I could honestly say that if it wasn’t for the news that Keiji Inafune’s indie team, Comcept, was creating Mighty No. 9, I wouldn’t be writing this article. Mighty No. 9 certainly has been taking the game community by storm lately as it’s not hard to see that the game shares some spiritual similarities as well as some differences. If anything at the moment, the project is certainly getting people talking about both Mighty No. 9 and Mega Man.
I guess that’s why I’ve come into this: to talk about Mega Man. It may seem counter-productive to talk about Mega Man when Inafune is pushing through for Mighty No. 9 at the moment, but I, like many of you out there, am a Mega Man fan and I do lament the fact that Capcom has decided that the series is nothing to focus on just because it’s not AAA material for the market. Personally, I don’t have high hopes for the future of Mega Man at this point given the lack of interest and care Capcom has put into the series recently (although the inclusion in a Smash Bros. game is still a nice touch). Mighty No. 9 is coming along to, probably, replace the old of Mega Man and usher in the new of Beck and seeing as that is a possibility at this point I thought it would be somewhat nice to reminisce on the old. It’s kind of like putting old memories to rest in a way and looking forward to the future.
Rather than go backwards and explain a bunch of history and all the jazz regarding the Mega Man games, I thought that, as a fan of the series like many of you, I’d share some of my past with the series and why I’ve been so fond of Mega Man. I’d like to get out of the way right now that I have not played the Battle Network series, the ZX series, or the Star Force series. At the time of the release of those games, I was never in possession of a Game Boy Advance or a DS. Sometime in the future, I will try and locate them to give them a shot but I figured I’d just bypass that little area right now.
Unlike most people who have grown along with the Mega Man series, I was a little bit late to the party. My first full experience with a Mega Man game was when I purchased Mega Man X5 many years ago. However, I didn’t impulse buy the game; I had played Mega Man games previously: Mega Man 4 and Mega Man X4 to be precise. Mega Man X4 was the game that really got me interested in the series. The fact that I loved playing 2D side-scrolling shooters was already set in stone with the game, but I think what attracted me to the game besides that fact was A). the music (especially in that opening stage of Mega Man X4) and B). the non-linear style. That was something Mega Man games held high above most other games at the time and, even still, is something that I myself find still intriguing (if only it could go further than just eight stages though). Most games had you follow a specific path all the way through the game, but Mega Man games always said “Screw that option! We’ll let you pick.” I actually bought Mega Man X5 because I had thought that I played that back when I played X4, but soon found out that this wasn’t the case. Oh well though; I had started myself on the path of Mega Man at that point.
Of course, over the years, I’ve accumulated my fair share of Mega Man games. The X series was always my personal favorite. One of the bigger reasons being the story (the X series actually had a cohesive plot going). To this day, I own both the Anniversary and X Collection, the Zero Collection on DS, and original PS1 copies of X4, X5, X6, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10. I used to own Mega Man 8 (which, by the way, was the second Mega Man game I purchased), but I believe I sold that. I have played Legends, albeit in the form of Mega Man 64, and I found it to be a very interesting title at the time. However, my lack of interest and experience with adventure-type games affected my general play of the game at the time. If I can ever find the Legends games again, I would love to give them another shot. So far, no luck on that one. I wish they would be released through the Playstation Network.
I tend to refer to Mega Man games as my “guilty pleasure”. The reason is because one of the most common complaints, if not the most common, is that the games don’t really ever change. If you’ve played one Mega Man game, you’ve played them all. As a person who likes to see changes happen (this is the main reason why I’m a big fan of progressive rock/metal music), it would seem weird that I’d be so content with a series that seems to have very little change.
I don’t think the series has very little change, but rather that it’s all just very subtle in its appearance. The areas I specifically look at are the new obstacles in each game and the new enemy designs in each game. Yes, I do know that there have been other changes to the games over the years like added power-ups, more items to find, armor, etc. These are far more evident though. In talking about enemy designs, I’ll use the classic Metool enemy as an example. There’s always the classic Metool that peeks its head out and shoots you, but the enemy has changed over the course of the games. There are ones that run at you, fly using jetpacks, swim using flipper feet, drive trains, and man cannons. These changes to enemy designs (and this happens often throughout the series) is a way to keep things a bit different for the player in each game. This forces you to review your tactics of how to deal with these enemies effectively as it’s not always the same situation.
The same could be said for how the obstacles in each game are. For my example, I’ll use the dreaded Yoku blocks (aka the bane of my existence). If you don’t remember what the Yoku blocks are, those are the blocks that appear and disappear in given patterns. The first instance I remember of Yoku blocks being quite the dickish obstacle is in the second Mega Man game where you had to traverse over a magma pit and then just a regular pit. Mega Man 3 took another shot and had magnets that either pulled or pushed you as you attempted the passage over the blocks. I believe it was Mega Man 9 that had you face Yoku blocks and small platforms that had electric hazards circling them. Like I said before with the enemy design, this isn’t the only instance where obstacles are always changing between games. I know seasoned Mega Man players will know more, but take my word for it when I say that the games constantly do this.
Of course, these two aspects as well as others are what help make up the Mega Man series’s more cherished aspect (at least in my eyes): the challenge. Mega Man games have always had that going for them–the fact that they are challenging. I don’t know about everyone else, but I think that’s what helps make every Mega Man game special in its own way. Each game is almost like a test of your action-platforming mettle. Some games are less of a challenging test, but they all maintain that aspect in some way or another usually through the two aspects that I just talked about. From a personal standpoint, I feel like the different levels and areas of difficulty in Mega Man games is what brought me back to them; each game was like a challenge in and of itself and I was always determined to set out and conquer them. You feel a certain sense of accomplishment when you finally defeat Wily or Sigma in that grand explosive finale (I know I feel that way a lot).
With all that being said, I now look forward to seeing a potential future of Mighty No. 9. At this point, the game is on its way of reaching the 2.2 million stretch goal mark which will move the game onto PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. Since my PC laptop is not exactly the best for gaming, I really am looking forward to a release on PS3. I am also looking forward to a new challenging action-platformer game with new enemies to defeat, new obstacles to overcome, and some more kickass tunes (yeah I never went into that concerning Mega Man, but its a given with Mega Man games).
Will I always go back and play my old Mega Man games? Oh, you better believe it and I may even try and track down some of the ones I’ve yet to play (Legends and the ZX games are high on my list). I may never have any brand new memories with Mega Man games though seeing as how Capcom doesn’t think it’s worth the time. So, I say one final statement: Keiji Inafune, I thank you for giving me a memorable video game character that I could grow up with (slightly) and challenged my skills at action-platforming. I look forward to Mighty No. 9 and the new challenges and memories that it could bring along.
Of course, this article is all my own experience and thoughts about Mega Man. What are some aspects of the games you found to be special to you? What about your own experiences?