But Is It Art? – Mega Man X6

There is a lot of negative sentiment towards the sixth game in the Mega Man X series. It is regarded as the worst game in the series by every sane person (yes, everyone who thinks X7 is worse, I am personally calling you insane), the level design choices are so horrible that it seems impossible that they were the result of mere incompetence. Is it possible that the game was intentionally designed to be as awful as possible? It’s not only possible, it is the only logical conclusion. And you know what that means…

The game is true art.

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Well, this wouldn’t make for coherent level design either, so only hypocrites would attack X6!

Yep, once you realize that Mega Man X6 was made an abomination on purpose, it reverses everything and shows the designers for the brilliant artists they are. The level design is not lazy or incompetent, it is purposefully and masterfully sadistic. The people who designed MMX6 clearly hated the series with a burning passion, and put their hearts and souls into creating the most twisted, hateful parody of the modern age. A lazy, rushed game would be a level pack of mediocre levels with the occasional spike of frustration caused by an overlooked element. Not so in MMX6, you run into frustrating paragons of “bad” game design constantly, they can’t all be oversights. Let’s examine some examples of the game’s brilliance.

There is a stage in Mega Man X5 that is mostly a drawn-out boss fight against a battleship that follows you throughout the level. You fight it several times, but each fight is against a different part of it. The minds behind Mega Man X6 clearly hated this concept and successfully warped it into sheer torture with the stage of Blaze Heatnix. Five identical boss fight against an annoying, tedious boss with only the setting changing, always to make the fight even more frustrating? It even plays with your expectations by making the penultimate fight the worst one, ensuring that you can’t even embrace yourself for the game’s inspired horror. You can’t tell me this wasn’t on purpose. Or how about one of the X series’ many classic ice levels? Blizzard Wolfang’s stage goes out of its way to throw everything wrong with ice levels at you. You never stop sliding into obstacles due to icy slopes and falling snow chunks. Then you play a luck-based segment where you have to climb ice blocks that fall in random places, replete with enemies to knock you off and make you start again. Think that was just bad game design? Well after that, you have to time your jumps in the only safe place as a row of ice blocks falls on you, with instant death being the penalty for being in the blank space when an ice block spawns in it for no logical reason. Speaking of death, some of the permadeath-prone hostages that you are encouraged to rescue are strategically placed to make you take damage from the falling ice. The juxtaposition of life and death and sacrifice is truly brilliant.

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You’ll get to know this brilliant subversion of good boss design very well.

Every level of Mega Man X6 has something in it to demonstrate its brilliance, but there’s one more Maverick stage I will cover. Metal Shark Player’s (by the way, keeping the literal Japanese translations after Mega Man X5 messed up the names in localization was another bite of spiteful genius) stage is a standard “get to a safe spot or the ceiling will crush and instantly kill you” level, except for one thing. If the ceiling is above you while you’re ducking, moving for any reason will instantly kill you for no logical reason. That is fairly common, but MMX6 shows its brilliance in what counts as movement. Getting hit by an enemy? The damage animation kills you in a brilliant inversion of the invincibility frames it usually gives you. Attack to stop from getting hit? That’s also movement and instant death. It’s hilarious, a work of true inspiration. But the stage has one more piece of brilliance in it. There is a hidden area that requires a specific armor to cross a bottomless pit. If you don’t have that armor, you must suicide… at which point you will spawn at the optional area, with no way to get back to the main level. You have to get a game over to exit the stage, or remain stuck forever. Considering the fact that extra lives don’t make the game any easier due to how the continue system works, putting in a spot where they hurt you is a marvelous splash spiteful creativity. The stage couldn’t be more brilliant.

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Hope your nose doesn’t itch.

Speaking of armors, the fortress stages play a hilarious trick on you with them. There are two armors you can collect in the game, each one having one of four pieces hidden in one of the eight maverick stages. You must get one of the armors before the other, so by the time you have the second armor there’s nothing left but the fortress stages. Luckily, that armor is perfect for the stage, it grants you immunity to spikes and there’s an area in the fortress you can only otherwise survive with missable upgrades or exploits. But then, later in the fortress, you reach an area where the armor’s weakness makes getting through impossible. The armor is completely worthless, the game’s sadistic sense of humor knows no bounds. This can’t possibly have been an accident.

Then there are the bosses. Multiple Mavericks are harder to fight with their weakness than your normal weapons, but High Max is who really deserves credit for his design. Instead of special weapons making the fight against him easier, they are required to do any damage to him at all, after you stun him with your normal weapons. Then they do a pathetically low amount of damage, making the fight one of the most tedious things I’ve ever encounted in a platformer. Fake Big Bad Gate’s fight also deserves mention: you have to destroy his projectiles to reflect them back at him while staying on the small platforms littering the screen, while Gate floats wherever he wants. Then when you beat him, he brings Sigma in out of nowhere, admitting it makes no sense and doesn’t benefit him at all. Then Sigma yells at you in garbled Engrish and fights you while fall down drunk. Seriously. Just as much effort went into making the bosses bad as the levels and the game deserves praise for that.

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Then there are the bosses.

So there you have it, proof that Mega Man X6 is actually a brilliant piece of counter-cultural art. The designers clearly hated Mega Man X, gamers, and humanity, and it comes shining through in every way. It takes true courage to make something as bad as possible on purpose, then trick people into paying for your expression of contempt against them. MMX6 is clearly one of the most profound pieces of art ever created, and I can only give an emphatic yes to the question “But is it art?”

So what do I really think of the game? It has good music and didn’t manage to mess up the controls, which are copy pasted from Mega Man X5. Does that mean it isn’t so bad? Hell no, it just means that it’s better than the Mega Man DOS games. When that’s even a question, you know a game is terrible. While the rational side of me thinks there’s no way it actually was made bad on purpose, the evidence does seem overwhelming at times. The game is as bad as this article makes it out to be, and in reality that is not a good thing.

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How The PC Port Wishlist Stole Christmas!

Another year has come and gone and once again, the itch returns: it’s time to go port-begging for the holidays! Admittedly, it’s become a lot more fun doing these write-ups on a yearly basis – well, as long as you don’t count my April Fools console port article and the GOG article in August, but those have different criteria. It’s way less stressful discovering games new and old that were skipped over when it comes to my platform of choice over the course of a year than it was every other month. Of course, that also means that I have to be substantially more careful with my choices, but that adds to the fun. I can’t tell you how much filler there was on my old lists – Tekken Revolution doesn’t even exist anymore!

All three of my lists from last year will be reappearing this time – my top 5 gains of the year, a list of 10 brand-new port requests and even the overall rankings – but I’ll also be adding a fourth. It’s probably going to be a one-time deal: I had a hard enough time coming up with this list in the first place and frankly, given the subject matter, I honestly hope I won’t ever be able to find another 10 games that fit the bill.

But before we move onto the actual meat of the article, I’ve got to brag about what’s been announced for PC since the last list came out. First up on the docket, we’ve got Grasshopper Manufacture’s free-to-play rogue-like Let It Die, which was announced a little more than a week after my last article on August 10th and came out the following month. Later that month, Capcom would announce an HD re-release of Onimusha: Warlords – one of my favorite games from the sixth-generation – on everything, including PC. Things would go quiet after that until the following month where two announcements would come from an unlikely source: a Nintendo Direct. Capcom Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle and Katamari Damacy Reroll were both announced for the Switch and the PC. The former essentially takes care of what I wanted most of all from Final Fight: Double Impact – specifically the original Final Fight arcade game with online play – while Reroll is an HD remaster of the original Katamari Damacy, something I wouldn’t have dreamed could ever come to PC, regardless of how much I wanted it. Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle is already available – despite an unexplained late launch on PC compared to consoles – while Katamari is due out later this month. Tokyo Game Show didn’t bring much on the PC ports front for obvious reasons, but Capcom did announce that an HD release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy will be gracing all three major consoles and PC sometime next year. Just shy of a week after that announcement came the big one: ARIKA officially announced that Fighting EX Layer would be coming to Steam, though they implied that this was only possible due to their arcade port and the title’s future may very well depend on the sales of these new releases. Finally, there’s Sunset Overdrive, which wasn’t technically announced officially until the day the game was released – November 16th – but we’ve had leaks going back to May, where it was rated in South Korea. Then it was rated by the ESRB… and then a store page appeared on Amazon. You have to give Microsoft credit for sticking to their guns and still pretending like it was a surprise release, though.

Of course, there were some cool things popping up on GOG as well. The entire Jill of the Jungle trilogy was released there on November 2nd for FREE! Meanwhile, three more King of Fighters games – The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Final Edition, The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match and The King of Fighters XIII (rechristened as the ”Galaxy Edition” after GOG’s client) – were also added to their library. That’s all I’d consider relevant so far, though considering the fact that Sony managed to nab Battle Arena Toshinden on both the Western and Japanese versions of their upcoming PlayStation Classic, that implies that we know who GOG would need to ask to relicense those games. Also back in August, THQ Nordic released some of Microsoft’s Windows Store-exclusive titles on Steam, as well as physical releases. I mainly cared about Super Lucky’s Tale and ReCore: Definitive Edition out of their first batch, but there were also Disneyland Adventures, Rush: A Disney – Pixar Adventure and Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection. It’s been speculated they might be handling a physical release of Sunset Overdrive on PC as well, but there’s been no concrete information on that front. Speaking of rumors, we’ve also seen evidence that Yakuza 6: The Song of Life may be coming to PC at some point, based on one of their quarterly reports which listed the game as a PS4 and PC title. Nothing new on the console front, I’m afraid. I’m sure that more games that were previously PC-exclusive before getting ported to PS4 and/or the Xbox One have since received additional Switch ports (and vice versa), but that’s not really my scene.

Top 5 Successes of 2018

Time for my usual round of yearly bragging. This time around, three of my picks weren’t even on any previous lists in the first place – so I can’t even really take credit for them. Granted, two games were too old to fall under my criteria in the first place and are only coming to PC due to the creation of new remasters across multiple platforms and one of them was only released this year anyway. I guess if I were to pick an honorable mention, I’d give it to killer7, coming to us courtesy of Grasshopper Manufacture and NIS America (with Capcom’s blessing). Despite NISA’s history with PC ports – still waiting for actual confirmation that their Ys VIII port was legitimately fixed (as opposed to “I played 50 hours and it only crashed 15 times!”) – apparently this game turned out amazing, adding new features and opting for a silky smooth 60 FPS framerate.

5. Ys: Memories of Celceta – Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games (PlayStation Vita)

Nothing against Celceta – it was a fun game and I’m glad it hit PC – but this probably would’ve ended up being higher if it didn’t feel like a foregone conclusion. Hyde Inc. definitely learned from their PC port of Ys Seven, as this game turned out looking amazing – easily becoming the definitive version of Falcom’s in-house take on the Ys IV legend.

4. Metal Wolf Chaos XD – From Software/Devolver Digital (Xbox)

The former Japanese Xbox-exclusive where players take on the role of the President of the United States as he pilots a mech suit is finally coming out in America – and on modern platforms, no less. Devolver Digital had been showing interest in publishing the game since 2016 and an official announcement was the centerpiece of their E3 conference this year. It’s not due out until sometime next year, but the fact that it’s coming to PC makes it worth the wait.

3. Onimusha: Warlords – Capcom (PlayStation 2, Xbox)

I legitimately freaked out when I heard about this. All things considered, Onimusha was one of those cult classic Capcom franchises that seemed out of reach for legitimate reasons: specifically, the likeness rights of the actor who portrayed the main character, Samanosuke Akechi – who was modeled after and even voiced by Japanese/Taiwanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro. In fact, the only game that doesn’t have this issue is Dawn of Dreams, the unpopular fourth game and I’m sure that’s why we only have this first game, as opposed to a full-on HD collection. Regardless, I’ve got some good memories playing through this game one night with two of my buddies back in 8th Grade and I can’t wait to go through it again.

2. Fighting EX Layer – ARIKA (PlayStation 4)

I was originally going to put this on this year’s wishlist, as a sort of “gimme” game, simply because ARIKA had expressed interest in releasing FEXL at some point if it did well. I wasn’t even expecting an announcement on this until next year at the earliest, but ARIKA surprised me with a simple trailer on YouTube back in late September. Better still, they only plan on selling the “Full Version” – which includes fifteen Gougi decks (to the Light Version’s five) and Hokuto as an additional character – at $40, the Light Version’s price on PS4 Clearly the best of both worlds. While I likely won’t be able to grab this on day one – despite the generous 25% discount – I do hope to grab it before the end of this year.

1. SEGA’s “Best in Japan” Line-Up at E3 2018

It couldn’t have been anything else. When I listed the Yakuza series on last year’s wishlist, I was honestly being flippant. I never would’ve guessed that Sega would’ve brought one of its big console exclusives to PC but here we are: Yakuza Zero’s already on Steam and Yakuza Kiwami has already been announced. On top of that, they also announced Valkyria Chronicles 4 would be coming to PC and reaffirmed recent releases, claiming that they were bringing “the best Japanese titles to PC”. Hopefully, we’ll see even more announcements next year.

10 Broken/Delisted Games I Want on GOG

This is that new list I mentioned near the start of the article. While I’ll often extoll the virtues of a digital-only future for the PC platform, it’s not a perfect concept. We’ve seen various games removed from storefronts like Steam and GOG due to expired licenses, company closures and various other issues. Worse yet, there are games that are still available that are ridden with defunct DRM programs or worse, incompatible with modern operating systems. Of course, GOG will attempt to circumvent the technical issues of these games, with their re-release of Fallout 3 last year being a chief example. So why not pick 10 digital releases that are either gone or stagnant and point out that, in the end, they’re just some Good Old Games?

Street Fighter IV – Capcom

I’ll be honest with you: SF4 was the game that inspired this list in the first place. Back when I was researching for that Street Fighter retrospective I spent the better part of this year on, I popped in the original home release of Street Fighter IV and had a pretty good time going back to it. These days, it’s more of a curiosity piece – especially due to its exclusive cinematics that didn’t appear in any other iteration of SF4 and its gallery mode – but certainly not worth the $20 Capcom is still asking for it on Steam. Just give it the Blazblue Calamity Trigger treatment: strip out the GfWL-powered online mode entirely and sell that sucker on Steam and GOG for $10, with 50% or higher sales on the regular.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions – Activision

I’ll level with you: I’ve yet to play the recent Spider-Man game on PS4 and I’ve got my doubts that I’ll play it before the decade’s through. With that in mind, I feel confident in my assertion that Shattered Dimensions was the best Spider-Man game ever sold on Steam. It’s a shame that the PC port was only compatible with Windows XP and Vista – especially considering that it was on sale on Steam only a few years back. It’s been taken down again – that’s the problem with licensing agreements – but I’d love to see it come back, stripped of Games for Windows Live and able to run properly on modern Windows builds.

OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast – Sega

Well, this one’s strictly a licensing issue: Sega clearly didn’t want to pony up to renegotiate their license with Ferrari. I’m still bummed out that I missed picking up this port – the OutRun games are some of my favorite racing driving games of all time – so obviously a straight-up re-release is all I really want here. Granted, the game might have some compatibility issues since it was released back in the days of Windows XP, but as far as I can tell (based on the PC Gaming Wiki), there don’t appear to be any compatibility issues on modern systems, which means that anyone smart enough to pick it up before its removal can still play it to this day.

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse – Aspyr

This is one of those games from the sixth generation that I missed out on, but it looked interesting. I mean, zombie games are a dime a dozen, but a game where you take control of a zombie would be an original concept today, let alone today. It’s also got a sense of humor, which is also a plus for me. It was also apparently on Steam at one point – but it looks like it was taken down because it can’t run on modern hardware. So yeah, this is absolutely perfect for this list: maybe a GOG release will mean a complete removal of its SecuROM DRM.

Wolfenstein (2009) — id Software (Bethesda)

Apparently, the only reason this game has been taken down is because Bethesda – the current rightsholder for Wolfenstein and id Software’s other IPs – is ashamed of it. All I’ve got to say to that is that both versions of Doom 3 are still up for sale on Steam and the BFG Edition is up on GOG – so using “quality concerns” as an excuse is invalid. Frankly, I’d just want it as a curiosity piece more than out of sheer enjoyment. I mean, every other Wolfenstein game since 3D is available on digital storefronts in one form or another and I’ll never believe that the 2009 game was so much worse than every other game in the series.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game – Atari

I mean, I already own this game on Steam, so I can vouch for its quality. Granted, I think it was taken down in the first place to help boost sales of the 2016 game, which was apparently a slapdash cash-in on a box office bomb. And now that’s even down as well. Might as well allow audiences to enjoy the best Ghostbusters-related video game ever released in North America once again. There’s not even any way to implement the multiplayer from the console versions and I even played through the game on an OS no older than Windows 8.1, so it should be as simple as literally flipping a switch.

Driver: San Francisco – Ubisoft

I’ll be honest, I never really got into the Driver series that much – but I did like Burnout Paradise. Driver: San Francisco looks like a game made in a similar vein and given all of the good reviews I’ve seen regarding it – for both the console and PC versions, no less – it’s made me curious about the game’s quality. Unfortunately, it looks like the game may be bound by Ubisoft’s own proprietary DRM, Uplay: so the chances of the game hitting GOG are pretty low, even though it’s only available on Amazon as a digital download at the moment – and the reviews on there seem to imply that there are compatibility issues with Windows 7 and its successors.

Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection – WB Games

Hey look, another game I already own on Steam! I’m not sure why WB took down this collection off of Steam – maybe because the online multiplayer was handled on Games for Windows Live – but even if it weren’t, it does offer something different from the current line of classic PC ports available on GOG. While that collection contains the original Mortal Kombat 3, a childhood favorite of mine, the Arcade Kollection has Ultimate MK3 – the much more popular version – instead. Granted, I think the best thing WB could do would be to just re-release it on Steam and GOG with improved online multiplayer – but just making it available to the masses again would be nice.

Midnight Club II – Rockstar

Man, I’ve got a real thing for racing games this time. Did you know that Rockstar used to make games that weren’t sprawling open-worlds? It’s true! From what I’ve heard about it and seen in gameplay footage, it seems like a pretty good arcade racing game – the type I like. Midnight Club II was apparently the only game in the series to receive a PC port, which makes it a prime candidate for re-release.  Again, the issue stems from the age of the game – apparently this port’s so old, the non-Steam releases aren’t even stable on Windows Vista, let alone 10.

Narco Terror – Deep Silver

This game actually came as a recommendation from my editor: while I wasn’t opposed to having two games from the same developer on this list, making it to nine without any repeats made me reluctant to resort to that. From what I’ve seen, Narco Terror is a twin-stick shooter inspired by top-down, free-movement shoot-‘em-ups like Ikari Warriors, Commando and Renegade Ops. It doesn’t necessarily have the best reviews, but that kind of pedigree makes it sound like an interesting game. I’d give it a shot if it resurfaces at a reasonable price. Besides, Deep Silver seems to be pretty chummy-chummy with GOG. I’m not sure why the game was removed from Steam in the first place – but Steam keys can still be bought on Amazon for some reason, so I’m not sure what problem there was with the game.

The Main Event

With those lists out of the way, it’s time for a fresh batch of PC port-related wishes. Before we begin, let’s recap the rules I’ve tried to keep since I started doing these lists a few years back. I’ve been sticking to the seventh (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii) and eighth (PS4/Xbox One/Wii U/Switch) video game console generations, as well as their portable counterparts. Porting anything else would likely require a remaster – like Onimusha and Katamari Damacy – and these lists are more about run-of-the-mill ports. I also generally limit myself to a single game per company, though given the sheer amount of mergers we’ve seen, I will often allow entries from wholly-owned subsidiaries and their parent companies in the same list. In other words, you could see entries from Sega and Atlus on the same list, but not Square Enix and its various divisions, except maybe Taito – Squenix seems to have given them a lot of headway. I generally consider a “series” an entry, so every game would be considered together, as long as all of the games fall into the console generations I’m covering. Last and certainly not least, I’ll be keeping this limited to third-parties and Microsoft – who seem to have gotten even better about putting the games I care about on PC. Asking for Nintendo and Sony first-party content is a waste of time, so don’t expect to see stuff like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Marvel’s Spider-Man on this list. That being said, let’s get down to business.

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy – Activision/Toys for Bob (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

…what? I always stack the deck in my favor whenever possible. We’ve already seen evidence hinting to the existence of both a PC and Switch version in development and while the game is currently exclusive to the HD Twins of PS4 and XBO, I’d much rather grab it on PC all things considered – especially after the whole debacle surrounding just how much of the content is actually on-disc. On the other hand, I worry I may not be able to spare the 67.455GB needed to download the game (on PS4, anyway) at this point. Either way, I liked what little I played of Spyro on the PlayStation 1 and would love to experience the rest of the original trilogy in full HD.

SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy – SNK/NIS America (PlayStation 4, Switch)

Sure, it’s another game where we’ve got at least minor evidence that a PC port could be in the works. I told you I don’t always play fair with these. In an E3 magazine special, it was mentioned that Abstraction Games handled the Switch version of SNK Heroines and the same write-up mentioned that they were working on a PC version as well. Considering they were the dev team behind The King of Fighters XIV, it only makes sense that they could be making a PC version of this game as well. Taking all that into consideration, I’ll assume that we’ll hear some kind of confirmation about SNK Gals’ Fighters’ spiritual successor hitting PC sometime next year.

Lunar: Silver Star Harmony – Game Arts/XSEED Games (PlayStation Portable)

This is usually the point in the list where I beg for yet another PC port of a Falcom console-exclusive. Alas, I’ve already exhausted all of their games that have been translated into English in recent history – and I’m not enough of a fool to suggest that anything besides the Japan-only Kiseki games receive even a passing glance by any translation company at this point. What’s an Icepick to do? Easy: dig up another XSEED translation of a game I’m fond of. Granted, I would obviously prefer seeing a re-release of the old PS1 version – because that’s “me nostalgia” – packed in with the original Sega CD version, but honestly: the PSP release is not only the newest release of the game, but it’s the only one I haven’t played at all – “Lunar Legend” was a mistake. Game Arts has mentioned interest in bringing more of their games to Steam and XSEED’s been doing a bang-up job of bringing their stuff to PC, so let’s just kill two birds with one stone.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – Capcom (DS, iOS)

When it comes right down to it, I’ve got enough requests for Capcom games to keep them in the running for years to come – it’s just difficult to narrow down which one gets the nod each year. I almost considered putting Ace Attorney on this year’s list, but even before Capcom announced a re-release on every modern platform that matters, my gut went in a completely different direction. Ghost Trick is easily one of the most underappreciated games in the DS’s library and the fact that it’s only seen a re-release on iOS feels like a mystery not even Sissel and Lynne would be able to solve. Use the iPhone version as a base, add mouse support and improve the resolution and BAM! You’ll introduce another of Shu Takumi’s masterpieces to a much wider audience. Think of it as a well-deserved tribute to the late, great Missile.

The Legend of Dark Witch Episode 3: Wisdom and Lunacy – INSIDE SYSTEM/M2 (3DS)

This was honestly my first pick for this year’s list – a choice that was solidified when the game was first released on the 3DS last year. I’m fond of the first two Dark Witch games and would love to play the latest entry on my PC, even if its gameplay supposedly deviated significantly from previous titles. Considering the fact that the second RPG spinoff in the series, Brave Dungeon: Seigi no Imi, has already been confirmed to be releasing on PC via Steam next year, I like the odds that this game will hit the platform as well at some point. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

The Prinny Duology – Nippon Ichi Software (PlayStation Portable)

Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? And Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! were two of Nippon Ichi’s more interesting releases. Spun off from their popular Disgaea series, these games were actually platformers starring the series mascot in a similar vein to the Ghosts ‘n Goblins games of old, both in terms of platforming mechanics and apparently difficulty. It would be a shame to keep these games constrained to a handheld long gone like the PSP, especially when the PC is so enduring. I’ve honestly been wondering if NIS America bailed on releasing the rest of the older Disgaea games and just skipping straight due to issues with porting games from the Vita or because they just wanted to focus on their latest release. Well, the Prinny games don’t have either issue – NISA’s ported games from PSP before and there aren’t any more recent titles in the series to worry about – so they’d be a perfect choice for a new project.

3D Dot Game Heroes – From Software/Silicon Studio/Atlus USA (PlayStation 3)

Man, I’ve been holding onto this one for a while. 3D Dot Game Heroes is essentially a voxel-based version of classic action-RPGs, borrowing elements from Final Fantasy Adventure, The Legend of Zelda and even Dragon Warrior to create something both familiar and new. Best of all, the player character can be completely customized using the game’s 3D sprite editor. This is such a cool little game, it deserves a re-release on modern platforms and a PC port would probably be the easiest way to make that happen. Better yet, it would give Atlus USA a little needed cred among the PC gaming community, given their consistent failure to do anything with the platform besides publishing ACE Team’s games on Steam.

Sonic Colors – SEGA (Wii)

Truth be told, before I decided to go all-out and ask Sega for the Yakuza series last year, I originally planned on asking for Sonic Colors. Colors is probably my favorite Boost-formula Sonic game – no small feat, given my general distaste with the mechanics in general – and I definitely think it deserves a release on modern platforms. Of course, many publications assumed that this port might already be in the cards, simply because promotional art from a Sonic-themed Steam sale included artwork from the DS version of Colors. Not necessarily the smoking gun I was hoping for, so I figure there’s no harm in asking Sega directly.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst (Gal*Gunvolt Burst) – Inti Creates (3DS, Switch, PlayStation 4)

I feel like this might’ve been telegraphed with one of my choices last year. Either way, from what I’ve heard, Mighty Gunvolt Burst – rebranded as Gal*Gunvolt Burst when it was released on the PS4 – is the closest thing we’ll ever see to redemption for Mighty No. 9. As one of the thousands of people suckered into contributing to that second-rate MegaMan knockoff – even though I think the widespread response to it was overblown, to put it mildly – I’d love something resembling vindication on this front, particularly on my platform of choice. It doesn’t hurt that much like Gunvolt 2, we’ve already got the game’s direct predecessor on Steam as it is. So, come on Inti Creates, hook us up – you don’t even have the excuse of this game being a “Nintendo-only” thing, given its presence on the PS4.

Persona series – Atlus (PlayStation 3/Portable/Vita/4)

I’ll be honest: I struggled with this one. I almost opted out of doing listing this game this year for a couple of reasons. First, despite the fact that I do count Atlus and Sega as separate companies – despite the latter owning the former at this point – I just feel a little sketchy doing both in a single list, even if all but one of the games I’m even considering asking for here were made prior to that buyout. There’s also the fact that despite my (limited) success with Yakuza last year, I always worry about getting greedy with these.

Regardless, I’ve seen my opportunity and I’m taking it, because that’s what heroes do. Atlus USA has recently undergone a bit of a reshuffling in terms of its corporate structure – with key figures at Sega America and Sega West taking over as President and CEO, respectively. Considering Sega’s own implied emphasis on PC as of late, not to mention the fact that both Yakuza and Persona were on “that list of games Sega wants to bring to PC” and Atlus USA’s downright impotent acknowledgement that PC gamers wanted to play Persona 5 after trying to shut down a PS3 emulator, I think this could go either way. Still, if it happens sometime next year (or later, I’m not picky), I wouldn’t mind being able to claim at least a modicum of credit for it coming to pass.

Since I’ve only played the original English release of Revelations: Persona, I’d love to see Atlus start with an upscaled port of its PSP remake, if only so I can play through the Snow Queen quest at some point. I’d be willing to guess that Atlus would probably just end up starting with Persona 5 though. As for other games I’d want, I’d like to see PC ports of both Persona 2 remakes on PSP – with Eternal Punishment receiving a new English translation, obviously – Persona 3 Portable (with the additional content from FES, if possible) and Persona 4 Golden. I guess I’d also like to see their fighting game spinoff Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, but I’m sure Arc System Works would be willing to handle that with Atlus’s blessing.

Top 10 Most Wanted

I’ll be honest with you, I almost considered dropping this list, at least for this year. After all, only one of last year’s entries – Ys: Memories of Celceta, the former number one – managed to come to pass. However, upon further reflection, I decided a reshuffle was worth the effort anyway. A few other entries from previous years have been dropped from consideration for various reasons – something I probably should’ve considered doing last year anyway – and I decided to look into other older lists to replace them. As with last year, I’ve decided to rank them not only based on how much I want them, but also on how realistic I think it is that they might receive some form of a PC port in the near future. Here’s hoping next year’s list changes even more – for the happiest of reasons, of course!

10. Splatterhouse (2010) – Bandai Namco (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Considering this went from number 3 last year all the way down to the bottom spot, you’re probably assuming that I’ve fallen out of love with the 2010 reboot of Splatterhouse. Valid guess, but it’s more like I just think it’s become less likely of a port as of late. Maybe in 2020 – the game’s tenth anniversary – things will change, but for now, I just don’t see Bandai Namco revisiting this game. I mean, Katamari Damacy was a popular game but considering the last we’ve heard of Splatterhouse was as an understated part of the Namco Museum on Switch and that was last year, I don’t like the odds.

9. Dragon’s Crown Pro – Atlus/Vanillaware (PlayStation 4/3/Vita)

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I think the critical moment to get a Dragon’s Crown PC port has passed, especially given Vanillaware’s lack of a partner willing to port games to the platform, not to mention the fact that development on 13 Sentinels, their next title, seems to be swinging into full gear. I’ll keep the faith alive but I’m not expecting this any time soon.

8. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – Bandai Namco (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U)

You could easily argue that Tekken 7’s continued success will probably kill any chance of a TTT2 re-release anywhere, but honestly, who can really say? Tekken’s one of Namco’s big series, so I guess I could see some kind of a revival – after all, they did a re-release of the original Tekken Tag on PS3 years back to help promote a Tekken animated film. I doubt it’ll happen until Tekken 7’s done receiving new content and considering its second season just started and it reached another sales milestone, that might be a ways away.

7. Catherine: Full Body – Atlus (PlayStation 4/Vita)

This is probably the largest jump forward of any of the games from last year and it’s due to a number of factors. Aside from the shift in Atlus USA’s leadership I mentioned previously, there’s the fact that a new version of the game was announced altogether, one that Atlus USA confirmed would be making its way to the West but offering no other details, particularly which platforms it would appear on. Since then, Sony’s begun censoring some of their racier titles after moving their headquarters to California – even ones that aren’t intended for the Western market, which has led to some pushback from both Japanese developers and fans. Worries began to surface over Catherine: Full Body receiving a similar treatment, something which wasn’t assuaged by Atlus’s recent response to these new policies. I’m not sure if all of these factors will finally put Atlus over the edge, but here’s hoping.

6. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix – Capcom (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Huh, this one is in the same exact spot as it was last year. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. While the death of the Puzzle Fighter mobile game could have positive or negative repercussions regarding a re-release of the seventh-gen HD version, Capcom does seem to be on a roll when it comes to re-releasing their older titles in general. Of course, that could mean a straight release of the latest release of the original game, but I think it’s equally possible that we could see some other releases. I’d personally champion an “Ultra Puzzle Fighter” which would combine elements from all previous releases: the Street Puzzle Mode from the PS1/Saturn version and its various unlockable bonuses, the “X/Y/Z” game modes present in the Dreamcast and HD Remix versions and the ability to choose between the classic 2D sprites (with various filters) and the redrawn graphics from the latest release. On the other hand, they might also do a compilation package similar to their Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle, packaging the original arcade release with various other arcade games that could be considered “puzzle games”. I guess as long as I’m able to play Puzzle Fighter online with friends on PC, I’ll be happy.

5. NeoGeo Battle Coliseum – SNK (Xbox 360)

I guess something similar could be said for NGBC, which jumps ahead two spots from last year. SNK has been focusing on a single new game at a time but reinforcing their finances with various re-releases. We’ve got the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection on Switch handling the pre-NeoGeo era and the various NeoGeo Mini consoles representing their Golden Age, but we’ve still got a significant lack of their games from the Playmore era at hand. Given the rumblings of a NGBC2 being a potential project after Samurai Shodown and the all but inevitable King of Fighters XV, it would only make sense to re-release the original game, just to remind people how awesome it was.

4. Cyber Troopers Virtual-On/Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram/Virtual-On Force – Sega (Xbox 360, PlayStation 4/3)

Oh wow, our first legitimately new title! Ironically, Sega recently announced that these three games – the exact three games I requested from the Xbox 360 way back when – would be making their way to the PlayStation 4 in Japan very recently. That makes them even more primed and ready for port-begging. We don’t have any details about a Western release at this point, which is why they end up so low on the list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a one-year wonder on the cumulative list. I wonder if those crowdfunded controllers that recreate the classic Virtual-On control scheme will work on PC…

3. Rare Replay – Microsoft Studios/Rare (Xbox One)

The hits just keep on coming. With Sunset Overdrive having just made its way to PC, this is the only Xbox One exclusive I still want – well, aside from Super Ultra Dead Rising 3′ Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX + α, but I don’t think Capcom even remembers that spinoff. A collection of some of the best games from Rare’s halcyon days, lovingly recreated on modern platforms? Yes please. This would even manage to kill three birds with one stone, considering how I requested the Xbox 360 versions of the Banjo-Kazooie games way back when, and that’s just a fraction of what Rare Replay has to offer.

2. Brandish: The Dark Revenant – Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games (PlayStation Portable)

I mean, you kind of had to be expecting this. With all of the modern Ys games available on Steam, I was clearly going to branch out into XSEED’s other Falcom offerings. Fortunately, most of those have either already been ported to PC or are just essentially exclusively available on the platform at the moment. The only game they’re holding back from me would be the 2009 remake of the original Brandish on the PSP, which XSEED localized back in… 2015? Strictly a digital-only release, it’s a shame that this game didn’t get more love, especially considering how the translation was literally a labor of love by Tom “Wyrdwad” Lipschultz. This would probably have ranked at #1 – given Falcom’s emphasis on releasing their games on PC – but with Tom leaving XSEED, I’m not so sure it’s a slam dunk anymore.

1. MegaMan Powered Up/MegaMan: Maverick Hunter X – Capcom (PlayStation Portable)

These two are literally the perfect storm. We’ll be celebrating another MegaMan milestone this December – MegaMan X’s 25th anniversary, which has its own logo and everything – Capcom’s been knocking it out of the park with re-releases (even games like Onimusha that I’d long given up on seeing again in a legitimate form) and MegaMan managed to rack up another 2 million franchise-wide sales as of late. Honestly, I’d say more, but since I’ll be discussing this concept in-depth later in the month, I’ll just hold my tongue for now. I’ve had a pretty good track record with my number one picks on these cumulative lists, so here’s hoping for a three-peat.

And with that, my itch to talk about PC ports has been sufficiently scratched. Here’s hoping that I get enough announcements in the next four months to overshadow my next list – my traditional April Fools’ tradition of mentioning PC games that should be ported to consoles. I’ve nearly got that list completely planned out as it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the Gitting is Gud

There has been quite a bit of discussion, fighting, elitism, and sometimes even accusations of bigotry, over the topic of difficulty in video games. I think this can best be summed up with the “git gud” meme that the article title is referencing. The idea of fans of a series or genre responding to complaints about difficulty with nothing but “get good” (run through the internet reverse-spellcheck) has become both an insult to those who would condone it, and an actual response given by those who follow its mentality. This has caused quite a bit of conflict, with arguments over whether those who support “git gud” are elitist, possibly ableist, assholes or if the people who demand games give them options besides “gitting gud” are ruining those series and gaming as a whole. Now I’m not going to get into whether it is a sign of ableism to like difficult games (because it very clearly isn’t), but I think I can give a perspective on the elitism issue that is often ignored in the favor of simplistic us vs them arguments.

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Whoa! Slow down there, poindexter!

The supposed division that I find simplistic and inaccurate is that better players should and must dislike accommodations for less experienced players, and conversely that less skilled players resent the existence of harder games. Now I don’t like having to say this about myself, but (and let my editor object to this if he wishes or forever hold his peace) I’m pretty sure I do my part to disprove the first half of that binary. I’ve been instinctively drawn to video games all my life, and the decades of intense focus and experience has resulted in a higher than average skill level. Yet I not only don’t resent the presence of easy modes or want less skilled or experienced players excluded/hazed, I think they are beneficial to gaming and gamers who like challenging games.

Let’s start with difficulty settings. Honestly, I don’t know why I have to defend this, but the idea of easy modes has somehow become a point of contention with the more rabid parts of certain fanbases (especially one that shall not be named but that Dante should have filled with LIIIIGGGHHHTTTT!!!!). The idea, as far as I can tell, is usually that hardcore gamers should be able to keep certain series entirely to themselves, or that the near-omnipresence of difficulty settings in games is preventing gamers from improving their ability. Now there are simple retorts to those concerns. They are “grow up” and “how is that any of your business?”, respectively.

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Truly the Dark Souls of Dark Souls memes.

But let’s go a little deeper than that, and look at why difficulty settings (I’ll merge the detailed response to the argument about having games to themselves with the next section) are good for skilled gamers. Simply put, they allow games to be harder. I would think this was obvious and always was, but since it apparently wasn’t, let’s look at an example:

From early in the sixth generation to 2009, Nintendo was afflicted with what many referred to as an “ease disease.” The vast majority of their games were considered too easy, and this was probably the most consistent complaint against them from Wind Waker’s release in 2003 through 2009. What happened in 2009? They introduced the Super Guide system, which was a way to either skip levels or obtain a completely broken powerup for that stage if you died too many times in it. This was seen as the nail in the coffin for Nintendo ever making another challenging game, but you know what?

It cured the ease disease.

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The savior of difficulty in Nintendo games.

Due to the type of games Nintendo focuses on, adding meaningful difficulty settings was impractical (you’d have to essentially triple how many levels you made to give Mario an easy, normal, and hard mode that meant anything). The Super Guide acted as easy mode, or at least ensured players wouldn’t get stuck, and it freed up the levels to be more difficult. Yes, there are still people who complain that Nintendo games are too easy because they spent forever trying to beat Super Mario 64 back when they were five, and nothing out of Nintendo’s control has changed since then, but Nintendo games truly did become less easy starting in 2009. And it was because they found a way to synthesize an easy mode.

The only real counter-argument I’ve heard against easy modes is that they take up resources that developers could be using to improve the game in other ways. For the vast majority of easy modes (tweaking damage ratios, adding some extra crutch items) the effort is incredibly minimal. Games being modified enough in easy mode for it to put main game features on the chopping block is incredibly rare, genres where it actually would require significant effort to make an easy mode usually either don’t have them, or find a way around it like with the aforementioned Super Guide.

Now let’s look at the gamers themselves who would want or need an easier mode or path through games. I’ve written a lot about wanting my favorite genres and series to survive, to keep getting new games as the generations go by, and you know what you need for that to happen? New players. If you gate certain series so that only players skilled at that type of game are allowed in, eventually the player base will shrink and it won’t be replaced by potential fans who were shunned because they didn’t instantly git gud. If you want games like Dark Souls to keep being made, they need to keep pulling in new gamers, and even if you’re already good at games it’s going to take some time to adjust to a new type. Dark Souls doesn’t have to be so easy that a five year old can enjoy it as their first game, but if you do nothing but yell at people trying to get into the series to git gud and demand that there not even be options to ease new players in, the series is going to burn out at some point.

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When this was my best game, gitting gud was my only option. But I want something better for future generations.

There’s also the idea that games should “grow up with their fans,” which is patently ridiculous. Just because you were a certain age when a game launched doesn’t mean your age group owns it forever, if you got into a series when you were 10 you have no right to complain that the series is still accessible for 10 year olds when you’re 25. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the series at 25, thanks to difficulty settings or creative use of optional content (Mario platformers are easy enough for most gamers to see the ending, but throughout the game there are optional objectives/items that raise the difficulty and some much harder optional levels in the post-game) a game can be enjoyed by gamers of all skill levels. And that’s worth a lot more than the satisfaction of looking down on someone new to your favorite series.

In summary, there needs to be a balance between the two sides of the git gud debate. There are people being ridiculous on both sides, responding to someone trying to understand the game with mockery is being an asshole, but so is accusing a game/its fans of being bigots because you couldn’t figure out how to do a dash jump in it. The best games can usually be enjoyed by gamers of all skill levels, and the super hard games for genre veterans should be something fans want more people to be skilled enough to play, not less. Everyone should git gud, but it’s up to them how and with what games.

Armchair Dev: MegaMan X9

I’ll be honest, this will be the second article I’ve written on the topic of building a new MegaMan X game. The last one I wrote was a few years back, as a part of my “Sum of Its Parts” series. You’re probably wondering what’s changed since then that would justify me writing another MMX9 proposal – especially when I’ve made it clear that the MMX series is my least favorite iteration of the MegaMan franchise. Well, a few things have changed from that previous article. For starters, I’ve managed to play the remainder of the series – X6, X7, X8 and Command Mission – which has given me various tips and tricks on how not to build a MegaMan game. Second, Capcom has recently been trying to redeem themselves in the eyes of customers and as such, a new MMX game feels way more possible especially with their refreshed approach to game design, remembering the games that brought them to prominence in the first place. Finally, the most important change is that this is a different series: I’m no longer limited to crafting a new game entirely from elements of the games of the past. This time, every aspect of design is subject entirely to my whims. A dangerous prospect from someone who claims to dislike the series, but I promise I’ll be gentle with my assessment – believe me, my editor will make sure of that.

Originally, I planned on doing this article as a sort of conclusion to my upcoming MegaMan X retrospective, which is coming out next month in honor of its 25th anniversary. However, I’ve got a gut feeling that if I wait until then to post this write-up, I’m going to get sniped again. The same way Capcom beat me to the punch last year by announcing MM11 well before my Classic series retrospective got posted – which concluded with a virtual obituary for the series. You know the old adage: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. This time around, I’m going to put it out there well before I assume Capcom will make an official announcement of MMX9 – which I’m assuming will come in December, just like last year.

Of course, on the other hand, it seems a bit presumptuous to write up an article without playing the latest game in the series: the aforementioned MegaMan 11, which came out last month. So, I decided to wait until I’d finished that game before starting this write-up. After all, it’s a good idea to know what direction Capcom is taking the series as a whole in the effort to refresh it for audiences new and old. And don’t you worry, I’ll plan on doing an article about a possible “MegaMan 12”—still need to decide the format – but you’re not going to see that until early next year. I’ve been advised by my editor to point out that X9 should happen before MM12, but let’s be honest – the X fanbase, like most fanbases, is full of zealots that would probably threaten anyone they came across who didn’t make that abundantly clear in the first place. I have few delusions about the size of my audience, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

I’ll be changing up the format a bit from last time. The headers will remain for the most part, but since there’s significantly less for me to micro-manage with a platformer than a fighting game – at least without outright turning this article into a fan fiction – there will be significantly less sub-headers, which should simplify things a fair amount. Also, considering the fact that I’m almost positive that MMX9 is already in development, I’ll be discussing both my own personal preferences and the path I believe Capcom is most likely to take, just to make things a little more interesting.

Story

Let’s start with the game’s storyline… or more specifically, where this new game could end up in the MegaMan X series’ timeline. You’d think it would be as simple as just setting this game after all of the mainline games that came before it, but both the history of the MMX sub-series and the tendency some Japanese publishers (Capcom especially) have of shunting unpopular games to the end of the timeline and setting future releases between them and their more popular predecessors put this certainty in jeopardy. The MMX series left us on a sour note – with two straight disappointing releases, ranging from mediocre to outright bad, capped off with a game that tried to right the course of the series but came up short. To make matters worse, from what I’ve seen, a majority of fans either consider the first or fourth game as the best in the series. That means that, best case scenario, the franchise peaked only halfway through what’s already been released so far. Not exactly the best sign, at least in my opinion.

The X series has a greater emphasis on an ongoing storyline than the original “Classic” MegaMan series, which opted for more episodic adventures akin to Saturday morning cartoons of a bygone era. MM11 opted to expand the storyline by exploring aspects of the franchise’s lore: specifically detailing what led to the end of Dr. Light and Wily’s friendship and the experiment that led to Wily becoming a pariah in the field of robotics. MMX, on the other hand, probably has the shallowest lore out of all of the MegaMan sub-series. Expanding the setting of 21XX would probably be a good idea overall, but that’s Capcom’s decision to make.

It’s also somewhat difficult to determine exactly what is canon within the X series. As far as I can tell, the RPG spinoff Command Mission is the only game that Capcom has outright stated is non-canon. Considering it takes place in 22XX – the same time period the Zero games are supposed to take place – I’m not surprised. The Xtreme spinoff games for the Game Boy Color are generally accepted to take place early in the game’s timeline: the first Xtreme takes place between X2 and X3, while the second takes place between X3 and X4. Maverick Hunter X is just a remake of the first game, but they made some changes to the story – such as the fate of Dr. Cain – so it’s hard to say if Capcom will consider either the SNES original or MHX canon when revisiting the series (or even mix aspects of both games).

To make matters even worse, even the mainline games fall victim to arguments regarding their canonicity. The first five games are safe – after all, X5 was originally meant to wrap up the X series. The remaining three are where arguments flare up. Some claim that because X6 was being made around the time the first Zero game was in development (managing to be released before it) as well as having an ending that seems to tie into MMZ, it’s the true final game in the franchise. Thus, X7 and X8 take place in a non-canon alternate timeline, much like but distinct from Command Mission’s timeline. I’ve seen some argue that X7 & 8 are canon, stating that the Zero and ZX games are non-canon – and then not really going into their opinions about whether or not Legends is still canonical. Then you’ve got a third camp that insists that both X7/X8 and Zero/ZX are canonical somehow: I guess they think that the Elf Wars should take place in future releases within the X series.

I’m not exactly sure which of these theories I follow: I guess I sort of oscillate between the “X5 was the last X game” and “everything mainline is canon” camps, but I outright hate the “Zero/ZX is non-canon” concept. I only bring this up to hammer home the fact that the X series will be difficult to continue in the first place. Every other active MegaMan series? The answer is obvious – MegaMan 12, a ZX3 to wrap up the trilogy, Legends 3 – progression is fairly simple because none of the other sub-series has the problems the X series does. Of course, none of these points are anything new if you’ve been reading my criticisms on the MMX series. Fortunately, in this case, they yield something positive: we actually have a topic worth discussing.

The first clear option is the most obvious: a true X9 – that is, a direct sequel to MegaMan X8. After all, X8 ended on a pretty big cliffhanger – one I’m not afraid to spoil right now, because the game literally came out over a decade ago. While the production of next-generation Reploids with copy-chip abilities would be delayed after it was discovered that they could still go Maverick, Lumine’s last attack on Axl has left him comatose, his forehead gem flickering with an ominous purple spark of energy. I’m not sure if Capcom meant for that to be such a blatant cliffhanger but that’s definitely how it came across back in 2004. This does seem to be the most popular option when it comes to fan demand – which is weird, given how much Axl is despised. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Capcom seems to be coming around to pushing other franchises past their most controversial points: Street Fighter V appears to be pushing towards revisiting the events of SF3 in some form and there’s been speculation that the upcoming Devil May Cry V might actually take place after the extremely unpopular DMC2. Either way, X8 was included in the recently released MegaMan X Legacy Collection 2, so fans at least have a refresher in case Capcom decides to continue from there.

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Subtle, but it’s there.

On the other hand, the least controversial option for a revival might be an interquel. It’s not exactly new territory for the X games: the Xtreme games fill in the gaps between X2 and X4 rather well, whether they’re considered canon or not. Going backward could allow Capcom to revisit the franchise’s less controversial days without nixing existing canon, allowing them to weigh their options about how to continue the franchise while sating the howls of hunger coming from the MMX contingent. In other words, an interquel may be Capcom’s best option of having their cake and eating it too. And it’s not like there aren’t other gaps that could be filled in the X timeline. Several new characters were added to the Maverick Hunters’ base of operation between X4 and X5, so that’s a plausible option – better yet, it could reintroduce these characters to lapsed fans who fell out of the series after the SNES games. Another option could be exploring what happens between X6 and X7: was there some kind of trauma that led X to temporarily retire by the start of X7? Finally, Capcom could do a game that takes place between X7 and X8. After all, Axl seems to be a fully-fledged Maverick Hunter by X8, while X7’s ending seems to put this status in doubt. Finding out how Axl proves himself to the seasoned X and Zero could be interesting to some extent, maybe even redeem the scrappy young Reploid in the eyes of the fanbase. Regardless, if Capcom decides to go this route, they’d technically be giving me something I’ve wanted for a long time: a third “Xtreme” game.

But aside from the clear ringers, are there any other options Capcom might have when they revisit the X series? Capcom could always decide to go with a soft reboot: effectively ignoring some of the more sweeping changes made to the status quo in future titles, while not necessarily undoing them. They could do a traditional X and Zero adventure while Axl is still healing from the injuries he received during X8’s conclusion, put decidedly little emphasis on Maverick Hunter HQ and just bring back Sigma without any explanation yet again. This might be a little harder to swing than it was for the Classic series – which is strictly episodic in nature – but honestly, the running storyline of the X games didn’t really begin to take shape until the fifth game anyway. While jettisoning some of those concepts might not be popular with everyone, it would probably do the best with bringing those aforementioned lapsed fans back into the fold with a story-light adventure clearly cut from the same cloth as the first 3 games.

My final two options don’t really necessitate separate mentions, but they are both clearly the most extreme options of the bunch. Capcom could choose to continue the attempted reboot that started with Maverick Hunter X or just completely reboot the series as a whole. After all, the scrapped first-person shooter “Maverick Hunter” was clearly a separate continuity from the traditional MMX games, so it’s not like it’s a completely foreign concept to Capcom. Meanwhile, Maverick Hunter X (along with its sister title, MegaMan Powered Up) was meant to spawn an entire series of remakes. I mean, it would probably be smarter to re-release MHX in some form before continuing that line of remakes – but whether they decide to do more straight remakes or just create an entirely new continuity from MHX’s modified premise, it could be a good way to refresh the X series as a whole: effectively keeping what worked and changing what didn’t.

So, what do I think Capcom’s going to do with their next game? My gut tells me they’re going to go with option 1 – an X9 that is a direct sequel to MMX8. Now that declaration may come across as arrogant, but fortunately I’ve got a piece of evidence to support my argument. The cover art for this new Legacy Collection’s soundtrack includes X and Zero jamming on guitars, a tambourine-clad Mettool and Alia and Axl singing a duet. The interesting thing is that both Alia and Axl have some slightly tweaked designs. They aren’t quite as radically different as the new MegaMan and Roll designs that popped up before MM11 was officially announced, but it does seem suspect that both of these characters from later games in the series would receive that kind of attention, while X and Zero’s designs don’t look all that different from the PS1 era, though the art style better resembles that of Maverick Hunter X.

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I think it’s funny that Alia’s the one with the mic stand.

As for me, I’m going for option 2. I’ll base my proposal as an interquel – I’ll be contemplating a game that takes place between X4 and X5. Personally, I wasn’t really a fan of how X5 felt almost like a total non-sequitur compared to its predecessor and given the following games’ greater focus on interconnected storylines. I also thought it was weird how many additional members of the Maverick Hunters were given focus from that point on, especially considering how even some of those characters – like Douglas and Lifesaver – fell by the wayside themselves in future titles. They don’t even really seem to get properly introduced within the context of X5: they’re just suddenly there, like they’ve always been there. I liked how the second Xtreme game “introduced” Iris as a Navigator for the Maverick Hunters, so seeing an interquel actually introduce some (if not all) of those new members might be a good pick.

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What a cute character. I’m sure she’s got a good long life in store for her.

I’d also love to see more of an exploration of the Repliforce concept: they were probably my favorite antagonistic force in the X series, but their history wasn’t explored nearly as much as it could’ve been. By X5, The Skiver Spiral Pegasus seems to be their last surviving combatant, but who’s to say there weren’t more before him? There’s a lot that could be explored during that period and it would also allow for a storyline that’s less muddled by some of the more controversial additions to the series, while also providing proper introductions for characters that became prominent from X5 onward. It also doesn’t hurt that X4’s my favorite game in the series, so of course I’d want to continue on from what I’d consider the pinnacle of the MegaMan X series in a new release. As such, I’d want this game to be given the same treatment as the Game Boy’s MegaMan V – an assortment of 8 unique bosses crafted exclusively for this game. Maybe even split the Mavericks into two groups of four, much like the previous Xtreme games (among others).

Gameplay

Now personally, I think that when it comes to the revival of MegaMan, the X series is probably the worst possible direction to go. You’d think this would come down to my personal preferences, but honestly – it’s strictly due to the fact that Capcom’s already brought back the Classic games. MegaMan X was originally built to effectively be a “Super MegaMan”, a game that was meant to update the conventions of the classic 8-bit platformer on the NES for the 16-bit era. In other words, bringing back X would be akin to starting an ice cream parlor that only serves French Vanilla and Vanilla Bean. Both styles have their respective fans and while I’d probably end up buying whatever new X game Capcom produces (as long as it looks as good as MM11 did), the MegaMan franchise is still in critical condition and in the past, the Classic and X series were pretty much never able to coexist without issue. There’s a certain cannibalization inherent among both sub-series: they could play nice with offshoots in different genres (Legends, Battle Network and Star Force) and even some of the more radical departures among 2D platformers (Zero and ZX), but the rise of one always seems to be predicated by the decline of the other.

Maybe Capcom’s learned their lesson about managing to give the same amount of attention to the Classic and X series, but warring fanbases is probably the least of their concerns. Avoiding series fatigue among the mainstream audience could be difficult, considering that’s what led to MegaMan’s decline in the first place. The best solution I can think of would be to emphasize the differences between the two. Bringing X into the third dimension was a clear mistake, so this will be a difficult task. Maybe borrow a few elements from some of MMX’s own successors, but perhaps the best way to handle it would be to play up some of the different gameplay elements found across the first six five X games.

In fact, MegaMan 11 is the major reason that I decided to wait so long to do this write-up: the trailers seemed to imply that in addition to regaining his slide and charge shot from later games, the Blue Bomber was going to be getting some new moves. New moves that might have aped some of X’s trademarks, making differentiating them more difficult. The one that caught my eye the most was using the Power Gear in tandem with the boss weapons – obviously a take on X’s ability to charge them. Fortunately, MM11 made that distinct enough from X’s concept. If I could use some fighting game terminology, the Power Gear-enhanced weapons resemble EX Specials, effectively just more powerful versions of the original weapons. X’s charged weapons, more often than not, were completely different from the standard versions. So that convention can help to differentiate the two, while remaining essentially unaltered.

On that note, the basic maneuvers typically found in the X games can be left unaltered for the most part. There’s enough overlap with a buster charging mechanic to allow it to appear in both games. X’s platforming is far more momentum based, relying upon dash-jumps, clinging to walls to slow descent and combining the two mechanics to scale to new heights with ease. Hopefully, the level design would be modified to actually rely on these abilities, as opposed to just making traditional MegaMan Classic-style stage layouts far more manageable – which is how many of the SNES games worked out.

Of course, the fifth game introduced a few new abilities to both X and Zero’s repertoire, ones that I’d say had mixed success. The duck was probably (aside from Dynamo) the best addition to X5 and fulfilled a long-running request among the fanbase: I’ve seen people begging for a crouch mechanic in NES MegaMan games. It was dropped in X8, but if Capcom wants to set a possible X9 away from MM11, bringing back the duck seems like it would be a simple fix. Given the fact that Classic’s slide allows him to navigate through specific passages and dodge some enemy attacks while X favors a much more momentum-based dash, the duck clearly has value within the X series.

The other major addition that came into play in X5 were the ziplines. I kind of want to like the mechanic, but for the most part, they were just used to navigate spike-lined areas. I do recall a few interesting instances where players had to jump from zipline to zipline to scale a specific area, but more often than not, it was just “don’t touch the spikes for less than a screen length”. I’ve got a gut feeling that this mechanic has some real potential, I just can’t work out how. Maybe use the Zero games for inspiration…

As for more good luck regarding the revival of the X series, MegaMan 11 (at least upon its initial release) has stuck to a single playable character, an absolute godsend for X fans. Later games in the X series – technically starting with X3, but I’d argue it really took shape in X4 – offered players the choice between multiple playable characters. While other series (specifically ZX and especially later releases in the Classic series) would use these mechanics, they were likely used best in the X games. Zero’s melee combat added a new dimension to the MegaMan formula – and one so complex, it served as the premise for yet another spinoff – and no other attempt really managed to be such a game-changer: Bass probably came the closest in Rockman & Forte, boasting aimable rapid fire, X-style dashing and his incredibly overpowered double jump. As a brief aside, Protoman’s playstyle in MM9 & MM10 relied on exclusively possessing the charge shot and slide, so I’m wondering how they’d tweak his playstyle if they decide to bring him back in future installments.

Speaking of, I guess it’s a good time to break down exactly how each character should work in these new games.

X

Let’s start with the Blue Bummer title character himself. X’s playstyle shouldn’t vary too much from the previous games: as per usual, he should start out with the most basic moveset of the three, only to be augmented with armor collected throughout the eight boss Maverick stages. In other words, most of what X’s base form is capable of is what the other playable characters should be capable of. His mobility options consist of the dash, dash-jump, wall-grab and wall climb. Obviously, he should also have a two-level charge shot, just like always. Oh, and since Classic didn’t end up using this in MM11, give X the ability to use his X-Buster while he has a weapon equipped. Give him the duck and zipline if the other characters have them too. Basically, base form X should probably be the benchmark for what any other playable characters should be capable of doing.

As for the armor, I’m a little torn. While I sort of liked the later games’ option of offering X multiple armors, the fact that he needed a full set to utilize any of their parts was unacceptable. Eventually, I decided on a compromise between the way extra components were handled in X3 and X8. All eight Maverick levels will have their own capsules – two apiece for Head, Arm, Body and Leg parts. The first of each type of Capsule the player finds will grant them the base armor. If they find the second one, they have the choice to upgrade them in one of two ways. So, for example: when the player finds the first leg part capsule, they gain the ability to air dash. When they find the second, they’re given the ability to choose between the vertical air dash from X3 or the ability to air-dash out of a dash-jump.

These are just examples, but essentially, there would be greater emphasis on player choice and customization. Each part would look distinct from the rest, allowing players the ability to understand what X is capable of at a glance. Obviously though, the basic parts would allow for X’s standard armor upgrades: the helmet would decrease the amount of ammo used by special weapons; the body armor would halve damage taken and the Buster upgrade would allow X an additional charge level for his buster and the aforementioned ability to charge boss weapons.

The Ultimate Armor would likely return, allowing the player full access to all of these enhanced abilities without choice. On top of that, give it an exclusive Giga Attack, perhaps based on a Street Fighter technique for old time’s sake? I’d also suggest reserving the Ultimate Armor as a hidden power-up in one of the Fortress levels – like in X3 and X5 – as opposed to making it strictly accessible via cheat code: make it both a reward for the players who clearly don’t need it (complete with achievement!) and an extra crutch for less-skilled players.

One last thing: if they decide to do another Street Fighter Easter egg – either with the Ultimate Armor or otherwise – I’d like to throw my support towards Blanka’s rolling attacks.

Zero

Next, we come to my personal favorite: the ultimate creation of [REDACTED], Zero. For Zero, I’m clearly going to be drawing from a number of sources – the PS1-era games, X8 and of course, the MegaMan Zero tetralogy. He’s got all of base form X’s mobility options, as well as the double jump and air-dash he has by default in many of the MMX games where he’s playable. Zero should retain his standard 3-hit combo attack and air-slash from X4-X6 (and the crouching slash from X5-X6), but also gain access to the charge slash from the Zero games, just for the sake of adding something new to his gameplay. Zero’s standard techniques – his own prizes for defeating the Maverick bosses – should be a mixture of old favorites and some original attacks, if at all possible. It’s a little boring cycling through the same techniques with different elements attached to them all the time.

Speaking of which, I was trying to think of a possible power-up for Zero that would effectively fulfill the same “collectable” niche that X’s armor fills. At the same time, I considered implementing the Element Chips from the Zero games, but those seem a little ham-fisted for Zero’s playstyle in the X games, particularly due to his emphasis on techniques rather than using two weapons in tandem. It was at that point that it hit me: Zero’s Weapons (introduced in X8) could fulfill a similar niche. While the Z-Saber itself would be an all-around weapon with the standard properties present for each technique, the optional weapons could be associated with a specific element, change up specific moves (like they did in X8) and maybe finding them could even unlock special techniques of their own that can be used by Zero with any other weapon, but are significantly more useful with their corresponding weapon. Better yet, they could even be prizes for defeating exclusive mini-bosses hidden in specific stages, like how X gained the body armor in the original MegaMan X.

Bonus: Axl

While my pitch doesn’t actually include the newest playable member of the Maverick Hunters, it still seems like it would be worth it to put forth my own ideas about the character. Keep the hover and aimable rapid fire from X8, but Capcom, please, take this one suggestion under advisement. I have a foolproof 3-step plan to fix Axl’s playstyle. Step 1: play MegaMan ZX Advent. Step 2: Just use the boss copy mechanic for Axl’s boss abilities. Step 3: That’s it, there is no step 3.

It’s infuriating that I even have to say this, but considering the fact that Inti Creates came up with a Biometal that was clearly based on Axl (but somehow also wasn’t based on him) in order to point this out to you is obscene. To make matters worse, you actually ended up using this concept for his Action Trigger – he was literally the only character in the game that got legitimate rewards after defeating the game’s major bosses! – in Command Mission. To make matters worse, it’s clear that Axl was always capable of this. He turned into Red in X7 and other Reploids outfitted with his copy chip technology also transformed into Sigma to survive planetary impact in X8. Like, I get that in X7, he was meant to be a replacement for X… but in X8, you just gave him his own set of alternative boss weapons. Just let the kid transform into the Maverick bosses already!

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The worst part is that Model A wasn’t even based on Axl in-universe, it was just a coincidence!

It’s so simple, it’s actually infuriating that this didn’t occur to them back in 2004. And I don’t even like Axl – mainly because he never uses the cool gimmick he has in any meaningful way! Instead, Capcom just allowed him to transform into random standard enemies. Honestly, that could probably be his Armor/Weapon equivalent: special non-boss transformations that improve his mobility or grant him abilities he wouldn’t have otherwise. Like, maybe one of these minor transformations would allow him to travel over spikes without taking damage, but severely hamper his mobility. Or he could transform into a flying enemy but doing so would limit his attack or defense abilities substantially. That way, his traditional transformations remain, but they would be significantly less useless than they were in the first place.

Regardless of whether we’re talking about X9 or “Xtreme 3”, I’ve got my doubts about including any other playable characters outside of X, Zero and yes, even Axl. Much like MM11, a new game should reestablish the existing property in the eyes of fans, new and old. Yet, I guess I’d be in remiss if I didn’t mention Vile from Maverick Hunter X. He had a unique playstyle, having access to three different weapon types at any given moment – taking a small arsenal of weapons into each stage. To make matters more interesting, many of Vile’s weapons are unlocked by defeating multiple bosses, as opposed to just getting a single weapon per boss. While I’ve got no doubt that Vile will likely return as a boss character in any new MMX game, I see two avenues for bringing back this playstyle. The first would be to introduce a brand-new Maverick Hunter character that takes on Vile’s gameplay. I don’t really see that happening just due to the sheer number of reintroductions a new X game would have to contend with in the first place. Personally, I prefer my second idea: a DLC expansion – with unique bosses and levels – from Vile’s perspective. I doubt Capcom would put something like that in the base game, but it could be a smart way to expand on whatever Capcom puts out.

Now when it comes to the method of separating playable characters, I’m a little bit torn. While I think making completely separate playthroughs for each character – the way X4 handled it – was probably for the best overall, I was a fan of some of the tag-team maneuvers from X8. Still, the negatives of allowing players to switch characters on the fly outweigh the positives: while X8 was able to mitigate some of the harm by tying power-ups to a haphazardly-implemented store system instead of finite power-ups, the fact is that the other games that allowed for character swapping within a playthrough seemed to punish players for attempting to branch out. In X5, the player not chosen for the intro stage loses a unique power-up permanently – but even then, Zero got the short end of the stick. Every game aside from X8 tied health upgrades to finite Heart Tanks or other character-exclusive upgrades, so players were stuck with a choice between playing strictly with one character or effectively gimping both to some extent. As such, just go back to X4 method of separate modes for separate characters. Best of all, that would mean extra replay value.

On that note, I’d just go back to the classic health upgrade system from the earlier games: 8 heart tanks, each one hidden in one of the Maverick boss stages. Same goes for the Sub Tanks, though I’d probably use the breakdown from X4: 2 health tanks, 1 weapon tank and an EX tank that increases the default number of lives. On that note, considering how much better Classic handles the shop mechanic, all power-ups in any new X game should probably be limited to collectibles. X8 attempted to mesh the two, but let’s be honest: finding schematics for power-ups that needed to be purchased later harmed both the shop and collectible aspects of the game in equal measure. Besides, if Capcom forces separate playthroughs per character (like X4 and Xtreme 2 did), there’s no need to worry about balancing upgrades anyway.

I guess the important distinction between MegaMan 11 and a new X game is they’re best approached from opposing angles. MM11 was built from the ground up to breathe new life into the Classic series not only due to MegaMan’s hiatus as a whole, but specifically because the latest two games – MegaMans 9 and 10 – were full-on throwbacks, right down to their 8-bit presentation. MegaMan X had the opposite problem with its last two mainline entries: X7 was an extreme departure from the gameplay of previous titles, attempting to reimagine the classic platforming gameplay in the third dimension, while X8 attempted to bridge the classic and more experimental styles into a single game with mixed results. In other words, MMX would benefit from the exact “back to basics” approach that people grew tired of in the Classic games. Although, if there’s one thing I’d want “X9” (or whatever Capcom decides to do with the X series) to carry over from MegaMan 11, it would have to be the length of its stages. Also, it would be nice if stages had different layouts depending on the player character.

Aesthetic

A game’s presentation is a funny thing. In the grand scheme of things, it really shouldn’t have that much importance in game development. But in practice, it both acts as advertisement – being the first things prospective customers recognize about a game – and help to solidify good memories of the game, with gorgeous visuals, catchy music and vivid storylines coming to mind as easily as engrossing gameplay. Keeping that in mind, what style of aesthetics should Capcom explore when reviving a franchise that hasn’t been seen since the mid-2000s?

Graphics

The previous times where I’ve explored the concept of a MegaMan X9, I pointed out that determining the art style would likely be the most controversial decision that Capcom would have to make. While my opinion hasn’t entirely shifted on that, my understanding of the argument has changed since then. It’s clear that going 2.5D – again, using 3D models in a 2D space as games like Maverick Hunter X and MegaMan 11 did – is probably the safest answer at this point. While I’ve no doubt that there are significant contingents of the fanbase demanding a return to both 16-bit (styled after the first three games) and 32-bit (X4-X6), there are now three factions likely to be against either decision to consider.

Obviously, you still have both younger and modern-minded gamers that consider sprites passé to contend with, but the other two couldn’t be any more different from each other. There are gamers that are just outright sick of retro throwbacks in general. After all, when MegaMan 9 launched in 2008, reviving the 8-bit look of the Classic NES games was lauded as original by audiences. But a mere two years later, MegaMan 10 was considered lazy and outdated while using the same art style. Since then, we’ve been inundated with several similar pseudo-retro throwbacks – particularly common among indie games – and as such, there’s been a growing backlash against anything of the type, even games that take inspiration from later generations. On the other side of the coin, you’ve got retro connoisseurs that will turn up their noses at anything that isn’t 100% accurate to whatever hardware the game’s aesthetic is trying to evoke. If a game has too many colors onscreen or too many sprites without flicker or slowdown, then it’s automatically just poseur trash.

While that last demographic likely won’t be pleased by anything that isn’t on a SNES cartridge, the other two will likely look upon any art style aside from a totally hand-drawn 2D game with disdain. And I sincerely doubt that Capcom would put in for a budget large enough to sustain that, even if MegaMan 11 ends up being the highest-selling game in the entire series. The question is, how do they differentiate it from MM11? After all, it did end up kind of resembling Maverick Hunter X more than MegaMan Powered Up. I mean, the promotional artwork for both the Classic and X series didn’t really differ that much from one another in the first place but as I said before, it is absolutely critical for Capcom to differentiate MMX from the Classic series. I’m just not sure how Capcom could go about doing that.

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Seriously, tell me with a straight face that this doesn’t look like a SNES-era X game.

Originally, I considered suggesting going with a darker color scheme overall, but MM11 managed to transition seamlessly between brighter environments and some with color palettes and even background designs that came straight out of the 2D MMX titles.  Maybe they should style the entire game around those alternate outfits from Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. You know, the ones with those glowing details like out of Tron? After all, the original MegaMan’s new look in 11 was clearly inspired by his appearance in the recent Smash Bros. games. The only other option I can think of would be to go for a grittier, less saturated art style. I mean, going realistic probably wouldn’t mesh well with the existing designs – unless they decide to go for the look they went for in that cancelled “Maverick Hunter” reboot.

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…well, maybe it needs a few tweaks.

My own pitch for a third Xtreme game, on the other hand, would be better suited with classic sprites. However, at the risk of catching a bullet through the temple from my esteemed editor, I’d say that emulating the 32-bit sprites of the games that debuted on the original PlayStation would be a more apt choice, given the fact that I’ve set it between the first two games in that style – X4 and X5, respectively. Given the implication that the game would be a spinoff, I think a more retro aesthetic would be appreciated. After all, both episodes of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 suffered from criticism due to using modern designs while Sonic Mania received praise for attempting the same thing with a suitably retro-themed aesthetic. My only real suggestion would be to emulate the 32-bit art style as opposed to outright recycling old graphics. Maintain the familiar look – maybe even try to find a happy medium between the SNES and PS1 designs, if it can be done – but utilize modern conventions, like more fluid animations or an aesthetic that manages to mimic the limited resolutions of old while being far more detailed.

Music

I’ve said it too many times before and I’ll keep saying it forever, it’s impossible to ignore just how important a good soundtrack is for any MegaMan game is: there’s a reason they call it “Rockman” in Japan. MegaMan 11’s soundtrack was subject to intense scrutiny because of the series’ reputation, though I’d say that the game’s musical flaws stemmed from the instrumentation rather than the compositions themselves. If you don’t believe me, try tracking down the “Wily Numbers Instrumental” pre-order bonus tracks sometime – they’re amazing.

Each MegaMan sub-series went for their own unique styles to differentiate themselves from their sister series.  The X series is unique in the sense that it straddled multiple styles across its lifespan. The first game had a diverse soundtrack, but the second and third games went for more of a heavy metal-inspired sound, clearly emboldened by the more mature setting of 21XX. However, the shift to 32-bit with X4 on the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation brought a much more electronic sound to the series: a move considered controversial in retrospect, but frankly, I preferred it. Later games in the series would attempt to bridge the gap between both prominent styles. Personally, I’d like to see a game implement a diverse soundtrack like the original MMX with tracks that emphasize both the hard rock and techno influences from previous games. You’d have tracks that were strictly heavy metal, songs that are strictly electronic and others that utilize both motifs in their composition.

Most of all, I’d love to see an X game’s soundtrack rip off the main concept behind MegaMan 10’s soundtrack: bring back composers from the previous games and put each one of them in charge of one of the Maverick bosses’ stages. This might be a little more difficult than it was in MM10, simply because more of the X games’ soundtracks were composed by multiple people, but it would still be an interesting gimmick to implement into a new game. Best of all, it even ties into my previous concept: farming out the music to different composers would result in a varied soundtrack by default.

Presentation

This is a new sub-header, so I believe an explanation is in order. Effectively, in this context, “presentation” would refer to things like how the game presents its storyline. In the grand scheme of things, this really shouldn’t matter. It’s still fun to speculate on what Capcom should do here. Besides, the main purpose on this article is to find more ways to differentiate a potential new X game from this year’s MegaMan 11 and presentation seems like a safe and easy way to do that.

MM11 handled most of its story like the 8-bit games of old: through classic slideshows (with lovingly hand-drawn art rendered in high definition) and cinematics using the in-game models (with voice acting). While these are the same methods that various X games have employed in the past, it may be for the best to go in a different direction where possible. The latest games in the X series were able to create both pre-rendered and in-game cutscenes with voice acting using 3D models, so that might be something worth emulating in an X9. It would help to create a cohesive aesthetic across the entire game if the cast of characters retains a similar appearance from in-game action to story material.

In “Xtreme 3’s” case, I’d probably want some anime-style cutscenes for pivotal moments – like those found in X4 and the “CD-ROM” version of MMX3 – but would be fine with voice-acted slideshows like the ones found in X5 (and MM11) for plot exposition. It does seem like the least realistic thing I could ask for though: 2D animated cutscenes seem to have gone the way of the dodo – I think the last Capcom game that had them was one of the Street Fighter IV games and that only happened because they partnered with an anime production studio to produce some OVAs. I’ve got my doubts that Capcom would set up a similar deal for X9, but I guess stranger things have happened.

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This is probably the second coolest thing X has ever done.

If there’s one thing I’d like to see in the game, regardless of what Capcom does, would be full dialogue exchanges with the Maverick bosses. I was a little disappointed that we simply got quips in MegaMan 11 similar to the ones present in MM8, but honestly, that probably fit better. So, in the end, it works to our advantage when differentiating the two. MegaMan X has many more examples of full pre-boss battle conversations throughout its existence, especially when they added multiple characters which had their own unique exchanges with each boss. Every mainline game from X4 on as well as Command Mission and Maverick Hunter X had them, with later titles even including full voice acting. Hopefully, Capcom will continue that streak with whatever new games they make in the X series. Obviously, these conversations should be skippable – in fact, it would be nice if Capcom added a “speedrun” setting that would just automatically excise dialogue, preferably as an unlockable bonus after completing the game or just as an option by default.

On that note, I guess I might as well discuss the Maverick bosses themselves. As per usual, I’m going to avoid coming up with any specific ideas for Mavericks – those days are far behind me – but I will give a few comments on design elements I’d like to see in general. For starters, I’d like to see them take on a variety of styles, ranging from the typical “animal head on generic muscular robot body” style typical of the series to designs that are much more evocative of the flora and fauna that serve as the basis for the bosses themselves. It would also be a good idea to make one of the Mavericks a female. There were female Reploid bosses in the Zero and ZX series and people seemed to be dismayed when MM11 didn’t have a female boss. It wouldn’t even be that out of the ordinary for X fans: for years, people apparently believed that Commander Yammark and somehow even Cyber Peacock (which is debunked by his name alone) were female.

Aside from that, I’d love to see a variety of different types of animals represented among this batch of Mavericks. That means at least one bird, one sea creature, one type of plant, one insect and probably either a lizard or amphibian. I’d rather not see a breakdown like MMX3, where the Mavericks were all either insects, sea creatures or mammals. On that note, I want Capcom to revert to the classic naming conventions for the boss Mavericks: the English versions should be literal, while puns should be exclusively reserved for the Japanese names. Seriously, what is “Vanishing Gungaroo” supposed to be mean – is it a reference to the bad camera angles during his boss fight? And I can’t find any explanation for “Commander Yammark”, I’m assuming he was a dragonfly but what does “Yanmaku” mean? If MM11 was able to break conventions and give two Robot Masters distinctly unique names in English and Japanese (as opposed to a mere Crash/Clashman scenario), then X9 can do the same.  I’ve got one final note on the naming front. I would love it if a new X game didn’t recycle any of the previous adjectives from previous games – we’ve got 3 “Flame” Mavericks in English versions already. Bonus points if they manage to get titles that haven’t even been used in any of the other series for boss names.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, this section is meant for various other miscellaneous points I’d like to bring up that don’t necessarily fit into any of the prominent categories or their sub-headers. For example, I believe that this game should probably get the same treatment as MegaMan 11 in terms of its release: a $30 price point with a physical edition on consoles – not to mention a slightly more expensive special edition. While we haven’t seen any confirmation of DLC in MegaMan 11 – aside from the preorder bonus – I completely support any sort of Vile-centered “remix” campaign as post-release content.

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This is the only legitimate reason to like this character.

It would also be interesting if they attempted to recreate the X Challenge mode from the recent Legacy Collections – either as DLC or bonus content. As such, this mode would contain bosses from the new game as well as full-on recreations of classic boss fights. Both MMX8 and Maverick Hunter X would easy to source for classic fights, considering that they also had 2D boss fights relying on 3D models, so they could probably be implemented into the base game with relative ease. Bosses from other classic games would need to be rebuilt from scratch, so they’d probably make more sense as additional post-release content, though weapons from other games would probably be easy enough to recreate for launch. On that note, why limit this mode to just X? Let Zero and Axl in on the action too, if they’re playable in the new game. Aside from that, maybe a new set of challenge stages – perhaps themed as training simulations for the Maverick Hunters?

And with that, my second article in the Armchair Dev series comes to its conclusion. But what do you think? Am I completely offbase for saying that a retro-themed art style would spark a backlash? Would you also rather see a third game in the Xtreme series than a continuation of X8’s storyline? Would you rather see another MegaMan series get a revival? (I know I would.) Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Turn Based #10 – Party Like It’s 1999

Professor Icepick: Ever since the first Turn Based, some 16 months ago, there was one hotly contested topic that I’ve always wanted to cover. One argument that has been bubbling for years between SNES Master KI and myself. And as the clock strikes midnight this Halloween, it only seems fitting to finally tackle this subject: one interwoven with one of the most famous horror-themed video games of all time — Konami’s Castlevania.

Within the Castlevania franchise, there is a set order to things. Dracula rises only to have his plans thwarted and sent back to slumber for another century (give or take several years) before he can rise again to terrorize a new generation. However, on May 6th, 2003, things changed forever. That day, a new Castlevania game was released — Aria of Sorrow on the Game Boy Advance — where not only had Dracula’s reign of terror been stopped permanently, but players were thrust into the role of his reincarnation, Soma Cruz.

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Scary for all the wrong reasons.

But how was Dracula stopped once and for all? The game alluded to the work of Julius Belmont, the youngest member of the famous clan of vampire hunters, who had finally put an end to the Prince of Darkness’s evil activities once and for all in the far-flung year of 1999. For some, this explanation was enough. But for a vocal contingent, this was unacceptable. They needed closure, they needed to see the finale of the dark lord of Castlevania unfold before their own eyes.

For years, cries reverberated across the internet for a “Castlevania ’99” to tell the story properly. However, as time went on, Konami’s own stewardship for the series fell into disarray. Koji Igarashi — better known simply as “IGA” — a man who had become synonymous with Castlevania left the company to pursue his own ventures and Konami tried their hands at a Western-developed reboot of the franchise that was met with a mixed reception at best.

The point of this article is not to determine whether or not Konami should make “Castlevania ’99” in their current state: after all, they’ve yet to prove that they know how to approach the series in general. Rather, SNES Master KI and I will be debating on whether or not it should have happened in the first place, back when IGA was still flying high at Konami and the series continued to thrive on handhelds. With that being said, I’ll turn things over to KI himself to begin this discussion in full.

SNES Master KI: My core argument on this topic can be summed up with a modified Simpsons quote: you know what would be less disappointing than nothing? ANYTHING! Skipping over the climax of a battle spanning generations in both the story and real life (video game generations) is absolutely ridiculous, and I can’t understand why it was ever considered acceptable, at least without Castlevania ’99 already far into development. While I could keep arguing based on things Icepick has said in the past (and one of those arguments was so climactic and epic, it was incredible, too bad we’ll never let you see it), to make things less confusing I’ll let him start with why he thinks we shouldn’t get to see/play the climax of Castlevania as we knew it.

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Whatever Castlevania ’99 would have been, it would have been more than this.

Icepick: One major issue I have with “Castlevania ’99” is something I find inherent to prequels in general. A well-written prequel — that is, one written with the intent of actually acting as proper backstory to an existing work — is bound to have less interesting characters, as they clearly haven’t gone through all of the events that have led them to being more fully-rounded characters within the previous work.

While it may be somewhat interesting to see Julius Belmont in his younger days, the fact of the matter is that it’s been fairly clear that Dracula’s been checked out from his evil plans since Symphony of the Night, when his son Alucard gives him closure over the death of his beloved wife, apparently his primary motivation for tormenting humanity in the first place. From there, Dracula’s motivations seemed to effectively shift into becoming a reluctant pawn for other figures who wished to either use his powers to their own end or to just revive him out of some misguided loyalty. Just based on Dracula’s own non-presence in many of these games — Bloodlines and its own direct successor Portrait of Ruin come to mind — there really didn’t seem to be any reason to bring back Dracula one last time, just to kill him off for good.

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Do these sound like the words of a vampire who’s still hellbent on obliterating humanity?

KI: The issue is that Castlevania ’99 wouldn’t be a prequel, there are tons of games set before it. It would be at worst an interquel, but an interquel where the games taking place after it left a gigantic gap in the continuity. Dracula’s lack of motivation in Bloodlines really can’t be used as evidence, since it was a 16-bit platformer with no dialogue. Portrait of Ruin was made after the post-1999 games, and in the hypothetical scenario we’re debating over Castlevania ’99 would have been released before it in my vision.

However, it does segue nicely into another point I want to make. You talked about there being problems inherent to prequels… at least half of all Castlevania games are prequels. We’ve had two prequels released since the post-1999 games, and that’s not counting the reboot universe games. Seeing Julius Belmont as a young man facing probably the biggest battle in recorded history in-universe would offer a lot of things that were very different from his retired mentor role in the post-1999 games. The details of the 1999 battle are vague enough that there are countless new things that could be revealed without contradicting anything in the Sorrow (post-1999) games.

But there’s one more thing I have to say about this that outranks the earlier arguments. We didn’t just miss out on a story, we missed out on a game that would be obligated to go all out, to do everything it could to feel like the grandest Castlevania ever made. I don’t just want to know how Dracula died for good, I want to kill him myself, and I want the epic boss fight with him that the setup promises. I want a game where every familiar boss and area is polished to reflect this being their last stand. I want to see Castlevania (the castle itself) destroyed once and for all, escaping or even fighting it as it makes one last desperate gasp at ending the Belmont line. I want the game, not just the story.

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Seriously, there’s an eldritch abomination behind Dracula, let it make the castle itself fight you!

Icepick: Yeah, I can count two major issues with this speculation. For starters, Castlevania reemerges as the setting of Aria of Sorrow — so the lasting visual of Castlevania being destroyed once and for all is already null and void before Castlevania ’99 was even greenlit.

But more importantly, the concept of Dracula’s permanent final death just doesn’t make sense, strictly based on the rules previous Castlevania games established. As I said earlier, every revival since Symphony of the Night was essentially against Dracula’s will, so it’s clear that his returns weren’t strictly fueled by his misanthropy. So what could possibly be different in 1999 that finally ends Dracula’s reign of terror once and for all, that no other Belmont was capable of accomplishing? It just doesn’t make any sense from a narrative standpoint: just attempting to scrutinize Aria of Sorrow’s massive shift to the status quo will result in either a gaping plothole or (at best) an unsatisfying retcon.

KI: While I misremembered about the castle being literally destroyed, it was permanently sealed in an eclipse (Aria of Sorrow can only take place there because there is another eclipse), so it being essentially defeated once and for all is still pretty accurate. As for Dracula’s revivals, I’m not sure where you’re getting him not caring after Symphony of the Night (which was also an example of him being revived without his prior consent, remember the famous dialogue exchange: “I was called here by humans wishing to pay me tribute!”) from. In Portrait of Ruin he alludes to his full power returning in 1999. In Order of Ecclesia, he’s ready to “dance” again, there’s nothing indicating that he stopped wanting whatever it was he gained from all this after SotN.

So the reason the 1999 battle is such a big deal is because both Dracula and the Belmonts had been holding back for centuries not because of apathy, but because they were charging up for the big climax. We don’t know exactly why that battle killed him off for good, but the Bigger Bad (Chaos) looking for a new body in the Sorrow games makes it clear that the cycle was indeed ended. Explaining why this fight really truly for good killed Dracula would be on the game to explain, and whatever reason it came up with would most likely lead to the grand, climactic battles I wanted from it.

Icepick: The thing I’m noticing about your argument for Castlevania ’99 has less to do with the game’s story and more to do with the potential for it being “the ultimate Castlevania” in terms of gameplay. However, you yourself have professed on numerous occasions that Super Castlevania IV — itself one of many remakes of the original Castlevania — is your favorite game in the series. As such, it doesn’t really seem that you’re married to the concept of Dracula’s demise in 1999, rather you just assume that Konami would have gone all out in portraying it in a game, something that wouldn’t necessarily happen, given their tendency toward peaks and valleys in quality at this point in the series’ lifespan especially.

Me personally? I’ve got bad experiences with prequels — “interquels” if we must resort to the term, but it’s clear that the “1999” game would strictly be a prequel to Aria of Sorrow — in terms of storyline: the major proper aspect that would separate Castlevania ’99 from any other game in the series. We saw the Star Wars prequels (which started in 1999? What a creepy coincidence!) transform Darth Vader, one of cinema’s most famous villains into a doe-eyed little boy and a moody teenager. But I feel like everything’s already been said about those films, so let’s not beat that dead horse.

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Accurate recreation of The Phantom Menace.

Another bad prequel that comes to mind is 2005’s Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power, a direct-to-video prequel to the 1993 crime film, showcasing the title character’s rise as a criminal — an exercise in futility, given the original film’s focus on his redemption after finally being released from prison. Rise to Power added nothing to the original film and most people just outright ignore it.

In the end, leaving the events of Castlevania 1999 up to the audience’s imagination just seems like the safest way to deal with the events of the story to me. Dracula’s final death makes absolutely no sense under even an iota of scrutiny and it’s clear that the plot itself was merely devised as an excuse to allow for Dracula to be reincarnated as the game’s protagonist.

KI: I have two things to say about the Star Wars comparison. One, the 1999 battle being skipped isn’t comparable to a full prequel, it would be the equivalent of Star Wars going from The Empire Strikes Back to The Force Awakens, with no plan to ever actually show the events of Return of the Jedi. Second, Star Wars and your other example have something in common: they aren’t video games. Movies don’t have a good track record for prequels or sequels. Video games do, and there are plenty great video game prequels/interquels. Devil May Cry 3, Metroid Prime, Street Fighter Alpha, IV, and V, Mortal Kombat 9, almost every Zelda. Also Castlevania III, Symphony of the Night, Order of Ecclesia…

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Would you think skipping this and going to Episode VII was a reasonable decision?

And as for leaving the events up to our imagination, I refer to my first argument: anything is less disappointing than nothing. If Castlevania 1999 is made and it’s terrible, at least I have closure. I can create my own version just as easily as I can now, or just go back to my current one. There is story and gameplay potential that was teased but never given, that’s far more frustrating than the game just not being good. The worst case scenario would be Castlevania 1999 becoming disowned and treated as if it didn’t exist… which it currently doesn’t. If you hype up a climax you need to at least try to deliver it, even if it isn’t good it will be easier to move on from.

Icepick: As expected, KI and I have reached an impasse. But what do you think? Were we cheated out of the best Castlevania game ever for reasons unknown or would “Castlevania 1999” have failed to live up to the hype? Do you agree with KI that the fabled Castlevania ’99 would have predated Portrait of Ruin’s development had it come to fruition or would it have come out later? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

Beware the Pixelated Heart

Some things are forgotten by accident. Some things people wish they could forget. Some things need to be forgotten for the good of us all. But some things… refuse to be forgotten. Buried decades in the past, they still haunt us, a shared curse. Myself, Professor Icepick, and everyone in our circle of friends have encountered this… thing. This abomination, this symbol of horror and despair. A shared childhood trauma, and we aren’t the only ones burdened with the memories, God only knows how many others had the misfortune of encountering this. While it officially died more than 20 years ago, things are never that simple. Its spirit, its curse, lives on in the minds and souls of everyone who played one of its “games,” and it may be more than that soon… I will now show you the symbol that, if you are lucky, you will not recognize:

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Behold: the face of fear.

That’s right, I’m talking about Hi Tech Expressions. Some people fear the LJN rainbow, the High Voltage danger sign, or the 989… 989. But those people are lucky fools. The pixelated heart of Hi Tech is what they should have feared, and what they should still fear. Nothing can truly kill such a profound evil, it still lingers and may be getting ready to return. Now some of you may still not have any idea what I’m talking about, all I did was show you a heart being sucked pixel by pixel into a void of perpetual suffering and warn you of great evil. So what did Hi Tech Expressions actually do? Behold what is probably the best known game they published:

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More terrifying than 1,000 exhausted old men in yellow spandex.

Yes, that was them. But that’s far from their worst crime, they unleashed many equally terrible or even worse games unto the world. The “port” of Street Fighter II on DOS? The SNES Beethoven game? The NES Barbie game? All them. And although you likely haven’t heard of it unless you’ve read my previous rantings, they were responsible for The Flintstones: Dino Lost in Bedrock. That game alone would make them worse than 1,000 LJNs. There are others, the best efforts are a completely average Tom and Jerry game on SNES and a 1990 Chip and Dale DOS game that was a decent clone of a Game and Watch title. Most of the other games, though, are perfectly capable of traumatizing any impressionable children who encounter them.

However, their most infamous games (Mega Man DOS and Mega Man III DOS, in a display of eldritch horror so foul, they broke the numbering system) are why we are in danger, why this warning is so dire. When Hi Tech gained access to Mega Man, a connection was formed. It wasn’t an especially strong connection at first, no different than the ones formed with Street Fighter or Ninja Gaiden (another DOS version they published). However, circumstances conspired to deepen the Mega Man bond. The Mega Man DOS games getting more attention was a factor, but we are in danger now because of a much darker event. As I may have mentioned a couple hundred times, I was very, very happy when Mega Man’s hibernation (hibernation being the best case scenario) ended with the announcement and release of Mega Man 11. It was a moment of pure joy, light (right?) dispelling the darkness that had hung over the franchise since Inafune’s departure and the multiple cancellations in 2011. One of gaming’s most beloved franchises had been rescued from the abyss, it was alive again.

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Even a moment of pure joy can be corrupted by the curse of the pixelated heart.

But those dark years still happened, those long and frustrating years where many feared Mega Man was dead for good. Where gloom and pessimism overtook the fanbase. Where people were so desperate for a new Mega Man game that they were at the Beck and Call of anyone who promised something that was even similar. Despair and desperation; as these negative emotions swirled around the Mega Man franchise, a certain entity latched on. Hi Tech Expressions attached itself to the Mega Man franchise while it was comatose and unable to fight back or even notice. Hi Tech and Mega Man’s fate became intertwined, and we have to face what that means:

When Mega Man was revived, so was Hi Tech.

Yes, Hi Tech’s spirit once more roams the world. They haven’t found a vessel yet, but if you have as much experience with them as I do, you know without question that they’re back. The feeling is unmistakable, nothing else could cause this kind of chill. Hi Tech is here and constantly searching, searching for a series to latch on to and regain its unholy power. Now it can’t just claim Mega Man again, or most game series with the presence to make Hi Tech a threat. The risk of letting random companies have their most valuable IPs has been realized by most gaming companies. No self-respecting series would let Hi Tech form a pact with it, so we’re safe, right?

Of course we aren’t. Think about it, what series would cause the largest catastrophe if Hi Tech got its otherworldly tentacles on it? The most powerful IP in gaming, hundreds of games and countless spin-offs? Yes, Hi Tech becoming attached to Mario would be truly disastrous, imagine what they could do to gaming, to the world, if they could absorb that much energy and spread to so many people. But this is Mario we’re talking about, he’d never have anything to do with Hi Tech, right? Well, of course Mario wouldn’t. But what if there was someone in his universe who would? A force of negativity and resentment who would be the perfect herald for Hi Tech? Is there anyone like that….?

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Don’t let his hollow smile fool you, his heart is darker than you can imagine.

Yes, as you may remember from last year, Luigi has been in the shadows for decades, watching and waiting for his chance to really cause some terror. If Luigi opens the gates and lets Hi Tech in, he may finally have the power needed to topple Mario. If that happens and Hi Tech can absorb the series’ power, there is no hope for us. I said before that the fear of Luigi was something we could never be safe from, and it may be about to come full circle. The enigmatic negativity of Luigi may be the key that allows the profound evil of Hi Tech Expressions to return stronger than it ever was before, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. God help us all.

Standard “I’m not really insane, this is a Halloween article, hope you enjoy your Halloween” disclaimer: Actually, that pretty much sums it up.

No Bad Ideas? – Resident Evil 5

Hello, and welcome to what will hopefully become a recurring series on Retronaissance. My colleague Professor Icepick has had multiple series focused on rehabilitating a franchise or game that has fallen on hard times or was poorly received, so I’ve decided to play that on hard mode. Sometimes a poor design choice ruins, or at least severely wounds, a game that could otherwise have been great. The easiest and most logical way to fix the game would be to completely remove that design choice, but what if for some reason that wasn’t an option? Could a universally reviled concept be rehabilitated into a good thing, or at least not a detriment? I’m going to give it my best shot.

For my first attempt, I will be looking at Resident Evil 5. Resident Evil 5 had a tough act to follow, Resident Evil 4 completely recharged and revolutionized its series, becoming one of the most beloved games of its generation. Moving away from the fixed camera angles and intentionally awkward controls of the previous Resident Evil games, RE4 was one of the first big over-the-shoulder shooters, and that perspective change coupled with control over aiming made combat so much more fun. Instead of worrying about one or two zombies per room, crowds of parasite controlled villagers hunted you at the same time. You were limited enough in ammo and movement (you technically still had tank controls, but the camera perspective made them much less debilitating) that there was still tension, and the game was gigantic without ever letting up the pace. Even the dialogue managed to be as iconically cheesy as the earlier games while sounding less downright stupid. Anyone would be intimidated at having to follow up a game like that.

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You mean I’M the one who decides if it’s a headshot!?

So how did Capcom decide to handle Resident Evil 5? The basic combat and structure of Resident Evil 4 was left intact, with a few improvements to your character’s abilities (yep, no more mandatory tank controls), but Capcom clearly felt that they had to go beyond a direct sequel after Resident Evil 4 shook up the series so much. Their main attempt at this was making the entire single-player campaign playable in cooperative mode, and putting in a mandatory computer-controlled second player if you played by yourself. Now as we all know, this was not a popular decision. Changing the core single-player game in such an omnipresent and mandatory way pleased almost no one. If I was trying to fix the game itself, this is where I’d jump in and argue that no reasonable person would complain about the first direct sequel to such a beloved game after a four year wait and that they should just make it play like RE4, but I’m restricting myself from suggesting a change that drastic. So for the purpose of this article, the mandatory AI partner stays in the game. That’s the objective, find a way that could remain in the game without damaging it. Wish me luck.

Why It Didn’t Work

Before fixing it, let’s analyze why exactly it didn’t work. Well, there are lots of reasons. For one thing, AI partners are always going to be far less competent than even somewhat decent human controlled partners. The AI partner was there so that two people could easily play every part of the game cooperatively, which means that the difficulty level was balanced with two humans in mind. So in single player mode, you were at an inherent disadvantage for the entire game. This got especially bad with anything that required synchronization and timing, good luck getting the AI to do their part during the brief window where a boss can be damaged thanks to the efforts of the other player. Especially since the AI partner could also temporarily reduce difficulty the wrong way, by robbing you of (real life) experience you needed. You or your partner dying wasn’t an instant game over, there was a window of time for the surviving character to heal the wounded one. While this alleviated having to babysit the AI to some degree, it also meant you could brute force your way through earlier parts of the game/easier difficulty settings without getting the understanding and skill you needed later. I hate AI controlled partners in games for this reason, let me fail or succeed on my own.

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Yeah, there’s no possible way an AI partner could make this frustrating.

This wasn’t even the only issue. Resident Evil 4 and 5 may have been more action-focused than their survival horror predecessors, but item and ammo conservation was still a much bigger part of the games than in a standard third person shooter. One of the best things about Resident Evil 4’s combat system was that where you shot an enemy, and whether you could get in for a melee attack when they were stunned, could have a great effect on how much ammo you actually used in the encounter. If you thought you had taken too much damage, you could let enemies kill you and try again from the checkpoint so that your stock of healing items didn’t get too low. Now, do you see any issue with having to share your resources with an incompetent AI partner? Yeah, good luck with ammo conservation or strategic use of items when your partner just wants to pump bullets into random parts of a not-zombie until they finally drop dead. Best case scenario, you give your partner no ammo and babysit them through fights that were balanced with two human players in mind. There’s a reason no one talked about this game after the online userbase dried up.

How To Fix It

Okay, now the hard part. How do we fix this while still keeping an AI partner around for every second of the single player mode? Well, for ammo and item conservation, I think your partner shouldn’t use your ammo stock. While my solution for balancing their ammo usage with that in mind may be a little complicated, my best idea is to limit your opponent to the amount of ammo you use. Every shot you take gives your partner a shot to use, thus preventing the player from abusing an infinite ammo well from the CPU character. For the dying issue, I would just make your AI partner invincible, with a caveat I’ll get to in a bit. Staying alive should be their responsibility, right? If you aren’t dying, they have to pull their weight and also not die. If you do die, no assists (except for maybe a rare item that your partner can use to revive you), you just die while your partner yells your name like you’re Solid Snake.

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Chris? What’s wrong? Chris!? CHRISSSSS!!!

So those changes would help, but how could we make the partner actually add to the gameplay instead of just minimizing damage? And how do we handle things that require cooperation? Well, at the risk of making some hypothetical Capcom employees using 2009 hardware cry (now they know how I felt when I didn’t get a SNES-style MMX9), I think the best way to handle this is letting the player switch which character they’re controlling at will. Press a button, and the camera quickly shifts to the character you aren’t currently controlling. Your ammo and healing items will stay the same (which syncs up perfectly with my idea for the CPU matching your ammo use), but now you can personally handle the enemies on the other side of the area or take advantage of that boss opening you just arranged with the other character. And while your AI partner’s default state would be invincible, they could call for help at certain set points or if you’ve let too many enemies swarm their side of the field. Then you would have the choice of either going to them as your current character, or switching and making them save themselves. I think this could open up a lot of interesting puzzle and set piece battle possibilities, and if done correctly could feel like a positive evolution of Ashley in Resident Evil 4 instead of a mutation that messes up the entire game.

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Falcom got it to work, on Vita!

So that’s my best shot at fixing Resident Evil 5 without, you know, fixing the biggest problem. I think that if you were chained to an AI partner like two escaped prisoners, this would be the way to make it the least painful, What do you think, would you like RE5 better if it used my concepts? Do you have other ideas to fix it, or even want to defend the game as it is? Whatever your opinion, sound off in the comments section. I’ll see you next time, if the AI controlling Icepick at the moment doesn’t waste all my healing items.

Sum of Its Parts: 3D Sonic Sequel

I always find it somehow comforting when things come full circle. The first article I wrote for the Sum of Its Parts series – as long as you don’t count what I’ve retroactively folded into this little category – was my attempt at designing a new 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game. When I wrote that article, the Sonic series seemed to have found its footing in the 3D realm but struggled to make headway in the sub-genre in which it originated. My, my, how much has changed in four (almost five) years. 2017’s Sonic Mania was developed by several key figures in the Sonic fan game community and has taken the world by storm, effectively declared as “the best Sonic game since the Genesis era” by a vocal majority of reviewers and fans alike. Meanwhile, Sonic’s 3D renaissance has since fizzled out: while the (criminally underrated) Sonic Lost World was torn apart by a majority of fans, Sega’s following two efforts didn’t fare any better. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric’s poor quality was as memetic as Sonic ’06 and while reactions to Sonic Forces were mixed overall, it was generally considered a letdown in terms of being the long-awaited follow-up to the beloved Sonic Generations.

While Sonic’s future in the realm of 2D has been all but secured – so long as Sega doesn’t decide to cut Christian Whitehead and his collaborators loose without at least giving us Mania 2 – its future in the third dimension has once again fallen into question. Sega’s winning formula has finally gone stale and it’s time to reevaluate the way things are done with their 3D titles. Maybe the best way to look into the Blue Blur’s path forward would be to look back at how they transitioned into the three-dimensional space in the first place.

There are effectively two main schools of thought when it comes to 3D Sonic games: the “Adventure” and “Boost” formulas, both with their respective die-hard (and by extension, irreconcilable) fanbases. While Sega themselves advertised Sonic 3D Blast as one of the fastest thing alive’s first forays into the third dimension, it was more akin to isometric platformers of old, on par with earlier titles like Marble Madness, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll or even earlier Sonic titles like SegaSonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Labyrinth. The Adventure style originated with (what else?) the Sonic Adventure games for the Sega Dreamcast and inspired later titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well as Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for the Wii U. This early style of 3D Sonic game relied more on exploration, effectively allowing players to run through expansive levels that were far less linear than the 2D games in the franchise. They would also often rely on multiple playable characters, generally with unique playstyles – though this gimmick would deteriorate in further titles. The Adventure games relied on a free running mechanic which was clumsy at its worst, leading to unfair deaths, but offered the kind of freedom that the 2D Sonics thrived on. In order to compensate for these growing pains, Sega introduced the homing attack – which allows Sonic to home in on nearby enemies – which would become a staple in both future 2D and 3D Sonic games.

The Boost formula is a bit more recent, making its first appearance in 2008’s Sonic Unleashed. This style would also appear in Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations and most recently, Sonic Forces. While the Adventure-style titles focused on trying to recreate all of the elements of past 2D Sonic games in a totally 3D environment, Boost games generally shift between two different perspectives. There are 3D-perspective running segments that are essentially auto-runners where the player’s main input is either choosing to use the Boost mechanic – a metered mechanic which allows Sonic to run faster, surrounded by a blue aura, that can smack enemies out of the way with ease – or aligning Sonic’s path, either manually with the analog stick or using the quick-step to keep him properly aligned with the shoulder buttons. Occasionally, these running segments may be broken up with some obstacles that need to be dodged with jumps, but the bulk of the game’s platforming takes place in 2D segments that take cues from the later Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush titles.

Of course, there were other 3D Sonic games that didn’t adhere to either of these formulas directly. Sonic R could arguably be considered the true first 3D Sonic game, though it was developed by Traveller’s Tales and recontextualized the Sonic gameplay into a racing setting. There was also the Sonic World mini-game present in the Sonic Jam compilation for the Sega Saturn, supposedly built from the remnants of a scrapped fifth-generation 3D Sonic title. Likewise, Christmas NiGHTS contained “Sonic Into Dreams”, which allowed the Blue Blur to run through the game’s levels on foot. Sonic Heroes implemented 3-character teams with various formations based on each member’s attributes and had stage designs that clearly attempted to recreate the conventions of the classic Genesis games in a strictly 3D space to mixed results. Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic and the Black Knight – the two releases in what was meant to be at least a trilogy of “storybook” games – are effectively first drafts of the 3D running segments of the Boost games, albeit with their own unique gimmicks to keep things interesting. Finally, there’s Sonic Lost World, which was experimental in its own right. The game was still broken down into 3D and 2D segments like the Boost games before it, but the former now allowed players more freedom to explore. To manage Sonic’s speed, a controversial run button was added, but even that wasn’t nearly fast enough for those speed freaks. On top of that, a new parkour mechanic was added to emphasize the level design, which was said to be inspired by Nintendo’s own Super Mario Galaxy games – but die-hard Sonic fans often compared it to the cancelled Sonic X-Treme, originally planned for the Sega Saturn. New variants of the homing attack were also added to the Fastest Thing Alive’s repertoire, allowing him to attack armored enemies with a kick or outright charge it by holding down the button to deal extra damage.

With all of the pieces in place, I guess it’s time for me to explore exactly what I would personally want out of the next 3D Sonic title. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: while many players just outright associate the Sonic games with “speed”, in reality they rely far more on a related but distinct concept: “momentum”. As such, in order to create a truly satisfying 3D Sonic title, we’re going to have to find a way to recreate the beloved mechanics of 2D titles – new and old, from the 1991 original to Mania – in a 3D space without giving up the same sense of control that one less dimension gives players. I could write an entire diatribe on my distaste for the Boost formula, but let me boil it down to a base concept: for the most part, they seem to be an attempt at recreating the so-called “hold right to win” 2D Sonic titles, focusing more on getting to go fast, without implementing enough of the platforming one should expect in a platformer, relegating that aspect of the game almost entirely to the aforementioned 2D segments. If you can’t – or rather, won’t – bother translating all of the earlier titles’ elements into 3D, then what is the point of moving past 2D in the first place? That isn’t to say that the Boost formula should be completely discarded, but rather that by taking elements from it, as well as other styles that the 3D Sonics have explored in the past, perhaps the Sega’s mascot can finally be properly welcomed to the next level.

…honestly, it was a choice between that line or doing a title drop. I think I went the less cheesy route, but results may vary.

I guess the best place to start would have to be with the game’s storyline. As per usual, I’m not going to go into any specifics, keeping things broad just to avoid stumbling into fanfic territory. One of the key arguments I disagree with coming from the Adventure fanbase is that Sonic needs to go back to doing an outright serious storyline, like the epic stories present in the Dreamcast era. Unfortunately, at this point, these can either come across as pointlessly melodramatic (Sonic ’06), easily mistaken for parody (Unleashed) or illustrate that Sega’s writing staff is no longer up to the task of making a truly serious storyline with any weight behind it (Forces). At the same time, other Sonic stories have attempted to rely on comedy – a difficult objective, especially given the interactive nature of the video game medium.

Attempting to bridge the gap between these two concepts hasn’t really worked all that well in the past – after all, since he first started talking, Sonic’s snappy one-liners have become more and more prominent, which tends to undercut any sense of drama. So, against all logic, I think that Sega should probably attempt to stay the course on blending humor and drama. As much as it pains me to say this, the only advice I can really give is “do it better this time”.

As shaky as that advice comes across, a bad story doesn’t necessarily mean a bad game. Indeed, the primary focus of this article should be on gameplay – just like always. Admittedly, this article will be much more of a challenge than previous ones. Usually, I’d just piece together various base elements of earlier games to present a much better future. This time, I’m going to have to dig a little deeper, specifically focusing on specific mechanics from different games, as opposed to just choosing one game to base the entire engine on.

I guess I’ll start with something simple. 2D segments: yea or nay? Despite my criticism, I’d keep them – with several tweaks. For starters, the majority of the game’s platforming shouldn’t be relegated to them. 2D segments should be significantly rarer in this new Sonic game compared to previous entries. In fact, the gameplay should only revert to the classic style whenever obstacles can’t be properly rendered in a 3D space. The 3D platforming genre has come so far – both during the sixth generation and with the recent renaissance with such games as Super Mario Odyssey and A Hat in Time – that locking any and all platforming challenges to a two-dimensional space seems like an insult to the concept of a 3D Sonic game in the first place.

Likewise, auto-running segments can still remain as set pieces – after all, even the original Sonic Adventure had that bit with the killer whale – but they should likewise remain fairly rare. The majority of the gameplay should be conducted through 3D segments that allow players full control over Sonic the Hedgehog, as opposed to just boosting through what feels like miles and miles of corridors. We’ve actually seen a lot of fan games experiment with this style of concept, with some going even as far as experimenting with full-on open world concepts. If small fan groups can do that, then surely Sega themselves should be able to experiment with more than just simple corridors broken up by the occasional 2D segment.

Another important element to keep in mind would be Sonic’s “moveset” in this new adventure. Personally, I’d ditch the boost mechanic in general: it leads to just mindlessly running through enemies and feels like a slapdash solution to the momentum problem with the 3D Sonics altogether. On the other hand, the run/walk toggling present in Sonic Lost World isn’t a particularly favorable solution either, though it’s definitely a step in the right direction. In my opinion, Sega should just revert to the momentum-based system that they used in Sonic (et al.)’s gameplay from the Adventure games and maybe implement some kind of a braking mechanic, like the spin dash drift in some of the Boost games or even just straight up reverse-engineer the run button from Lost World into a “walk button” or even just a brake. To compensate for the loss of the Boost attack, I’d just suggest bringing back the Spin Dash: if Lost World proved anything, it’s that Sega has finally found a way to balance it out in 3D play as opposed to the uncontrollable iterations found in the Sonic Adventure games and Sonic Heroes.

Keep the homing attack. I’m torn about including the variants found in Lost World: as much as they added strategy to the game, they had a tendency to misfire, so it would probably be for the best to stick to the standard version for now. Aside from that, I’d keep many of the abilities from the Boost games: the stomp and rail grinding still seem like perfect mechanics for a 3D momentum-based platformer. Likewise, bring back the bounce mechanic from Lost World. I’d even consider the double jump from Colors, SLW and Forces as a viable move, just so long as they can be tempered in a way that would both prevent activating it accidentally or cluttering the controls. Likewise, the parkour mechanic could make a return, albeit in a far more limited fashion – stages shouldn’t be built around it but exploiting a hampered version of the mechanic to access risky shortcuts seems like a perfect concept for a Sonic game in general, let alone one in 3D.

This ties in quite nicely with the next segment: stage design. This is one area where the Adventure games truly excelled, even if the gameplay itself wasn’t polished enough to suit them properly. The stages in Boost games generally comprise of three types of segments: 3D corridors, the aforementioned 2D segments and a wider 3D area, generally swarming with enemies. Not exactly exciting stage progression in my eyes. The Adventure games, on the other hand, tended to focus more on open-ended roaming areas that still maintained a sense of linearity – they just lacked the overbearing structure that many modern 3D Sonics tend to revel in. Sonic Heroes, on the other hand, seemed to outright attempt to recreate many of the conventions of the Genesis-era titles in 3D to (admittedly) poor results, though this was mostly a consequence of a Sega’s relative inexperience with 3D platformers in general. Meanwhile, the spherical design of Sonic Lost World’s stages added something that simply wasn’t present in the typical Boost formula games that both preceded and followed it: it allowed for much more freedom of movement as stage designs varied depending on which portion of the level itself Sonic was traversing. I’m not suggesting that spherical levels make a return in the next Sonic game, but emphasizing numerous pathways as opposed to just building straight lines with one fast path to the finish. After all, part of the fun of the 2D Sonic games was exploring the various paths present in each level: while most players tried to find the quickest (which was generally the highest path), others would revel in exploring them, taking in all of the details and quirks that the developers put into each and every level. Having said that, the next 3D Sonic title’s stage design should take far more inspiration from the Adventure titles, Sonic Heroes and Lost World. The best 3D conversions of classic 2D video games focus on the most beloved elements of their predecessors, rather than just trying to recreate them in a superficial manner. This is a problem that has long plagued the Sonic series, ever since it grew beyond the fourth console generation.

Speaking of 2D gameplay, Lost World also managed to retain this element common in the Boost games but with a lot more in the way of variety compared to even top-notch Boost-era games like Colors and Generations. As such, while I’d say that while 2D segments should definitely be present in a new 3D game, Sega should draw inspiration from the ones in Lost World and Colors, as well as the Classic Sonic stages in Generations. That last bit may be something of a cheat, but it is still technically part of a 3D Sonic title. The level design just relied entirely on 2D principles, so they could allow for much more intricate layouts – and that should be the entire point of these segments in the first place. Let me reiterate that Sega should strictly save these for concepts that would be far too difficult to accurately represent and implement in a 3D space. In other words, they should be far rarer compared to most modern 3D Sonic titles.

Boss fights are another fairly important element of the Sonic games at their best. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard for me to choose any particular standout examples from the 3D era of games. I mean, the majority of games in the series had at least a few fights I enjoyed, but these didn’t seem to reflect the entirety of the game. As such, it’s difficult to draw from any particular games for a method to follow – all I could really write up here would be a list of boss battles I particularly enjoyed from previous games. That wouldn’t really do much in terms of building new fights, let alone an underlying concept that could be used to frame them. I guess the best advice I would really have would to draw from the various styles we’ve seen in previous games: the arena-style fights that originated in the Adventure games, the endless runner fights that outright embodied the Boost era, and even the 2D boss fights. Though ideally, if the latter end up returning, they’ll end up better resembling those from games like the Sonic Advance trilogy, the Sonic Rush games and the Classic Sonic fights in Generation and Forces, as opposed to the somewhat lame fare present in Colors.

Aside from that, there are a few miscellaneous suggestions I have. Just like in my last article, I definitely think that the Red Rings should return in any new 3D Sonic. They add a certain element of replayability, at least when it comes to completionists. Likewise, I’d like to relegate any Super transformations to an endgame state – likely a “true” final boss – like previous games, though I’m torn on whether the Chaos Emeralds should just be obtained through the story, relegated to a bonus for collecting all of the aforementioned Red Rings or even hidden in special stages. Hey, that’s what Sonic Heroes and the 3DS version of Sonic Lost World did. Though admittedly, that would probably be a poor choice. What I’d really like to see would be hiding the emeralds in stages themselves, but no 3D game has ever attempted anything like that before – just the first two Sonic games on Game Gear. Aside from that, I’d probably stick to traditional power-ups: shields (both standard and electric), speed shoes, ring boxes and 1-Ups. I don’t particularly have anything against the Wisps, they just kind of felt like they were intended to be the special gimmick in Colors, so cramming them into future titles almost seems to dilute their importance. Maybe they could be brought back in further titles, but it’s probably best to just leave them out until Sonic finds his footing once again instead of trying to rely on gimmicks from popular games. Which brings me to my final point: leave Classic/Mania Sonic out of this game. I honestly feel like trying to shoehorn him back in not only hurts the 3D games, but his own reputation. Treat him as a totally separate entity, exclusive to the 2D games.

The graphics and art style don’t really offer me much to go on. Honestly, the main question just sort of comes down to whether this new game should utilize the standard “Modern Sonic” look or go with unique designs to differentiate them from the mainline series. On the one hand, segmenting the franchise even further seems like it would just backfire. However, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric utilized an entirely new (albeit controversial) set of designs and the backlash against that game didn’t seem to translate to the rest of the series in general. In the end, given the franchise’s need for redemption after Sonic Forces’ tepid response, it’s probably for the best if Sega just goes with the now-traditional look: there’s very little left to protect with regards to Sonic’s reputation at this point, so a new artstyle could dilute any goodwill if the game itself ends up beloved by fans.

Sonic the Hedgehog is one of those series that is renowned for its music: even if the gameplay is abysmal, the sound team always seems to put in their all. Tomoya Ohtani has been taking the lead lately when it comes to the Blue Blur’s musical exploits and he’s been doing an excellent job as of late. In the previous Sonic article in this series, I suggested that Richard Jacques be allowed to take the lead, but since then, he’s managed to head the soundtracks for all three games in the Sonic Boom series, so he’s certainly gotten his due – well, to some extent, anyway. Considering their collaborations in the past have been limited, I’d love to see the two of them collaborate on a new Sonic game. That doesn’t necessarily preclude other Sonic composers from joining in the fun but giving Ohtani and Jacques equal billing in a mainline Sonic game just seems like too interesting of a concept to pass up.

I have to admit: this article was probably one of the more difficult ones to write in this series. It seems like the best path for Sonic’s 3D titles may be a full-on reinvention, discarding what have become familiar gameplay concepts in exchange for ones that are both new and evocative of the series’ 2D halcyon days (past and present). However, maybe if Sega were to attempt to bridge the gap between the Adventure and Boost formulas – using aspects from some of their more experimental titles to smooth over particularly incompatible elements – they could find a way to please both fanbases with a single title. That seems like a far less risky experiment than potentially splintering the Fastest Thing Alive’s fanbase across yet another brand-new formula. Regardless of Sega’s decision for future games, it seems that staying on their current course is primed for disaster, so whether they refine the current formula with elements of earlier titles or build something entirely new from scratch, change is necessary for the Blue Blur’s continued longevity.

My Mega Man Introspection

Contrary to what you may assume, the first video game mascot to capture my heart wasn’t Mario. It wasn’t Sonic, even if I was loyal to him for a brief period before I gave Mario my allegiance. I’m not old enough for it to be Pac-Man, young enough for it to be Crash, or cursed enough for it to be Bubsy. The first video game character to spark my imagination was Mega Man (or his similarly named successor, Mega Man X) and his series has permanently been in my top three favorite game series for over 25 years. In honor of his imminent revival, I’m going to go over my personal history with the franchise, all the good times and the bad times. Let’s dive into my mind and do this!

Now when I said bad times, you probably thought of the time between the 2011 cancellations and “Mega Man Isn’t Dead Day”, but that’s not the only one for me. At the very start of my history with Mega Man, something happened that I’m still surprised didn’t manage to turn me off the entire series. You see, when I was very young, I had an instinctive love of video games, but no game consoles. The only thing in my house that could play games was a computer my family had gotten from my grandfather. It was a Tandy 1000 in the year 1992. You don’t have to look that up, I’ll tell you that it was severely underpowered at the time. Finding games that could run on it was not an easy task, but I was determined, and even if they were in four color mode, I found some games that would work…

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And that’s how we met.

Yes, that’s right, my first Mega Man game was the infamous Mega Man DOS. My second was Mega Man III DOS (I count the Tiger Handheld version as “Mega Man II DOS” for the record). That was my introduction to the series, those abominations from the masters of unspeakable horror at Hi-Tech Expressions. If you haven’t personally experienced the Mega Man DOS games, I assure you that they’re as bad as everyone says. But you know the really sad part? Those were my best computer games. So I played them, I struggled and struggled until I could beat both of them consistently. Sure, saying I beat both of those games at age six sounds cool now, but you aren’t thinking like that when you’re a kid, just wishing you could play games that were actually good. I kind of sort of enjoyed the games at the time, but I knew there were countless infinitely better games that were out of my reach.

The year or so before I finally got a console, when my only games were on that Tandy 1000, certainly left a negative taste in my mouth when it came to PC gaming. So why did Mega Man emerge completely unscathed? Well, some of my best childhood memories involve getting to play my cousin’s seemingly endless pile of SNES games when I visited his family a couple of times a year. In early 1994, shortly after I got my first console (it was a Genesis: why it wasn’t a SNES is a story for another time) and wanted to put my torture at the hands of Hi-Tech behind me, I was on one of those treasured visits. Eagerly looking through his games, trying to choose where to start, I noticed something. Something wondrous, a treasure that would change everything forever. For the first time in my life, I laid my eyes on this:

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This probably isn’t my cousin’s cart, but who knows?

Yes, it had happened. I had discovered the Mega Man X series. Still having fond feelings towards the series that had given me the best games I owned for what felt like forever at the time, MMX was my easy choice for first game to play. Words can not describe how much I loved the game, I was expecting something resembling the DOS games and instead I got what to this day is one of the best games I’ve ever played. Zero was the coolest character I had ever encountered in any medium, the explosions when bosses died were the best graphical effect I had ever seen, and I didn’t have to press J to jump. Mega Man X made an incredible impression on me, and was probably the biggest factor in making me switch my loyalty to SNES, before Mario meant anything particularly important to me.

While there are plenty of memories that I treasure associated with the Mega Man series in the decade or so that followed (staying up late and beating Mega Man V on Game Boy in bed, being cured of my mono-console ways by Mega Man X4, writing a Mega Man parody series that somehow got past 600 pages), this is going to be long enough already without detailing all of them. By the mid-2000s I owned and had beaten every Mega Man platformer (except for a couple of the Game Boy ones which I didn’t realize were different games, don’t worry, I’ve since rectified that), and while the X series was and is my favorite any Mega Man platformer was a must-buy for me. Let’s get to the part where the gaming community as a whole gave Mega Man attention again, Mega Man 9.

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Not how people pictured Mega Man’s seventh-gen debut.

In 2008, we had had at least one Mega Man game almost every year for two decades. However, we hadn’t had a numbered installment in the Classic series since 1997, and through the filter of pre-2011 privilege, not getting the specific type of Mega Man you wanted seemed like a big problem. After years of requests, Capcom granted the wish of Classic fans and finally announced Mega Man 9. But what no one saw coming was how it looked and played: it was 8-bit. Not even the “8-bit” that was run through a heavy nostalgia filter upgrade like most games using that label these days, Mega Man 9 looked and played almost exactly like the early NES Mega Man games. This was a novelty at the time, and Mega Man 9 was well received. I enjoyed it, not my favorite Mega Man game, but a worthy installment and knowing we could in fact go home again was a nice feeling.

However, there was something in the back of my mind, a burning desire that I think was shared by many. We got a game that played just like the NES Mega Man games. The Mega Man X series never reached the height of its glory days after it changed up its formula with the fifth entry. So if we got Mega Man X9 and it played just like the SNES games… That concept, that phantom, hung over me. Something I wanted, that I know a huge portion of the Mega Man fanbase wanted so badly, that never materialized. While Capcom ignoring us and making another 8-bit Mega Man Classic game in 2010 hurt to some extent, I refused to blame the game itself for that. Mega Man 10’s more creative level design made it a top-tier Classic game, in my opinion.

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Well if I’d have to play it to see the improvement instead of just looking at a screenshot, then forget it.

That opinion was not common, at least back in 2010. Unfortunately, there was a perfect storm of negativity that consumed Mega Man 10. For one thing, there were two Mega Man series that were currently in a cliffhanger state (ZX and Legends), in addition to X fans who wanted their turn with the retroizer. But far worse were the fickle sequelphobes who were infuriated that Capcom had made a “rehash” of what they had regarded as a breath of fresh air with Mega Man 9. Or that’s what they claimed anyway, some of them would have complained no matter what Capcom did. Either way, Mega Man 10 didn’t perform nearly as well as Mega Man 9. This was annoying to me, but I had no idea what kind of catastrophe was coming…

At the start of 2011, Mega Man seemed to be chugging along at his standard rate. The Mega Man Legends fanbase got their wish with the announcement of Mega Man Legends 3, and Mega Man Universe looked like another solid Mega Man platformer to me (not so much to people who judged the entire game on an alpha build). But a darkness more threatening than Dr. Wily, Sigma, and Dr. Weil combined was about to descend on Mega Man. Keiji Inafune, who was well respected and considered the father of Mega Man at the time, left Capcom on clearly hostile terms. Mega Man Universe was canceled and triggered a tidal wave of apathy for most of the fanbase. Then Mega Man Legends 3 was canceled, and the shit hit the turbine. Capcom, one of the most consistent and respected publishers for around 25 years at that point, was demonized overnight (for a variety of reasons, but Mega Man’s fate was arguably the biggest factor) and it was generally accepted that Mega Man was dead, killed to spite his creator. The dark days had begun.

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The alpha build character model is ugly? That’s it, kill the whole franchise.

As you may imagine, I was not happy about this. I don’t handle negativity and pessimism well, and the mood around the Mega Man and Capcom fanbase was more negative than I had ever seen. The vindication from everyone suddenly caring about Mega Man Universe and stopped bashing Mega Man 10, the “last” Mega Man game, did nothing for me. I just wanted Mega Man back, in any form, something to give fans of the series hope. Whenever I replayed a Mega Man game, there was a twinge of sadness interfering with all the great memories I have of the series. I maintained that a series as old and popular as Mega Man could never permanently die, it would inevitably return at some point (now THAT’S vindication I enjoy), but there was an ever increasing anxiety as time went by with no word of a new Mega Man game.

2013 was the year of false hope for the franchise. There are two main reasons for that, I’ll start by covering the one that didn’t become a cautionary tale about how not to launch a new IP. At E3 2013, Nintendo showed their first trailer for the fourth Super Smash Bros. game, and there was one thing I wanted from it more than anything else. I tried not to expect it, not to get my hopes up, even when we got a special character introduction cinema after the main trailer. As the Nintendo characters looked up at the shadowy new arrival, part of my brain yelled at the other part not to get excited yet. Then that helmet appeared on the silhouette, and both sides exploded in hype. Mega Man was in Smash Bros. He had his first-ever HD design, and it looked fantastic. Surely this meant the franchise was alive, and a new Mega Man game announcement was imminent? Maybe even co-developed with Nintendo? Nope.

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What could have been.

As disappointing as that missed opportunity was, it was nothing compared to the other thing that happened in 2013. Yes, I know, this is supposed to be about Mega Man, and technically this announcement wasn’t related to Mega Man, according to lawyers at least. But you have to be the most gullible person on the planet to believe that. Yep, we’re going to talk about Mighty No. 9.

In 2013, Mega Man’s “father” Keiji Inafune launched a Kickstarter for an “original IP” called Mighty No. 9. But literally every single person in the universe knew from the start that this was supposed to be the spiritual successor to Mega Man. Starring the fighting robot Beck, his creator Dr. William White (aka Bill Blackwell), a supportive female robot named Call, and eight Mighty Number robots that Beck had to defeat/save and take the powers of, Mighty No. 9 would almost certainly have resulted in a lawsuit if it wasn’t for the fact that the gaming public’s consensus was that Inafune had a moral right to copy Mega Man. Capcom didn’t need any more bad PR, and the Kickstarter was a record-breaking success. Mighty No. 9 was coming, and it would for all intents and purposes revive Mega Man.

Oh dear God, where to start. Well, right at the beginning, my feelings towards the game weren’t super positive. I deeply resent Kickstarters that put console versions of the game as a stretch goal that requires funding every extra imaginable for the PC version first, and I wasn’t convinced that Capcom wouldn’t sue and stop the game from being made. I also wasn’t comfortable with the idea that MN9 meant we didn’t need Mega Man anymore and that the franchise could just stay dead. But it was still “better than nothing” and once the console versions were confirmed, I anticipated MN9. For a brief period, anyway.

Let me see if I can remember everything that went wrong during Mighty No. 9’s development. The graphics were severely downgraded from the target renders, the community manager for the backers was mired in controversy (to be as generous as possible), the game was repeatedly delayed after exact release dates were given, Keiji Inafune started a Kickstarter for a not-Mega Man Legends game before MN9 was released, Inafune was revealed to have far less to do with Mega Man’s creation than most had believed, the physical rewards for backers were put in delay limbo and the launch trailer was insultingly patronizing unless you liked anime (in which case, it insulted you directly). This trailer was so bad, even the head of one of the companies working on it was disgusted by it. And this is before the game was actually released.

When the game was finally released in 2016, there was no miracle to overcome the many, many issues during development. While not an absolutely horrible game, Mighty No. 9 has sloppy collision detection, some horrifically obnoxious and generally uninspired levels, and a combo system meant to differentiate it from existing Mega Man games was more annoying than anything. In addition, the graphics looked terrible to make sure it could run on Vita and 3DS… and neither of those versions even came out.

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Behold what became of your false idol.

So it was universally agreed upon that Mighty No. 9 was not, in fact, the revival of Mega Man that we had all been waiting for and Keiji Inafune’s reputation has been completely ruined to this day. Once again, all I had to show for this was some vindication (looks like we weren’t fine if Mega Man stayed dead) that didn’t comfort me at all. Thankfully, after several bleak years in gaming, 2017 saw a massive upswing for me. Nintendo made another miraculous comeback thanks to the Switch, Japanese games as a whole started to recover, and the existing eighth generation systems had completely gotten over their long start of the generation slump. Even Capcom was getting some positivity again, with Resident Evil 7 being considered a return to form for the series. Several series I had been missing/worried about the future of got new installments announced in 2017, including Darksiders, Xenoblade, and (especially) Metroid. As 2017 drew to a close, gaming looked brighter than it had since… 2010…

Yes, as all these good things happened in gaming, there was something always at the back of my mind. Something that I wanted most of all, something that would truly signal that things were going to be okay, something I refused to ever let myself expect for fear of more disappointment. It was the start of December 2017, and something was going to happen. A special stream for Mega Man’s 30th anniversary was scheduled, but no one was getting their hopes up. Capcom seemed to have forgotten how to make new Mega Man games, but they were perfectly willing to re-release his games and use his image for money however possible (I was so desperate for a new game that I initially accepted the existence of that awful new cartoon in the hopes it would spawn a licensed game). So celebrating Mega Man’s past with no regard for his future was completely in character and had happened before. But I decided to watch anyway, and hey, at least they were re-releasing the X series this time. Then they said there was one more thing they wanted to show us…

A trailer that showed Mega Man running through the years as we saw all his games listed, and shown in the case of the Classic series, began. The sides of my mind that had argued during the Smash Bros. trailer were at it again, one side saying there was no reason to do a trailer like this and give it so much attention if it was going to end with seven years of nothing while the other tried to squash any hype or expectations. Despair took hold as the trailer appeared to end with a mere 30th anniversary logo, but then the skit continued and we saw Dr. Wily escaping while Mega Man followed him. The sides of my mind were in a full shouting match again while Mega Man approached a question mark symbol listed under 2018, and teleported away when he touched it…

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You will always remember where you were when Mega Man came back.

I’ve said this before, but it’s true: that was the closest a video game trailer has ever come to making me cry. That feeling when Mega Man teleported into a level in a BRAND NEW game after so many years of (what I had hoped was) hibernation is indescribable. I think the several years’ worth of frustration and worry actually flew away from my body in eight pulsating rings of light. I watched that trailer again and again, I still watch it when I need a burst of positivity, remembering how I felt when it was confirmed that Mega Man was coming back. I’ve dubbed that day, December 4th, 2017, Mega Man Isn’t Dead Day. Mega Man 11’s existence was the announcement that excited me the most in a year full of incredible ones. It signaled that Capcom was truly on the road to recovery (which 2018 further demonstrated with the massive success of Monster Hunter World, long awaited and great looking footage of the Resident Evil 2 remake, and the announcement of Devil May Cry 5), and that gaming as a whole had been saved from the dark cloud of pessimism that had hung over the mid-2010s.

So there isn’t a huge amount to say after that point. The long and painful absence of the Blue Bomber got his revival game far more mainstream attention than it would have had otherwise, even if I still don’t think it was worth the years of agony. Mega Man 11 information has been gradually drip fed to us throughout the year, and I have been very impressed by the level design shown in the gameplay footage and the demo level. The wait is almost over, in a matter of weeks (or days when you read this) the first Mega Man game in eight and a half years will have arrived. I’m looking forward to creating new Mega Man memories with it and hopefully getting my holy grail of Mega Man X9 after waiting so long. I just wanted to share how important this series is to me and how much fans of it have gone through to get to this moment, so until next time, just remember that Mega Man is alive and there is always hope for gaming.

The Wii: Gold Ignored By Fools

It’s been a turbulent generation for Nintendo. After Wii U’s crushing market failure, Nintendoom was at possibly its highest point in living memory, for me anyway. Then when things looked darkest, the light got Switched back on. In a miraculous turnaround that was more than I dared hope for, Nintendo once again had a system that was selling at a record setting pace. The Switch has clearly caught the attention of a mass market that ignored or just didn’t know about the existence of Wii U. And this time, the gaming community hasn’t even turned on it the second it became popular.

Wait, this time? Yeah, pretty much this exact scenario happened before. The year is 2006, and GameCube is currently the worst selling Nintendo console of all time and the only one to ever get third place in a console war. Nintendo goes batshit insane and decides that for their next generation system, they will release something barely more powerful than GameCube, depending on a crazy sounding gimmick to make people buy a new console. And they’re calling it Wii. I think you know what happens next: it becomes a mainstream phenomenon, wins its generation’s sales war despite quitting early, and becomes Nintendo’s best-selling console of all time. While being called Wii.

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The definition of successful insanity.

But there’s a big difference between Wii and Switch: while Switch has had fantastic software sales for everything from Nintendo’s major IPs to originally obscure indie games and has a legion of gamers asking for their perfect world where everything is on Switch, Wii was quickly rejected by “hardcore” gamers who labeled its controller an inferior waggle stick and dismissed its game lineup as nothing but shovelware and “non-games” Nintendo had betrayed their fans to focus on. Nothing seemed to be able to break this perception, and by the time Wii U was released the brand was somehow considered toxic despite how successful the original Wii had been. Why did people treat the Wii like this? Because they’re… I’ll avoid saying idiots, but “massively misinformed.” So what am I building up to? Well, I’ll make it as clear as I can:

As of this moment, the Wii is the second best system Nintendo has ever made.

Yes, aside from the sacred SNES, the original Wii is my favorite system Nintendo has ever made, and in my top three overall. Now there are two major reasons people would object to this claim, and I intend to argue against them for the glory of Nintendo’s fifth console.

First up is the controller. If you listen to most people, the only thing you did with the Wii controller was randomly flail your arms around while Miis laughed maniacally about how F-Zero was dead forever. That obviously isn’t how the controller actually worked, and there are two misconceptions about the controller at the root of this misinformation. For one, almost no games required or played best when you dramatically swung your arms around. Simple wrist movements were the ideal way to control almost every motion based Wii game, or at least the ones that were good aside from being “ruined” by motion controls. If you’re dying in Donkey Kong Country Returns because you stand up and heave the Wiimote in a three foot upward swing whenever you want to roll, that isn’t the game’s fault, you could have just given the controller and quick, small shake using nothing but your wrists.

But what people really overlook when it comes to the Wii controller is the IR sensor. I love that thing, it is to this day the best aiming control option I have ever encountered in a game (and yes, I’ve used mouse aiming, despite the PC issue limiting my time with it). You can almost instantly place the reticule or cursor anywhere on screen with no more “waggling” than moving a mouse. Any game where aiming is intergral to the gameplay benefits greatly from the Wiimote and Nunchuck setup. I don’t care how much HD the re-releases add, the Wii version of Resident Evil 4 will be my favorite until something can match IR aiming. While the Switch (which has turned negativity into positivity so miraculously I can only guess that Iwata’s spirit is protecting it) seems to have made people warm up to gyro aiming to some extent, it still hasn’t reached the precision and speed level of IR aiming in my opinion. People ignoring and forgetting IR aiming is one of my biggest disappointments in the direction gaming took. Seriously, go play Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition or Metroid Prime Trilogy before you dismiss the Wiimote.

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The current and eternal best version.

The other reason people don’t appreciate the Wii like they should is a universal among consoles: games. The measure of a system is its game library, and once again, there are two things people ignore about the Wii’s library. Contrary to popular belief, Wii Music isn’t the only game Nintendo made between GameCube and Breath of the Wild. If your response to this was going to be “sure, they made Super Mario Galaxy and Xenoblade, but a couple…” let me cut you off right there. Nintendo made/published a lot of fantastic Wii games that were in no way “non-games”. Metroid Prime 3, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Return to Dreamland, Wario Land Shake-It, Sin and Punishment 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Punch-Out!!, Zelda: Skyward Sword (read the controller part before yelling at that inclusion), Pandora’s Tower, and those are just ones I’ll enthusiastically defend. Just because F-Zero and Star Fox weren’t there (as opposed to Punch-Out, Kirby platformers, and Metroid being on every single prior system, apparently) doesn’t mean Nintendo abandoned their fans and franchises. The Wii was actually a glorious time for Nintendo’s first party performance.

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Yeah, this was clearly made for your grandmother.

But that isn’t what makes me so confident that the Wii is better than its non-SNES brethren. What really sets the Wii apart from the other post-SNES Nintendo consoles (currently active hybrids not included) is its third party support. Now if anyone actually read this there would be countless people ready to post images of various shovelware games that publishers lacking talent and/or ethics dumped on the system, but I’m going to let you in on a secret. Something nearly everyone overlooked about the Wii, this one weird trick will change how you view its third party support forever:

No one is making you play the bad games.

That’s right, turns out owning a Wii does NOT in fact mean you will be held at gunpoint and forced to play terrible party games by people who would go on to make those creepy YouTube shorts with Elsa and Spider-Man. You are, in fact, free to ignore those and do a little research to find the hidden gem mine buried beneath the crap. Zack and Wiki, A Boy and his Blob, The House of the Dead: Overkill, Madworld, Red Steel 2, Lost in Shadow, Dead Space Extraction, Prince of Persia: The Lost Sands, Boom Blox and Boom Blox Bash Party, Trauma Team, de Blob 1 and 2, Silent Hill Shattered Memories, Rodea The Sky Soldier (for the love of God, make sure it’s actually the Wii version), Rabbids Go Home, Epic Mickey, Sonic Colors, Muramasa, it goes on and on. The Wii may not have gotten the big AAA games, but mid-ware, often thought to be extinct, thrived on it. Not only are there tons of quality third-party games on it, most of them are dirt cheap. The Wii’s library, especially the third party portion, is one of the most underrated in all of gaming.

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You don’t even know who I am!

So there you have it, my case for the Wii being one of Nintendo’s best systems and one of the most underrated of all time. Is Switch going to surpass it? I hope so, hell, I hope it dethrones the SNES. Things getting better is always… better. But that doesn’t mean we have to just leave the Wii to its unjust scorn, or that you can’t take advantage of how cheap games for it are right now. And remember, there is a force coming to its aid far stronger than anything I or anyone could write: nostalgia. Someday people will appreciate the Wii, it’s inevitable. Even if it takes until 2026, the turnaround is coming someday, but now is your chance to be on the right and bargain-priced side of history. Wii would like some appreciation, and it deserves it.