Writing the title for this article made me feel very sad as a fan of the Mega Man franchise. In case you’ve never played a Mega Man game in your life, allow me to summarize it as best I can. In the year 200X, Doctor Thomas Light creates a number of robots designed to help mankind. These robots revolutionise industry with their amazing powers, despite Dr. Light creating one made entirely out of explosives, and granting another the great and responsibility-laden power of having a giant pair of scissors on his head. Unfortunately, Dr. Light has a colleague named Doctor Albert Wily, who is most definitely not a mad scientist – until it turns out he is. Dr Wily is successful in stealing and reprogramming most of Dr. Light’s robots, with the exception of two butler and maid robots named Rock and Roll respectively. You know this was made in the eighties because the one named after Thomas Edison is the good guy.
Rock, despite having the fearsome combat ability to hang up your jacket, volunteers to be upgraded to a combat robot in order to subdue the fearsome Robot Masters and defeat Dr. Wily’s plans for world domination (though personally I think the real villain is whoever named him Albert Wily, then allowed him to get a Doctorate). Thus reborn as Mega Man, our hero fights his brother robots, steals their powers, and uses them to destroy his opponents by exploiting their weaknesses to each other’s weapons – because the discipline of robotics functions on a complicated version of Rock, Paper, Giant Scissors for a Head. Dr Wily is defeated, and escapes to cause chaos in the future, while Mega Man fights for everlasting peace!
With a few minor tweaks here and there, this is the plot of all ten Classic Series games. This is because Mega Man takes place in a world where humanity has lost the ability to discern simple patterns, a trait whose absence leads to several robot uprisings over the course of the next few thousand years. But Mega Man has another enemy besides the evil machinations of Dr. Wily and the stupidity of the general population of his world… A diabolical entity known as Capcom.
Until Konami came along and dethroned them with the recent Metal Gear Solid controversy, I would have said that there isn’t a single company in the world that hates their flagship franchise quite as much as Capcom seem to hate the Mega Man franchise. The last release of a Mega Man game was Rockman X-Over, the game designed to celebrate the series’ 25th anniversary. Have you not heard of it? That’s because it’s a social RPG for phones released purely in Japan due to massive fan backlash against Capcom shelving several projects related to Mega Man, such as Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe. The other big release for Mega Man was Street Fighter x Mega Man, which is notable for being a fan game that Capcom made official for the 25th Anniversary, as well as being a Mega Man title in which Street Fighter gets top billing. Other blows came as certified mad genius Keiji Inafune, the series producer, left in order to become a sword special attack in the JRPG series Hyperdimension Neptunia, armed with laser vision. You think I’m lying? You think I could think something like that up on my own initiative?
What Capcom seems to have learned from its attempts to give a token appeasement to its fans is that when all else fails with your fanbase, it’s perhaps best to go back to the good old days. That’s my guess as to why we now have Mega Man Legacy Collection. It reads as an olive branch from Capcom to its Mega Man fans, a return to the 8-bit era like the highly popular Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, which were sold as standalone games on the last generation of consoles. Unfortunately, it’s a very well-used olive branch that’s been released on a number of consoles in a number of forms over the years. What’s new?
Well, according to released material, we’ll have HD 8-bit sprites. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m sold on this concept already. The main new offering is Challenge Mode, which are a series of stages created out of snippets of different game sections. These are linked through portals, which send Mega Man from one stage section to the next. This can be either in the one game, or in an example I saw, leaping through different Mega Man titles. Each stage segment retains its own mechanics, which I see as a missed opportunity. It would be great for example to go through Guts Man’s stage with the hoverboard from Mega Man 2, or having the charge shot and slide in older titles, or having the hoverboard whenever those disappearing blocks show up. I really hate those blocks, if you couldn’t tell.
The game feels like a lacklustre effort compared to the fanfare that Mega Man received for his inclusion in Smash Bros. 3DS/WiiU, which is kinda saddening. This used to be the flagship franchise for Capcom. At one point, we were complaining about having too many Mega Man sequels. The solution to that problem wasn’t to institute a complete drought, Capcom. Mega Man Legacy Collection feels like a step in the right direction, but for the moment, the Blue Bomber is still in the middle of an uncertain time with regards to the future of the franchise.