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 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.

Project working is highly sharpened double-edged sword

I trust most of my readers have worked on professional projects to some degree, and know that they have two certainties; they begin and they end. Project work can be the most devastating thing one can do, but also the most soul elevating form of work. It’s all up to chance and other variables.

I’ve been working on few projects for a while now, and it has become apparent that the company employing the group I work with has been less than keen on the project, overall speaking. As much I have emphasized on clear dialogue between parties, in reality this is absurdly hard to accomplish to its fullest extent. Nevertheless, there should always need to be a clear cut agreement on what the project in itself is about. Sadly, in my case the current project is now more or less trashed and the goal of the project has, as much as the project workers are concerned, changed to something it was never supposed to be.

This is completely normal and ordinary event, I’m afraid. Project works that have no closely tied supervisor often will meet absolutely stupendous things, where all the work done up to a point needs to be discarded. There are some unmentionable events where the project has been discarded multiple times before the project is cancelled or moved to another team.

One example, one which is far too common, concerns web design. The designer may pitch an idea for the layout, and the customer, be it an individual or a company, is highly excited about the look and eagerly awaits prototype. When the prototype is introduced, the customer is very satisfied and tells how this is the direction they want to take. Cue for the finalised product, when the whole project is essentially finished. At this time the customer can come out and say how this is not the direction and want everything redone. At this point it is completely understandable if the designer would want to strangle the customer or pull them up to the flag pole from their balls. This sort of event is unfortunate. No, unfortunate is not the right word, because this is unforgivable thing to do from either side.

When a project is begun, it would be good form to create an agreement written on paper what is the goal and ultimate end of the project. To that, there needs to be a clause that allows the service provider to notify the customer that they cannot change their views and wants drastically from the agreed goal. Minor deviations and such happen and are more than expected, but something like discarding a finished webpage design is an unforgivable thing to do.

That is the crux in project work everybody should be afraid of; the hundreds and thousands of hours put into work can be dismissed and discarded on a whim, leaving the worker with practically nothing but regret on his wasted time. Imagine a group of ten designers working six months on their respective versions of one’s product, making complex calculations and highly accurate models that can be used to make the production model. Then, the contact person comes in, spends about five minutes and grabs the product he thinks is the best while telling how busy he is and storms out. One designer got his product chosen, but much like all others, he is left with no feedback, thanks or anything else.

That is an atrocity and offends the designers.

A literal contract that ties both parties to the project as described is the best possible one can do, because it benefits both parties and the end-user to its fullest extent. Any and all projects require clear cut objectives to succeed, and these goals should never be tampered without absolute reasons.

Sadly, often you see companies or organisations putting up projects for whatever’s sake and use funding from the likes if European Union. It’s good publicity to have projects that carry positive name on them and lay out narrative how these projects are for the benefits of the citizens. However, at some point the projects end without any proper end, most often because the money ran out or the positive publicity has already been gained.

However, sometimes projects can become highly regarded success stories. To tie the theme of electronic games as examples in this blog, take a look at our favourite example; Super Mario Bros. Games are, essentially speaking, projects that realize a fully functional product. There is no room in obfuscated goals or diverting from what has been done at the point; otherwise things need to be scrapped and redone from the scratch completely. However, this is far too common and it is known that all games go through multiple variations, from slight adjustments from how the gameplay works to absolutely scrapping changes like changing the game’s genre. All this requires insane amounts of money and it is no wonder electronic game industry has become the money eating behemoth it is nowadays, and it’s less surprising there would be people abusing their status as the people making news about them for their own ends.

Nevertheless, when the money is tight and companies need to produce games that would rake in profits to keep the company afloat and in good shape, projects like Super Mario Bros. appear. SMB at its initial design stages would have Mario wield a gun and jumping was initiated by pressing Up, but this was scrapped. Time and money were o the essence for Nintendo at the time, and they needed games that would succeed. SMB’s design was simplified from the gun to what some call platforming perfection, and after work based on finalised design began, it stayed mostly the same until the very end. Not until Nintendo could afford to shuffle their hands and essentially dick around was that their projects became modern messes they are. Naturally, the more complex game design, the more versions and variations are needed to iron out the problems.

However, here comes the crude truth with projects; when it becomes apparent that the project cannot be realized as it is, it either is given a chance to reform with a clear cut goal or be shut. The first of these two choices should not be used but very few times, otherwise you will end up giving you far too long development cycles. The latter, however, executes the project altogether and may direct resources for more beneficial projects. Mega Man Legends 3 is a sort of good example of this decision, despite CAPCOM’s horrible multi-level approval policy with their projects. We don’t know where the resources went, but I’m guessing large parts went into Gaist Crusher and other similar projects, which have seen questionable succession.

This post originally to be Music of the Month, but the subject matter became too serious for it. Let’s have that one during the weekend.

Burning Explosion! Custom Armament Action, Gaist Crusher Demo overview

It’s an interesting thing to see CAPCOM trying to create a new dynamic franchise. As we know, the company’s in a state where it can’t even afford to port Street Fighter IV to PS4/Xbone.  They don’t even have the money to make a new fighting game. However, Gaist Crusher seems to be one of CAPCOM’s last chances to gain money. It should have everything that a kid would want; attractive and colourful designs with collectables. But the franchise won’t have much staying power if its key component, the game, would be a failure. Gaist Crusher’s demo was released on the Japanese Nintendo 3DS eShop this week, and so I cautiously jumped on it  to see whether or not it was worth anything. To my surprise, it’s not all that bad at all.

Is that Gospel? Damn, now I want Gospel or Gregar to make a cameo appearance in this
Is that Gospel? Damn, now I want Gospel or Gregar to make a cameo appearance in this

To describe Gaist Crusher’s gameplay isn’t too difficult if you have a history with games; it’s a combination of limited area third person brawler with light elements of Monster Hunter and few nodges from Mega Man. However, Gaist Crusher manages to keep its own identity just fine and doesn’t succumb under the pressure it has, as most of these elements are intentionally there. For example, the game consists of missions where the player’s goal is to reach to the end of the relatively short stage through enemies, until he faces off with boss Gaist. Upon defeat, these boss type Gaists will leave some Gaimetal behind them, and a successful destruction of the metal will yield a new armour to use. The demo has limited forms, but you can broaden the amount of forms by defeating the Gaists in it and Crushing the Gaimetal they leave behind. Or at least you can gain two of three possible forms, I’ve been unable to gain the Gaimetal from Mission 2. Still, it’s a really neat touch.

The Gaist Gears comes in two flavours of balanced and offense, the Mail Form and the Weapon Form. The best thing is that you can change between these forms on the fly, so you’re not stuck with one Form. Mail Form is where the player character goes Kenshiro and uses his fists and legs to deliver blows on enemies with variety of attacks and effects. Weapon Form on the other hand is like playing Monster Hunter Lite, where the equipped armour pops off to form a weapon, eg.  a giant sword or a hammer. These weapons are very similar to what Monster Hunter’s larger weapons are, like Broad Sword or Hammer, but attack faster and hit harder than the balanced form. To balance the newfound offense, the defense takes a hit. This is reflected also in the function of Guard and Boost, as only the Mail Form can Guard with a dome shaped burst, that dazzles lesser enemies to boot. By charging the Guard, the dome will expand farther. Weapon Form Boosts, which is a very fast directional dash that covers decent distance. Both of these are bound to a small four-step meter below the player’s health. Using Guard of Boost will expend one part of the four slots, but the meter recovers in a decent pace. Thus, you are essentially allowed to Guard or Boost four times in a row before you need to wait up. Both are equally usable depending on your playstyle.

Next to these forms, there is also the Extreme Form, which allows the player character to invoke the shape, form and power of the boss Gaists. Essentially this means that the boss you defeat, the boss you also get to be. The Extreme Form lasts for only as long as you have energy for it, and the player life meter becomes the form’s energy meter, which drains itself in a decent pace whether or not the player takes any damage. That said, all Forms and Weapons have their advantages in their own fields.

Three forms to choose from... if applicable
Three forms to choose from… if applicable

Unlike with Monster Hunter, where if you failed the hunt you were taken back to the camp, the player has indicators next to his character portrait. In the demo there’s two, and these indicators work as Lives. Upon reaching the end of your energy, the player character is revived on the spot at the cost of one indicator. Demo had two indicators, thus allowing three lives.

The weapons in Gaist Crusher are Blade, Gun, Hammer, Scythe and lance and they are strong against each other in that order. There are  elemental affinities in play as well; Fire, Ice, Earth, Lighting and Wind. They are strong against each other in that order too. The weapons is selected according to the Gaist Gear you choose to equip, as is the element. CAPCOM has promised 100 different Gaists to collect and equip, I’m pretty damn sure all different kinds of tactics, Weapon and Element combinations will be explored. Gaist selection also changes how the player character looks, and the same weapon with different Gaist doesn’t work the exact same way either. So in the end, it all falls into the player finding the weapon and element he likes the most alongside how the Gaist functions on the field.

Directly from Capcom's site
Directly from Capcom’s site

Gaist Gears also gain levels, thou the demo seemed to have this functionality locked down. All Gaist Gears were at Level 10, and I’m sure levelling your favourite one up will increase its stats, so there’s character building through grinding included. A step away from Monster Hunter fare, but I’d assume it’s possible to damage any Gaist with any level Gear.

You can also gain new Gears by attaching Gaiphone addon to your 3DS and attack a Gaimetal toy unto it, and then use the Search Mode to gain new things in-game. This kind of mixing and matching toys and games is nothing new, but it also plays with how the character in the animation series gain their armours via Gaist On, ie. putting piece of Gaimetal on top of the Gaiphone and having the standard Super Sentai transformation sequence. Using a Gaimetal that you already in-game, like Flame Fenrir’s, the Gaist Gear gets a boost of strength. However, I’ve yet to test this in action, as I lack Gaimetals themselves.

Gaist Crusher demo runs smoothly and I experienced no framedrops even when the 3D was on maximum, which is pretty important as the game is pretty fast paced. Actually, if CAPCOM was in better shape, I could see them doing an arcade game that could link up with the 3DS via WiFi. The game would have a lot of potential as a straight up coin muncher if it was possible nowadays. Nevertheless, it seems that CAPCOM is acknowledging  the similarities between the hi-speed brawler and Monster Hunter as they have announced a combining event within Gaist Crusher and Monster Hunter 4, where you are able to fight against a Gaist Rioreus (Rathalos) and gain a Gaimetal from it. Sengoku Basara 4 is also getting its fair share of Crusher action. This is an interesting tactics, as CAPCOM hopes to export players of Gaist Crusher to other CAPCOM games. The problem here is that the series and the franchised collectables need to be successful so that main target audience will want to get the games. This is essential, thou more difficult than what it was with either Pokémon or Mega Man Battle Network due to the current state of the world economy. Still, as I have mentioned previously, Gaist Crusher has all the right elements to become a success, but can it be success at this day and age? For CAPCOM, I hope that it will.

It also should be noted that Treasure worked on this game, and their flair does show up in how the game feels. The world design, and designs in general, are colourful and range from nicely flat to very busy. There are some very cool looking desings, like the Skull Barghest or Tekkou Ryujin. Of course, some Gaist designs are not really all that interesting, like the tapir based Dream Back or the aforementioned Arnmi Akamezame’s Mail Form However, in true collectable fashion, everyone is sure to find their favourite from the hundred Gaists.

Ayakashi Ninetail is my personal favourite from all the revealed Gaists
Ayakashi Ninetail is my personal favourite from all the revealed Gaists

Overall, how the game plays and feels is pretty good. It’s a standard fare in the most positive way and there’s bits that could use polish here and there. What I mean by that is that we were promised somewhat basic 3D brawler with explosive action and low-level customization with collecting, and we’re getting exactly that in a well thought way. CAPCOM has usually worked upwards with their sequels, fixing and improving elements that do not really work, like the movement sliding in Mega Man 1 & 2 and adding actual Sliding in Mega Man 3, so Gaist Crusher 2 will be better if this succeeds.

Now, the engine is a modified Mega Man Legends 3 engine, and it shows. There are movements, camera angles and overall control feeling that says that Gaist Crusher is build on what was left of Legends 3. Comparing the footage we have seen of Legends 3, I can say that Gaist Crusher manages to stand apart from what Legends 3 would have been, even if some of the attacks sound and look like the Kicks of Legends 3. It is sad to know that Legends 3 will not be made, but Gaist Crusher will most likely be the more profitable one of the two.

It’s notable that if you check the original trailer and the latest one, you can see changes in the HUD and other small details here and there.

I’ve decided to purchase the game itself, thou gaining additional Gaists will be difficult if I don’t start exporting the toys too, but I’m eager to see if the actual game will end up being just as entertaining, or will the missions end up being a drag. Seeing how I enjoyed Monster Hunter when I actively played it, I doubt that.