It's hard to believe that Mega Man—or Rockman, if you will—has been around for almost two and a half decades now.
Yes, the original Mega Man game came out for the NES back in 1987, introducing the world to some of the worst cover art that's ever been seen. But at the time, the core concept behind the game was so completely groundbreaking that we all rushed out to buy the game anyway, despite the condescending looks we got from store clerks upon seeing the hideous-looking box in our hands.
The game had you play through six stages in whichever order you wanted to, and defeating the boss of a stage meant you got its power. For example, Cutman's main attack was called Rolling Blade, which sent blades flying around like boomerangs. Once you defeated him, you got the Rolling Blade attack. What made this so mind-blowing was that each boss had a weakness to one of the other boss's weapons. If you got through the stages in the correct order, each boss fight was much easier. Getting through Mega Man was about having nimble fingers, but it also required the right strategy.
On top of bringing us a great platforming formula that managed to feel brand new in an era when just about every game on the market was a platformer, Mega Man had an incredible soundtrack. Most of the songs from the original game live on in countless cover versions all over YouTube.
Of course, the formula was tweaked a bit in Mega Man 2, which pit the Blue Bomber against eight robot bosses instead of just six. From that point on, the Mega Man games would always have eight primary bosses. And Mega Man 3 advanced the formula even further by giving players the slide move that would become a staple of the series.
There has always been this sort of dividing line between Mega Man fans over which game was superior: Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3. (Personally, I've always been firmly on the side of 3. I thought it had the smoothest difficulty curve and the best soundtrack in the series.) The very fact that arguments still arise over these ancient titles proves that the Blue Bomber is a character that people are still passionate about. As further proof of this, the original Mega Man series has had eleven entries (Mega Man 1 through 10, with Mega Man and Bass taking place between 8 and 9) and has spawned several sub-series, like Mega Man X, Mega Man Zero, and Mega Man Legends. Mega Man even had his own TV series for a while, and several manga versions have popped up through the years.
2012 will mark the Blue Bomber's 25th anniversary, but this past year has not been kind to Mega Man fans.
Sure, things were going great for a while there. In 2008, the original Mega Man series had gone back into production after a ten-year hiatus. Mega Man 9 was back in the glorious 8-bit format of the original NES games. It was a retro gamer's dream come true. In fact, this game was popular enough to warrant another 8-bit entry to the series, Mega Man 10.
But things took a turn for the worse. Mega Man 10 didn't do as well as Mega Man 9, and didn't feel quite as true to the original series.
Then, toward the end of 2010, Keiji Inafune stepped down from his position at Capcom. While Inafune didn't technically create Mega Man from scratch, he was the guy who made the first official concept sketch for the character. He became known—unofficially and not entirely accurately—as "The Father of Mega Man." Inafune's departure was somewhat sad for Capcom fans, since he had had his hand in so many Mega Man projects over the years, including the original series, the X series, and the Legends series. Inafune left the company "with the intention of starting [his] life over," and Mega Man stayed in the hands of Capcom. We thought those were good hands.
But then another bad sign came in the months leading up to the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Both the original MvC and MvC2 had included Mega Man as a playable character, and fans of the series assumed the tradition would continue in MvC3. After several "leaked" character lists (almost all of which were somewhat bogus), the final game shipped without a playable Blue Bomber. Of course, Zero and Tron Bonne from the Mega Man universe were there to represent the series, but it just wasn't the same.
Disaster struck again in April of 2011, as the much-anticipated Mega Man Universe was cancelled. This game would have included classic 2D Mega Man gameplay and several playable characters besides the Blue Bomber himself. Playables included a "Bad Box Art" version of Mega Man, as well as Ryu from the Street Fighter series. To top it off, there would have been creation tools to allow players to build their own Mega Man stages.
Even worse, just this week Capcom announced the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3. The Legends series put Mega Man into a 3D RPG-inspired world, and Legends 1 and 2 are both cult classics. Legends 3 was highly anticipated by Mega Man fans.
Only a day later, the character list for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was leaked, and there was an unsettling lack of Mega Man. Only four of the twelve characters were officially unveiled, but according to the rumor mill, UMvC3 will ship sans-Mega Man.
All signs are pointing to one thing: retirement. It's looking like Mega Man is finally throwing in the towel.
My prediction: Mega Man had an excellent run, but after almost 25 years, it looks like that run has finally come to an end. He'll be joining his buddy Crash Bandicoot in the Retirement Center for Aging Video Game Characters.
But I don't think this is the end. In this age of reboots and sequels, Capcom is eventually going to realize it still has a potential goldmine of opportunities with the old fellow. I don't think we'll hear a peep out of the Blue Bomber for a while, but I'm pretty sure he'll be back someday.
Until then, we will truly miss him.
CCC Editor/Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*