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.

New Mega Man stuff that won’t matter

CAPCOM’s putting out some new Mega Man stuff. They seem to release this kind of stuff at somewhat frequent intervals. Folders, buttons, keyrings, stickers and other stuff for the Mega Man fans, almost like telling the fans that It’s OK, we’re still making this cheap shit for you to buy and give us money. The last few times CAPCOM did this I did get a keyring or two for myself, and even thou I’m a sucker when I could have stained glass style keyrings, I’ll just give this one a pass. Unless I have a chance to get that Hideki Ishikawa Roll. I won’t lie with this one; Ishikawa’s illustrations are one of the best things that have happened to Mega Man in visual department next to Hitoshi Ariga’s Mix comics

One thing we notice when we observe with this next round of Mega Man stuff is that CAPCOM’s once again pushing the 8-bit graphics pretty harshly, and some of the design on the files are atrocious, especially with Mega Man X dashing and Mega Man Battle Network ones with lifted graphics and mostly black colour, not to mention that jumping Mega Man against a blue bakcground. Previously they at least used previous illustrations, but these are just awful and lazy, something we could just throw together in Paint and order from a Chinese merchant. Nobody is paying good money to CAPCOM to deliver something we could do just as well. They need to make it a step or three better.

The keyrings on the other hand are peculiar things. The 8-bit acrylic ones feature, as you’d expect, both Mega Man and Proto Man in their masturbatory 8-bit dot sprite glory, but CAPCOM has gone their way to make new dot graphics to both X and Zero. And of course they needed to use Zero from the Zero-series, because that closes the aforementioned masturbatory circle.

But enough with the slander. The point why I’m coming down on CAPCOM on these cheap and lazy merch is simply because we’ve been getting nothing but merch for years now. We can take this, roughly speaking, either as sort of message from CAPCOM that they haven’t forgotten about the Mega Man fans, or as something that’s basically a slap against the fans’ collective faces. If this year’s merch was on par of previous years’ stuff, I’d gladly put down an euro or twenty for some of these, but that isn’t the case here.

Look at this! Wallets, sweatbands, awesome pins, cloths and so forth! All this kind of awesome stuff they don't do anymore.

Look at this! Wallets, sweatbands, awesome pins, cloths and so forth! All this kind of awesome stuff they don't do anymore.
Look at this! Wallets, sweatbands, awesome pins, cloths and so forth! All this kind of awesome stuff they don’t do anymore.

Secondly, CAPCOM doesn’t have a fallback game anymore. If Square-Enix ends in a pickle where they need to bring in hard cash, they have few games that they call fall on because they know they will sell to the fans and outside the fandom really damn fast. Final Fantasy VII is one of those fallback games as was Chrono Trigger. Perhaps a new Mega Man game could have been something like that few years back, but not anymore. Resident Evil won’t carry that either, Breath of Fire has transformed into another game altogether and Street Fighter IV has been milked, not to mention that nobody trusts CAPCOM after the whole Street Fighter X Tekken DLC debacle and I can’t fault them. Darkstalkers was never popular enough to rake in the big bucks, and MARVEL VS CAPCOM 3 has gained rather disastrous infamy. I doubt Disney will want to have much to do with CAPCOM on the long run. They have their own plans. Perhaps CAPCOM could do some dealings with SEGA to bring Street Fighter VS Virtua Fighter or similar. Or Archie VS CAPCOM.

It’s kind of awkward for me to say that CAPCOM should go all out with Mega Man when I admi that there’s enough Mega Man games and stuff out there already. That’s why it needs to be said straight and clean; CAPCOM needs to stop this cocktease they’ve been up to for a long time now and decide whether or not they want to continue with the franchise as a whole, or just let its blood drip down drop at a time.

There is hope, that much I have to agree. Despite how little merch there is, despite the quality of it and everything else, Mega Man is still out there. Archie’s comics are damn good and do justice to the series, even thou cross-overing Classic and X in X’s first outing is a bad idea and has already been done before, Mega Man has some level of presence. It’s not nearly as strong as it used to be. What CAPCOM and the fans didn’t learn from Mega Man Battle Network and its success in Japan is that Mega Man has always been for kids. It’s not supposed to be dark, bleak, and massively depressing like the Zero series, but the tone doesn’t need to be dumbed down.

I remember this video being distributed on the ‘net in 2001 and 2002 in various sites, and this what Mega Man’s customers were when they first got their hands on the games. Mega Man isn’t about being ultra-hard action platforming, it’s about good games that everybody can enjoy.

Even the original Rockman TV commercial makes it clear that this is a game that children will enjoy. There’s an interesting thing you can spot from the Japanese TV commercials; up until Mega Man 3 they keep using that the game and the characters have been POWERED UP. It’s like the advertising knows that there’s very little powered up in the games after the first three. Not even the Mega Man 6 commercial says anything powering up despite the Rush Armour gimmick present.

What could CAPCOM hope to bring into Mega Man games that hasn’t already been there? The answer might just be that they need to think outside the box and see what worked, and then make those best games in the series absolutely obsolete by making a better game. Sound stupidly simple and easy thing to say, but why make a simple concept like Mega Man game anymore complex than people already have made them to be?

Why Capcom killed off Mega Man

Yoshinori Ono was the man behind resurrecting Street Fighter and bringing it back to the masses. However, his physical health was the cost of it all. His interview doesn’t only shed light on why Street Fighter X Tekken was such a massive failure, or why we most likely won’t ever see Street Fighter V, but also why CAPCOM won’t make another proper Mega Man game for the next ten years to come.

“So from the company’s point of view, if the team is stating that it cannot do any better combined with a lack of sales, it’s a complete story and it’s time to move on.”

All the most recent Mega Man games from Maverick Hunter X to Mega Man 10 sold decently, but not well enough to warrant sequels. Mega Man Legends 3 was fate of the same treatment.

“Until the day of release, Street Fighter 4 was an unwanted child,” Ono says, his tone at once sad and defiant. “Everyone in the company kept telling me: ‘Ono-san, seriously why are you persisting with this? You are using so much money, budget and resources. Why don’t we use it on something else, something that will make money?’ No-one had the intention of selling it, so I had virtually no help from other departments – they were all reluctant, right up to the day of release.”

I have no doubts CAPCOM felt the same way about Mega Man X8 and anything that came after it. The Battle Network series sold like hotcakes with its balance of real-time fights and collecting, as did Mega Man Zero with the high difficulty level and modern take on the series. Both of these had sequels and failed miserably.

Creating a Mega Man game should not be expensive, and yet developing the for the current consoles is expensive. Mega Man 9 was costly because the old games had to be reverse engineered and go against the current state of technology. Mega Man 10 was quickly thrown together after that, but only after the sales numbers came in. Developing for the GBA was cheap in comparison, whereas the DS fetched higher price, and the lack of sales that ZX series had doomed it. Same with the Starforce series, which shared the same weaknesses; they were lite versions of their predecessor series.

Mega Man Legends never had proper sales. People bought the first game because it was Mega Man in 3D, but even these people knew what they were getting into; completely different thing that main series were about. Legends 2 sold very little, and at this point CAPCOM had already started becoming the entity we have today.

Legends 3 was cancelled for one reason; it would not have sold well enough. This is the reason CAPCOM “killed” Mega Man; there was no money in it. CAPCOM’s obsession on HD gaming is what killed Mega Man.

Back in the 80’s and 90’s CAPCOM was all about making great games, as evident on Ono’s statement. Arcades was where CAPCOM ruled and made their money. When the arcades died, CAPCOM had to change. However, we all remember how Nintendo’s sales always plummet when they abandon their arcade roots. The same goes with CAPCOM. However, CAPCOM has nothing to make a comeback, as they’ve stopped producing their own arcade machines (the glorious CPS series) and barely produce worthwhile game there any more.

Would it be possible to reproduce the arcade feeling at home? If we take another look at Nintendo, the answer is Yes. Capcom has done it many times over, and the Disney license games they did back in the 80’s and early 90’s is a proof of this; these games were arcade games adopted for home consoles. These games have a hidden property as well, which is that they are generally rather cheap to produce as they do not need to be in HD at any point, but they do need a proper developer team who simply wish to make a good game. This team also needs to have limitations and a clear goal what they’re doing, and keep it simple. Very few arcade games were complex to begin with, and the most complex arcade games happen to be fighting games like Street Fighter III.

Why ZX series died out wasn’t just it’s watered down content, but because it wasn’t a Mega Man game. Zero series gave a proper way to roam free, but within strict limitations. If I wanted to play a 2D-exploration, I’d play Metroid. The Starforce series wasn’t just watered down, but also complicated certain matters that were supposed to be simple but abundant. The decision to make Starforce 3D was most likely an executive decision, or at least what the market department decided. Any good businessman could’ve seen that both ZX and Starforce would flop.

Does Mega Man have an audience out there? Yes, but the customer base has diminished in great numbers. People who got into Mega Man were at age five to fifteen when Mega Man 2 hit the scene. It was my first Nintendo game I ever remember playing and beating. It was the game that made me jump from Atari 520ST, from computers, to consoles. Now we’re all well over our twenties and thirties. People who played Street Fighter II have enjoyed Street Fighter IV, but I’ve seen that they will always regard II as the better game, for good reasons.

Up until Mega Man’s twentieth birthday we all could enjoy great amounts if insanely well made games, as well as bunch of mediocre and bad ones. When somebody like Ono does the same thing to Mega Man as he did to Street Fighter, we can expect Mega Man 11, or perhaps X9. If done correctly, they will use that era’s technology and not rely on nostalgia. They will put their heart’s tears and blood into it, crafting the same fun game have had since the first one.

CAPCOM isn’t toying with their customers. They’re not pissing them into their eyes or anything like that. To them it’s a cold truth that Mega Man does not sell any more. The golden days of their unofficial mascot has been long over and there’s nobody taking the lead. To us customers, to us fans who still wish to see a new Mega Man these times are sad. We can play over and over the past games only so many times. CAPCOM has not been loyal to anyone in the past ten years. The CAPCOM which developed Street Fighter II, Final Fight, Mega Man X, Captain Commando, Kikaioh and all other classics is no more. The CAPCOM we have nowadays is in financial trouble. It tries to survive in these times when macroeconomics are bad, but quite worse yet.

It’s wrong to say that Mega Man was killed off. Mega Man was not killed, but simply… stopped. It’s a dead franchise. Capcom didn’t kill off Mega Man, but in their eyes everything that Mega Man had is no longer alive. Perhaps they’re following the small sales the comics and books are making, but a new game seems to be out of question. CAPCOM’s not willing to invest into releasing the DASH games on PSN, as they would need to pay some money on the licensing issues in the game, like the songs, and they aren’t interested in removing them from the games… which only shows that they’ve lost the source codes.

It’s been a good run guys. The only thing we can really do is to keep asking CAPCOM for a new Mega Man game, and hope that they have someone who is willing to take the same burden Ono did with Street Fighter. Without a person like him inside, I’m afraid it all will be in vain otherwise.

Mega Man’s story is far from over; We never got to know what happens after Mega Man 10, how would Lumine’s rebellion affect X’s world, how the world became one of race of Carbons, and how the hell did Trigger get off Elysium. As far as CAPCOM stands, these are questions that are left open, never to be answered. And perhaps it is for the better….

…everliving life in memories…

…until someone awakes the hero anew.

Did CAPCOM just piss Mega Man fans in the eyes?


I’m going to go on a full fanboy rage mode here, so it’s parental discretion is advised. Ok, deep breath and go…

What the fucking hell CAPCOM? Do you want piss every goddamm Mega Man fan out there by adding the motherfucking BAD BOXART MEGA MAN to a game that’s called STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN? RENAME this piece of shit if you’re going to use character outside the Street Fighters franchise for the love of that is all good! This game should be called CAPCOM X NAMCO THE FIGHTING or the like. To those who are uninitiated, Namco X Capcom was a cross-over role playing game from Monolith, who worked on Xenosaga and Super Robot Wars Original Generation Saga Endless Frontier. SFxT clearly continues the same trend, THEN why, oh why they just can’t name it properly!?

OK, we’re getting Mega Man. And PacMan. And both are going to be fucking joke characters if all signs are correct. The joke about Bad Boxart Mega Man is quite literally over decade old. Internet made into a meme and only recently the Japanese got it. Jesus Christ CAPCOM, we’re asking you to give us proper Mega Man in a fighting game (WHY THE HELL HE ISN’T IN MARVEL VS CAPCOM 3 IF HE IS YOUR UNOFFICIAL MASCOT?) rather than Zero or any other red side character. We’d take Mega Man or Mega Man X. Either one is fine. Christ CAPCOM, Mega Man X was the most requested character by a poll in your own site. Sure, the poll was put up by a fan, but why the hell every other character in the poll got in? Now you put Mega Man in as a goddam joke. Either this is extremely elaborate way to stir up the audience, or whoever is has the final word on the cast is a fucking idiot who needs to be neutered and all of his seeds cleansed off from the world.

I understand CAPCOM. You wan to kill Mega Man off completely. You want to lose shitloads of money from one of the most devoted fandom there is.
Do yourself a favour, and to the fanbase, and do not put Bad Boxart Mega Man into SFxT. Put Mega Man X into it and make him a high tier character. Then, stop. Don’t say anything about Mega Man, don’t hint anything about him, just let it die. You’ve already killed him. Just let Mega Man rest in his grave.

While you’re at it, leave Darkstalkers be. Never look back at Rival Schools or any of the actually pretty fucking good games and franchises you’ve forgotten.

I’ve had enough with this shit. Fuck you CAPCOM.

This, dear readers, is an example of companies a) not getting their audience b) dicking around with their audience c) both previously mentioned. It’s not good service. CAPCOM is NOT the ones deciding whether or not this is a good cast. It’s the audience that will tell them either fuck their asses with a steel pole, or that it could be better. CAPCOM doesn’t decide whether or not their game is good, the goddamn audience does because we’re the one with the money you want.
And if you want my money, stop circlejerking in the fucking office and start making games that we want to buy.

I’m actually expecting the day when CPACOM’s in financial troubles because of underselling games. Perhaps then they might change a little…

In other news, HUDSON’s going to finally die. It sad thing to see a great, great company dying like this. Hudson, rest in peace. I will miss you.

I need to take a shower and punch some walls. Perhaps stab me a dinner. Crack open a bear and drink it. Then dispose of the bear because it’s illegal without a license.

And in a long fucking time I have the feeling that I could jug shitloads of alcohol into my system and scream at the Moon.

CAPCOM giving the finger. Again.

CAPCOM announced that they’re releasing some of their digital download games on a physical disc for the X360. Now this is an awesome idea in of itself, offering these games on a disc to those who refuse to buy downloadable games or do not have access to the Internet. $40 dollar price tag seems to be a bit high thou, but I could give that little extra for a physical copy. The cover design is bad thou.

There’s just one problem in this thing; Mega Man 9 and 10 are missing. CAPCOM’s most selling downloadable games next to Street Fighter are missing. While CAPCOM’s saying “they might be in the part 2 collection” I say bullshit. CAPCOM’s losing potential sales here. Add Bionic Commando RE:Armed and at least Mega Man 9 to make it full ten games. If the series is still important to the company, then why isn’t MM9 in this collection? There’s no reason it NOT to be in there.

Quick Review; Mega Man MEGAMIX and GIGAMIX

Mega Man MEGAMIX is a storyline over a decade old that started under the name “Rockman REMIX” in its first iteration. The mastermind behind this work, Hitoshi Ariga, is very well known for this comic and for a good reason; his art is distinctive and unique, serving well in the story settings that are told extremely well. However, the most important part in Ariga’s MEGA/GIGAMIX series is the atmosphere, the feeling and the heart, as every line on the pages convey something that can only be called as “Mega Man.” You get the same experience, the same feeling and the same excitement from reading these as if you were playing the games. They’re just that good, and I usually have far higher standards than most people (or so I’ve heard.)

This song has a very special place in my heart, as it helped me to overcame a pain that I had held inside of me for some time

In these some sixteen years Ariga has worked with Mega Man its clear that art has been improving constantly, and in the latest editions of MEGAMIX he went back and retouched some scenes that just didn’t work. While it’s nice to see an artist to go back and fix his works, it always loses some “originality,” but quite honestly it doesn’t matter. No product is never truly ready, they’re only at a point that they can be given away. Ariga’s style, thou evolved, has always looked very similar and the evolution is barely noticeable to an untrained eye. However, if you read MEGAMIX and GIGAMIX back-to-back you’ll notice how everything builds up to the finish both story and art perspective.

Compare this to the Rockman REMIX cover and you’ll see how Ariga’s style has been refined rather than changed

The story of MEGA/GIGAMIX is based on the Mega Man games, the little they have. Ariga basically took the basis, took a look at the characters and their nature (every character has a defined set of traits, believe it,) and rebuild the story using those elements to tell the same story, but in far more grandiose, important way. Every characters gets their chance to shine like a star in the sky, every character has a specific function in the stories, and every set of characters is utilised to their maximum extent in the frame of the story.

Ariga also explores themes that are pretty much forgotten by fans and CAPCOM in Mega Man; the theme of robotics and their relations to humans, friendships, rivalry, what is to be a human being and what is it that drives us. The latter is far more important to the Mega Man X series, but Ariga’s robots are more freeroaming Robots than their game counterparts. At times Ariga’s Robot Masters act far too much like Repliroids of the X-series, but I’ll give it to him gladly, as the is willing to explore those themes to long extents and still keep the action and comedy at top of all.
The characters are fleshed out and that’s all fine and dandy, but Ariga’s skill to bind multiple games together becomes clear in the GIGAMIX storyline, which includes Mega Man 3, Battle & Chase, Mega Man V/Rockman WORLD 5 and parts of Mega Man 8. It’s so well made that the little fanboy in be screamed like a little bitch he is. Actually, Ariga managed to tie down parts of the Mega Man Legends as well, but lets not go into that now. The way he did this was to take certain elements of the games’ stories and combined them into one larger whole. These games have points that fall well between each other, like Mega Man 3’s Robot Masters searching for Energy Crystals in space, Battle & Chase being a middleshow, Mega Man (WORLD) V having extraterrestrial Star Droids coming to destroy the Earth and Mega Man 8’s mysterious white giant ridding space of evil, DUO. Ariga actually uses large quantities of unused material here and applies it to the story setting, a thing that makes my inner fanboy cry tears of joy to insane extents.

How does it all fare up in the end?

Without a doubt, Mega Man MEGAMIX and GIGAMIX are the definitive Mega Man experience outside the games. I’ve put them into my personal TOP 5 of comics of all times even without regarding what my own feelings towards the series is. You can’t ask more from an adaptation comic that this. Ariga’s story goes far beyond what anyone was expecting him at any point, and you can feel that he too is a big Mega Man fan himself. These pages are filled with love and care. It’s a comic that tells you how much Mega Man means to so many people.

I would recommend this to anyone who has ever graced Mega Man, and even to those who haven’t even heard of the Blue Bomber. If you value a good set of comics that is both well written and drawn, you’ll most likely like this. There’s very little wrong with Ariga’s masterpiece, and even those faults are soon forgotten when everything around them kicks in. It’s a well thought out product that has become legendary in the Internet, and now you finally read it.

Rather than ending with a low note (as CAPCOM has done with Mega Man) let’s end with this