By Paul Kainoa Vigil / September 7th, 2015
The true ending of Mega Man ZX Advent is begging for another sequel. Master Thomas is actually a badguy, and the four “evil” Mega Men (Siarnaq, Atlas, Aeolus, and Thetis) are alive after their encounter with Model Z/Zero. The games were never that popular, but it establishes some important ideas that are needed to segue into the Legends series, or whichever series may come before it. “Mega Man” is an assumed identity rather than something you are born as, and the social integration between Reploids and humans is progressing without Dr. Weil around. One important question for a hypothetical ZX3 is this: how should the world be structured? Mega Man ZX was a mission-based Metroidvania where all locations were truly connected, and Mega Man ZX Advent slightly departed from that by having some locations being rendered inaccessible, while being less conceptually rigid than ZX.
Basically in ZX, after completing the four “prologue” missions you tackle any of eight missions representing a Pseudoroid of four elements, and completing one of the four initially available Pseudoroid missions opens up a second mission featuring a Pseudoroid of the same element. After eliminating all eight, you progress through the “fortress” stages that lead to the final boss. So in essence it’s not much different from a conventional Mega Man game. Structured, but boring, and ZX doesn’t need that. I’d prefer something more like ZX Advent, or even more fluid than that. We need to get rid of the Pseudoroid transformations from ZX Advent though — most of them aren’t useful and it amounts to tedium outside of using new transformations to acquire hidden treasures and unlock new areas. The basic four transformations (Hx, Fx, Lx, and Px) should be fine, perhaps with some changes if need be. Personally, I’ve always felt Hx was the most useful.
Mega Man Legends… What is there to say? There was supposed to be another game, and now it’s not coming. And Volnutt is still stuck on the moon, faithful that Tron and Roll are going to figure out what to do about his situation. In a third game, there are some questions to address. You know how Capcom introduced Barret as a playable character? While it invites a lot of problems because most people are interested in the already-colorful cast featuring the Bonnes, Data, Roll, and Barrell and their quest to retrieve Volnutt, the problem is that starting Mega Man Legends 3 with Volnutt already being saved would feel incredibly awkward because it sort of trivializes how difficult it should be to get off of the moon. It isn’t as if Volnutt can do much in his situation. You could just skip all of that and start Legends 3 with Volnutt and friends traveling to a new land and the Bonnes being themselves, but you also sacrifice some dramatic potential. So a new protagonist (and a handful of other characters!) is introduced, which is fine if they’re sort of properly paced and exposed to us in the right doses, as too much of the Bright Bats would make fans anxious. The other question is figuring out where all of the game is supposed to take place, but I’m sure Capcom could just make up some locations and it wouldn’t be all that troublesome.
And now, my personal favorite subseries (and yours too if you know what’s up), the X series. The Mega Man X series, even in spite of the Zero series’ emphasis on efficient gameplay and the ZX series’ dynamic gameplay that introduced minor new platforming experiences, remains my favorite in Mega Man platforming. With the basic expansions it made on the Classic series in the form of dashing and wall-kicking, and introducing collectibles like armor, heart and energy tanks, and even Parts/Chips (though the implementation of this has been hit-and-miss in my opinion), it gave freshness to the sort of basic experience that the Classic series seems always hesitant to deviate from.
I maintain that Mega Man X8, barring the limited amount of stages (12 doesn’t feel like enough) and two weak Maverick stages (Central White and Dynasty), was the proper evolution of standard platforming X series gameplay. Discovering all hidden items took much more creativity and effort than before. Axl’s toolset was perfectly fleshed out, with rapid fire bullets and his own special weapons. More effort was put into X’s new armor with the concept of selecting whichever of the eight parts you desired, and unlockable characters/armors were a nice treat even if they were variations on the main three Maverick Hunters. As a treat, all three voice actors for X, Zero, and Axl grew into their characters and sounded as a natural fit for them in this game (after Mega Man X: Command Mission).
The biggest problem was that Mega Man X8 was such a profound commercial disaster that Capcom didn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t know, either…at the time. What would be clear to me is that “Mega Man X9” should absolutely not be the next Mega Man X game. The nice thing in my opinion about the X series is that it can tolerate major changes to its format better than the Classic series can. This series of action games invites more interaction with the environment, and the X series has experimented with 3D before. I think that a move to 3D platforming and the abandoning of the 8-Maverick format is inevitable if the franchise is to continue. The old format has too limited an appeal, though I’m mostly fine with it, and it’s difficult to justify any significant adjustment on Capcom’s part in developing the same old game if they keep spinning that wheel. Spin-offs like Command Mission are also welcome, though with some adjustments.
Lastly, the Classic series. It’s clearly the series with the most mindshare — look no further than Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, as well as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. And I think these games also highlight the problem of the future of this series, because the 8-bit-inspired titles stopped after only two games and the Mega Man of Smash Bros. is heavily inspired by his 8-bit adventures. IntiCreates, the developer of 9 and 10, is still around; and Keiji Inafune doesn’t have to work at Capcom to make more Mega Man games like the two above. But the series has been written into a corner.
Deviations from the traditional formula are seen as risky because, in its history, the deviations were always minimal. Any major ones (like Super Adventure Rockman, Rockboard, etc.) are interesting footnotes but have little lasting impact. Even now, we’ve been treated to Capcom putting Classic and X games on the eShop and PSN, but I think it’s telling that the first new game for the Classic series is Mega Man Legacy Collection, a compilation of the NES games with added features. Call it another “Capcom test” (a comparatively risk-minimal product that can be described to internal parties as a gauge of consumer interest in a franchise, as with Darkstalkers: Resurrection) but after the eShop releases and with people “re-exposed” to Classic Mega Man and the X series for the Xth time, I don’t think of this as a product that will set the world on fire. Ideally, Capcom has additional plans for the series, but if it wasn’t a new game, what would it be? Similar to the X series, I would suggest a variety of spin-offs, until some formula is found that can be replicated consistently.
As an idea Classic and X should consider sending off the traditional 2D platforming style with a Sonic Generations-type game for their own franchise, where people play through a variety of Robot Master/Maverick stages. If there were any formula that should have been beaten to death, I feel that Mega Man: Powered UP! is The One. It is (and will always be) one of the best Mega Man games ever made. Making your own stages, sharing them online, playing as ten other characters besides Mega Man, Challenges, English voice acting (and it wasn’t bad at all!), it was a mountain of great content and I curse the name of who didn’t buy the game. The only minor problems I had were that pretty much all characters’ models animated the same way, and the music was just good, not great. There was no reason that game should have failed, but since it did we were all denied further remakes. The world is a cruel place.
…I can’t be the only down for Mega Man Soccer 2, right?…I hope not. It could be fun!
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