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.

CAPCOM doesn’t get it #4

While I was washing my dishes today after being sick on/off for three weeks now, I pondered on CAPCOM and their latest moves regarding Mega Man and Ducktales. It’s something to think about for sure, but then I realized that it’s something that has been clear all the time and doesn’t ask for any pondering or discussion.

Modern CAPCOM shouldn’t touch Mega Man as they are.

While everybody seems to be drooling over the Mega Man statue, I’ve been questioning CAPCOM’s intent of getting the PC Mega Man X ports on Good Old Games. While the site is good and all that, I have to question why the hell would they like to have Mega Man X PC version available anywhere? It’s a horrible port. Modern hard core PC gamers would laugh at it, much like they did back in the day. You get a better version of the same game through emulation nowadays, and the game itself is available on multiple other platforms as well, not to mention Maverick Hunter X exists. Mega Man X8 on the other hand has a decent PC port, and some mods to boot for what I remember, but the game itself is boring, and with it the subpar results of X6 and X7 pretty much confirmed that X-series wouldn’t see any more games. That, and the fact that other Mega Man games were selling better and X8 was a failure in CAPCOM’s eyes. Most fans look at it through rose tinted glasses. However, seeing that the progress is slow we can say that the chances of getting those games on GOG is closer to nil. Knowing how CoJ has been thinking lately, we won’t get them.

Well, PC games aside, CAPCOM’s intent on Mega Man at the moment is further merchandising the brand to cash on the nostalgia. While that’s what CAPCOM has been seemingly been doing for a while, now it’s actually what they’re doing… ever since Mega Man 9 was released. No, Mega Man 9 and 10 were not good Mega Man games, they were subpar Mega Man Zero games in Mega Man cloth. 9 and 10 pretty much doomed the Classic series as far as we can see. I’ll use one of Josh Hadley’s favourite terms here and call them cash-ins. While not completely applicable, Mega Man 9&10 completely fulfil the requirements of cash-ins, such as relying on an existing product, not doing anything special or even trying to be their own product.

The same can be said for the Ducktales Remake. Oh look, Aalt hates Ducktales! Shush you peasant, listen before you open your jabberjaw. The reason why this Remake, alongside the Dungeons and Dragons; Chronicles of Mystara, is cashing on nostalgia with minimum of effort. I admit that I am a huge WayForward fan, so saying this isn’t easy, but this looks halfassed. Why 2D sprites for characters and everything in 3D? WayForward, you’re better than this, you’re one of the last proper 2D game developers on the world, why not go all out and make this look like the cartoon? The sprites already do, so why not make he whole game look like the cartoon? Bloodrayne Betrayal looks extremely good with its full 2D approach.

Every sprite seems to have a good amount of animation frames, thou the trailer shows that Scrooge has the same walk cycle as in the NES version, thou the test version at PAX seemed to have later version, where Scrooge has increased animation. In that version you also hear that the music is pretty spot on and the pogo sound is still there, but some things are just really strange, like a fade into black when walking into a new area rather than the screen sliding. This is a technical issue I’m sure. Still, it’s weird to see Scrooge all smiling and happy when his nephews have dropped through a  trapdoor. WayForward has good designers and 2D developers working for them, and if Ducktales would get same full 2D treatment, the game would not only look better, but feel better.

Then again, if you’ve ever liked Ducktales cartoon or comics, you’ve already played both of the NES games, and you even might own them like I do. The question is if these additions really are worth the price? Hype says yes.

As a trivia, the NES game red Scrooge palette isn’t inaccurate. At the time CAPCOM followed Carl Bark’s design on the McDuck, so red isn’t inaccurate as such, but it’s not show accurate. Then again, I live in a region where Duck comics are more common than bread and everybody used to inhale them more than oxygen, so variations on Ducks isn’t anything you’d call uncommon.

When we get to know how much the remake costs, we’ll then have a proper price on what nostalgia costs. I will most likely purchase it as well, as it is from WayForward. I’m not infallible either, but I’m sure I will struggle with the decision on the future.

Nevertheless, these are few reasons why I do not want modern CAPCOM to make a new Mega Man game of any kind. They simply can’t do it. It’s like having your leg on a samoflange. The fact that they have an ongoing discussion about Mega man is as good as doing absolutely nothing. It’s a common thing to say that discussion is ongoing when everything is on hold. I will believe that there has been discussions when I see proper hard evidence on it, namely development of a new game that’s not halted or cancelled a year after letting it die in silence.

Outsourcing Ducktales to WayForward was a good idea. WayForward has a good record on doing justice to old games. If CAPCOM wants a new Mega man, they should outsource it as well to WayForward. Seeing that Zero and ZX series was developed by Inti-Creates rather than CAPCOM, it explains why the games have their own feel and swing. Then again, Inti-Creates fell victim to the myth of Mega Man being difficult, and is one of the main reasons why Mega Man 9&10 are dim jewels without proper cutting. Mega Man doesn’t suit CAPCOM’s modern image, thou neither does Ducktales, but that’s WayForward, right?

Imagine if they had decided to do Ducktales 3. Just add 1 and 2 as options, you could even use same sprites. Nevertheless, it would be a completely new game, which would be a proper reason to actually purchase this game. Not only because of nostalgia (that will always be a part of the charm for both good and bad) but because it would mostly, if not completely, be a new product to enjoy. The applies to Mega Man; modern CAPCOM would try to cash in what Mega Man was and mythically is instead concentrating on what Mega Man really is and should be.

It’s like Mega Man would be the best grilled cheese sandwich ever, and CAPCOM thinks Mega Man should be a fajita with horse shit in it.

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.

GODAMMIT CAPCOM!

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.

Continuity of sequels

Game sequels usually follow the same strict continuing structure as books and films. Sometimes they don’t have anything to do with each other except the names and general overall idea. The only continuity as such is just there, not really doing anything. In most cases plot is the thread that connects everything together, even in video games for better or worse. As games are a generally an interactive form of entertainment as opposed to more traditional mediums, they can, could and should convey continuing playing of one series from instalment to instalment.

How this continuing game then could be made? Before memory cards it was downright impossible to do on consoles and arcades machines. With the invention of memory cards the same method can be done on consoles, and to some extent with arcade machines as well; the save in one game carries some significance to the other. This is a balancing act, as putting too much emphasize on the saved data will always push out new players.

The Second Super Robot Wars Z; Chapter of Rebirth, or SRWZ2.2 Saisei Hen, puts it so that some already obtained skills carry over from the previous game, but nothing that truly makes a large difference. It mostly rewards returning players with continuity so that their effort in previous game does not go to waste. Similar thing was done in an earlier SRW game, Super Robot Wars F and F Final, where character levels and skills would directly jump from the previous game to other.

This is good kind of continuity. It rewards the player to start from the first one because it has impact on the later game. It’s not too overt that it would push new players away and keeps its doors open.

Mass Effect, while looks really good on paper with player selection carrying over, does things a bit wrong. The selections, player’s own character and all that carries over and that’s good. However, nothing else really does. The player still starts basically from naught. He might as well start a new game, because the ending in Mass Effect 3 doesn’t really fetch will to play the first two parts. Then again, the amount of game play and story in Mass Effect games is completely bonkers and some mechanics are more or less completely horrible and broken. Well, PC games and their emphasize on story…

Game saves could always play a bigger role. I’m not talking about story elements because those don’t matter. I’m speaking of affecting mechanics and gameplay. While truly either, the way Metal Gear Solid digs up save data and displays certain deviations according to that shows that this gimmick could be more. For example, imagine if you had all of the Mario Sports games saves on your memory card. Every game could read what saves you’ve got there and open some interesting hidden options etc and add player outfits or the like. Still not really gameplay effecting stuff, but it would show a link between the games.

RPGs are the biggest genre that would benefit from save continuity. For example, player’s characters would carry their experience, weapons and so on from a game to another. At least Legend of Heroes; Trails in the Sky is known to do this. This would affect how the game is played initially, as well as giving a complete continuity between the games rather than doing Metroid’s way and making the player start from the scratch, even if this doesn’t make sense in the story’s narrative or setting. It’s keeps the continuation cohesive from game to game, and adds some content and credibility.

I’ve been talking a lot of story continuity and all that even thou they do not matter in the end. However, it has to be taken into account, as even the simplest stories have to have credible cohesion. Mega Man Zero and Zero 2 have nice cohesion and neat tricks linking the two games. Initially the in-game menu screen resembles the first game’s screen, but battered and broken with unfunctioning weapons. After the intro stage the game updates the menu screen with a new sleek look and the doctor fixes the weapons, as well as modifies one. Neat and done without save transferring. It wouldn’t be hard to do this in any sequel, but it’s never made. It adds to the game world those little things you notice and like.

Another game series that uses extensive save unlocking is Xenosaga. It mostly unlocks swimsuits to the characters or the like, but it adds to the game. Sometimes the swimsuits are actual items that can be worn in-game and have decent stats for a new game, or are just for fanservice. Most likely for both.


Perfect reason to post gynoids in their swimsuits

Now the question is why to do this kind of thing at all? First of all, it adds to the game’s world and content, even if little. Players with completed save data are rewarded of their loyalty and efforts for the game, and new players most likely will get interested in the previous game as well, thus gaining a new, perhaps even loyal customer to the company. A customer is more important to a company than anything else, at least it should be. While the method how the game recognizes a previous save is easy, but what it does and balancing the effects is always a bit harder, but that’s what the game designers and programmers are paid for to do. To deliver us a good game that we, the customers, want.