Asimovian Mega Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gimmick Man

After all that Virtual-On, I decided to revisit Mega Man games for the kicks. Playing the games back to back reminded me why the series was such a hit. Great music, great controls from the third game onward, steady progression and evolution of the concepts and their implementation, and tight level design. Well, most part, at least.

I’m not sure at what point Mega Man saw a change. It’s not clear-cut as to say that a particular game had a definitive paradigm shift that changed the MM formula, as each game gave a new twist in some manner. 2 introduced 8 bosses, E-Tanks and classical help items, 3 introduced sliding and Rush, 4 introduced chargeable buster and slight branches in the stages, 5 expanded on in-stage collectables with Beat and backup tanks, 6 had Rush Adapters and colour changes to stages depending whether or not you have BEAT letters collected, 7 introduced the initial Robot Master split to four, included a lot more support items and took some parts from the Game Boy Mega Man games, and 8 revamped all the stages to have a specific gimmicks.

Perhaps the existence of these gimmicks rather than concentration on the core of Mega Man ultimately drove the sales down.

The best example of this is Mega Man 8. While Mega Man stages are all about a certain kind of theme to them, with a gimmick or two in there, they’re usually either harmless or practices in moderation. Mega Man 1‘s Guts Man stage is an example of an early exception for this, as its moving platform segment is infuriating, but luckily relatively short. With the PlayStation era, we began seeing the inclusion of automated driving stages becoming a thing, culminating to one of the worst stages in the whole series with Mega Man X7‘s Ride Boarski. Similarly, X8’s Gigabolt Man-O-War and Avalance Yeti have driving stages as well. Two out of eight main stages were effectively wasted for driving.

The increase of gimmicks like these, be it Rush Adapters or driving stages, really didn’t do good for the series overall. While some argue that Mega Man 9 and 10 returned to the core of the series, they concentrated on the wrong aspects in overall terms.

The evolution of the series core concepts has always been slight changes to the controls and what initial tools the player has. Sliding was a solution for quick evasions and increased movement, which also gave the developers more options with enemy and stage designs. (In DLC Proto Man has the slide, when he previously had a dash. Gotta earn that nerd cred.) Charging shots increased damage output per shot, but it’s not necessary in all cases. Still, it allows both the player and the designers to tackle certain aspects in enemy design differently than with just the lemon shooter. Rush’s inclusion, while stemming from the mobility Items from Mega Man 2, again is a tool for movement and stage design options.

These could be considered three core additions to the series since the first game, and should always be there. However, at some point the series began adding too much unnecessary stuff without really compensating, and then you lost most of the good stuff with Mega Man 8 and its two sequels.

It says a lot that Minakuchi Engineering, the company in charge of the Game Boy games (par the second one) really made additions and tweaks to the formula work well, and Capcom’s stuff took some of it and ran with them in MM7 without really understanding why they worked. Well, outside the Item Replicator, which allows player to produce support items for a cost, but they screwed that over with MM8 by limiting the amount of bolts in the game to build items, and the removal of support items in general.

Mega Man 8 is really a weird game, it tried something different, but failed pretty badly.

Stage gimmicks, the constant addition of option tools and lack of emphasize on the core aspects is probably why the series stagnated as hard as it did. Mega Man 11 has an uphill battle to re-instate all the best elements from the first eight games while trying to ignore the two last ones. Let’s be honest with them, unmaking a decade worth of design and evolution in favour of nostalgia pandering was the very first misstep Capcom made with them, but this was the era of retro-lookalikes being the hottest shit on the block. Can’t really fault them for striking that trend. (This is also why Mega Man 2 was used as the base to model MM9 and 10 after, because nostalgia was rampart and the game has a deified status [Despite certain later games being objectively better.])

Cuphead showcased that the stigma 2D action games had during the naughts is more or less over. However, I hope Capcom recognises that Mega Man has ten games doing the same thing, with varying success. If Mega man 11 is to succeed, it should not pander to nostalgia. It needs to find the proper way to evolve the formula and make the best use of it. It should be more like GameBoy’s Mega Man IV than Mega Man 8 (or 9 and 10) in how it doesn’t forget to balance the core and new.

Certainly the fans will appreciate it just fine, but if it’s just another throwback for these fans, Capcom might a well quit making the game mid-way through. The announcement trailer does give some glimpses, that the core elements established by the first four games are in there to some extent. Charged shots and Rush are in there, with no movement slipping. Sure, the animations could use some work, but that’s always the case. Bolts are back, so we can assume Item Replicator is being implemented. There seems to be some sort of overcharge shot as well, meaning we’re going to see additions to the core formula. We can just hope that their implementation is decent at least, and the staff do not negate the core aspects of good level design first and foremost.

Mighty Number 9 is a great example of all the core elements missing quality to them.

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary collection and then some

Ever since Street Fighter turned 20, I’ve been making some insignificant noise to see proper recognition for the original Street Fighter, as janky as the game is. It is one of those games that would deserve a complete remake. Capcom has been dropping bits and bobs about the first game here and in form of optional outfits and such, but a straight remake is still a pipe dream.

The 30th Anniversary Collection is a step towards right direction in many ways. Not only it makes titles like Street Fighter III New Generation and 2nd Impact accessible to those who don’t have a CPS3 or Dreamcast, but collects all the main titles under one umbrella title. It would be great if all the games had online to them, but companies can put only so much money and effort into celebratory collections like these. I don’t mind using my Dreamcast, but many don’t have access to a DC. Similarly, it would be perfect if there was online for all the titles, but that’s not really happening, is it? Online is important for modern games, without a doubt, despite yours truly still regarding couch coop the best form of multiplayer.

I’m not surprised that the EX games are missing from this collection. They never were mainline SF titles, but the first two did enjoy success on the PlayStation. Capcom would have to pay royalties for the original characters, as ARIKA owns their rights. Not that would be a bad idea overall, with ARIKA’s upcoming unnamed fighting game project  (which carries the title of Fighting EX Layer for now) coming along and making some buzz in the fighting game scene. It would have been good cross promotion for ARIKA as well, but I never held my breath for their re-release. Might as well pick up the original PlayStation discs if you’re interested, they don’t go for too much. If I’m honest, I’ve been following this one closely. Graphically and mechanically the game is sound, even at this early state, but ARIKA does need to rework the sound department at some point.

Of course, the collection is not limited to one system. Not many things are nowadays, but perhaps that’s OK for this sort of celebratory game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sales numbers for the Switch version go high, as Ultra Street Fighter II sold rather well. This collection makes a good addition. Shinkiro was employed to illustrate the key art for the game, and all in all it’s an improvement over the aforementioned USFII.

The additional goodies are a sprite viewer and a music player mode. Street Fighter sprites have always been popular on the ‘net, for better or worse, but having this sort of access does allow closer inspection without any hurries for those, who don’t want to resort to emulation or looking up sprite sheets. It may be a bit insignificant addition, but this sort of little things go add a lot. The music player is a neat addition, though the one that would’ve broken the bank would’ve been a colour edit mode.

Capcom’s going to the right direction with this. Street Fighter V has been a sales and success disappointment all around. With its Arcade Edition coming out, alongside its Season 3, Sakura and bunch of other characters are confirmed to join the final roster. However, these two titles are at odds with each other. SFV was developed with the eSports scene in mind, and that’s where it has seen its limited success. The assumption that Capcom will release further versions of the game is more or less based on the fact that ever since SFII  this has been the case. However, as we’ve seen examples with Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) publishers and developers are trying to make each title pay off more on the long run. DLC is a practice on itself, with Season passes essentially being planned additional content on the base title. Arcade Edition got some negative feedback from the users that got unto the ship from the start and have supported the base game, but from general audience, it’s been all but positive.

Street Fighter V is an example, where Capcom took its gold egg laying goose to a wrong direction. While some games can be fitted into a modern mould, Street Fighter V showcased that you can’t beat an arcade roots from an arcade game. The necessities must be met; a complete game from the start, Arcade mode, a full roster and (surprisingly to some) less emphasize on the tournament scene. SFV should have been a safe game for Capcom to publish, but just like Marvel VS Capcom Infinite, it’s full of decisive flaws in the core design and structure department. Capcom’s competitors are in a far better position nowadays, with all the big houses having at least two decades of experience under their belt and have been pushing out better fighting games than what Capcom has. ArcSys even has a popular license under their belt now with Dragon Ball Fighter Z, which probably sells more than SFV during its lifetime by name recognition alone.

Capcom is one of those companies with rather clear periods. 1980’s Capcom saw its first change with Resident Evil, and the company changed its direction around the mid-90’s. 2000’s Capcom saw a paradigm change around 2006, something that Capcom has been moving away now slowly, but surely. These changes are not immediate, but take slowly place until something significant is showcased. Capcom’s arcade essentially being ran down in favour of console development, classic titles all but missing and ignored, emphasize on Western games, the DLC tactics that consumers didn’t like, and now, nostalgia. While Mega Man Collection games should’ve been just one disc, collecting all the Classic-series games, including Rock Board, those and SF 30th Anniversary Collection are an indication that Capcom wants to serve their long time fans, albeit with pre-existing products most of them already own. With Mega Man X games coming to modern platforms, it would seem that Capcom is testing waters for resurrections, even with some of the newer franchises like Devil May Cry getting its HD collection ported to current systems. Of course, we can’t ignore the rumours for DMC 5 being in development, which became more plausible with the reveal of Mega Man 11.

All that said, Inafune separating himself from Capcom did leave the franchise in a hard place. Just like how he was the face of the franchise to the consumers, he was also responsible inside the company. Kazuhiro Tsuchiya does not necessarily need to become a new face to carry the franchise onward, but that might be inevitable.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s going on at Capcom currently. Keep an eye what’s reading between the lines, as all the interesting bits are there.

Mega Man 11

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cute as a button

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

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

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

 

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

 

Music of the Month; To Fly Through Fire


It’s one of those months for sure

I recommend people to carry some sort of pocket knife with them. Not in order to do violence, but to have a tool with utility. There are times when in an emergency arises and having something sharp and multiuse comes in handy. Like when your work clothes catch on fire, and you need to get them off as soon as possible. In a car crash it comes handy in cutting your seat belt off, it you can’t get the lock system open. Of course, you can slice apples with it too.

To talk about the whole mecha post issues I’ve been having, mainly that I haven’t kept the transformation theme constant and skipped it few times around, it’s a combination of lacking time to put the time into proper description and finding really good sources. There are few books out there that I could recommend for you to read through yourself, but most of them are in Japanese, which limits their effectiveness to an extent. As such, I might as way it officially that the theme is dropped for the rest of the year, because I have to concentrate on other things. I’ll still aim to produce mecha content monthly, and not just TSF stuff. Not everybody likes them after all.

On more game related side of things, I came across a SNES Mini and decided to pick one up for my nephews. First I thought picking one for myself too, but thought that as I already have most of the games on my shelf, it’d be a waste. Because Christmas few months away, I decided to test the machine so that there would be no let-downs on Christmas day. The thing about these Mini consoles is that their built-in library is, ultimately, rather bland. On paper is looks good without a doubt, but for someone who has played these games many times over and already owns them, the set isn’t even vanilla. It could use more two-player games, though this leads me to the best thing about the package; the SNES controllers that came with it are diamond. Hell, this makes me wish Nintendo would put the real controllers in a new limited production, so collectors and whatnot could get a new set of pads for their consoles. I won’t be doing a review on it, because the machine is just a small Super Nintendo. I’d rather review the real deal.

As for what will be reviewed this month is anyone’s guess. I don’t have anything too interesting on the horizon when it comes to interesting gaming thingamajigs, but that can change any moment. I was considering reviewing Cuphead and break my own rule not to review anymore, but maybe that’s a silly rule, even when those are the least read posts. I should stick with the more obscure stuff people want more information on that is not expanded elsewhere. That’s the core idea with all these weird controller and homebrew reviews. Something like SNES Mini is reviewed everywhere else already.

Maybe reviewing mechas again like what I did with Metal Gears would do good for a change.

As for whatever else for this month, Inktober’s kicking around again. I recommend checking your favourite social media site what sort of images people are producing, and I too may take part in it… if time allows me to. The idea is to do a picture by using ink, and some of the works are absolutely beautiful to behold.

Whether or not I’ll manage to put a post on Mega Man‘s 30th anniversary is an open question, but some sort of post regarding the franchise is planned, but again, only if I can get the materials together. I’d like to this post to hit sometime this tear, not necessarily on the anniversary day itself. I had my old editor up for a music related post regarding the series, but that never went anywhere, so I might have to pick up that in the future, despite being tone deaf.

An addendum to Themes of Godzilla post is in the works too. This would be a more in-depth view on Shin Godzilla now that I don’t have to work with limitations, and who knows, maybe I’ll expand this into a monthly series on itself and rewatch all the movies while I’m at it. Doing it a production order of course would be the best thing, but I do think that taking Godzilla with least connection to others, like Shin Godzilla and the 1998 Godzilla, can be viewed in a vacuum-like state, where they can be weighted on their own merits. Some of the movies are rather connected to each other either through story, setting or the staff, and with that you have certain tones and themes repeating. I’d even go so far that I’d divide Godzilla eras based on the staff who worked on them.

I might actually review the Art of Shin Godzilla, a 559-page book. It has some reviews up on the ‘net, but none of them really go in-depth whats in it and how it’s built. You shouldn’t review a book based on its cover, but like with everything, first impressions go a long way.

As for the ARG podcast we had going on, I’ve removed the link on the side. This is because due to certain changes in situations I highly doubt we get the same people on the mic anymore, though continuing with fewer people would be a possibility. The uploaded episodes won’t go anywhere, neither will the Degica interview. I regret things going like this, but alas it takes two to tango. Well, maybe this’ll encourage me to start those voice blogs next year. The plan is to turn some of the older posts with more solid content into audio form. I see the Monthly Threes I did as the best choices for this, as they tend to hold content with a point. Hell, they might be best content in this blog, but that’s not saying much, isn’t it?

Speaking of the posts, this is the 803rd post this blog has. I need to get my act together and wrote a new Different take on customers.

A Mega Man movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changing Mega Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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