It’s Mega Man Month here at Geekade, and we’ve been spending our time celebrating the greatness that is the Blue Bomber. But can one truly appreciate history without looking at the failures alongside the successes? I say no, so today I’m going to point a spotlight at some of Mega Man’s less than stellar moments. No, I’m not talking about Mega Man X7. We’re going deeper than that. I promise you, these are all real, official products, that have been released here in the United states.
At first glance this doesn’t look so bad. It’s Mega Man on Game Gear. What could be bad? Well, a lot actually. Continuing the trend set by the Game Boy Mega Man games, Mega Man on Game Gear combines elements of two console entries, in this case Mega Man 4 and 5, and remixes them into one original adventure. On paper, this all sounds great. The Game Gear had picked up some steam against the aging Game Boy, and a full-color portable Mega Man game would have been a nice departure from the black and white Game Boy entries. The Game Gear had also proven to be more than powerful enough to handle a Mega Man game, with some great platformers already available. Screen shots in magazines showed off the vibrant color palate, and while US Gold didn’t exactly have the most spotless recoed, they had done some solid work for Capcom in the past. Heck, even the box art looked cool. For longtime Sega fans who had been missing out on the franchise, this game seemed like a dream come true.
But everything falls apart when you start playing it. The controls immediately feel off. It’s feels somewhere between the NES and Game Boy games, and never really gets it right. The music and sound effects are chirpy and shrill, which is an easy trap to fall into when developing for the Game Gear or Master system, but there was clearly very little effort on the developer’s part to make the iconic music work on the hardware. In fact, very little of this game seems to have been designed with the Game Gear in mind, which brings me to its biggest flaw; visibility. While the level design is sound enough, the camera is zoomed in too close to Mega Man, which often results in enemies popping out right in front of you with little to no warning, and leaps of faith because you just can’t see where you’re going. Sure, it looks nice in screen shots, but when it’s actually time to play the thing, it’s incredibly frustrating. You can hold the jump button down to scroll ahead during gameplay, but this is hardly an intuitive mechanic, and it brings the action screeching to a halt. the attention to certain details makes it obvious that there was obviously someone on the team puttin in effort, but in the end, it just needed more time in the oven, resulting in a pretty miserable Mega Man.
These things are true. Mega Man was released for PC. It features all original levels and robot masters. It is an abomination. Where do I even begin with this one? I can’t complain about the music because there is none. That’s right, no music in the entire game. The art direction is abysmal. Mega Man himself looks a bit on the chunky side, and the robot master designs look like they were drawn by 1st graders. I’m not exaggerating either! Just look at them! What the heck is that? I mean, what even IS THAT? Then you have the box art. It appears to be a pared down version of the box art for Mega Man in Dr. Wily’s Revenge for Game boy, which in turn was a pared down version of the box art for Mega Man 3. And what’s up with rush on this cover? Why is he even there? He isn’t in the game!
I suppose as a basic platformer there are worse games out there. I mean, we’re not talking CD-i Zelda levels of unplayability, but damn, this thing is a mess. Thank goodness there’s only three robot masters, and at least they were original creations and not bastardizations of existing ones. Sure, there were some almost good ideas in their designs, as shown here on Deviantartist MSipher’s page, but come on. This has to be one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen. How something that looks like this even made it out the door is beyond me. Good thing they never made a Mega Man 2 for PC.
But they did make a Mega Man 3! That’s right, they skipped right past 2 and went straight to 3. They even used the Mega Man 3 box art again, complete with Spark Man on the cover, even though he isn’t in the game! Which is a step forward, I suppose, since Spark Man was on the back of the box for the first DOS Mega Man game, and at least you could argue that that’s supposed to be Bit Man on the cover, since you only see him from behind. Still, you have to admire the boldness of recycling the same cover art for two different games, right? Moving on, this time the robot master count has been bumped up to 6, so we’re still 2 shy of the Mega Man standard. And hey, these guys look a bit familiar, don’t they? That’s because this time, instead of having the local kindergarten class scribble out their interpretations of what a robot master should look like, they went ahead and re appropriated robot master headshots from previous games! How cute. Let’s see. Torch Man is Magnet Man, Bit Man is Hard Man, Shark Man is… Snake Man, maybe?, Wave Man is Air Man, Oil Man is Crash Man, and Blade Man is Metal Man. And Mega Man is…Oh… oh no… Something has gone terribly wrong… Is that… is that supposed to be Mega Man? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT??? What happened to his face? I… I can’t even.
As you can imagine, this game plays more or less just like the first PC Mega Man, right down to the thick, meaty Mega Man sprite. Once again, the music is literally non-existent, meaning that the only sounds to keep you company as you play are the bleeps and bloops of your PC’s internal speaker, and your own screams of horror. Fortunately for us all, this was the end of this offshoot franchise, but oddly enough, it wasn’t the last we heard from this game. There was eventually an actual Wave Man, Oil Man, and Blade Man. Wave Man and Oil Man were drastically redesigned for their official reincarnations, but Blade Man actually shared a few resemblances to this design. Again, the extremely talented Deviantartist MSipher managed to breathe new life into these guys as well. And it is worth pointing out that Mega Man actually swims in this game, a talent we didn’t see again until Mega Man 8. And there. I’ve pointed it out. Now let’s never speak of this again.
Let me start this one by saying that this isn’t a completely bad game, it’s just kind of wrong. The Mega Man brand is malleable to a certain extent, but there was something about this Mario Kart clone that just felt wrong. Take, for example, Mega Man Soccer. That’s another setting that Mega Man just doesn’t belong in, but it’s so freaking bananas that it kind of works in the end. It’s an oddity, but it’s still fun to get your friends together, have a match or two, and marvel at the sheer absurdity of what you’re doing. Mega Man Battle & Chase doesn’t have that going for it. It’s wrong in that it feels cheap. The shoehorning is just kind of lazy, and it comes off as such. There aren’t any really clever mechanics that make it stand out against Mario Kart the way Crash Team Racing or Diddy Kong Racing did. It’s just bland.
And perhaps that’s why this game didn’t see release in America until 2006 as part of the Mega Man X Collection. At the end of the day, it’s just not very good. The character roster is a nice, eclectic mix. You’ve got your Guts Man for your heavy, Quick Man for obvious reasons, Ice Man, Shadow Man, Mega Man, Bass, Proto Man, Roll, Napalm Man. Wait, what? Napalm Man? The freaking gigantic purple bomb with no hands is driving a cart? How? How is that thing driving? Spring Man is in this? Spring Man. From Mega Man 7. Let’s think about this for a second. Mega Man 7 is being represented in this game, and the robot master Capcom chooses is Spring Man? Not, I don’t know, Turbo Man? You know, the robot master that ACTUALLY TRANSFORMS INTO A CAR??? Nope. Turbo Man, the robot master whose whole point is that he turns into a freaking race car is nowhere to be found in the Mega Man racing game. I think that speaks to exactly what is so wrong with this idea. There’s potential here. I mean, sure. The world needs another kart racer like it needs more Celine Dion music, but with the right development team behind it, a Mega Man racing game could be really fun. Think of all the crazy stages they could come up with based on the different robot masters. The right amount of creativity could have made this something special, and instead we just got this bland, and frankly ugly, Mario Kart clone.
Oh, this game. This damn game. Street Fighter X Tekken is, in actuality, a pretty awesome game. It does a brilliant job of taking the Tekken formula and making it work in the world of Street Fighter. It borrows the visual aesthetic from Street Fighter IV, it plays tight as a drum, it’s got a kick ass roster, and it manages to successfully do justice to both franchises. What’s the problem? Bonus characters. Specifically the announcement of Mega Man. See, this happened while the sting of the recent Mega Man cancellations (Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3) was still pretty strong. The inclusion of Mega Man in this game sounded awesome. Weird, sure, but Tekken is pretty weird on its own, and if Mega Man can fit in Marvel Vs. Capcom, why not try and make him work here? It wasn’t a brand new Mega Man game, but it was at least the character showing up in a high profile release, showing the fans that Capcom hadn’t forgotten about the beloved character.
Except, instead of the shiny blue robot we all know and love, we got this asshole. The Mega Man that was chosen to appear in this game was a fat, old version of the bad box art depiction of Mega Man from the original NES game. Now, under normal circumstances, this would have been hilarious. Just look at this character. They somehow managed to take that embarassingly bad box art version and make him worse, and it should have been funny. Except we hadn’t gotten a new Mega Man game of any flavor in 2 years. No new announcements, all existing projects cancelled, Keiji Inafune had left Capcom, and Mega Man gamers were starving for something. Instead of coming off like a good-natured joke, this thing hit the Mega Man fandom like a football to the crotch. Could Capcom really be that deaf to what their audience wants? At least a few years later we got one of the most extraordinary depictions of Mega Man ever in the latest Smash Bros for Wii U, but this one was unforgivable. Bad form, Capcom. Bad form.
To be fair, Captain N: The Game Master got almost nothing right. Pit’s name was changed to Kid Icarus, Simon Belmont was basically Vanity Smurf, King Hippo was blue, and Mother Brain had the personality of a sassy old woman. But we’re here to talk about Mega Man, and this version of him is a complete mess. He’s tiny. Like incredibly tiny. He’s mostly green. He seems to be an amalgamation of the in-game sprite and the bad box art Mega Man. He forcefully shoves the word “mega” into literally every sentence he speaks. But worst of all, he sounds like a member of the Lollipop Guild who’s been smoking for 735 years. This tiny robotic troll is annoying as all heck, and he’s not even the most annoying thing on the show! That honor would have to go to either Kid Icarus forcing the syllable “-icus” in everything he says, or the floating, sentient Game Boy that levitates around the team, making dumb faces all day. Seriously, what a shit show.
However, as bad as their treatment of Mega Man was, at least he was a main character on the team. What they did to the original 6 robot masters is flat-out abusive. Guts Man seems like he was drawn by somebody who at least seen a picture of him before. Same with Bomob Man, even though his coloring is way off. But it all goes downhill from here. Ice Man just looks like some blue dude in a Parka. Fire Man appears to be, maybe some sort of cat? I don’t really know what’s going on there. Elec Man is… purple? Is he wearing pajamas? He looks like a moron! Like the dodo bird in Looney Tunes, except with a pink army helmet on his head, and gigantic novelty sunglasses taped to the front. And what the ever-loving shit is up with Cut Man? How? How the hell did the artists come up with this? It’s like all they had to go on was “guy with scissors on head.” His proportions don’t even make sense. Why are his legs so tiny? What the actual fuck happened here, guys? How did this happen? How did things go so far off the rails? I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy this show from a purely nostalgic standpoint. It was a different time, and a cartoon about traveling between different video game worlds was quite the novelty to 8-year-old me, but there’s no denying that this show is utter garbage. Fun garbage, if you’ve got the stomach for it, but garbage nonetheless.
Fortunately, these are the exceptions to the rule. Mega Man is awesome in nearly everything that bears his name. Some of my favorite games of all-time are Mega Man titles. It’s been a tough drought for the character, but we’ve seen worse. Heck, look at how long we had to wait for Pit to get a new Kid Icarus title! We’ll just have to be patient. And on the bright side, we’ll always have that backlog of terrific titles to play through, while we wait for Mega Man to return and fight for everlasting peace. Just steer clear of this crap.