Mega Man seems to have come down with permanent stage fright. For the last couple years, the little Blue Bomber has failed to perform, with every title since Mega Man 10 being summarily canned by Capcom, his corporate keeper. Perhaps it was revenge for Keiji Inafune’s departure, his offers to stick around and finish Mega Man Legends 3 falling on deaf ears. It’s particularly galling since, as of this last year, Capcom’s iconic robot hero turned 25, matching the still-prolific Street Fighter series in seniority.
That last bit is particularly significant, because the one thing Capcom did give gamers for Mega Man’s 25th anniversary was a freely distributed PC game, Street Fighter X Mega Man. It’s good (there’s no doubt about that), but it’s also not something Capcom really put a ton of effort into. The title began as a fan project and, while they provided support, the credit for it truly goes to Zong Hui. Capcom just cleaned it up a little.
Capcom released this through Capcom Unity and then posted the original six Mega Man NES games to the 3DS eShop. If you don’t already have them, though, odds are you won’t really be interested, begging the question of just who the digital versions are supposed to serve. I don’t know about you, but rehashing decades-old content and hosting a game you didn’t even design doesn’t exactly stoke my anniversary fires.
It’s disappointing because, in part, it looked like Capcom was taking strides. Following on a decade filled with an overpowering deluge of Mega Man titles and series ranging from traditional jump-and-shoot to collect-a-thon RPG, they seemed to decide to take things back to basics. Everything else fell away and gamers were left with classic, 2D side-scrolling in the NES tradition, courtesy of Mega Mans 9 and 10. They were largely hailed as returns to form and had gamers excited for Mega Man Universe, which purported to offer level creation tools and a variety of Capcom characters done up in the Mega Man style. (Even before Street Fighter X Mega Man, characters from the two franchises were intended to meet.) It was, however, not to be, and the project was canned on March 31, 2011.
Mega Man Legends 3, the other Mega Man property Capcom had in the works at the time, was supposed to provide a unique window for fans into the game development process. They would be able to sit in on virtual dev meetings and play a “Prototype” precursor to the game, but the prototype was never released and the 3DS title was pulled from Capcom’s development queue on July 18, 2011.
It isn’t unheard of for games to be cancelled, especially when their ambitions outstrip their dev team’s capabilities (or if they lack the apparent kind of support needed to justify them financially), but the 11th hour cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 particularly stung.
It doesn’t help that, following this, the character seemed to wholly disappear from Capcom’s consciousness. He wasn’t in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or its eventual update. This marked the first time a Capcom “vs.” fighter had lacked a version of Mega Man since Marvel vs. Street Fighter (even Tatsunoko vs. Capcom had one, courtesy of Mega Man Volnutt). Adding insult to injury, the version of Mega Man used in Street Fighter X Tekken was based on the original U.S. box art and, for whatever reason, had gained about sixty pounds. He was also on-disc DLC.
Just like that, the progress Capcom had made toward rejuvenating the character went up in smoke. Even that doesn’t have to be fatal, though. There are options if Capcom wants to take them:
1) Release a 25th anniversary collection. Even if there’s nothing new involved, hungry Mega Man players would probably love to have a fairly complete Mega Man experience on one console or handheld. Mash together all of the main series games and the X games and call it a day. Yes, the content has been bundled together before in the Mega Man Anniversary Collection and the Mega Man X collection, but an updated collection that combines them (and possibly includes other, more esoteric Mega Man games as well) would likely sell well.
2) Resume work on Mega Man Legends 3. This is probably the least likely option, but given that there is now a strong, displayed interest in the game (through Facebook group 100,000 Strong For Mega Man Legends 3) it stands to reason that Capcom go back and reexamine the viability of the game. With some luck and the potential for word-of-mouth marketing that the 100,000 Strong group represents, a MML3 revival could be powerful indeed.
3) A new game in an existing continuity. There are quite a few to choose from. A platformer would probably be easiest, and could either be another main series sequel (perhaps done with high-resolution 2D sprite work this time), something set in the X time period, or a sequel to ZX Advent. Moving away from platformers, a new Battle Network game could be a blast (even a new Star Force title would be appreciated). Any of these would require a good amount of work, but if Capcom put that word out now, the fans would be tided over in anticipation.
4) A new franchise within Mega Man. This would be something truly befitting of the Blue Bomber’s anniversary. After all, you only hit 25 once, so it only makes sense that Mega Man celebrate a quarter century by expanding his horizons. It could be a platformer with a new storyline or, if Capcom were feeling really ambitious, a second attempt at a console RPG à la Mega Man X Command Mission.
What it really boils down to is that Mega Man’s fan base wants something out of Capcom to show they still care about Dr. Light’s robot creation. Something that shows a modicum of effort, preferably.
Date: January 8, 2013
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*