A multimedia Mega franchise

Haven’t written anything about Mega Man in a long time. With the announcement of new Mega Man toys and Mega Man games being included with the NES Mini console, a small freefall post about the Blue Bomber is in place.

The question whether or not Mega Man is back is not a question that never needed asking. The franchise has potential for expansions of all sorts. Breaking the mould is nothing new, CAPCOM has been doing it since Wily & Light’s Rock Board. The games had constant evolution of content and gameplay mechanics, the most drastic standard deviation probably being X series’ RPG elements with hidden Energy Tanks and Armour parts. The most drastic deviation in the franchise are in Legends and Battle Network, but these are what each major game series goes through. Well, Mega Man is not major any more, just a relic of sorts. It pains me to write that down.

As a successful game franchise, it’s weird to look back and see how little third-party franchising there has been in the history of the franchise. Before Battle Network became the hottest shit on the block for the first half of the 00’s, most toys were Japan-only models from Bandai. The Ruby-Spears cartoon, which is still pretty good show, was the first major step outside and stand from the games. Captain N‘s Mega Man was largely part of the cast and the show used the NES as a whole as its source theme, so it’s not exactly what Mega Man could’ve used. If we get down to it, the Ruby-Spears Mega Man is a sort of rarity. Not many  games got a show based on them like this. It tells something about the popularity of the franchise when its contemporaries like Castlevania never got one. Nowadays they are more common and almost dime in the dozen as the industry has grown to stupidly large heights.

Despite its seeming popularity, Mega Man’s franchising has been less than expanded. Outside Ruby-Spears cartoon, we had that three-shot OVA Wish Upon a Star, which more or less are educational bits above all else. Mega Man didn’t see cereals or the like, and after the Classic bits ended, there was a long silence until the aforementioned Battle Network. After that, franchising slowly but surely began rising in amount. Nowadays, we have somewhat healthy amount of material to choose from. Mega Man soundtracks, toys, more books, all sorts of tapes and whatnot are available for you to purchase. Whether or not purchasing these show that there is an interest in the franchise is another question altogether, as sometimes companies find better revenues in selling third-party franchise instead of producing the main product itself. Think Star Wars and how it has an immense amount of goods produced of when it only has seven movies and few TV-shows across decades. Originally all these third-party goods CAPCOM had for Mega Man served as advertising for the games themselves. However, when the sales of the games went to a decline, franchising saw a change. Now, Mega Man toys and whatnot are sold mainly to the core audience that have been fans of the franchise for a long time. Yours truly included, I’m afraid. The upside is that current Mega Man goods are of higher standard than what they used to be.

The decline of the games’ sales can be attributed to decline of the games themselves and the internal matters at CAPCOM. Mega Man was always a children’s franchise, and the while the X series is nowadays often cited as an edgy 1990’s edition, we can also see that the Zero series is a grim and dark future of already darker future. Like it or not, there is no levity in Zero that you could find in the Classic and X. Battle Network on the other hand stroke a chord almost perfectly, at least during its three first games. I expect the upcoming television series to have a lieu of toys and other goods to purchase. Time will tell whether or not they will be a success.

The thing is, CAPCOM has a point of comparison how well a new 2D Mega Man could sell with Mega Man 9 and 10. If the franchising rights bring them about the same amount money than what the games could, why put the money down for the development? After all, the current branding of CAPCOM doesn’t exactly have a fitting slot for Mega Man, despite the character being an unofficial mascot of the company still, next to Street Fighters‘  Ryu. Whether or not the 2017 Mega Man will fit that image, or if CAPCOM will loosen up their hard cased face to facilitate the franchise more than just re-releasing the same NES games for the Nth time. It’d be nice if they’d see the trouble of porting the rest over as a collection as well and not just circlejerking over the NES titles and trickle the rest through digital services.

There are those who would like to keep the franchise away from the children and newbies and only have CAPCOM catering to their wants. However, that’s not a healthy model, and to CAPCOM, it’s just not making the cut. It’s the same dilemma with every long running franchise; balancing with the core audience while trying to expand. Often companies get called selling out or the like when they try to get their titles to break some new ground when it comes to consumers, and while sometimes they fail, sometimes they manage to push the envelope a bit further. To go back to start, CAPCOM has always been breaking the mould Mega Man has been sitting in from time to time with variety of results. The franchise took its time to grow to a full multimedia franchise, thou still more limited in its scope than some others, thou I’m not sure how many game based franchises have a Settlers of Catan version after them.

So don’t think that purchasing third-party Mega Man merch will signal CAPCOM to return making some of the older titles. However, keep purchasing them if you feel that Mega Man should have more items outside its games, and  the whole buyer-provider game gets some sort of revamp when the 2017 cartoon hits with its merch. I’m still wagering for a CAPCOM published title to hit the stores at some point.

Misadventuring got a whole lot cheaper

Are people willing to pay out few hundred dollars for The Misadventure of Tron Bonne? I’m looking up on the prices, and the game goes anywhere between 50 and 300€, and that’s far too much for the game.

I bought the game years back, and lost it somewhere. So I bought another one. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne is a game that’s valued for its rarity and connection to the Mega Man Legends rather than for what it is. It’s a minigame collection, and while some of the minigames have a nice meat to the them, the game does show that it had a budget hit somewhere down in the line. Nevertheless, the game comes out as a high end product with one of the better voice acting we’ve seen in video games alongside overall well polished gameplay with some problems.

In 2015, the gameplay of Legends series games doesn’t really match up despite that polish. Mega Man Legends games, despite being overall well designed, are rather troublesome pieces to handle with somewhat unrefined controls and battles that can be solved by circling the enemy. As mentioned above, the game is more famous for being expensive as hell rather than for its contents. Then again, who am I to say? I liked the game so much that I bought it twice. Didn’t play more than 20€ the first time it was released, and for £5.99 from Amazon in 2009. It’s almost amazing how much a game’s price can creep in so much in relatively short period of time. The digital re-release should bring the prices down, but knowing how stuck-up the sellers and buyers are, nothing will change.

With the recent US PSN release, the Americolas now can get the game cheaper than ever. For $5.99 you can now access a game people are selling (but hopefully not buying) for a hundred dollars. Then again, if language isn’t a problem for you, the game has been available in the Japanese PSN for some time now for 617¥. That’s about 4.60€. I’m still rooting for an European PSN release, but I am a bit hesitant on that. I can’t really say go and buy it as the game will bore some just as much as it delivers enjoyment for some. For Legends/ DASH fans, it’s great fanservice and shows how strong the world building for Legends was. Legends in general plays out like a Saturday morning cartoon, and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne is no different.

Let’s not kid around this; the charm of Legends as a franchise has been in its characters, setting and the way every thing’s playing out. Adapting it as a cartoon would be very easy with or without a Week of the Monster format. It’s no wonder Mega Man Battle Network became popular enough to get a cartoon made out of it, even if it does show its low budget quality. The Casketts and the Bonnes have a strong flavour to them and either ones would be able to carry our a whole show on their own.

Nevertheless, what does this release amount to? I’m sure CAPCOM is making some money out of it, despite having all those legals troubles with Legends series’ voice actors. I don’t want to be so jaded to say that this amounts to nothing this time, but that’s what it is. CAPCOM knows there’s a marginal amount of people are still interested and invested in the Legends franchise and Mega Man as whole, and rereleasing these titles is a good way to make some bucks out of it. I can support that. The more people have access to these games is always good, but perhaps it would’ve served the overall franchise and Mega Man brand better to push these titles out before Legends 3 development began.

It’s sort of sad to see the Legends die out in a whimper. Those who worked on the series loved it and wanted it to become as loved by the consumers. Even Reika Morishita supported the development of third game Legends series by remixing her Another Sun and Anata no Kaze ga Fuku Kara. It can be argued which versions are better, but her voice still carries a great tone. Unfortunately, the customer did not love Legends as much and it’s easy to understand why. When you say Mega Man, there is a certain set of ideas and concept set in stone the very first moment, and Legends broke away from those ideas. It was the first 3D Mega Man, and perhaps it was fated to become a sort of sacrificial lamb. Battle Network still broke the same rules, but managed to strike the perfect balance with audience with its whole new style of quick and tactical gameplay in a way Legends just couldn’t.

Somewhere out there is a possibility of Legends revival. What such thing would require are money, cheaper production and someone with enough zeal and dedication to it through despite everything being against him. We can vote with our wallets, at least.

Family friendly does not mean low quality

With Christmas knocking on our doorsteps next week, let’s take a small break and remember that not all games out there are for children.

Last year I wrote a post how to pick a proper game for younger people as a present. To sum it up, it’s the parents duty in the end to keep up what their children are playing and whether or not they allow such content to be consumed. The recent Grand Theft Auto V withdrawals are pretty much the stupidest thing I’ve seen in few weeks, as they were not products with content for children to be consumed. The +18 marking is there for a reason.

I have seen too many times a mother buying her kid +18 rated game. Few times I have been asked whether or not a game X would be a great gift for their child, I’ve glanced at the cover and simply asked whether or not the child was already at the age of 18. With experience I can say that parents barely can distinguish a game from another, but goddamn if they’re not like hawks when it comes to movies, television shows or similar. And with toys. God forbid a four year older child to have a toy that has a recommendation label for 5+.

This is why any I have hard time understanding anyone who wishes to pull a properly labelled game from the store under the pretence of this game hurting our children or affecting their growth negatively. I was once part of a conversation few years back where parents were complaining how games were too violent and bloody, full of sexual imaginary and so on. One of the mothers said I wish my boy wouldn’t play those games. Even better if they didn’t make such games at all, to which I simply snapped back with a question why the hell was she letting her son play the game? Her reply was something like I can’t dictate what my son does, which surprised me to no end. A parent needs to know where to set limits to their children, especially with material that they deem harmful.

We have movies, books and music that we almost instinctively can say if it is something a child or an adolescent should have access to. No parent would let their ten year old watch the first two Alien movies without first knowing whether or not their child could handle it. I was four when I saw Aliens, and I did see nightmares and there were certain scenes that still strike extremely powerful with me. I’m sure no parent would read one of those Harlequin novels filled with sex to their children either, less so giving them access to straight pornography. I admit, I saw porn way too early at the age of four and there are things that certainly have spun off from that little experience, but some have said that’s not necessarily a negative point. I’ve never been into music, but that’s mostly because both of my brothers were very keen into music during my youth, and one of the still play in a band. There were few times I remember my old man grabbing a C-cassette out from the player because the language in the song was very foul and the message in the song wasn’t the nicest one.

However, in my youth most of the adult games, so to speak, existed on the PCs. Certainly Atari had its handful of porn and adult oriented games, but the vast majority of the products on the system were family friendly games anyone could pick up and play. The same continued with the NES to a large extent, and even the SNES was very family friendly while having the few odd games here and there that aimed for more adult and gruesome images, like Mortal Kombat. SEGA marketed towards the more adult market, and while I can’t draw direct comparison in between the success of the console and its games to how family oriented they have been, it should be noted that the most successful consoles in the gaming history have always been about god quality games, which then have been for all in the family. Super Mario Bros. is a prime example of a game that anyone in the family could pick up and play. Consoles that aimed for a smaller market than the family tend to do worse. Then again, with PlayStation entering the fray family orientation was pushed in the back until Nintendo began to expand the market again with the NDS and the Wii.

With a wild guess, let’s assume that the image of consoles as a family friendly box is because the most culturally iconic of consoles and characters were just that. In modern era this doesn’t really apply anymore, but the general consensus has not caught up that yet. At least not with the older generations. I have no doubts that the generation that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s is far better equipped to tackle the challenges of then-modern forms of media and reject all the new ones that may be spawned within the next few decades.

Then again, people could just read the damn labels and we’d get rid of all these bullshit events about games corrupting the youth they were never meant for.

Let’s put this in mecha terms; you would allow your kid to watch and read Mazinger Z for sure, but the Mazinkaiser OVA would require this kid to grow up a little. You wouldn’t let this kid read (USA) Mazinger until a bit later on due to its contents. Similarly, GaoGaiGar is clearly something a five year old and up can enjoy pretty damn well, but Betterman requires a teen or older to fully even comprehend the story. GaoGaiGar Final on the other falls somewhere between, but the upped fanservice gives out the main target audience. Then again, Shinkon Gattai Godannar is not for kids for any reason.

To pull Mega Man back into the fray, let’s revise the origins on Mega Man. The game series was inspired by the childhood TV and comics the developers watched and read in their younger days. These titles included the shows like Casshern, which had a main character who hunted down evil robots with his robotic dog Friender. Mega Man itself can be mirrored to Testuwan Atom as a boy robot with a golden heart. X series continues with this sort of thing, but with the 90’s it has more mature storyline consisting of racial war, genocide, brainwash and other similar matters. Mega Man Legends on the other hand is very much a saturday morning cartoon through and through, and I would love to play the game with a clock on the upper corner, which is how Battle Mania Daiginjou actually starts. Same with Mega Man Battle Network, which is probably one of the reasons the series was so divisive but nevertheless successful. The Zero series on the hand is the first proper series aimed at the older, more core audience without a doubt with its post-apocalyptic storyline, former hero as the villain and blood spatters everywhere. The ZX series toned this down, but with the Ryusei no Rockman, it didn’t stand up against the its older brethren. I would almost argue that the moment Mega Man series decided to go full blown dark with Zero series, it had lost touch what made it great in the first place. Mega Man 9 and 10 were nostalgia catering stuff, and as with Super Mario that never works twice.

I would argue that we are in need of games that anyone could enjoy without forced agendas looming in the background, the likes of games that people enjoyed on the Atari and on the NES. It’s not about nostalgia, but about further success and expanding the market, two things that have always been successful in the electronic gaming industry.

Mega Man Legends 3 is not the game we need, but I sure hell would like to have it

Whenever I hear somebody saying that we need something in our lives, I question whether or not we truly need it, especially something that is not vital for our lives. Games are not important to our lives, despite electronic games being one of the biggest industries out there. The chances of a single game being something we’d need is very low. One could argue that a game like Super Mario Bros., Pacman, Space Invaders and any of its brethrens in cultural impact are the games that we, are the needed bodies of works.

This post is a response to Matthew Jessup’s entry in Nintendolee.com. The bold claim that Mega Man Legends 3 is a needed title stems from loving fandom, a thing I share towards this somewhat dead game franchise. However, I will be playing devil’s advocate here and balance with further issues.

While I’d like to concentrate on Legends 3, Mega Man Universe is mentioned first. It’s one of those titles nobody expected and nobody wanted, and Jessup is right in that it would have been the Little Big Planet of Mega Man, which in itself is already something to worry about. Little Big Planet became a franchise of its own and hosted multiple different themes, which made it work so well. While Mega Man has seen its own genre shifts, they have been kept logically separate and allowed to exist on their own terms, Mega Man Battle Network being the best example. MMUniverse would have ridden on the fame of the Mega Man name, which alone should raise some eyebrows. CAPCOM has a strong line of franchises to utilise rather than stick with only Mega Man. This of course raises another question; Why concentrate only on Mega Man when you already had confirmed visiting characters and variations of iconic characters? The game could have been called CAPCOM universe and could’ve contained multiple different franchises across the board as well as allow multitude of different tactics to tackle stages. Then again, comparing it to Mega Man 2 seems to be fishing fan credits. For better or worse, Mega Man Universe was cancelled, and for all the good reasons. Using a 26-years old game as your main advertising point only works once, after which it’s time to move onwards.

Also, we got to play as the Bad Box Art Mega Man in SFxT, which only very few individuals found likeable, and CAPCOM really went overboard with this particular meme in the turn of 2010’s anyways. It was apparent that they were trying to pull in the old guard, the thirty-something gamers rather than doing expansion like most previous instalments.

This wasn't even a cameo, but a full fledged entry
This wasn’t even a cameo, but a full fledged entry

Unlike Duke Nukem Forever, Mega Man Legends 3 was not in making for 11 years. Duke Nukem was in development hell for 15 damn years, while Legends 3 merely sat in the minds of the devs. I bring this comparison up because Duke had no relevancy in gaming anymore when Forever finally came out. The game was out of its time, despite all the modern systems bolted unto it. Fans of the Legends franchise have built their own expectations on the game, and it would be insanely hard to meet these expectations.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons Legends 3 saw such a huge backslash from the fandom, as they finally got their hands on actual designing of the game with the Dev Room. Unlike how Jessup makes it look, the DevRoom wasn’t anything revolutionary. BETA access is nothing new and Mega Man has been known to run Boss Character contests. Then you have all the customer driven early access titles, which are similar how the end-consumer could affect the final product. DevRoom was far more transparent, but that transparency wasn’t necessarily all that positive. For one, it required the team to handle a lot of PR with the DevRoom as well as keep the contests running as well as post concepts that may not even end up in the final product. It’s a lot more hassle than one would initially think. These models, enemy designs, concept art etc. would have ended in our laps nevertheless as per artbooks and other documentation.

The DevRoom could have been a good idea when Legends 3 was approaching its final deadline after the actual, final greenlight. In modern development cycle, games may be scrapped or drastically changed in the middle of production for various reasons, and there are more games cancelled that eventually get out. DevRoom never took into account that Legends 3 could be cancelled, and I have no doubts one reason DevRoom even existed was to keep the consumers aware of it in hope that CAPCOM would keep it under active production. Whether or not Legends 3 was cancelled due to Inafune leaving is an open discussion I do not take part in, but it would have been probable that his levity in CAPCOM would have kept Legends 3 in production.

DevRoom ultimately is the only controversy surrounding Legends 3, which is that a game that was promised by certain person within the company was ultimately cancelled. DevRoom game the customer a glimpse to the functions of game industry, where even people who worked with the game with great anticipation saw the product cancelled. Well, there’s the CAPCOM Europe claiming the fans didn’t want the game bad enough, but that’s not a comment made by the DevRoom. It still reflected badly to CAPCOM overall.

Jusspe uses DevRoom as one of the points why Legends 3 needed to be later on by using his pre-established arguments. As much as DevRoom showed some of the development done on the game, it ultimately was a facade in itself. We knew of this one team working on the game, whereas there was most likely a lot happening behind the scenes than what we ever saw with DevRoom. Sargon of Akkad has a long discussion with a electronic game concept artist, who opens the doors of generic game development more than GameDev could even hope to show. It’s an interview anyone interested in game development wants to listen to.

Understanding that stories can have multiple kinds of endings seem to escape a lot of people. Jussep suggests that we are in need for an ending, a closure, for the Legends series. Whether or not Legends series was ever to be intended to be a trilogy should be questioned, as I’ve found no valid proof of this assertion. The Internet does not yield any relevant interviews and source books have nothing to say about this. Then again, Legends series is already a trilogy on the home consoles when you consider the Misadventures of Tron Bonne is considered as the third entry in the series even by CAPCOM themselves as evident by Rockman Perfect Memories sourcebook.

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Was Legends 2 ending planned Legends 3 in mind? Probably it was, but it’s also an ending in of itself. It may be an unfulfilling ending to many, seeing Rock is on Elysium, and Roll and Tron are building a rocket to go pick him up. It’s an ending western world has some tough time to swallow without chewing it some. Open endings can go either way, but it is nevertheless an ending. Games should be able to stand own their own feet in every regard, and if Legends 3 would require people to know the Legends 2 ending in order to be introduced to the gameworld, it’s not very well designed game. Metal Gear Solid went full stupid with this. The closure the fans need is not necessarily the game in of itself. CAPCOM could just employ some light novel writer to make a small book how the story would have its closure. There’s nothing to prevent this from happening and it would be much cost effective rather than developing a fully fledged game.

Second point made is how Legends 3 would have been a system seller. This would not have been the case. A game called Mega Man Legends 3 makes anyone question where is Legends 1 and 2. Another thing would have been that the player would have began playing as Barrel rather than as Mega Man, the titular hero. For a fan this would’ve been a system seller for sure, but to the majority of game market it would have been a curiosity. Jussep is right in that 3DS has no real system seller of its own, but by that definition Legends 3 couldn’t be one either as a sequel to a PSOne game. The author does admit openly that it would have been a system seller to him personally, and I completely agree with him. People have bought game systems for worse games anyways.

Jussep remarks how 3DS has gone the way of the GameCube, which went the way of the N64, and marks how 3DS is in need for high value third party games to ensure success. I agree with him, but note that Nintendo itself has not put too many high grade games on the system that are original. Legends 3, as it was shown in its early stage, would not have been truly original either. It’s status as a sequel already denies it that merit, but also the fact that Inafune developed Lost Planet’s game engine in plans of using it in Legends 3. If you’ve played Lost Planet games, especially EX Trooper, you’ve already played how Legends 3 would have played like, overall speaking. It’s also very apparent that assets from Legends 3’s development cycle ended up in Gaist Crusher, which seemed to be successful enough to warrant that sequel I need to get around at some point.

Was Legends 3 the end of Mega Man? No, Mega Man was finished before Legends 3 even set into production. All these productions that were cancelled were like unsung swansongs. As I mentioned earlier, you can only advertise yourself with a 26 years old game once. Mega Man 9 was a nice shot of nostalgia, but after that CAPCOM should have picked it up and develop a proper sequel rather than Mega Man 10. I would put more emphasize on the lacklustre design and success of MM10 on how the series ended. It wasn’t a big bang, it wasn’t even a damn whimper. It was a blocky retro sequel.

Jussep’s final argument is that Mega Man is CAPCOM. This argument was valid in 1980’s and 90’s and first half of 00’s with Battle Network’s Mega Man.EXE. The author makes extremely good point how Mega Man is, by all means, an ageless character that can stand the test of time as long as he is treated properly.

That is exactly why CAPCOM has been franchising Mega Man lately in any other form but games for a long time now. The Archie Comic indeed is one of the best thing that has happened to the Blue Bomber, but I’m afraid the dropped the ball with Mega Man X. Let’s not kid with ourselves; Mega Man games saw a dip in quality from 2002 onwards, from which they never quite recovered. Starforce saw very low sales for a reason.

Legends 3 would not have been an entry point to a new generation. The Mega Man Jussep refers to is the Classic Mega Man, not the Legends’ Volnut/Trigger. Battle Network is a good example how to introduce a Mega Man to a new generation by creating a new generation game for them. Some could argue that Mega Man X followed this idea as well. I agree with Jussep that Legends series carries bright and chunky visuals, as it is very clear how Legends is modelled after morning cartoons. All you need is a clock on the top corner. Gameplay is divisive, and while I enjoyed the Legends1, 2 and the Misadventures of Trone Bonne gameplays myself.

So, against Jussep’s conclusion, I would argue that we do not need Mega Man Legends 3. We need a Mega Man game that would introduce the franchise to the new generation without shackling it to the old, but allowing expansion to multiple directions. Not only that, but the game would need to be something unique in its own rights and make itself stand against the almost thirty years of Mega Man we now have. The notion that any company should make a game for loss, especially nowadays, has not gone through enough thinking. Any and all products out there are made to make money, even when it’s recognized it would be a niche product. It is very true that Legends fans had their hearts with this game, but it’s also undeniable that Legends series never had as high profile reputation as its fellow series within the franchises.

Jussep’s last few sentences are something we all should remember; games are about fun. Not politics, agendas or ideologies. I agree with him that Legends 3 would have been fun to play, if the games using Lost Planet engine and its derivatives are anything to signify. However, playing Legends 3 on the 3DS may have been awkward, much like Monster Hunter without the Slide-Pad Pro.

In a perfect world, everybody would get what they want, but even in the game industry when it comes to the the customers the needs of the many out weight the needs of the few.

I admit; I know the lyrics of this song by heart, almost as well as Makenai Ai Ga Kitto Aru.

Goddammit CAPCOM!

So we got some new Rockman Online artwork, which was neat to see. I didn’t really care about the game when it was announced, but there are loads of people who wish to have an online multiplayer Mega Man.

And then I read that these pictures were released most likely because the game has been cancelled.

So, within span of one year we’ve seen CAPCOM cancel Mega Man Legends 3, Mega Man Universe and now Rockman Online.

I’m not surprised. I’m just… CAPCOM, we know you love money, so why can’t you make productswe would like to buy? Well, Mega Man’s dead to them, so that explains it all. As CAPCOM is now they can’t make a good game. Seems like their company infrastructure also prevents any of their partner companies doing any games for them, which seems to be the case here as well. I’ve got no idea if NeoWiz has done anything good, but seeing their products never really left South Korea perhaps this is for the better. Multiplayer Mega Man is something that would need a completely different design approach than your normal 2D Mega Man. We’ll never know if NeoWiz could have managed to pull it through. Perhaps this is for the better rather than having yet another  fiasco like Xover.

I’ll tell you a secret here, a secret how to make Mega Man and 2D Super Mario sell like hotcakes again.

First step is to have people with skill and will to craft a good Mega Man /Mario game, not people with artistic views and will to innovate. Innovation comes from necessity, and if they truly wish to make a good game, these people will innovate if and when necessary.

Second step is to give them proper resources and realize the world and its contents properly. The way 2D Mario are now is a horrible situation with that WAah wAah music and copy/pasted level designs and visuals. Mega Man Zero sold immensely well because the staff wanted to make a game true to the Nintendo-hard mindset original Mega Man had. They managed to do that, but sadly this mindset seeped through to Mega Man 9 and 10.

With this the third step; have a project leader who knows the aims, the goals and the needs the game has.

A game design needs people who want to make a good game, not people whowant to make the game they want because of their “artistic license.” I do condemn Nintendo for doing New Super Mario Bros. Still,everything after they’ve done the first New SMB game has been nothing short of stupid. Same goes to CAPCOM and their idiotic approach with their games. Nobody wanted a reboot of Devil May Cry, and now we’re getting a game that’s named Devil May Cry Devil May Cry (no, really) which nobody wanted to begin with. There’s also the fact that this new DMC clearly doesn’t respect the original game’s mechanics, design or anything that made it good. I don’t even remember who was it that’s making the new DMC game, and I’ve got no interest in it outside what will happen when it’s released.

At this point it should be clear to all of us that CAPCOM has given up on Mega Man. Whether or not it’s because of their image or not (BWAHAHAHAHA!) CAPCOM won’t do another Mega Man game, unless a hero rises from their ranks like Ono did with Street Fighter. The decades Mega Man existed on, ever since the 80’s, the franchise has been good to CAPCOM and has brought in tons upon tons of money. However, now CAPCOM sees that it won’t bring in any revenue any more. Of course it won’t! They’re treating Mega Man as a second grade franchise to second class customers, much like what Nintendo does with 2D Mario. Mega Man Battlenetwork was a brilliant series with a brilliant design with a brilliant franchising. Out of six games only two can be (and should be) called bad and that’s an insanely good track record right there. It had an animation, a card game, toys, spin-offs and even an arcade game. Original Mega Man had the same thing, X-series to a lesser extent. Legends never punched through, and CAPCOM didn’t really capitalise on Zero-series enough.


I’m really mad about this now. They have a golden goose in their hands, but rather than allowing it to lay those golden eggs they have basically beheaded it and fed it to pigs.

Just get back to your arcade and console roots and you’ll find the same stream of revenue you used to have.

A time to finish

Timed games are something to be careful of if you’re a game designer. Your customers have so many ways of playing their games and the speed they want to finish them. An action game might be fast and pull the player into finishing the game fast, and some RPG might be more slow and demand the player advance slowly. Of course, this is just a black and white model we usually think in.

Speaking of Black and White, I recently heard something completely stupid in the latest Pokémon games. It seems that the game developers wanted the game to be played fast through, as it has two week time limit to finish the game all the way to the Elite Four or so, or you won’t get people and stuff in your version’s unique town; Black City or White Forest. That’s two weeks in real world time by the way.

What GameFreaks was thinking isn’t beyond me, but it’s completely and utterly stupid. Sure, we all know the reasons why such time limit exists, but the question is why it is punished to play the game the way you like? I enjoy playing Pokémon the slow way, balancing my team with every new area and testing everything out bit by bit. It usually takes me a month to finish the storyline, that is if I don’t rush. I’ve finished Pokémon games in a day or two without using traded Pokémon, so you can’t say that I can’t be fast. It’s the choice I opted for.

The two week time limit wouldn’t be bad if it was in-world, within the game. The game then should have it’s own time independent from real-world time. However, seeing the storyline in Pokémon games usually takes months to make any sense, this isn’t an option. You can always argue that yes, core audience will play it within the first week. Why would you want to limit your audience? I know working people who do not have enough time to invest into such endeavour.

This is completely different from, say… Third Super Robot Wars Alpha, in which you open a secret unit in the last stage if you’ve completed the game in certain amount of turns or less. Here you can reload your save to start a new game, so you can always try to get that secret again and again, but in Pokémon B/W if you lose your city population, they’re lost. You alone can’t do anything about it any more. If you want the population back, you have have a friend who has the population and link with him. It’s complete bullshit and they know it. I hope this kind of mechanic will never appear in Pokémon again.

On a side note, they should stop making Event-only Pokémon you can’t have inside the game, or make sure that everybody has a possibility to get said monster no matter what via WiFi or similar. Do continue giving special event monsters, but don’t cripple the games. Perfectionists will always be mad at you like hellhounds.

What the timed secret in Pokémon B/W has forced me is to restart my game. The game itself has no indication of the secret in any way, so I never knew this beforehand. Only few days ago I heard about this and I was astonished how stupid it was. Because of this I have no real motivation or reason to play it through the legit way. I traded few 50 and 70 level monsters from my other game and I’m currently breezing the game through just to get that one damn secret I barely give a flying duck about.

I’m currently giving more ducks to the current state of communism than what this game is

Another game with similar time limit is Final Fantasy IX. It has the secret weapon Excalibur II, which can be only acquired within certain time limit at the end of the game. Now, the speed run in NTCS is somewhat challenging, but SquEnix never took notice that PAL region games run on 50hz speed, making the challenge almost impossible. The time limit was never adjusted, and it’s completely stupid.

At this point we have four or five points why timed games are not a good idea. They’re a good idea when they’re not part of the main gameplay, or if they can be unlocked later on via replayed save or similar. Locking content from the player for a reason or another is not a good design choice at any angle you’re watching; it’s like buying a book, and never getting one of the chapters because you read too slow, or a movie on DVD is missing a chapter or bonus features because you never checked something in the menu or in the movie itself.

Customers have bought your product and expect to get 100% out of it. If they get any less you’re pushing them away. In games you may make the player work for the 100%, but never make it so that the player can’t access it. Game developers still make this and never realize that this design choice is rarely used for a very good reason.

This design choice is a good indicator that GameFreaks is losing their touch on their customers. Pokémon fans will eat whatever they’ll cater, but at the moment all new Pokémon games are intimidating as hell. I would still recommend people to play the first two generations, but anything after that stands far too firmly atop these two. People say that getting into Street Fighter is scary, but getting into Pokémon is far scarier. It’s just not as apparent at first.

I remember punching through every new Mega Man Battle Network game’s main story in around five or seven days. If I got the game on monday, I would spend all of my free time on it. Well, not all actually, just majority of it. I didn’t play it fast juts because it demanded it; I played it fast because it had much faster pace. I chose to play it fast and furiously.

Happy 11th birthday, Mega Man.EXE

Janne D’Arc is associated with the late 2000’s Mega Man games, but even more so strongly with the EXE / Battle Network series, and we shouldn’t forget Showtaro Morikubo either, who was a brief but glorious time with the X series

On 21. of March 2001 the first Battle Network Rockman.EXE was released in Japan. It was one of the big name GameBoy Advance releases, and the series lasted throughout the whole life of the handheld console. The franchise thus far has had six main series games, two tournament games, two side-scrolling action games akin to Classic series, a card game, an TV animation series and loads and loads of other stuff.

The series began quite simple experience, but every iteration changed the concepts and gameplay to an extent. Personally, the third one was the culmination of the series for few, bringing everything together from the first two; the game design, the mechanics, everything. NaviCustomization was a brilliant move overall that allowed the players to customize their battle style as they wished. Certainly there was insane amount of game breaking combinations with BattleChips and Styles, but these were part of the charm.

Battle Network was followed by the StarForce series on the DS, for better or worse. Simplified battle mechanics and far less intuitive gameplay in general was the series’ doom, and ultimately CAPCOM’s attempt to
re-invent the wheel failed miserably.

Battle Network series is as hated as it is loved. However, one can’t deny that the game balance was nigh perfect, the art direction satisfying, music awesome as hell, controls tight and responsive, and the quality and overall game experience top notch. Sure, CAPCOM churned out six games in six years (and more) but when two out of six are bad you can’t complain. The series has a good track record.

It’s already been eleven years, has it? I remember sitting on bench in upper-secondary with a friend and battling it out, letting the rest of the GBA’s batteries run dry while listening to the music, and that one morning in the 9th grade when  I faced against BassGS just before school. It’s still the best boss battle I’ve ever had. Mega Man as a franchise carries a lot of memories, and whereas the Classic series is part of my early childhood, the Battle Network and X series, alongside Legends, are part of my late childhood before I stepped into the world of young adults. Ok, I had the Zero series as well, but I need to dwell into that some time later. With that step time went by and CAPCOM didn’t allow us have any new proper Mega Man games outside X7 and X8… and let’s not talk about ZX. Now we have the likes of Mega Man 9, 10 and the StarForce series, which is dead. Perhaps something else will come

CAPCOM, get your shit together. I’d love to see another real Mega Man, one which carries the soul and heart of the franchise, as Battle Network did for those six years.

Otherwise it’s truly time for a farewell. Your customers can’t play tsundere much longer, and will leave you if you wait too long…