Written by Paul Monopoli

OK, it’s time to go on a rant. This time I’ll be looking at the Megaman/Rockman series, but we’ll stick to calling it Megaman as it’s the name the majority of us use in the English speaking world. Now I’m not talking about Megaman X, Megaman Zero, Megaman NT, or any of the other variations out there. I’m talking about the original Blue Bomber himself.

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, Megaman was a robot designed by Doctor Light. He battles the evil robots created or adapted (depends on the storyline) by Doctor Wily. He has a mysterious brother called Protoman, a dog called Rush, & a “sister” (I suppose you could call her) called Roll to name but a few of the game’s supporting cast. The original platform series spanned 9 main games with some spin off titles. Most notably there was a poor soccer game & 2 decent arcade games. The games are extremely difficult platformers but they can all be beaten with a bit of perseverance.

The original Megaman series debuted on the Famicom / NES & eventually transitioned to the SNES, the Playstation & back to the SNES again before going on a long break. The first 6 games were NES releases, number 7 was on the SNES/SFC, 8 on the Playstation & the final game Rockman & Forte or “Megaman & Bass” (which is not called Megaman 9) was released on the Super Famicom (it was later localised for the Gameboy Advance). The first 3 games were updated & released on the Megadrive / Genesis under the title “The Wily Wars”. All the Famicom games were updated & rereleased on the Playstation in Japan in limited quantities, & they fetch a fairly high price on Ebay these days. The most notable rerelease was on the Gamecube/Xbox/PS2 which received the Megaman Collection. This contained the first 8 games in their original form & was followed by the Megaman X collection.

Throughout the series Megaman has always evolved & developed new ideas. Though the gameplay has always remained the same, the graphics & sound have gotten better with the newer machines. This is where I fail to understand Capcom’s decision to use the old 8-bit Megaman graphics in Megaman 9 & 10.

Firstly let’s have a look at Megaman & Bass which was released in 1998:

It looks like a good game, nice graphics, excellent playability. It added some new things like Bass being able to shoot in multiple directions. It’s a nice solid game. This is where Megaman was left in limbo for 10 years.

Now let’s look at Megaman 9 released in 2008:

It’s hardly a step up & seems to try too hard to be retro. There’s nothing wrong with Retrogaming, as that’s what we’re all about here.

To me the game feels like a way to cash in on:

a) The retro craze that seems to be popular these days

b) The fact that Megaman fans have been craving a new game since Megaman & Bass

I appreciate the fact that they have created new bosses & new levels, but I can’t play the game without feeling like it was one step forward & two steps back. There’s a very “cheap” feeling to the game, & with Megaman 10 coming out shortly (at the time of writing) I think I can see why.

The game feels like it was made with a Megaman level editor, & thinking about it, it probably was. They say Megaman 9 was made from the ground up, but I’m sure they would have made a level designer of some description that could have been used should a sequel need to be made.

Many games over the years have had level designers made for them & if ROM hacking sites have taught us anything it’s that with the right tools you can modify a game very easily with enough time. Check out www.smwcentral.net & see some of the amazing designs that were made using Super Mario World hacking tools. Fans can knock this sort of stuff out easily, & with a 16-bit platform game no less. Capcom didn’t even give us that much.

Megaman 10 is advertised as “keeping with the 8-bit theme”. I’m sure it is, as the engine is built & all they need to do is to design some bosses, maybe a couple of new enemies & add in Protoman & Bass as playable characters which wouldn’t be very difficult at all. Sure I couldn’t do it, I admit, but for a good programmer working in a big studio with decent resources it would be very easy.

Had Megaman never left the Famicom / NES platform I wouldn’t have a problem with this. It would have been how we left Megaman & the gang, & more of the same so long after the last release would have been very welcome. That’s not what happened though, & the world got a healthy dose of 16-bit & 32-bit Megaman. I like to see any series of games I play evolve, not be made to look old because it’s cheap & gimmicky. Essentially that’s what the issue here is, using a cheap gimmick. Maybe if they made the game look like Megaman & Bass, but incorporated an “8-bit mode” that would have been a novel idea. I would have played it through on 8-bit mode just for interests sake.

What about Megaman & Bass you may ask? Megaman 8 was an the Playstation, a 32-bit system. Wouldn’t putting the sequel on a 16-bit system be considered a step back? Well Megaman 8 didn’t exactly push the Playstation to its limits & the graphical style was easily carried over to the SNES.

Now I did download Megaman 9 & it’s sitting on my Wii right now, so I can honestly say I’ve played it. I’m not one of those whingers who complains about a game that they’re never played because of how it looks or what they’ve heard. That’s not me & it never will be. I always try things out before forming an opinion. I admit I was reserved about Megaman 9, but I gave it a shot & was disappointed.

I’ll probably get back to Megaman 9 eventually & finish it, but I don’t think Megaman 10 will be on my “must download” list anytime soon. They’re not bad games, don’t get me wrong, & I don’t have a problem with them because they’re not “pretty”. I just think Capcom did them on the cheap & didn’t put in the effort that a Megaman game deserves after a 10 year hiatus.

Discuss in the forums.

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