Mega Man: A 25th Anniversary Retrospective

We take a look at the past, present, and future of the Blue Bomber.

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 12/09/2013 09:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

Ah Mega Man, what happened to you? Other than the vast amount of accessories and the licensed board game coming out, the Blue Bomber seems to be completely absent from his upcoming birthday party on December 17, since Capcom has neglected to put out a new game in the series. Sure, Capcom supported a pretty cool free Mega Man fan game that featured Street Fighter characters, but it wasn’t developed by the company itself. In fact, Capcom cancelled four Mega Man games in the past few years, effectively leaving the status of the series in limbo. Mega Man, once the face of Capcom, has now fallen as a character and remains on life support.

You may not be able to tell from his current state, but Mega Man was once a force to be reckoned with in the past. The first Mega Man game, which was released in 1987 on NES, proved that it was years ahead of all of its competitors through mechanics that would revolutionize the gaming industry. The game’s non-linearity was a completely new element in the platforming genre, as players now had a choice of what levels they want to play. To modern gamers who aren’t familiar with retro gaming, this may not seem like a big deal, but this was an astounding mechanic for the time! Gamers were used to the standards set by Super Mario Bros., leaving them to grow accustomed to a sequential level format that didn’t change until the induction of Mega Man.

Each level was home to its own robot master, which would award their unique weapon to you upon defeating them. Using each boss weapon is not only helpful when traversing the game’s challenging levels, but can also assist the player in taking out bosses that are weak to specific weapon types. For example, if you were having trouble defeating Fire Man, you could use Ice Man’s Ice Slasher to make him a walk in the park. This made the non-linear aspect even more compelling, as players familiar with bosses’ weaknesses could plot a strategy for the most effective way to complete the game.

The original Mega Man is also notorious for being a very difficult game. The series itself is known for its difficulty, but the first game features those good old Nintendo hard moments of cheap enemy placement, sporadic attack patterns, and ridiculous precision platforming. This could have been a factor in the game’s poor sales, which almost led Capcom to axe the series completely. However, due to the passion of the developers, Capcom allowed them to make a sequel if they developed it alongside other games that the company was already planning on releasing. This means that the developers could only develop Mega Man 2 in their own spare time!

With the series in jeopardy, the development team tried to refine the Mega Man experience for a sequel with the time that it had and managed to pull off a miracle. The team created a masterpiece with Mega Man 2, as most people consider this to be the best game in the series to date! Notable improvements include a saving system, E-Tanks that you can carry around to restore full health at any time, and challenging but fair level design with great enemy placement. Oh, and the game arguably has one of the best soundtracks of the 8-bit era. Mega Man 2 went on to sell over 1.5 million copies, making it the best selling game in the entire franchise. Being that Mega Man became such a large success, it was only inevitable that more sequels were going to be developed. However, by the time that Mega Man 6 came out, the series was starting to feel stale amongst its fans for having a formula that largely remained the same.

Enter Mega Man X. While Mega Man 2 refined the gameplay of the series in an attempt to make the game marketable, Mega Man X added a multitude of different mechanics to enhance the experience. Aside from the beautiful graphical overhaul on SNES, the game featured dashing, wall climbing, and upgradable armor attachments that granted new abilities. The levels themselves are also masterfully constructed too, containing many slopes that are perfectly suited for the new dash mechanic. Numerous minor alterations to the series’ core mechanics existed as well, so the developers felt that it was necessary to include a tutorial stage in the beginning of the game to accommodate that. Quite frankly, this stage is possibly the best tutorial I have ever seen in a video game. The game teaches a vast majority of its mechanics solely through its level design instead of through text prompts, making it feel like a regular level as opposed to a dull, drawn out learning session. Everything about Mega Man X helped spark interest in the fan base once again, leading the game to sell 1.1 million copies and become the second best selling game in the series.

The game’s massive success spawned its own spin-off series. Unfortunately, the X series was milked until it was dry, and Mega Man’s popularity dropped once more. There were plenty of other spin-off games created afterward, such as the highly beloved Mega Man Legends games, that tried to bring Mega Man back to relevancy. However, none of them ever reached the heights that Mega Man 2 and Mega Man X achieved in the past. It wasn’t until the 2008 release of Mega Man 9, which mimicked the 8-bit visuals and audio of the original games, that Mega Man restored some of his former glory. This return to fame was sadly short lived, as fans have dealt with numerous cancelled games and have been patiently waiting for a new Mega Man game since the release of Mega Man 10 in 2010.

Call me overly optimistic, but I’d love to believe that there is a bright future for Mega Man. I’m hoping the series will come back in a big way, and I’m not talking about more god awful Xbox Live Avatars. I’m talking about full new video game that will restore the franchise’s popularity, just like Mega Man 2 and Mega Man X did in the past. I fully acknowledge that my hopes and dreams could be the furthest thing from reality, as Capcom is definitely not the same company that it was decades ago and now lacks series creator Keiji Inafune. Still, I cannot accept that Capcom will never give Mega Man the time of day. After all, he used to be the face of the company! The series also has some of the most passionate fans I’ve ever seen, as evidenced by the 100,000 Strong for Bringing Back Mega Man Legends 3 campaign. Not only that, but Mega Man inspired Mighty No. 9, which is being developed by a team headed by Inafune and has garnered quite a bit of attention on Kickstarter. This is proof that Mega Man is still marketable, and I hope Capcom takes advantage of this to breathe life back into the series.


What are some of your favorite Mega Man moments? Do you wish that Capcom would revisit its old flagship character? Let us know in the comments below!

One Response to “Mega Man: A 25th Anniversary Retrospective”

  • 1249 points
    Robert Marrujo says...

    I love that Zero was supposed to be X. Inafune wanted to switch things up big time, but the redesign of Mega Man that another team member turned in was well-liked, so Infaune was like, “yeah, and, uh, this is the sub character!”, and Capcom’s brass went, “Red, huh? Cool.” Would have been interesting if Inafune had his way.

    Thumb up 0

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