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.

Was Mega Man not optimistic?

A new interview on the 2017 Mega Man show came out this week, and I decided to mull over it a little bit before making this entry because it really is an odd little thing. The title really says it; The New MEGA MAN Animated Series Will Have a More Optimistic Blue Bomber. The reason why I had to sit down and let it be was my very first reaction; But Mega Man had always been optimistic.

The article/interview doesn’t reveal anything what we already didn’t know, it’s more a slight insight into the mindset and workings of the people involved. A lot of the answers are non-replies, like how the first one about why would it be the right time for a new Mega Man, the answer is never given. Only that Mega Man is a timeless character. All Dentsu America seems to be excited about is that they have this iconic game character in their hands to play with. This is telling, as the studio Man of Action’s Generator Rex was not the big hit it was expected to be, and Ben 10 has largely run its course. Ultimate Spider-Man has not been as popular either, so it seems they are intending to tap yet another existing franchise in hopes for some name recognition. This seems to  be the reason why it would be the perfect time for a new Mega Man; it is a recognized name and has not seen any new entry in some time. Mega Man‘s solid concept is easy to adapt and mould for new purposes.

Joe Kelly’s suggestion that this is the first time an American team is handling Mega Man is also incorrect. I’m sure Archie’s take on Mega Man is in hold because of 2017 Mega Man. Archie’s Mega Man is a more direct adaptation of whatever plot the games had, but it’s a damn good one and a very American one in many ways. It’s excellent read. Before that, Dreamwave had the Mega Man license and had a very, very similar plotline about Rock(y) being sent to school to learn to be more like a human. Of course, you had the Captain N Mega Man too, and we never should forget Ruby-Spears’ Mega Man.

Honestly, this show is pretty damn good

It’s clear that Kelly’s not up to his history with his assertion, and it is doubtful he has checked the previous Western works either. Saying that Man of Action and Dentsu America are the first ones to give Mega Man an American take is simply false and made under intention of good press.

Then again, Nerdist themselves makes a really, really weird comment. Yeah, it would just be a huge bummer if Mega Man was this cynical jerk. It’s like, “Why was I created?” No Mega Man has ever questioned their birth. The closest we come across is Grey from Mega Man ZX Advent, and even then he’s amnesic. When you get down to it, it would be really damn hard to pin down any character in Mega Man that would lament their birth like that. Even Mega Man X at his introspective moment hesitated to fight or wondered what he would like to make of his life, what his dreams and goals were.

But looks like Man of Action intends to give Mega Man the same treatment as they did to Spider-Man, which doesn’t exactly fill people with confidence. Mega Man, the original character, is as stripped down as it gets already, a very simple concept. What Man of Action has done is they’ve simply added elements that never existed in the original mythos of the work (did in Dreamwork’s take tho), but the telling remark from them is when they mention how a lot of things have added to the character of the years.

These people think there’s one Mega Man.

Certainly they recognize that we have numerous unique Mega Man characters each in their own series; Classic, X, Legends, Battle Network, Star Force, ZX, and if you want to count Zero, ZXA and Xover, be my guest. Classic is the blueprint where the rest of the franchise has grown out, and so it’s really incredibly stupid to say that the character Mega Man has seen stuff bolted on top of him, but that’s the mindset here. They don’t think Mega Man as in the Classic series, they think the whole damn franchise as one. That explains a lot about the Aki Light Mega Man’s design a lot, as it’s the collection of bits and pieces from all the iteration in a very messy and outdated way. I’m not going to let go of that,t he design looks terrible.

Further evidence on them not really knowing about Mega Man as a franchise is Joe Casey’s mention how Mega Man has a lot villains, which is not true. Mega Man has only one villain who orchestrates everything else; Dr. Wily. Sigma and the rest belong to the other sub-series, but that doesn’t matter to them. Robot Masters are lackies, not the main villains, not even King.

At this point Man of Action really should’ve just made their own robot-kid-fights-for-good show instead of relying on Mega Man‘s recognition. Nerdist can go fuck themselves for saying some of the old names are wonky, they follow a true and tested way pioneered by American comics no less. Casey retorting that they’re intending to bring in more women characters in shouldn’t be taken as anything but few more girl characters, and that’s fine as long as they do it the right way. Like Archie and Dreamwave did.

Nerdist is being diplomatic and very, very sensationalistic when calling the art style striking. Their intention is to lift the issue up that fans laughed at the design quite a lot and only handful of people honestly seemed to like it. Kelly’s mention how CAPCOM wanted to keep certain things in sounds about right. After all, this should be a recognizable character and so certain elements have to stay in. Without a doubt Man of Action would have wanted to revamp the whole thing to look completely different. The best joke about the whole think is when Duncan Rouleau says his design for Mega Man stems from old cartoons like Mach GoGoGo /Speed Racer and Gigantor, but it really does look more like a Chinese knock-off than anything else. Going back to the inspirational roots of Mega Man would’ve done him some good. Tetsuwan Atom, Casshern, Kikaider, Tekkaman (not Blade) to mention some.

Whether or not a design has a lot of thought behind doesn’t really matter, not to the end-user. All that matters if it pleases him.

What throws me off at Casey’s comment about Mega Man having many different iterations is that it sounds like CAPCOM was the one dictating them elements they should use. I can see them wanting to reuse some of the elements, but dictating not so much, especially after these guys asserted that this Mega Man is an American take. Whether or not we should even call post-Classic series main characters as iterations of Mega Man is under heavy question. The fact is, they are not the same character and stand on their own legs who they are as characters.

Casey saying that the show will have dark elements, but Mega Man himself won’t be it is stupid. Mega Man himself has never been the dark element in the franchise. In Classic series he is a helper robot that is compelled to help those in need. In X series Mega Man X is the brightest thing in the series, fighting for peaceful coexistence of humans and Reploids. Legends has Mega Man Volnutt living a normal life as an adventurer. In Battle Network MegaMan.EXE may be the digitalisation of Lan’s brother, but that’s far from dark. It’s hopeful and their interaction really is very brotherly. In Star Force Geo may be a traumatised character at first, but he gets better and becomes a normal kid again. In ZX, the idea of Mega Man has changed and has classic hero type who gains his powers from a “mystical” source. Xover doesn’t really have any personality so don’t know where the hell Man of Action of Dentsu America got their idea of Mega Man, as a character being dark. Maybe they just played Mega Man Zero, which would explain it. The irony in that would be that you don’t play as Mega Man, and X is literally a digital angel in that series.

After this interview I’m expecting to see a show that isn’t Mega Man outside brand recognition. It’ll be just like any other Disney X D action show that will run for a season and then killed. CAPCOM seems to be producing game based on the show, but whether or not that will be good or not is another thing.

Honestly, this sub-series needed its own subtitle, like all the previous. Call it American Mega Man or something like that, seeing they’re so proud to think they’re the first American take on the franchise. Fingers crossed that this series will at least show CAPCOM that the franchise as a whole still has worth and greenlight more games to the other sub-series rather than just putting re-releases out.

Mighty Number 9 is just miserable

This one’s from a personal point of view, screw the writer persona. Mighty Number 9 is a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with modern video games and their fans. It’s a Kickstarter product headed by a well-known game developer, who used his status with Mega Man fandom to drive through a new title that was seemingly supposed to be a middle finger to CAPCOM. Inafune used Mega Man‘s legacy as his most main tool for advertising. The sad thing is, the cult that had elevated him and those who just wanted to throw shit at CAPCOM bought this, and all they can do is blame themselves.

I did not back Mighty Number 9 because at the time I didn’t buy into idol worship any more. If you want to roll years back on the blog, you can see that I had some remains of it, but I recognize that each and every person making any product is just as dick gobbling as anyone. None of these people are nothing special, their works are works of hundreds if not thousands of people, all contributing to one piece. Screw the creators, they don’t matter. Only their product does.

And to quote all the critics, Mighty Number 9 sucks. It’s boring, mundane, by the books, slow, unchallenging, stages are awfully designed with equally awfully designed gameplay and it’s predictable game in every possible way. I pity my friend who backed it, but at least I got a go with his copy. Currently, the game sits at the bottom 12% at OpenCritic. There are reports of Windows 10 refusing to run the game or its installer, DRM free versions crashing for no reason, proofreading is non-existent (just like on this blog!), the Wii U version seems to brick your system, framerate issues, fucked up colours, DLC installer not installing anything, and then autodeleting itself, backers getting wrong DLC codes and God only knows what else will pop up in the long run.

Outside all the shit that went down during the Kickstarter, from Dina being a community manager to the fact that they cut a selling feature from the game, you saw even before the Kickstarter was finished how the game would end up being.

The first one was that there was no conceptual gameplay in video form or the like. Just an illustration roughly showing what they wanted to do, but barely did any of ’em. The Kickstarter page still reads using weapons and abilities stolen from your enemies to take down your fellow Mighty Number robots, a gameplay function that was dropped during the development. You don’t have the advertised body morphing either. Only Boss battle weapons stayed true, to some extent.

They didn’t learn from this, and resorted to show even less with Red Ash, which had even campaign promises and was saved by a Chinese company.

The second was the fact that Comcept chose to collect people from the original Mega Man. Let’s be fair here and remember that the original Mega Man is rather lacklustre and sits in the same position as the first Street Fighter when it comes to memorable titles. It’s there, but nobody gives a fuck. Mega Man 2 and Street Fighter 2 both are games that made the franchise. Shinsuke Komaki was a decent addition, but the illustrations and designs in Mighty Number 9 are lacklustre in largely every regard, so his history with Mega Man added absolutely nothing to the table.

The third bit is that they already had secured the funding to produce the game alongside Inti-Creates, meaning whatever money they’d get from the Kickstarter would go to polishing the game and none of that shows. I liked the first two Mega Man Zero games when they came out, but in hindsight the series reminds me of more polished Game Gear Mega Man, emphasizing all of its flaws. The camera is still the worst offender in those games, and the ZX series was just lacklustre every which way.  Mega Man 9 was a fun little throwback, but Mega Man 10 is just mediocre. It should’ve moved forwards and be something much more than just another 8-bit revival. Before anyone says Mega Man is only good in 8-bit are wrong. Just look at Mega Man X series and their genre relatives.

The fourth bit is that Inafune is a terrible developer on his own. He shines when he is paired with good support, which his cast at Comcept don’t seem to be. He essentially shines when he has someone to answer to. He allows strange ideas to flourish and bloom if they seem great, and later in the game development he was on the higher ladder rather in the grass root developing. Minakuchi Engineering’s Mega Man VI/ Rockman World 4 and Mega Man V/Rockman World 5 are shining examples a company that knew what to do with Mega Man through experience based on previous GB titles (outside 2) and managed to essentially make one of the best Mega Man games out there. All this came together because they were a small but competent team that had a good overseer. Minakuchi also did Mega Man X3, which is why it is so different from the rest of the franchise. Go play those instead of Mighty Number 9. Or Rosenkreuzstilette and Megamari if you want to see how Mega Man-esque gameplay should be copied. Notice how the camera functions as it should and doesn’t twerk around with every action the player does.

Comcept spend 3.8 million dollars of Marvelous’ money to develop Kaio: King of Pirates. Nobody knows what happened, but I’m sure they’re going to push more Senran Kagura and never work with Comcept again. I can live with that, Senran Kagura turned to be surprisingly entertaining franchise after the first game. Marvelous’ statement about their doubts which the developers had in mind regarding this project is quite telling.

I don’t even feel bad for people who backed this game. It was their choice just as any, and they choose to buy into the hype and PR. Or to spite CAPCOM, I know some of you did that. Whatever CAPCOM’s doing with Mega Man next year is an open question, we’ll just have to sit tight and see what happens. You can be certain that they have been following Inafune’s misadventures, and you can be certain they’ve taken into notice all the things he fucked up.

First look at the Mega Man of 2017

I got a bombshell this evening after a long day of spending time with some friends; the first look at the new Mega Man that’s coming in 2017 from Dentsu Entertainment USA and DHX Media, executive produced by Man of Action Entertainment known mainly for their Ben 10 series. Let’s dig into their press and CAPCOM Unity release and give it a look…

Dentsu Meg Man

Deadline Hollywood broke this story as well. Essentially, Dentsu will manage global rights for the cartoon in Asia, while DHX will handle the rest of the world. Aimed at children just under age ten, essentially young boys, and instead of rolling with the name Rock, his civilian persona is Aki Light. Protodude has a very short description on what the series will be about, and it looks like the show will be more generic than anticipated. It doesn’t help that it sounds like they’re going to add a stupid generic helper character, like Godzuki, to the franchise in form of Mega Mini. Mega Man already had a vast cast of characters to use, you’d only need to introduce the school setting.

I’m not going to talk about the logo though, there’s nothing special and I’ve been over that already. It’s just another re-design.

Here’s the thing; Mega Man is very hard to make as it is portrayed in the games. Hitoshi Ariga managed to weave a story around the games because he took the best parts of then, and made them nicely episodic. The Ruby-Spears cartoon did the same, but just made its own plots and it honestly was pretty good. However, for Western audiences, especially to North Americans, it is more approachable and easier to make a story about a robot boy trying to fit in and be a normal kid while hiding his super powers from everybody. Y’know, like with Spider-Man originally and loads of other masked heroes. For whatever reason, that clicks with them.

This isn’t the first time this approach has been used with Mega Man. Dreamwave’s Mega Man comic used this exact same premise, but only four issues were printed before Dreamwave folded. It was pretty close to the game designs, visually, but the content was very different, and Rock was renamed to Rocky. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a bad comic, just very generic child hero serial.

And that’s what I’m afraid this one will be as well, especially in wake of Ben-10 and the like. If Mega Man is to have a civilian personality and have that robot-human interaction, there must be better ways than this, more original and imaginative ways to utilise the setting. The thing is, that is Mega Man X’s story. X is the one that had the human element to him, the first robot ever to be able learn and was beyond anything that had been before. I like to give the example what X was compared to others through Iwamoto’s Rockman X manga; he was able to cry.

X1Ch1-11

What was Mega Man’s story was simple; he was programmed with a strong sense of justice, of right and wrong and will to help those in need, and when he saw what the Robot Masters were doing under Wily’s rule, he felt a need to fight back, thus asked Dr. Light to convert his body into a that of a war machine.

But this is not my Mega Man. This is Mega Man for the new generation of children and I shouldn’t stand in their way of enjoying possibly good piece of entertainment. This does not negate the Mega Man I grew up with and played, those memories and games won’t go anywhere. Mega Man Classic had a good run, all things considered. I hope this new Mega Man can stand up to the challenge and as a franchise be superior in every regard. If not, then all of it has been useless. Make the old games and cartoons obsolete, make them look like pale shadows, that’s all I ask for.

But, let’s get to the meat of the design. If this design is what they will go with, or have some variation of it, it’s clear where they’re coming from. Aki Light Mega Man overall is the Classic Mega Man in proportions and shapes, with some cues taken from Mega Man X. Helmet design is the most prominent place to find X’s influences with extra ridges around the rim as well as having a gem on the forehead. From down from there, the torso is largely nondescript, similar to Ariga’s Mega Man in that there are added detail compared to the original. Shoulders have faux-pads, while the arms are largely ported from X directly, excluding the three energy bars. Classic Mega Man had yellow segments instead of blue, and I guess this could be used to indicate charge/energy levels. He seems to be wearing skin-tight boxers from the Classic, and the legs are very similar to Smash Bros. design revamp.

Personally, while the elements are there to make a good design, the way they are implemented look garish. Extremely so. The constant neon blue glow from every seam is overused and clichéd at this point in time, dating the design harshly instead of trying to make it timeless. As a friend put it, It looks something somebody drew in Flash in 2006 and he is right in that. Even now the design is dated. This makes the design look less like a real Mega Man, and more a Chinese pirate copy.

Rockman X3Rockman Zook

Add in the fact that Tron energy lines is overbearingly overused at this point, and you have largely a design that’s not just uninspiring, but also generic to a fault. He looks less like a character for Mega Man, and more something that could pop-up in Kingdom Heart’s Tron section. Maybe that’s their intention, but at least turn the lights off and give those blues lighter shades. The only reason those blues are so dark with black hands is that the neon lights would glow through.

To be completely honest, even when noting that this is a completely new Mega Man product and is to stand apart from the previous ones, this design doesn’t instill confidence. On the contrary, it makes me worry that they are aiming for a rather generic and flashy look, to have it be just a flash in the pan instead of impacting popular culture like the original games did. This new Mega Man has a legacy to stand up to. It doesn’t help that the neon light darker blue Mega Man was already done for Mega Man Universe, so its unique stance among all the designs is further diminished to near nil.

Universe Mega
But to be fair, MMU’s Roll was pretty damn cute

In 2017, Mega Man will live in a new form. I will give it a chance and will do design reviews as they drop in, and I will be fair. I’m not playing favourites, I don’t do that with âge’s pieces either, but I have been worrying about this series for a while now, and I really hope that it will be something phenomenal instead of run-of-the-mill action cartoon. Mega Man has potential to be more, we’ve seen it before. Despite them saying this show is also meant for the older fanbase, that is only lip service. We, the veterans, are only cashcows for to be milked with re-releases. This is meant to revitalise the franchise from grounds up, and by God I hope they do. Mediocrity is not tolerated this time. It needs to be damn good.

And I hope they won’t introduce X or later series’ characters. Just keep it Mega Man and no time travelling, please?

Of fathers and creators

Lately I’ve been seeing people getting riled up about Mega Man again after an interview from 2011 that was included in Rockman Maniax collection.  This interview touches on a lot of subjects that seem to have been missed by a lot of Western fandom, but overall provides very little new info. Well, that’s debatable, as a lot information that is still floating around the Internet as rumours, hearsays and even legends to my recollection since the 90’s are more or less again confirmed in this particular interview. It’s a good read overall for the fans.

The name Akira Kitamura is a name that seems like the Internet is unearthing all over again. He is sometimes more known of his initial in the credits as A.K., and had his hands in games like Nostlagia 1907, Willow, Section-Z, Virgin Dream, Legendary Wings, and of course the first two Mega Man games. The range he worked in was from game planner to advisor, from Director to Character Designer.

The man does deserve more recognition in the field, if we’re to argue people actually need to be recognized in the way they currently are. Nevertheless, Inafune himself has stated few times around that he was not the creator of Mega Man people thought him to be, because that’s not completely true. Neither is Kitamura.

In project works where multiple people are working, there very rarely really is one point of origin, unless the director is holding all leashes tight and commanding things. Even then he alone is not creator in the classical sense.

Mega Man was a defined character when Inafune joined the team and the core gameplay was more or less solidified what it would be in the end. Kitamura’s interest in game design however is the key how the core design of Mega Man would take shape from the length of the stages to enemy placements and stage selection itself. Comparing Mega Man to its contemporaries, one thing that many people overlook are the enemy placement and time it takes to beat a stage. All this takes time to figure and design properly, and required a different approach than most other games of the time.

Kitamura’s “tricks,” as he calls them, are simple yet hard to figure out and properly implement. They are the basic structures of more complex game design, things that often are dismissed. You can still spot these “tricks” in more modern Mega Man games, but they’re more or less changed into making the game seem harder than softer. Mega Man has a fame of being difficult game series, but that didn’t come reality until Mega Man Zero series, when Inti-Creates succumbed to the misconception. One of Kitamura’s “tricks” was to  make the game seem harder than it was while holding back the punches just in the right spots.

Kitamura mentions Nobuyuki Matsushima, H.M.D. in the credits, who programmed the first Mega Man game, and specifically mentions that it was this man who brought Mega Man to life. He worked in industrial programming before entering game development, and it is insanely difficult to find out what he did prior CAPCOM, but after Mega Man 2 he worked on Kuuga/ Vapor Trail under Data East, Street Fighter 2010, few Quiz games and the like. The way he coded unintentionally affected the pace and design Mega Man would further be known for. He also came up with the colour changing element with the weapons, while Kitamura wanted Ninja Captor styled head crests. The show has an interesting history on its own, as it was once part of Super Sentai franchise, but dropped as some point alongside with Go-Ranger and J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai, two shows that were later re-implemented to the franchise.


Kuuga/Vapor Trail is pretty awesome game. Too bad it has gone through price creep

Mega Man was full of anime and tokusatsu references from the very beginning as the developers poured in their childhood into the designs. Hell, you can basically pick up all Mega Man and MM2 Robot Masters from the Ninja Captor line-up alone. I’ve been toying with an idea to track down what sort of influences Mega Man has, but that’d take a lot of time and combined efforts I’m not willing to take just yet.

What I’m trying to say is that is giving credits where credit is due. He is not the sole father of Mega Man and neither is Inafune. Even Ariga during the interview emphasizes how Mega Man was a creation of a group, not one person.

Kitamura didn’t seem to work well with people due to his workaholic nature and perfectionism. When he left CAPCOM after Mega Man 2, he went to work with SNK, until he ended up working with Takeru (or founding, I’ve seen contradicting statements), a company that is most remembered for publishing Japanese PC games via specialised vending machine system, including numerous Falcom titles. Takeru was doing business under Brother Industries, a company that was know for their quality printers. Brother still exists and produces quality machines.

They released few games on the Famicom/NES, of which Kitamura had his hands in Little Samson. In the West, Takeru isn’t well-known. The list what games Takeru released through their vending machine system is lacking in English language sources. Kitamura brought number of ex-CAPCOM and ex-IREM employees to Takeru and released some games under their own publishing brand, Sur de Wave, but bankrupted themselves thanks to financial irresponsibilities. I’m sure the burst economy bubble had its hand in there as well.


The game that effectively ruined the company

You may be wondering why Inafune was coined as the Father of Mega Man after all this. The reason for this is the customer and because it was easy.

Customers require a face to get familiar with. Humans will learn to trust a face of a product or a company the same way they will create strong bonds with e.g. a drink during emotional memories. Inafune worked the longest with Mega Man without moving much to other projects, and because he had been there since the first game, it was natural to give him the credit. Inafune’s contribution to the franchise should not be undermined retroactively. He is, without a doubt, has his hands in most Mega Man games out there and has overlooked the franchise until he left CAPCOM. He didn’t become the head of Mega Man until Mega Man 4, as Kitamura was the head of both Mega Man and MM 2, but with MM3 there was a new fellow named Masahiko Kurokawa, who didn’t really understand what Mega Man as a game and character was supposed to be about, according to Inafune.

It was good for Inafune, CAPCOM’s business and to the customers to have a name to latch unto, because people love to worship their providers. There were more people who had their hands in Mega Man for sure, but in the long run Inafune’s touch would be felt the most. Due to CAPCOM’s own internal workings and Japanese business culture, Inafune would be the foot of the execs until… well, to the very end to some extend. However, it has become clear that Inafune works the best under someone else who is strict and puts up limitations to overcome with a group of people who know how to support each other. Kitamura was a strict director, and we can see certain level of decline in Mega Man’s quality alongside how much freedom Inafune would gain. Ultimately, Mega Man would become too repetitious to keep itself relevant. Innovate or die, creative destruction, whatever you want to call it.

Inafune did breath new iterations of Mega Man, and Battle Network was insanely popular for its time, despite it didn’t necessarily make similar level of impact like its older brothers did.

 Inafune’s initial contribution to Mega Man was in the sprites and their design. He would create the pixel forms and name them. Inafune also cleaned all the character designs to be suitable for the game. Elec Man and Bomb Man were Inafune’s first designs. Inafune was part of the team from the day he was thrust into it, and despite being working on designs and graphics, he was part of the overall design team. Dr. Wily is all Inafune’s creation, and despite Mega Man 2 only having three months gestation period, leaving the game rougher. This, like with many games, seems to have worked for the better. Inafune was also part of the packaging illustration team and put more an anime spin to visuals than what it was with Mega Man 1, despite officially working on another project. Inafune had a person under him he head to mentor, and he basically designer Guts Tank from ground up.

Mega Man 2 was a success, and Mega Man 3 saw that aforementioned change. Inafune had become sort of jack-of-all-trades regarding designs, in and out of game, and he even discussed matters with the sound department. With Mega Man 4, Inafune had become the director full-time.

To call him the father of Mega Man is a matter of perspective. If you want one, true father to Mega Man, you won’t have one, but you can narrow it down to Kitamura.  In reality, Mega Man was a creation of multiple people, designers of multiple fields and programmers. Inafune being the father or Mega Man was likely a political moniker coined at him, or what rather he was named one because he had been there since the beginning, fathering many of these elements in the games early on.

In a way, Inafune is the father of Mega Man in how he raised the character and franchise from a small beginning to the one of the most important franchises in pop-culture, whereas Kitamura was the birthing mother. While Kitamura’s role back then would meet the modern equivalent of a Director, he is coined as Planner and Inafune as Director as early as the first Mega Man.

Kitamura’s part in Mega Man’s creation does not invalidate Inafune’s part or whatever emotional attachment you have for him. He has not covered himself most of the time, and more often than not it has been others who call Inafune as the creator of Mega Man. To split hairs a bit, he is a creator of Mega Man from the X, Legends and Battle Networks franchise at least, but that’s a bit stretching.

Zero, according to Inafune, was his first change to design a fully original character. His favouritism would undermine the X-series down the line
Zero, according to Inafune, was his first chance to design a fully original character. His favouritism would undermine the X-series down the line

Inafune happened to be at the right spot at the right time to get where he was. Without a doubt he worked his ass out under Kitamura’s watch, and most likely learned a lot from him. It is also very apparent that Inafune is the man who needs someone to challenge him like Kitamura did to drive him further, and to him drive whoever works under and with him in similar manner.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who created Mega Man to what extent, nor does it matter who works with the games. The end product is the only thing that matters, and now that Mega Man thirty years of history behind it, it has multiple well established gameplay types and how they are done. Whatever team with whoever in the lead begins to make a new Mega Man game, they have a humongous task not just making those older games obsolete in quality and design, but also are in charge to revive the series to its rightful spot.

I just hope whatever it’ll be, it’ll end up being simple and deep, just like it should be.