By Paul Kainoa Vigil / September 7th, 2015
Spoilers ahead! You’ve been warned!
I vividly remember the roster leaks for Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3. A Mega Man — a Blue Bomber — was always expected to be a shoo-in by basically any sane roster speculator, and Mega Man X often found himself near the top of roster fan polls in spite of the implications of representing the X series twice. And yet, no Blue Bomber in the roster. I have no plans of ever letting Capcom live this down because, in my mind, this is a move that is never going to make sense.
What followed/coincided with this was the beginning of a dark period for the franchise, including Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe’s cancellations. We’ve since hit comparatively brighter times for Mega Man but…it’s not enough! I’d like to talk a bit about each of the Mega Man franchises and what might be done about each of them.
I’d first like to get out of the way two of the franchises that I don’t see coming back. The Mega Man Zero series is concluded, and the story of X and Zero as Biometals continues in the Mega Man ZX series. There’s no reason to return to the Zero series. It doesn’t seem the gameplay formula can be further enhanced, and Dr. Weil as a villain (who represents the argument for the superiority of humans over robots, and against the coexistence of the two) marks a good bookend to the series after his death. If any character were to return here they would do so in ZX; and anyone that should already has done so.
The same idea applies to Mega Man Star Force, but requires more explanation. Star Force was meant to be a successor to Mega Man Battle Network and introduced features (namely, online battling) that were meant to push the core concept of strategic battling, customized playstyles, and social interaction in Battle Network further. While Mega Man Star Force 3 took the battle system to a level enjoyed by many, I don’t think that the franchise will ever go as far as its predecessor even if given another chance. It was never as strong a force as Battle Network was.
To begin with, Star Force’s battle system isn’t as popular as Battle Network’s on the whole (I have never appreciated the reduced movement). And while Battle Network only really got popular with the second game, it was still adopted much faster than Star Force. In Japan, Battle Network has received far more anime episodes than Star Force, owing both to its flexible format (that is, the plot doesn’t matter much) and its attractive and accessible futuristic ideas (growing up at that time and discovering the internet is a wild experience). The “Internet of Things” as its called, interaction with appliances and such, is definitely what’s coming in the future. The Star Force characters tend to have more depth, but they still didn’t take as well; perhaps because it is simply stuck under the shadow of a more capable franchise.
So then, what of Battle Network? As it stands, the story is over with Mega Man Battle Network 6. Lan and Mayl have already settled down and had a child and everything. But who cares? MegaMan.exe is still around and the same applies to other key NetNavis. With Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, Capcom has more choices for NetNavis. The battle system doesn’t have any real problems, and so the introduction of online battling could be amazing for the franchise. One problem will probably be when do you set the game, and what sort of changes in technology and society should you convey. In a way, it hasn’t been all that long between the main events of Battle Network 6 and its epilogue, but it might seem strange to suggest that the world hasn’t changed since the sixth games.
Even between iterations, there are minor changes, including the design of the PETs. You could sidestep this by making a spin-off title like Rockman.exe 4.5 Real Operation, where you the player are the Operator and you basically only wander the Internet and fight people. This might be a turnoff for people who liked navigating the outside world and interacting with the Operators. Back then, I always found it fun to learn the motivations of the criminal (World Three, Gospel, etc.) Operators, and having played Real Operation the game is so closed off from the world and reduced to a formula that it gets boring fast.
It’s also questionable whether or not Capcom would want to make another investment into the Battle Network series as it did in the past. Its multimedia boom back in its heyday (anime, figures, and such) was a product of the game’s success and also aided the franchise’s success, as it was actually Mega Man Battle Network 4 that sold the most copies out of the franchise. That being said, there’s a lot of potential for another Battle Network title. Old fans will easily bite on this, and the appeal to newer fans should be easy to convey (more bells and whistles for customization may be required to attract newcomers, though I don’t think it’ll be too much).
Still several series to go. Click here to see the rest.
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