the shoes could’ve used few more iterations. Currently they remind a bit too much Sonic’s shoes.

Rush and Beat got redesigned as well, but what they got was more modern touch-ups than anything else. We’ll get to these two whenever we them in motion.

In many ways, this Mega Man is a composition of many past designs in one. Perhaps What makes the “classic” Mega Man we see above next to the new one more iconic is nostalgia. Maybe it’s the fact that the lines are thicker and and more cartoon like. Detailing is fine, but what use are details if they’re just additional lines? Less is often more, and perhaps that’s why most modern redesigns of classic characters tend to go awry, because they really don’t know how to keep their hands off. One line too much can, often will, ruin otherwise perfect design.

 

You can stop at step two. Jesus Christ please stop at step two

 

A Mega Man movie

The first question the whole thing raises up is Why? Mega Man as a franchise is not currently relevant to the game consuming crowd and has fallen into a niche. Yet, Twentieth Century Fox worked two years to acquire the rights. Exclusive news be damned, there’s something rotten in the land of Denmark.

Let’s step aside the fact that Hollywood reported used the wrong sub-series picture and managed to fuck up telling the premise of the games, as Rock is Mega Man’s non-hero name and he volunteered to be turned unto a super fighting robot. They are also using the Capcom method of counting the games, with ports counted as separate entities from each other.

The question we have here isn’t if the movie will be good. It’s almost guaranteed not to follow the little plot the original games had and will deviate from it like no other. All Mega Man adaptations have done this, for better or worse. What is relevant about this keg of horseshit is what will the approach be. Whether or not Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman will direct the movie is slightly less relevant on what the studio wants. I can see Twentieth Century Fox wanting to move forwards with video game adaptations in order to fight Marvel’s comic book movies, and adapting Mega Man is all about nostalgia, currently.

The original Mega Man is a children’s TV-show, essentially speaking. The same goes for the Legends series, which can be even played episodically like that with certain pacing. The X-series can be a cartoon for slightly older audience, but much like Zero-series, it could be adapted to a full war story, though both of them do offer interesting philosophical points about humanity and robotics. However, despite that, Mega Man as a whole isn’t about that, and a Hollywood adaptation most likely will miss the little point the games have going on for them.

Let’s not beat around the bushes, the movie’s probably not going to be very faithful to the games and will probably make the fans disappointed while the rest of the audience couldn’t give two shits. Saying this before any solid info on anything has surfaced is presuming a lot of things, yet that’s how it usually goes. Even decent game-movie adaptations tend to suck and have no impact whatsoever.

There is also a possibility for franchise confusion here. With the Man of Action cartoon coming out 2018, Capcom probably has been revving up to emphasize that as the main vehicle to resurrect the franchise. That’s all good and dandy, there is validity in resurrecting the franchise for children from a clean slate, even though it will piss off the older fanbase. However, all the current fans should recognize that they were catered when they were kids, and a kid’s IP should stay that way for future generations rather than change to be something it’s not.

These points worry me. It is possible that the movie will be aimed that older fans and the content of the movie will reflect this in content. This would mean the Man of Action’s take on the franchise could stay as the kid friendly entry, with all the toys and possible games aimed to cater them solely. An adult oriented Mega Man would not be a good idea, unless it specifically concentrated on the more mature aspects of the larger franchise, as mentioned.

That’s where I can’t trust Hollywood Reporter on this. They’re speaking of Mega Man all the while using image resource from X-series. Let’s suppose for a moment that Twentieth Century Fox didn’t just get rights to the Classic series, but for Mega Man movies in general. Then it would be possible for them to use any material from the franchise. I wouldn’t put past them to just use elements across the franchise rather than sticking to one, which Man of Action is kinda doing with their entry.

Chernin Entertainment, the company making the movie under Fox, has multiple action films under its belt,  like the reboot series for the Planet of the Apes movies alongside few dramas and comedies. Outside Parental Guidance from 2012, none of their production is something that would reflect positively on Mega Man. This bodes just as well towards a Mega Man movie as Fox as a movie studio. Their track record with game adaptations like Legend of Chun-Li is absolutely terrible, and while Tom Rothman is not working for them anymore, they’re not getting out from the low-quality swamp anytime soon.

Granted, Deadpool was a damn good movie, but Chernin Entertainment had jack shit to do with it. Telling me that fans that love Mega Man doesn’t carry any weight around here, and while Masayori Oka probably grew up playing the games, Fox is ultimately the ones to put the boot down.

Oka’s some sort of gleam of hope in all this, to be frank. In an issue of SFX Collection, he mentioned collecting Pluto, a retelling of sorts of  Tetsuwan Atom‘s arc The Greatest robot on Earth. It’s not terribly far-fetched to say that Naoki Urawasa’s works have affected Oka, and this influence could be seen in the Mega Man movie. That is, if Joost and Schulman won’t ignore their producer completely. More than a handful of movies have been completely and utterly destroyed by executive hands, like the recent Ghostbusters reboot or anything Rothman touched.

Knowing Capcom, they’re not going to care one bit either way. They have a long-time partnership with Hollywood ever since the film version of Street Fighter II came out, and movie adaptations of their games haven’t really gotten any better. Resident Evil is still going on, supposedly, and there were even Dead Rising films. A Mega Man to the mix is just a droplet in the river for them.

If this post reads like I’m losing all hope and faith in the product as I write this, that’s not too far from the truth. While the movie industry is pumping out products that sell millions at the worldwide market, they’re lacking in imagination. A movie about a boy robot fighting an evil scientist’s ambition to take over the world sounds like something that doesn’t carry itself. What works as a game doesn’t work as a movie, and that’s the crux that will nail the Mega Man movie’s faith to either direction.

Changing Mega Man

Ultimately, what was the strength of past Mega Man games? I would argue that it was the strength of change that kept it relevant as long as it was with rather constant quality, overall speaking.

Keiji Inafune, whatever you may think of him nowadays, was without a doubt the driving force the franchise for the longest time. In an interview in an episode of Game Center CX, one of the Mega Man or Capcom related episodes, where he tells how he had wondered many times throughout the years whether or not it was fine for the series to keep going. This was around the release of Mega Man Battle Network 3, and this contrasts his battle with the series. What he said in this interview was whenever he would face a block on the invention front, he’d go to an event for children and see what they liked the most, what was favoured.

This plan to to observe Mega Man‘s main consumers and record their interest is without a doubt a key factor in the franchise’s success, especially when it comes to Battle Network. While long-time fans moaned about the series (Battle Network was essentially Mega Man‘s Beast Wars in this regard [ROBUTT NOT NAVI]), a new generation of consumers took the series on themselves. Battle Network saw the most divergence of all the sub-series with comics, arcade games, card games, toys, tabletop games, a cartoon, spin-offs and shitloads of stuff that never really left Japan.

Let’s not beat around the bush, the Battle Network series was huge. Starforce never could hold a candle to its predecessor in any form, starting from the gutted gameplay to the more or less terrible plot. It combined card game strategy with fast and skill based gameplay, rewarding experimentation to a large degree. Even when 150 Battle Chips sounds rather small amount to choose from, there were loads of unique combinations and tactics that could be put together from them, though some were more viable than others.  A new Battle Network game would be behind its time and it would sell on nostalgia value. Card collecting is passé for kids, just like robots of all kinds. After all, Mega Man is a children’s franchise first and foremost.

Mega Man stopped working when it stopped changing with the times. The original series kept itself relevant by adding more complex gameplay mechanics in order to compete with further developing games on the NES. Mega Man 2 had additional items, which Rush replaced in MM3, which also saw the additional of new mobility function in Sliding. MM4 saw the inclusion of the Charge Shot. While it could be argued that this was the point where classic series started its downhill run, the series still kept changing in increments. MM5 had diverging paths to find Beat. MM6 had Rush Adaptors, which while where a small thing, changed how you’d need to approach higher jumps and the like. MM7 played it safe as with most NES based franchises jumping unto the new platform and tweaked things with further secrets and such that were becoming common. The same applied to MM8 to a large degree, but whether or not these changes made the games better is up to question.

However, as Classic series evolved, the franchise really took its changing nature to heart with Mega Man X. While it was mainly a revisit of the classic formulae with new lick of paint, what makes it stand out from the Classic series is the inclusion of RPG elements. According to the developers, certain kind of RPG were becoming popular with the consumers at time, and though I question the validity of this argument due to RPGs becoming stupidly popular years prior thanks to Dragon Quest, the elements in MMX  series is easy to see. Hidden Heart Tanks permanently increase X’s Energy akin to stat upgrade. Their hidden nature also encouraged stage exploration and trying out weapons on the environment to a larger degree compared to the Classic series. Hidden Armour upgrades serve the same function. The X-series continued with additional elements much like the Classic had.

However, not all changes have kept franchise relevant. As much fans like the Legends games, it never caught on. Low sales meant Legends died off. Perhaps it was too far off from what Mega Man consistently had been thus far, or perhaps the games weren’t what the consumers wanted. That’s a whole another post really, but one of the things that could be said is that if Legends wasn’t based on the wants of the child consumer, then it wouldn’t be success in the same manner as its two predecessors. Battle Network on the other hand was.

This leaves both Zero and ZX series in a place where they didn’t exactly see the same level of sales for being aimed at the older audience that had grown up with the franchise as a whole, but also show contradict the main audience. One of early fanfares the Western fans had for Zero series was that it made Mega Man hard again, which is bullshit because the franchise never was hard. Even a four years old child could finish Mega Man 2. Not all changes are for the better, and ZX further convolution with multiple Mega Men and having adventure-action layout with its game structure alá Space Hunter or Metroid really didn’t catch on. The games replicated a form that was out of fashion at that point, but also came out too early for Western audience starting to masturbate over again. Things with both Zero and ZX didn’t add up, and aiming for the more mature audience that wasn’t the best way to go.

Mega Man 9 and 10 were throwbacks, and as such they didn’t evolve or take the franchise forwards in any way. MM9 sold on nostalgia alone, and MM10 failed that too. Too much carry over design elements from Zero and ZX also meant that this wouldn’t continue.

Mega Man really is a good example of a franchise that renewed itself constantly to stay in touch with the core consumers. As Inafune said, as long as children enjoyed Mega Man, the franchise would have a reason to keep going. Changing the franchise to a mature one would do a major disservice, as you can keep it appealing to both adults and children alike. Renewing a franchise, sometimes in a very drastic way, is necessary to keep a franchise afloat. A stale franchise that does nothing new and is unchanging will have harder time to penetrate the wall of obtaining new consumers. It all really hinges on whether or not this change is well handled, or a complete catastrophe.

With the new cartoon coming out in 2018, we can only hope for a Mega Man renaissance of sorts.

The Thing of remakes

Remakes seems to be a subject I return yearly. This time inspired by a friend’s words; Remakes of great movies have an almost impossible task to improve on the originals. I’m inclined to agree with him, and the same goes for video games, generally speaking. Even with the technology gap between now and a game from e.g. the NES era, it’s still a task that rarely is done right.

I admit that the requirements this blog tends to set for remakes, mainly that they need to influence the culture of gaming in some significant way and create make the original completely and utterly, are almost far too high standards to meet up. Almost is the key, as if you’re not going to make something better than the original, why make it at all?

The same applies to movies to a very large degree, even prequel remakes of sorts. John Carpenter’s The Thing is probably a good example of this, to both directions. Originally a novella named Who Goes There? in 1938, it was adapted to the silver screen for the first time in 1951 as The Thing from Another World, just in time for the 1950’s boom. While Carpenter’s 1982 version is far more true to the original novella, it still draws elements and inspirations from the 1951 movie. The two movies show what thirty years of difference can do in movies. While the 1982 movie obsoletes the 1951 in pretty much every way, it could be argued that it’s worth a watch for the sake of having a perspective. However, it does lack the signature element of the Thing itself; mimicry. Then again, perhaps it could be said that Carpenter didn’t remake the 1951 movie, but stuck with the source material all the way through.

2011 saw a new version of The Thing in form of a prequel, but it’s essentially a beat-to-beat remake of the 1982 movie. Opinions whether it’s a good movie or a terrible one is up to each of us, but perhaps one of the less voiced opinions is that it was unnecessary. Much like other side stories, prequels and sequels that expand on story elements that never needed any expansion and were best to be left as they were. After all, we’re curious about mysteries that are not wholly elaborated on, but often feel let down if that mystery is shown to be terrible. I’m not even going to touch the PlayStation 2 game here, it’s just a terrible piece.

Both games and movies stand on the same line with remakes; they need to have the same core idea, core function if you will, and create something more era appropriate. One could argue that Mega Man X is a good remake of Mega Man. While it has a new lead, new enemies and stages, it evolves the formula and tackles the franchise in a new way. The idea is still the same nevertheless; beat a number of boss robots in an order selected by you and then advance to the multi-levelled final stages before you face the mad last boss.

However, both Mega Man and Mega Man X got remakes on the PSP, and while we can argue whether or not they obsolete the originals, they are pretty much beat-to-beat replicas with some new stuff bolted unto them and do no deviate from the source material jack shit. This isn’t the case with the Ratchet and Clank remake, which opted not only to change things around, but changed them so that it could have been a completely new and independent game.

Perhaps this is where we should make a division between reboots and remakes. Maverick Hunter X is a remake whereas Ratchet and Clank 2016 is a reboot. Reboots can and often do change things around to fit this new reimagined world. That’s one of the reasons why reboots don’t go well with long-time fans, as it would mean the series they’ve been emotionally (and sometimes financially) invested in for years is no longer the same. There’s an 80 minute video that goes over how Ratchet and Clank‘s reboot missed points from the original game. If you’ve got time to kill, it’s a good watch. Especially if you’re even a passing fan of the franchise.

Mega Man as a franchise is an interesting entity that for almost two decades it had multiple series and sub-franchises running alongside each other. While Battle Network could be counted as a reboot in modern terms, the 2018 series will probably be a total franchise reboot, at least for the time being.

The point of reboots is somewhat lost when the end-product does not stand up to the comparison to the original. Some claim this is unfair, as the new piece should be treated as its own individual piece without any regard to the original. There can be validity in this, if the product can stand on its own without resorting on winking to the player about the previous incarnation. This is a two-bladed sword; on one hand it’s great to acknowledge the history your remake stands on, but on the other hand any sort of reliance devalues the whole point of a remake. It’s a line that needs to be threaded carefully.

Perhaps the thing with remakes (or reboots for the matter) really is that they are facing a task larger than just the original product; they are facing the perceived value of the product from the consumers. People tend to value things on an emotional level a lot more despite their faults (like yours truly with Iczer-1)  and when something new comes into play to replace it, our instinct tells us to resists. It doesn’t help that most of the remakes and reboots then to be terrible on their own right, even when removing from the original piece. Just look at Devil May Cry‘s reboot, which luckily seems to be just a one-off thing. Maybe remakes like this are needed from time to time to remind us that capturing the lightning in the bottle twice is far harder than it seems, and perhaps creating something completely new is the better solution.

Design comparison; Mega Man VS Mega Man

To say that the original design for Mega Man is iconic wouldn’t be wrong. The design of the character is synonymous of the game renaissance of the later 1980’s with Nintendo’s powerhouse of a 8-bit system and the many games it housed. The very sprite is revered in an iconic status similar to Mario’s or Simon Belmont’s and sees constant re-use. Hell, even the trailer for the 2017 cartoon has it, despite their design being vastly different.

Well, not exactly. The logo aside (it’s your run-of-the-mill logo, though I’m not a fan how they’ve cut the letters in an angle and don’t make the space between Mega and Man evident enough) the sprite jumping on it is a modified NES sprite. The earpieces have a glowing rim and a similarly glowing forehead gem has been added. The buster also has an energy line to it. The solar collector that runs from the forehead gem to the back of the helmet has been coloured black here as well.  Dunno what’s the point of using this modified sprite, but the intend is to appeal to the nostalgia. As I’ve said it previously, the 8-bit worship needs to end and this is the worst kind of retro masturbation.

Then again, using modern tools to represent an old character does something good at times. Mega Man 9 had great faux-retro renders of the characters

But let’s get to the business. I’m not going to compare original Mega Man to Man of Action Mega Man. Instead, I’ll be using another American redesign; the Ruby-Spears Mega Man. We’ll leave the Captain N version to its own devices. And oh, this counts as the Monthly Mecha design post, because row-butts.

Neat to see stuff like this turning up

The two American Mega Man redesigns are of two different school of thought. The Ruby-Spears redesign gives the main audience someone to look up to, someone they could become while growing up. Ageing the character from a ten-years old to a teenager was a necessity. Outside that, the core design doesn’t exactly veer too far from the original Capcom design.

I’ll just have to use this screencap from the trailer

The Man of Action Mega Man on the other hand aims to create a character the kids in the audience could identify with. A character that goes through similar issues and handles similar subjects, though maybe through a veil that is a Saturday morning cartoon, can offer kids new tools to handle difficult subjects. Somehow I doubt that’ll happen with the 2017 Mega Man series. Or as heavy handedly as in Captain Planet. I’ll refer this redesign as MoA from now on.

Kinda funny to see how the basic posing is still the same. I guess this is cultural influence to you.

The two designs are clearly from the same source of origin and thus share the same elements, and interesting, similar additions. To note some few of them; kneepads, changed forehead element and emphasized upper torso. Original Mega Man doesn’t have any sort of kneepads, the lower legs sometimes extend over the knee, sometimes it doesn’t. Depends on the revision. The earpieces on Ruby-Spears have red vents on the outside, giving them emphasize, just like how energy lines on the MoA redesign. The forehead element is probably the most baffling on Ruby-Spears, as it’s a diamond over a square. It doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the design, but then again the life gem stolen from Mega Man X on MoA’s redesign looks pretty much as terrible. Well, all the energy light lines do. Maybe those will change colours when another weapon than Mega Buster is equipped.

Let’s start from the top of the head and work our way down. The overall helmet is the same shape, but due to different styles, MoA’s big head is emphasised. MoA’s Mega Man also inverts the shades on the helmet. Classic Mega Man’s forehead element and solar collector are lighter shade than the main body. This is due to the colour pallet available on the NES. MoA chose to make the helmet’s main body about the same shade as usual, but the collector is almost black. The shade of blue, cyan even, used on the lighter shades on Mega Man is used on the edges of the cutaway for the face, directly lifted from Mega Man X. Ruby-Spear’s redesign sticks to notes from Capcom’s original, outside the whole diamond bit.

Furthermore, the cutaway on Ruby-Spears’ Mega Man is classical heart, whereas MoA’s opted to use a similar angular design to X’s, just with slightly less sharpness to it. MoA also added useless panel lining to the helmet. While face design may be different across the board, it should be mentioned that Ruby-Spears followed original’s round face closer that MoA. Both have blue eyes, just like original. It wasn’t until Mega Man X onwards that Mega Man main characters started having emerald green eyes.

The upper torso is where things get wild. Ruby-Spears’ Mega Man may be more muscular, but the lines added to emphasize this don’t break the core design. His neck may be exposed in this one, but that’s kinda business as usual as well. MoA’s Mega Man on the other hand opts for a leaner design, where the chosen elements break the traditional design. MoA’s Mega Man essentially wears a T-Shirt that has a stupidly high upwards arching cut in the middle, exposing his middle torso for no real good reason. Black lines coming underneath his armpits extent to his neck and extend the same way on the back. Underneath his arms he has two rectangle sections that have no reason to be there.

Is it just me or does all this stretching look strange? I just assume there’s fabric on top of parts that aren’t clearly metal, but then you have clearly metal parts warping. Eh, cartoons and animation

The arms are similar, only having real difference between gloved VS. gloveless hands. Due to how MoA exaggerates body dimensions, the arms are larger. However, because the upper arms (and the thighs) are so thin, MoA’s Mega Man looks more like a mix-match of a Sonic character. Ruby-Spear’s has a more traditional superhero muscle build to it, which looks a bit odd, but works considering the whole redesign is more in-line with American comic heroes.

Both buster has a similar overall design, but MoA decided not to include anything interesting and just added three glowing bars. Ruby-Spears opted two for button like squares. Ruby-Spears hits closer to the original yellow strip design. Both weapons seem to be tied to the left arm.

Considering that, the pants on Ruby-Spears’ are your plain ol’ whities coloured blue and with a belt. MoA opted to add an extra colour and separated power light lines in order to cut the shape downwards. Not really sure if they want to have their hero wearing pants like that, but these cuts are somewhat reminiscent of those that Mega Man X has, but again, just with curves.

Probably should post X as for reference. He has a big hand. Notice how his chest has an added colour on his… robobra? Anyway, his colours have accents that bring out each other and whatever the details there are, mainly the angles. The Life gem on his forehead is brought to attention because it simply stands out, but rather than breaking the scheme it works as a sole point of interest. That, and there’s red in his earpiece and at the tip of the buster. It’s a colour sparingly used for an effect, not slapped everywhere. Notice green eyes

The legs are the second busiest places after the Mega Buster. Well, that’s relative for MoA’s design, it’s so full of lines and lights everywhere. Ruby-Spear’s Mega Man have classic style legs, just with more muscle, clear kneepads, separated feet from the legs and lighter share at the tip of the “shoes” with black soles. MoA kinda went town with theirs. Darker kneepads, very clear ankle joints, separated feet and legs and darker soles. Everything covered in those damn light lines.

Let’s be frank, Man of Action Mega Man is overdesigned. The chosen colour scheme looks too dark to give the lights more emphasize and the sheer amount of them does make it look more like a Christmas decoration from China. A Mega Man knock-off. Yes, the original’s character sheet has tones about as dark as MoA, yet in-game and in other illustration work, even in Wish upon a Star, the colours are lighter and vivid. The darker tone balance is destroyed in MoA’s design due to added even darker spots and high contrast lights.

I had wishes that the design would grow unto me, but the inclusion of Mega Mini, worse song than Ruby-Spears’ opening and the constant use of Mega+suffix doesn’t install much hope. MEGANIZE ME! or IT’S MEGA TIME don’t have the same sound as ROCK ON! They’re actually more reminiscent of Captain N‘s Mega Man, who would shove mega into everything he was talking about. Hell, even in the intro he says MEGA HI! to the audience.

The design is also just too damn blue and uses too dark a scheme. Outside the insides of the buster, there is not splash of any other colour to give the blue a lift. Hell, the clothes he wears when he is just Aki Light are more interesting to look at. The design sure has become less rigid since we first saw it, but all the same eyesore points still persist.

Even the yellow inside the buster is broken ochra, not a vivid yellow. Why? To emphasize that neon cyan on the rims. The worst thing is that the wrist seems to have slightly brighter blue, but it’s all dull. That hand looks terrible though, but maybe it’s just the angle. Here you can see that the forehead “gem” is really just an intendation on the “solar collector” (probably isn’t a one in MoA’s version) and not a protruding gem

Ruby-Spears’ Mega Man is sort of the opposite, with less bells and whistles everywhere, and despite the changed age, he is visibly Mega Man American edition. He does have a dunce, round nosed face with weird eyebrows (not to mention eyes that are somewhere between Fred Flinstone’s and generic anime) and strangely bulbous legs overall, but these don’t really destroy the balance it maintains. The slightly overdone muscles does upset the balance to a point where the whole thing looks a bit off in an uncanny way. Whether or not one is better over the other is subjective, but the 2017 cartoon needs to be damn good to win me over.

Then again, it doesn’t need to. It’s a show for a new generation of kids, and if they like, maybe that’s for the better.