Armchair Dev: MegaMan 12

I’ve got to say, out of all the series I’ve written on Retronaissance, Armchair Dev is clearly the least uniform when it comes to format. I’ve only written two so far, but they were both so wildly different from one another. And now that we’ve come to number three, I’ve got an even more radical departure in mind. It makes me wonder why I’d even consider a trio of such disjointed articles to be a series in the first place. In the end, I guess the topic at hand is far more important than adhering to some silly format.

While my certainty that an X9 announcement would surface near the 25th anniversary of the original MegaMan X’s release date was clearly misplaced, I still believe that will be Capcom’s next move – so long as MM11 did as well as I predict it did. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up near the bottom of Capcom’s Platinum Titles list after its next update, if only because it’s a brand-new game that launched on all major titles at a budget price with both physical and digital editions. But listen to me talking about the past: we haven’t had a new MegaMan game since last year! Today’s topic will delve back into the Classic series with a “MegaMan 12”.

Why go straight to MM12, you ask? Well, there aren’t too many remaining avenues for other existing sub-series for Capcom to explore. I’ve already stated that I expect Capcom to revitalize the X franchise next. Battle Network, Zero and Star Force have all come to at least some form of a conclusion – though honestly, I did end up coming up with a plot for a potential MMSF4… that Capcom would probably never use, because it might be a bit too bleak or edgy for the series. On that note, the less said about XOver, the better: even though some members of the fanbase have come around to the game’s world-building, the gameplay would clearly need to be reworked and I’d say chances are that would leave us with yet another 2D platformer.

That leaves us with two other sub-series I’d consider ripe for the picking, but both have their issues. All things considered, I just don’t see Legends 3 happening any time soon: Capcom’s faith in the series is shaky at best and the wounds left among the die-hard Legends fans after Capcom’s failure to greenlight it are still as raw today as they were seven-and-a-half years ago – has it really been that long? And if I were to be honest, my advice for a potential ZX3 can be boiled down to a single sentence: “Hire Inti Creates again.” Like, I would write that article right now and just leave that sentence, but I already gave away the gag, so there’s no point. Of course, that also means that you’re technically getting two pitches in a single article – lucky you! Besides, Advent outsold the original ZX and that still wasn’t enough to convince Capcom to greenlight a conclusion back in the day.

But before I put forth my pitch for another title in the MegaMan Classic line, let’s set our sights back to the far-flung year of 20XX 2018. For the first time since I’ve started writing Armchair Dev, I’ve been presented with a rare opportunity: the latest game in the classic MegaMan series is contemporary. As such, I’ll be doing a short mini-review to show off exactly where my mindset is when it comes to a future title. I won’t be going too in-depth – at this point, I’m hoping we get enough MM games overall to justify a “post-Inafune era” retrospective by the time I’m done with the other sub-lines – but exploring how I reacted to 11 would provide crucial insight into the choices I’ll make when discussing a potential sequel.

MegaMan 11 Mini-Review

Obviously, it’s best to start with what MegaMan 11 did right. For starters, Capcom did an excellent job of recreating the classic 2D platforming gameplay with the use of 3D models. Though, honestly, considering how well they did with Powered Up and even Maverick Hunter X over a decade ago, I was expecting that from the get-go. More impressive is the level design: Capcom clearly wanted to find a way to give players more game without discarding MegaMan’s NES-era conventions. By making the stages longer, they gave long-time players like me a proper challenge, while the easier difficulty settings allowed less-confident players the ability to play with extra lives that seemed properly balanced against the longer stages (in Casual mode) or even infinite lives (in Newcomer difficulty) for those new to the series, as well as additional checkpoints and other perks. The Double Gear mechanic was also interesting, though I generally found my use of both the Speed and Power Gears to be split between the stage and boss fights, respectively. I did pretty much outright ignore the Double Gear power-up itself, just because it had too much risk for far too little reward.

Honestly, 11 could’ve been the game that unseated MegaMan 10 as my favorite of the Classic MegaMan series… if not for one major issue. While most of the complaints I’ve seen about the game have focused on things like the Blue Bomber’s wonky animation or the game’s “bad soundtrack” – which is actually a problem with the composition’s instrumentation, but I’ve gone off-topic again – my major issue was structural. MM11 starts out well, with eight amazing stages, leading into the clear apex of the game’s platforming difficulty: the first Gear Fortress stage. Unfortunately, likely due to either budgetary or development time issues, Capcom didn’t stick the landing. Sure, the second Gear Fortress stage was good, but it was all downhill from there. The third stage was just a short hallway that leads straight to the room with the boss rush teleporters. Somehow, even the fourth stage – which consisted mostly of riding a platform to the final fight with Wily – offered more challenge. In fact, I’d say the final Wily stage did its job fairly well, it just came across as unfulfilling following the complete and utter disappointment that was stage 3.

So, before we move on and look ahead to the future, I’m going to just come through and say how Capcom could’ve fixed this past issue, so that it no longer hangs over my head like a storm cloud of despair. Of course, it’s easy enough to keep in mind that Capcom was clearly making a budget title with MM11 and most of the budget was clearly spent on building the game’s engine and rendering art assets. However, even SNES Master KI has acknowledged that the Dr. Light’s Trial challenge had enough content to make up at least two more stages. In other words, there was clearly enough material to build one more stage: a proper third Gear Fortress stage, that would shunt the third and fourth stages in the finished product into the fourth and fifth respectively. As for dealing with the budgetary issues of another boss for said stage, the answer is simple. Just bring back our old friend Copy Robot: all it would take is a clear palette swap to differentiate him from MegaMan. Better yet, do two of them – one equipped with the Speed Gear, the other with Power – to keep up the in-game explanation that Wily’s own in-universe lack of a budget, tricking MegaMan into thinking he equipped the full Double Gear system into his own copy, but rather using two cheaper robots to achieve the same effect. As for the road to the boss rush, I was surprised that they didn’t use a gauntlet of rematches with the game’s various mid-bosses, leading up to the teleport room. It would’ve been a low-effort way to expand on that stage’s theming in a meaningful way.

Regardless of what few issues I had with MM11, I’d have to say that it’s a sign that the MegaMan franchise is still in good hands, despite the departure of its long-time steward, Keiji Inafune. This is particularly good considering the last time the MegaMan franchise was wrested from his control, we ended up with the sixth and seventh MegaMan X games. Either way, I feel much more confident in the series future. So, without further ado, let’s delve into my own pitch for a MegaMan 12.

Core Concept

Explaining the core concept behind pitch feels so obvious, it’s almost like talking down to my audience. Still, considering this is one of the few elements that remained constant throughout this short series, I might as well continue the trend. MegaMan 12 doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel: it should just be a traditional “level pack” sequel that recycles everything that worked in 11 and refines everything that didn’t, leading to a similar but clearly improved successor. MM11 was clearly built at a budget price – the physical version costed a mere $30 – and as such, it lacked both the resources that many of Capcom’s recent and upcoming AAA releases have had and the proper existing framework that their compilations and HD remasters have had. Fortunately, the existence of 11 itself provides Capcom with a proper (but slightly rough) framework and focus should be put on improving and adding to the existing assets instead of tossing out the new engine and even many of the art assets that were built from the ground-up for the game.

Put simply, I want MegaMan 12 to be the MM10 to 11’s 9. I fully believe that what led to the MegaMan series’ decline wasn’t simply the formula growing stale, but rather exhaustion due to the lack of time between releases for the most part. Likewise, the more recent revival of the Classic series was eventually met with disdain because both games predated the retro trend. MegaMan 9 was considered original for bucking modern trends and opting to return to the Blue Bomber’s iconic 8-bit roots. MegaMan 10, on the other hand, was unfairly maligned because it was considered lazy, despite attempting to take the style in a new direction. Hopefully, the shift to a much more contemporary visual style will prevent a similar backlash against a twelfth MegaMan Classic game, forcing them to completely scrap their existing material and start from scratch yet again. Recycling assets is what allowed the MegaMan series to reach new heights of quality in the first place.

Structure

Doing a gameplay section for a new game in any extant MegaMan franchise is pointless. After all, I’ve written so much about the series as a whole, it’s safe to assume that what I’d want from the game (and honestly, what they should be going for) is more of the same – the traditional “jump and shoot” 2D gameplay at its finest. Hell, I’m even honestly fine either way if the Double Gear Mechanic returns in later games or not. If Capcom wants to branch out and experiment with the Blue Bomber, it would probably work best if they just went back to the old ways and spin off yet another series.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any suggestions about how a new game should be built. Indeed, perhaps the only real input I can provide would be the way that the game itself should be structured. That is, my opinion on how many levels the next MegaMan Classic game should contain and exactly how they should be situated. After all, even from the very first sequel, the MegaMan series underwent some extreme formatting shifts: going from six Robot Masters to a heftier eight from the second game on, the revamped Doc Robot levels in MegaMan 3 gave rise to the fake villain fortresses found in the latter half of the NES games and the 16 and 32-bit era mainline Classic games incorporated both the introduction stages from the X series and the intermission stages from the later Game Boy games to expand their offerings. Alas, by the time MM9 decided to revive the series, Capcom decided to scale back to MM2’s formula and they haven’t looked back since. Hopefully, if MM12 leads to any reinvention for the franchise, it will first and foremost involve ditching this disappointing format.

For starters, I would love to see the return of the intro stage. While typically associated with the X series, other sub-series like the Zero and ZX games started players off by dropping them straight into the action. In fact, the very first MegaMan game to include an intro stage was the 1990 DOS game, published by Hi-Tech Expressions and developed by Rozner Labs – probably the only worthwhile thing about it. Conversely, MM11 started with a brief, optional tutorial sandbox area to help players new and old to adjust to the controls. Now while that’s probably a good idea in the long run, an introduction stage could’ve done a lot more to familiarize new players with exactly what a MegaMan game entails, rather than just teaching them which buttons shoot and jump. I’d suggest taking a page from MM8’s intro stage, which introduced players to the changed underwater physics – 8 opted to let Rock do a breaststroke instead of giving him his traditional moon-jump – and the new Mega Ball weapon.

On that note, I’d also stick to the traditional 8 Robot Masters format that the series has stuck to since 1988. When I was younger, I’d always wanted to see a game that would expand the number of bosses that would reward us with new weapons, but after reflecting on what that would mean, eight is enough. Balancing 8 weapons is already a Herculean feat – one I’d argue that Capcom struggles with even after more than 30 years of experience – adding more would just increase the chances of some weapons being completely useless. Worse yet, it might even lead to the re-retirement of the chargeable Mega Buster, something I definitely want to avoid.

However, a new MegaMan game should definitely have more than the traditional 12 stages. While the false fortresses we saw in 4-6 are kind of played out, I would love to see a return of the Doc Robot concept: that is, remixing the existing Robot Master stage assets with brand-new challenging layouts and bosses. It was an amazing concept back in MM3 and I always thought it was a shame that Capcom never revisited it in future titles. It just seemed like a cost-effective way of extending the game’s length. On the other hand, while I’m a fan of the Game Boy games’ intermission stage concept, the only way it would work would be if they split the bosses into two groups of four – an unpopular design choice among the majority of fans. Still, using additional stages to separate the 8 main bosses from the final fortress levels would be a perfect way to extend the game.

Finally, try to exceed the traditional four-stage layout for the final fortress. I know it’s not that uncommon, but even MM2 had a fifth Wily stage! Honestly, having at least 5 final levels seems like a good way to make sure that having a single weak stage would bring the quality of the entire fortress far less. Ideally, 12 would have roughly 6 levels with at least 4 full-length stages and 2 shorter ones, with the latter leading to the boss rush and final fight with Wily. Better yet, just repeat another one of MM8’s unique concepts and group the two of them together – it might even make for a more satisfying conclusion to the game.

Bonus Features

Now, MegaMan 11 didn’t skimp on extra content, but there was at least one notable omission that people harped on after the game had launched. A mysterious DLC listing on Steam that appeared not long after the game’s launch only served to fuel the fire with regards to one specific category: additional playable characters. While not specifically a series tradition, players have grown accustomed to having alternative playstyles represented in games such as MegaMan & Bass, MegaMan Powered Up and even the ninth and tenth mainline installments. That being said, let’s go over the obvious picks and just how they could differentiate from the Blue Bomber.

For me, the most obvious pick would be MegaMan’s evil counterpart and self-proclaimed rival, Mr. Special Wily Number 001 himself, Bass! With MegaMan boasting his full suite of abilities in MM11, Bass would be a perfect foil to Rock’s traditional playstyle: his aimable rapid fire shot, his X-style dash and even the double jump all feel like they would have been well-suited to 11’s platforming gauntlet. However, if Bass does return, please lock the Treble Boost behind the same criteria MM needs to unlock the Rush Jet – at least on higher difficulties. That thing could be completely broken if it gets the same kind of tweaks the Rush power-ups did in the latest game.

Next comes ProtoMan, perhaps the most highly requested secondary character. Unfortunately, Blues’s main draw in his previous appearances was that he had MM3’s slide and MM4’s Charge Shot – which MegaMan had eschewed in favor of his simplified moveset from MM2 – at the expense taking double damage (and recoil). Granted, he also had his traditional shield, which could be used to block projectiles while airborne, but this tended to be way less useful than one might expect in practice. In MegaMan 11, the Blue Bomber regained these abilities and since every fiber of my being is against dumbing him back down to his previous incarnation, the current playstyle would essentially just leave Protoman as a sort of bland “hard mode” character. And frankly, I think Dr. Light’s first numbered creation deserves far better than that.

Fortunately, we have other incarnations of the character to draw from. MM7 allowed players to use the Proto Shield as MegaMan, essentially allow him to block any shots from the front while standing still. MegaMan Powered Up, on the other hand, had a widely different playstyle from other incarnations.  He has a ludicrously high jump and is equipped with the Proto Strike, which is essentially a fully-charged shot on demand, though only one can be on-screen at a time – as opposed to the standard 3 bullets the standard Mega Buster allows for or ProtoMan’s own two shots in MM9 and 10. The Proto Shield also returned and much like MM7, it protected Blues from front-facing projectiles while standing still. It did have some slight mechanical differences though: powerful attacks would knock the shield away, forcing ProtoMan to recover it to continue using it. Of course, Blues also lacked the ability to slide and equip boss weapons in Powered Up. So perhaps finding a happy medium between his playstyles in MMPU and 9/10 would make DLN-000 a worthwhile addition to future games.

Better yet, maybe they could give ProtoMan another of his little brother’s discarded toys: my beloved Mega Arm from MegaMan (World) V. Couple that with variants on his Proto Coil and Jet that resemble the delightfully broken Rush Jet from MM3 and the controversial Neo Rush Coil from MM5 to add even more distinctive features from Rock.

Of course, when it comes to MegaMan’s siblings, I’d much rather see Roll return as a playable character in future games. While she’s more commonly associated with crossover fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Roll was also playable in Powered Up. Wielding her trusty broom, she almost came across as a Classic series interpretation of Zero – her broom did a significant amount of damage to make up for its lack of range. Maybe give her the standard buster she had in MvC2, as well as the ability to learn new “cleaning techniques” (like Zero in the X games) or even obtain new cleaning utensils by defeating bosses and Roll could be an interesting addition to future games. Though honestly, if they decide to include any additional characters, it would probably be a good idea to remix the stage layouts to accentuate each characters’ unique abilities in a satisfying way.

Personally, I’d also love to see the Endless Mode from MM9 & 10 make a return in future games. The upshot to 11 forgoing this mode is that Capcom could easily recycle stage segments from both 11 and 12 in a new Endless Mode, allowing for even more segments or even bosses to draw from when (and if) the mode finally makes a return.

Aesthetics

I mean, I’ve covered this in the previous Armchair Devs, so it only seems fair to go back to it again. Frankly, I think MM11 did a good job of updating the Blue Bomber’s look while keeping things faithful to the original concepts overall. Sure, there were a few minor issues, but things could’ve ended up significantly worse all things considered. The various problems 11 had regarding its presentation could easily be tightened up in a sequel. As such, when it comes to discussing the aesthetics of a potential MegaMan 12, I hope they keep what worked from the last game but also fix its issues, most of which I’ll detail below.

The 2.5D artstyle worked better than they had any right to… for the most part. From the very beginning, the Blue Bomber himself was ironically the major source of concern from the game’s debut, specifically his animations. While the final product certainly improved upon the janky motions seen in the first trailer, there’s still a noticeable difference in quality between Rock and some of the other major recurring characters (who generally only appear in cutscenes) compared to the Robot Masters, fortress bosses and even the standard enemies. Honestly, I think Dan Root’s video on the subject showcases the entire topic better than I could, so give it a watch if you have 15 minutes to spare. Granted, this is a pretty common trend in MegaMan games – even back in 1987, MegaMan’s graphics seemed a bit primitive compared to everything else in his debut – but considering that the model looked otherwise great, Capcom should definitely invest some time and energy into tightening up some of his animations.

Granted, I’m not asking for a direct 1:1 recreation of his poses and posture from the NES games. In fact, I think that would be the worst possible design choice for Capcom to make: people may have gushed over that in the latest Smash Bros. games, but frankly, I think it only works when you remember that every aspect of that incarnation is meant to completely ape the classic 8-bit style. When divorced from that context, MegaMan’s movement and posture doesn’t look so much robotic as uncomfortable. Now I’m not suggesting that Capcom goes back to the wild limb movement from 8’s walk cycle. But going for a more dynamic and bouncier animation style would be nice. More important is that Capcom needs to bring back the ability to jump through the boss gates. Now I know that the development staff has cited technical limitations on that front but come on. That’s MegaMan 101 right there. Make sure that works properly next time, guys. Aside from that, keep up the good work: I love the redesigns for the main cast, especially the fact that MegaMan alters his form when he equips boss weapons.

Of course, that doesn’t address the elephant in the room: the vocal contingent who want Classic MegaMan to return to his 8-bit roots yet again, even though an even louder group shrieked that it was a lazy choice when Capcom did it in the tenth game – yet was lauded as a brilliant throwback in MM9. All things considered, the backlash against 11 was far smaller than its predecessor, so I think the silent majority is fine with the direction the series has taken. If I were a little more foolish, I’d suggest offering multiple graphical options there, ala Dotemu’s remaster of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, but I think we all know trying to shift between 2D and 3D is a lot more complex than just swapping between hand-drawn and pixelated 2D graphics. I guess the only legitimate suggestion would be to farm out an 8-bit spinoff to another company – mayhaps christen it as “MegaMan World VI”?

…what? You should know by now that I’ll be begging for that one for the rest of my days. And if it ever does, then I’ll start campaigning for MegaMan World VII and so on.

Next, we come to the sound design. Personally, I think Marika Suzuki did a good job when it came to MM11’s compositions. The major failing point was the instrumentation of the soundtrack itself. Everything just sounds a bit… cheap and lifeless. It’s not quite as bad as Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, but if you understood that reference, then you should understand what I’m getting at. And that’s a damned shame: both the Wily Numbers Instrumental tracks that came with preorders of the game and the arranged versions of said themes from the Original Soundtrack prove that the actual compositions themselves definitely live up to the series’ musical history. As far as I can tell, people really liked the Stage Select and Gear Fortress Stage themes and they didn’t receive any official remixes or rearrangements. Just come up with a more vibrant set of instruments the next time around – maybe draw inspiration from Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Street Fighter V’s soundtracks – and that should fix all the issues people had with MegaMan 11’s music.

Just as a quick aside, I really enjoyed the Wily Numbers Instrumental tracks and would love to see future games in the series attempt something similar. Maybe include some 8-bit NES-style demakes of MegaMan 12’s entire soundtrack or even aping the musical trademarks of MegaMan 7 or especially 8. Recreating the awesome sounds of the Complete Works rearrangements or the arrange albums from 9 and 10 would also be great. Even just attempting to recontextualize the MegaMan music into various musical genres like rock, techno or jazz would be appreciated. Just so long as Capcom includes a digital soundtrack with any of them if they decide to sell them as DLC, I’d totally buy them! Honestly, I’m still a bit sore that those preorder bonus tracks weren’t included on MM11’s soundtrack, but including new arrangements was a nice consolation prize.

The sound effects were good and personally, I liked the English dub. Sure, there was a vocal contingent against it, but at least Capcom decided to implement dual audio to keep them at bay. Even more baffling were the people who just hated the game having voice acting in general. I mean, it is possible to just turn down the volume on the voices all the way and remove them from the game, but I guess that involved pressing the D-Pad too many times for the truly hardcore. Maybe Capcom should just include three voice options next time: English, Japanese and None. In fact, circling back to my 8-bit arranged soundtrack idea, maybe a full-on 8-bit audio option – with its music composed on NES hardware, old sounds ripped straight from the first 6 games (and 9/10) and no voice acting whatsoever – would better suit this hardcore audience. Though if this audio setting were included in a new game, it should probably just be one of many presets. If that many options are present in a new game, I’d love to experiment with them and mix-and-match various audio outputs to see what works best for me.

As for the game’s presentation, it was a little on the cheap side, but I liked it. MegaMan 11 paid homage to its 8-bit roots, shifting between the pantomimed cutscenes that used the in-game graphics and static images. Though this time around, instead of 8-bit sprites, they had 3D models (with full voice acting!) and hand-drawn 2D images. Of course, it would’ve been nice if Capcom had used the 3D nature of MM11’s new graphics to their advantage, producing more dynamic poses and camera angles for the in-game segments. I’m sure most people would want fully-animated cutscenes in a future game, but unless Capcom decides to partner with an anime studio to produce an OVA or even an animated short, I don’t see that happening. The funny thing is, I wouldn’t be surprised if the people who bashed MegaMan 8’s presentation are also the ones demanding that the next game have hours of cutscenes attached to it.

Final Thoughts

There’s really little else to say at this point. I think Capcom already has a pretty good framework to base future games in the series on. In the end, it all comes down to how well MegaMan 11 did in the first place. I’m holding out hope that it did exceptionally well, especially considering the fact that MM11 producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya has hinted that a new game in the series may enter pre-production this year. I’m just glad that the Blue Bomber – easily Capcom’s true mascot – is finally back in a big way.

But what do you think? Would you like to see a level pack sequel to MegaMan 11 or go back to his roots yet again with another 8-bit outing? Is there a benefit to Capcom constantly ping-ponging back and forth between retro and contemporary styles with every new game? Did you also dream last night that you held a sixth MegaMan World game in your arms? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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Retronaissance’s Most Anticipated Games of 2019

SNES Master KI

It’s that time again, time to list the games I’m most looking forward to in the coming year. But first, let’s look back at 2018. 2018 was something of a breather year compared to how great 2017 was and how incredible 2019 looks, but for a breather year it was really good, even if my list once again had a low accuracy rating (congratulations to Guacamelee! 2 and Mega Man 11, though). Thankfully, games like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man that greatly exceeded my expectations, out of nowhere games like Celeste and The Messenger, and games announced during the year like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate gave it a solid showing. Still, 2019 looks set to blow it away (helped by so many of my anticipated games getting delayed into it). What’s so great about 2019? Well, let’s get to the list and let it explain for itself!

Honorable Mentions

Daemon ex Machina (Switch) – Probably the most unexpected game at Nintendo’s E3, Daemon ex Machina combines fast paced third person shooting action (I actually wondered if it was a Vanquish sequel during its reveal) and extensive mech customization. I’m not wild about the second part, but the core gameplay looks great and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this game.

Resident Evil 2 Remake (PS4/X1/PC) – After a long, long wait we finally have details and a release date for another major Resident Evil remake. As far as I can tell, this seems to have Resident Evil 4 mechanics with original-style RE resource limitations. Going to wait to see exactly how well the balancing works, but this game definitely has potential to be another notch on the Capcom revival belt.

Animal Crossing Switch (…guess.) – We know nothing about this game other than its existence, but it’s not like I let that keep games off lists. The only Animal Crossing I’ve played was the original NA release on the GameCube, but I enjoyed it and have been meaning to try one of the newer, online enabled ones. After procrastinating for years on New Leaf, I may finally take the plunge with the Switch version.

Okay, now for the main event:

10. Mortal Kombat 11

Publisher/Developer: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment/NetherRealm Studios
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: April 23rd, 2019

I’m still in shock that this game is actually making it out in the first half of 2019, despite not being officially announced until December 2018. Mortal Kombat 9 pushed the series to new heights, and has earned main entries places on these lists. We don’t know much about the game, but we’re sure to get another story mode that encapsulates the MK mythos that caught my interest so many years ago, long before the gameplay was actually good. Now that we have both, MK11 should easily earn its place among the fairly small amount of fighters I play.

9. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Publisher/Developer: Activision/From Software
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: March 22nd, 2019

I’ve said several times that I want a Saints Row to Dark Souls’ Grand Theft Auto, a similar game that fixes all my problems and imposes a new standard on the genre. Sekiro is the best contender in that area that I’ve seen so far, exchanging the WRPG micromanagment of the Souls games for pure tough-as-nails gameplay with a JUMP BUTTON! I don’t want to let my expectations get out of control, but if Sekiro lives up to its potential it could be a genre defining moment. And that new definition could be what I’ve wanted for years.

8. Luigi’s Mansion 3

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Release Date: 2019

While they aren’t Mario platformers (that was just cruel making the original fill in for one at launch), the Luigi’s Mansion games are both great and creative games that make full use of their vacuuming ghosts concept for puzzles and unique battles. We know very little about the third game, but the idea of a skyscraper-sized mansion sounds great and there’s no reason to think Nintendo won’t deliver with it. Luigi may be dreading his next starring role, but he’s just going to have to deal with it because we all want it.

7. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Publisher/Developer: 505 Games/ArtPlay, DICO, WayForward
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 2019

The first of many repeat appearances from last year’s list, Bloodstained may have been delayed a ridiculous amount (I want to say it was originally planned for 2016), but the 8-bit teaser game for it felt exactly like a lost Classicvania game. That has raised my confidence in the final game, if it can do for Symphony of the Night/16-bit Classicvanias what Curse of the Moon did for the 8-bit entries, then we’ve finally got a Kickstarter spiritual sequel that matches the series it is meant to replace. And since I don’t have faith in Konami to revive Castlevania within the next decade, we can’t afford another Mighty No. 9 situation. It’s your shot Igarashi, give us a replacement goldfish that would make Platinum proud.

6. Kingdom Hearts III

Publisher/Developer: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: January 29th, 2019

This is another repeat from last year, but with how long this freaking game took to arrive, missing last year by a month seems barely worth mentioning. After an absurdly long wait (people born after the first KH came out can drive, people born after Kingdom Hearts 2 will be teenagers within a year), Kingdom Hearts III at least looks like it will deliver. Action-RPG combat has greatly evolved in the years since the last Kingdom Hearts, and KH3 seems to be running with that. If it pulls it off successfully, it could easily be the best game in the series. And no matter how it turns out, we pretty much have to buy it to see how the hilariously ridiculous and convoluted story ends.

5. Pokémon Generation 8

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Game Freak
Platform: Switch
Release Date: 2019

Yeah, we know nothing about this games except its release year and series, but dammit, Super Mario Switch was one of the few things my 2017 list got right. While I’m not into Pokemon enough to give it the number one spot (yes, I would be willing to make this number one if it was the right series), I still enjoy the franchise and am very interested to see where it goes for its first main series console release. There are endless questions and possibilities for this game, and that in itself builds excitement for it. Just don’t ask us to import hundreds of Pokémon from past games if we want to catch them, even with online trading, it’s getting overwhelming.

4. Bayonetta 3

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Platinum Games
Platform: Switch
Release Date: 2019?

Yep, I’m once again giving this game a spot despite not having any footage or a release year. But I feel more confident in it coming out in 2019 then I did for 2018, so it’s hard to justify removing it. The combination of Nintendo and Platinum is a fantastic one, and Bayonetta 3 should continue being a standard setter for character action games. So why isn’t it as high as last year? Well, back then I was really desperate for something to reignite the character action genre, and none of the potential games had much information to go on. If only there was one with lots of footage and a close release date…

3. Devil May Cry 5

Publisher/Developer: Capcom
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: March 8th, 2019

I’ve loved this series ever since the first game codified my second favorite genre, and I’ve followed it through the ups and downs. After the poorly received reboot left the series silent for half a decade, people were fearing the worst, but Capcom came back! With an interesting new looking new character who still fits in perfectly, the signature crazy action, and continued escalation of motorcycle use, Devil May Cry 5 looks like the sequel everyone wanted for the past decade, and could be the catalyst for a character action renaissance. With so many franchises that made drastic changes this generation, it feels great to get a long awaited direct sequel in DMC5. In just a few months, we’ll finally have a chance to pull that Devil Trigger again.

2. Yoshi’s Crafted World

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/ Good Feel
Platform: Switch
Release Date: 2019

The last delayed game from last year’s list, this game looked even better when we finally got a new trailer after an information drought that lasted more than a year. My reasons for hyping this are the same as last year; after two decades of disappointing sequels to Yoshi’s Island, Good Feel hit it out of the park with Yoshi’s Wooly World and made a game that goes toe to toe with the legendary SNES game. Yoshi’s Crafted World looks like a direct sequel with some interesting new ideas (flipping to the other side of the stage, aiming eggs at the background) that should give it its own identity as well. And best of all, with Switch being region free, there is absolutely no chance of me having to wait because my region gets the game months after everywhere else for no freaking reason, as happened with Woolly World.

1. Doom Eternal

Publisher/Developer: Bethesda Softworks/id Software
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 2019

In what I consider a bleak period for gaming, there were a few franchise revivals that broke through like the sun briefly appearing in gaps between dark clouds. The best of these was DOOM (2016), which I gave the highest praise possible for a sequel:it was to first person shooters what Super Mario Galaxy was to 3D platformers. After decades of FPSes getting more and more realistic and generic, DOOM 2016 reversed everything and made a fast-paced, huge enemy variety, no reloading action fest that found a brilliant solution to regenerating health that made the game faster instead of slower. I was praying for a sequel, and Doom Eternal is exactly what I wanted. More locations, more abilities and weapons, more enemies, better pacing of enemies throughout levels, just everything in general looking better than the game that redeemed the genre its series made me love (albeit kind of late, it happened in 2015). If this is the Super Mario Galaxy 2 (my favorite game of all time) of first person shooters, then we are in for one hell on Earth of a ride with Doom Eternal.

Dariwan

Another year older, another year wiser. 2018 has come and gone and has given us a lot of games that I can’t even fathom the greatness or even have enough time to play them all. Some of the games that I thought would be great this year flopped but most of them are amazing still. There were even games I didn’t even think would come out (Smash Ultimate, for one) this year that amazed me. Well as this year is ending, let’s see what’s coming out in 2019 that will hopefully wow me in the future as 2018 did for me!

Honorable Mentions

Cyberpunk 2077 (PS4/XBO/PC)– I like these kind of games, and I like the company. But I don’t know if it’s worth throwing out the money for it. It looked really good at E3. I’ll have to see what comes of it.

Dead or Alive 6 (PS4/XBO/PC) – This game has had controversy since its announcement. With the developers saying they’re going to censor the sexual nature that the game has become known for in the past and the fan base revolting over this, I don’t know if this game is gonna be any good, unless they make some big changes.

Wargroove (PS4/Switch/XBO/PC) – My teenage years were mostly spent emulating GBA games. I accidentally found Advance Wars while looking for Tactics Ogre and ended up liking it. Also, one of my favorite games on GBA was Fire Emblem with Lyn. I think this game is trying to bring that back and I think that’s a good thing. Will I buy and/or play it? Time will tell. Looks fun and a trip back to nostalgia for me though.

Mortal Kombat 11 (PS4/Switch/XBO/PC) – This game was just announced at The Game Awards as well. I kind of care about Mortal Kombat but it’s not exactly my favorite fighting game series, so I’ll throw this on my honorable mentions for now and we’ll see if it changes.

10. Indivisible

Publisher/Developer: 505 Games/Lab Zero Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 2019

The game from the same company that gave us Skullgirls (Lab Zero) comes back again with an action-RPG type game that still sorta interests me. The gameplay is appealing, even if it’s been overly copied and possibly even stolen. I think I only still care about this game because I backed this game over 4 years ago and I want what I paid for. But hey.

9. Jump Force

Publisher/Developer: Bandai Namco/Spike Chunsoft
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: February 15, 2019

This game is interesting to me because it’s another attempt by Shonen Jump to make a fighting game including many fighters that people don’t really get, like the guy from City Hunter who has guns, or Yugi Moto from Yu-Gi-Oh! They have fan favorites like Goku and Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z, Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho, Gon from Hunter x Hunter, and Kenshin from Ruroni Kenshin, as well as people from the new generation like Asta from Black Clover and many more. I hope this game does well because I love Shonen Jump characters and using them in fighting games and I want them to make more of these games in the future.

8. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Publisher/Developer: 505 Games/ArtPlay, DICO, WayForward
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 2019

As I’ve only played very little of one Castlevania game in my life (Aria of Sorrow), I really don’t have the history or the nostalgia that most people who care about this game have. But this game still looks fun and I feel like it’ll be a great game to play in 2019.

7. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Team Ninja
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 2019

This game was a shock to me when I saw it get announced at The Game Awards. I loved the first game and played the first game to death and almost 100%ed it. The second one wasn’t as great but it had my favorite characters so I stomached it. I’m not exactly a fan of the fact that it’s Avengers & Wolverine (who was himself an Avenger at a time) fighting Thanos and his cronies but I hope to hear more about this game that’ll excite me in the future.

6. Samurai Shodown

Publisher/Developer: SNK
Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Q2 2019

I hate the name but I love the game.

This is another series I grew up with and loved. Even though my main experiences with it was in the arcade and this one didn’t follow me on console like a few other fighting game titles, I still enjoy this series and it reinforced my love of samurai and swords to this day. Great-looking graphics and a return to the blood and gore that I remember and love is gonna make me happy, especially since I skipped Soulcalibur VI this year and that was another series I loved and grew up with.

5. Bayonetta 3

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Platinum Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: TBA

While this one may not come out in 2019, I might as well start it on the list here so I can just keep adding it until it comes out. I loved Bayonetta’s setting and themes since the first one and I’ve bought this on 3 different systems (PS3, Wii U and now Switch for the first 2) and now I hopefully only have to buy this one on one system and enjoy it this time!

4. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Publisher/Developer: Marvelous Entertainment/Grasshopper Manufacture
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: January 18, 2019

I loved the No More Heroes games. It was one of the best impluse buys I ever made when it comes to Wii games. I loved the gameplay, I loved the vibe of the main character and the series in general and killing assassins just felt so good… This game looks great and even though it’s a small departure from the series that I know and love, I hope that Suda51 is still going to give me a great game to play!

3. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Intelligent Systems
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Q2 2019

I’ve only gotten into the Fire Emblem series on the Game Boy Advance, but I’ve fallen in love with the battle system, the characters, the battles, everything. Fire Emblem Awakening was great, but I’ve yet to experience this wonderful series on console yet. In comes Three Houses: the first Switch Fire Emblem game is gonna be great and I can’t wait to experience a traditional Fire Emblem experience on console!

2. Devil May Cry 5

Publisher/Developer: Capcom
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: March 8, 2019

I’ve been meaning to play these games for years. I also bought the first 3 games of this like Bayonetta on 3 different consoles (PS2, PS3 and PS4) and on the third try I’ve finally beat the first 2 games, on my way of beating the third and finally got the fourth! I hope I can beat all 4 before the fifth game comes out. This game looks amazing and I can’t wait to play it. Fighting with crazy stuff like motorcycles and different other weapons make this game exciting. Also, the mysteriously interesting character V is very interesting to me. I like his style. Can’t wait to play this in March!

1. Kingdom Hearts III

Publisher/Developer: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: January 29, 2019

I’ve been waiting for this game for way too long. Sora’s journey will finally end with a great roar and it’s been a long wait. I cannot wait to play this game. The worlds are better than ever and the battle system I hope is as good as Birth by Sleep and KH2. They’ve had enough time for this game to be as perfect as it can be and it’s looking to be just that. I hope this game ends this storyline with the best ending and the next storyline is better than this one, even though this one will be hard to top, but it at least will hopefully make more sense to the general populace. I cannot wait for this game.

That’s my list for 2019. I hope none of these flop like last year (looking at you, Vampyr!) and that this coming year is as great for gaming as it hopefully will for everything else!

Johnny Bacon

Hello gang, you’ll have to forgive ol’ Bacon here for any case of brevity.  My eyewear is out of date and I can barely see what I am typing.   Without further delay, welcome to Bacon’s Top Ten Anticipated Games of 2019!

In no specific order:

10. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Team Ninja
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 2019

With the death of my favorite game, Marvel Heroes in 2017, I have had short few instances where I can just run around and be dumb as a super hero.  With Spider-Man, I could swing around and have hijinks. But it wasn’t the same. Maybe that itch just might be scratched next year when this game is released: after all, MH takes the gameplay model from Ultimate Alliance, so here’s hoping!

9. Onimusha: Warlords

Publisher/Developer: Capcom
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: January 15, 2019

Hoo nelly! I’m wanting to play this.  It’s been over a decade since the last game was out, and though it left much to be desired, it was still fun for the large part.  I’m expecting great things from this.  I’m awfully curious about how they’ll update the gameplay for the modern game.

8. Kingdom Hearts III

Publisher/Developer: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: January 29, 2019

God Almighty, this series is a train wreck story-wise but I am (and have always been) addicted to its gameplay.  And this installment’s gameplay looks to be the best in the series.  I might even get enjoyment from killing all of the time travel mind clones.

7. Days Gone

Publisher/Developer: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: April 26, 2019

Now Uncle Icepick may have words against this, as he’s a bit of a snob against RPGs. (Editor’s note: he’s not wrong, people. – Ice.) But I, for one, am looking forward to this.  A nifty blend of modern/futuristic military settings and turn-based mechanics.  Looks fun to me!

6. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

Publisher/Developer: Activision/Beenox
Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Release Date: June 21, 2019

Man, before Mario Kart 8, there were only a few kart racers that folks could just jump into and have an insane amount of joy in: Mario Kart Double Dash, Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed, and of course Crash Team Racing.  A trifecta of kart racers, though obviously a bit skewed in Nintendo’s favor.

5. Battletoads

Publisher/Developer: Microsoft/DLaLa Studios, Rare
Platform: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: TBA 2019

Aw man, I could squee! A modern new-fangled, hard-as-nails, insane-o, balls to the wall, actual factual Battletoads! I do hope they keep some of the British-styled humor from Rare games past, it was always something that amused me.

4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Publisher/Developer: Activision/From Software
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: March 22nd, 2019

The latest game from From Software.  It looks to be another Souls-type game but with more traditional action game flair, like platforming and such.  I’m awfully curious how it will turn out, as normally I am not interested in playing these but boy howdy, this one sure is pretty.

3. Indivisible

Publisher/Developer: 505 Games/Lab Zero Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 2019

This game looks like a hoot.  The handcrafted animated characters from the guys who brought us Skullgirls with the gameplay straight out of Valkyrie Profile.  I backed this on Indiegogo some time ago and am really looking forward to finally getting my hands on it.

2. Luigi’s Mansion 3

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Release Date: 2019

Little is known about this one so far but hot damn. If it’s as good as the last two, then it’s going to be stellar.

1. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Publisher/Developer: 505 Games/ArtPlay, DICO, WayForward
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 2019

The return of IGAvania proper.  This particular brand of ‘Vania has been gone so long, it will be a triumphant return indeed.  Hollow Knight may have spoiled me in recent times, so I fear I won’t enjoy this as much as that, but I’m still gonna play the hell out of it.

Professor Icepick

While 2018 didn’t quite live up to the previous year in terms of releases, I’d say we got some good games. 2019, however, looks like it’s going to be even better. I honestly tried putting off writing this list for as long as possible, just because there was a part of me expecting one last big announcement that would shake up the entire structure of the list. Fortunately, it looks like everything’s stable now, but I’m not expecting this list to remain intact once 2019 is actually upon us. Have to give a quick mention to Luigi’s Mansion 3, which very nearly made the honorable mentions until one last-minute announcement managed to take place.

Honorable Mentions

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PC/Switch/PS4/XBO) Bloodstained only manages an honorable mention this year – I’d even considered moving it to my “Dishonorable Mentions” simply to open up another slot on here. In the end, they’ve only really missed one “definite” release date, so I can’t punish them quite yet. The real reason Ritual of the Night has fallen to a mere honorable mention is because Bloodstained has been its own worst enemy. This year’s Curse of the Moon scratched that itch and delivered the “Classicvania” experience I’d been waiting for since I backed the main game back in 2015. Sure, RotN is apparently also going to have a Classic mode, but the meat of the game is going to be a Metroidvania.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (PS4) I mean, I haven’t played Lacrimosa of Dana just yet and it’s unlikely we’ll see an English release of Ys IX until 2020 at the earliest. But damnit, it’s a new Ys game and that’s what counts! Let’s just hope whoever localizes this one doesn’t botch the PC release this time.

AWAY: Journey to the Unexpected (PC/Switch/PS4/XBO) A unique first-person action-RPG with an anime-inspired aesthetic. I fell in love with this game’s entire concept back when I saw it for the first time back in 2017. Now that the game’s finally wrapping up development, I can’t wait to play it.

Devil May Cry 5 (PC/PS4/XBO) I’ve come around to the DMC franchise lately, having played through the HD Collection on livestream late in the year. Also, “crazy cowboy hobo uncle Boomer” Dante is easily the best iteration of the character ever. But I still need to catch up on two more games before I’ll be ready to give DMC5 my full attention. Yes, that includes DmC – we’re so far past from the initial controversy that I’ve got to at least give it a chance.

Judgment (PS4) This looks like an awesome new take on the Yakuza engine. But what I’m really waiting for is a PC port.

Dishonorable Mention

Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove (PC/PS4/XBO/Switch) Two straight misses and you make it on here. I know TJaE’s had a troubled development, but that’s my criteria. On the plus side, 2019 has so many big upcoming titles, this is the only way Back in the Groove was going to make it onto this year’s list. So…if anything, I’m rewarding it for screwing up? That doesn’t seem right. Oh well, life’s not fair.

10. Catherine: Full Body

Publisher/Developer: Atlus
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita (?)
Release Date: “2019”

While the Japanese release is planned to hit on Valentines’ Day next year, we still don’t have much info on any Western releases, aside from the fact that they’re set to hit sometime the same year. Catherine was one of my favorite games of last gen and considering this release is set to offer an expanded storyline and more stages that the original PS360 release, what can I say? I do hope that Atlus finally decides to capitulate to their parent company Sega’s plans to embrace PC gaming – especially given Atlus USA’s reluctance to confirm just which platforms we can expect to see represented in the Western release – but until I receive news of a PC version, this game can only aspire to bottom out the main list at best.

9. Yoshi’s Crafted World

Publisher/Developer: Nintendo/Good-Feel
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 2019

Well, this game didn’t quite hit last year as I expected… but at least now, we have a name for it. Like I said, I’m mainly looking forward to this one because of just how much I liked its predecessor. Unfortunately, while we’ve seen more of the game than we did when it was first revealed in 2017, there were times where I actually forgot about the game’s existence. That’s just not a good sign.

8. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

Publisher/Developer: Marvelous Entertainment/Grasshopper Manufacture
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: January 18, 2019

That’s right, two – count ‘em two – two repeats in a row. While Yoshi’s Crafted World was higher than Travis Strikes Again last year, I’ve got to give the edge to the No More Heroes spinoff, simply because it actually has a release date… and an early one at that. We’ve even got some new footage recently which put the game back on my radar. The only thing that really weighs the game down in my opinion was when Suda 51 recently said that he was working on a treatment for a “true” NMH3, which would only come to fruition if Travis Strikes Again sells well. I don’t appreciate blackmail of any stripe.

7. Samurai Shodown (2019)

Publisher/Developer: SNK
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Release Date: Q2 2019

I’m not going to lie, when it comes to SNK’s fighting game franchises – hell, even when it comes to all their franchises overall – Samurai Shodown is pretty low on my list. I know, that’s blasphemy. So, I wasn’t exactly excited about the outright inevitability of a new SamSho game when SNK began sharing the fruits of their Chinese-funded labor. But the good thing about SNK is that they always seem to go out of their way to try putting a smile on my face. With a slick art style that reminds me of Capcom’s calligraphy-heavy Street Fighter IV, a teased roster chockful of classic characters (but missing my girl Cham Cham) and the recent announcement that the game would be releasing on all four major platforms – along with an all-but-expected announcement that The King of Fighters XV would be releasing sooner than we expected in 2020 – has done more than enough to put a smile on my face. But SNK, please: give us Garou: Mark of the Wolves 2 soon – arthritis runs in my family and I’d like to enjoy it at full strength.

6. Doom Eternal

Publisher/Developer: Bethesda/id Software
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: “2019”

Truth be told, “Doom 2016” was one of the best games I played in 2017 – just roll with it. So, I’d been hoping for a sequel for quite some time and Bethesda managed to promise one at this year’s E3. While the debut trailer was a bit lackluster, we’ve gotten a lot more information since then and I’ve got to say that I like what I saw. Despite my concerns that a new game might just be a cheap cash-in, this one looks great with the addition of new enemies and a grappling hook mechanic, as well as some humor that really rubbed me the right way. Bethesda still maintains that the game will be dropping in 2019, though they haven’t really elaborated on that point.

Honestly, Doom Eternal would’ve probably have been higher on my list if not for two major concerns I have about the game. First off, one major addition to the game that Bethesda has been pushing is their “Invasion” mode which allows players to take on the roles of demons and hunt down other players in their own single-player campaign, Dark Souls-style. While I’ve seen sources claim that this is an optional feature, actually hearing Bethesda themselves outright confirm that is what I’ve been waiting for. My other issue is probably just speculation at this point, but all too likely. Recently, Bethesda made RAGE 2 – another id Software title – into an exclusive on their own launcher. Considering the fact that Fallout 76 had a lot of technical issues, ranging from the hilarity of not allowing people who downloaded the beta to uninstall it unless they bought the full version to the downright terrifying fact that they (hopefully) inadvertently leaked customer names and addresses. So, for the love of God, Bethesda: I don’t care if it’s Steam, GOG, Discord or even that new Epic Games Store I have an irrational hatred of, release Doom Eternal’s PC version on something besides your buggy launcher.

5. Kaze and the Wild Masks

Publisher/Developer: Vox Game Studio
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: “Early 2019”

If there’s one game that would get me to immediately go out and buy a Switch, it would be “Donkey Kong Country Returns 3” – a game that I’d anticipate as the conclusion to Retro’s trilogy. Since that has still yet to be announced, Kaze and the Wild Masks will just have to do. A mascot platformer that borrows liberally from the Donkey Kong Country games of old, as well as other games from that era, Kaze and the Wild Masks looks like it’s set to be the kind of homage to Rareware’s 16-bit opus that Freedom Planet was to Sonic the Hedgehog’s halcyon days. If there’s any flaw I’d say the game has, it’s that it looks like it borrows a little too much from both iterations of Donkey Kong Country, at least as far as the trailers are concerned. But hopefully, it’ll manage to carve its own niche when it comes out sometime next year.

4. Mortal Kombat 11

Publisher/Developer: WB Games/NetherRealm Studios
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: April 23, 2019

Well, this certainly came out of nowhere. After a few false starts this year, most NetherRealm fans were willing to accept that the cycle had been broken but then an announcement trailer came out of nowhere at The Game Awards. As with MKX, it contained amazing visuals paired with less than stellar music – but let’s be honest: there are probably no less than a dozen edits on YouTube that replaced it with “Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat)” by The Immortals. I’m not sure what this game will be packing in terms of content, but what little we know sounds great. The most important things I know are that WB Games is planning on launching the game on all 4 platforms – even Switch! – simultaneously and that QLOC will be handling the PC version. I’m just hoping those rumors about Johnny Cage and Kano’s exclusion end up being just that, rumors.

3. Shovel Knight: King of Cards

Publisher/Developer: Yacht Club Games
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (et al.)
Release Date: April 9, 2019

Originally formally announced back in August 2017, King of Cards (and the multiplayer expansion “Shovel Knight Showdown”, set to launch simultaneously with KoC) is set to finally mark the end of Yacht Club Games’ support of the original Shovel Knight. I remember back when I funded the game simply because the developer had spun off from WayForward, one of my favorite indie developers. While Shovel Knight has given me years of fun, I’m excited to find out just what Yacht Club has in store for us next, but before that we’ve got an expansion that is poised to be even more of a change from the base game than Specter of Torment, the previous expansion.

Apparently taking a few cues from Super Mario World, King of Cards is set to offer players the chance to play as King Knight, a character I ranked at the bottom when voting for Shovel Knight’s expansions. His gameplay is substantially flashier than the previous character, even sporting a familiar spin jump. KoC also changes up the format, challenging players to best over 30 courses across 4 different worlds to become make sure the gilded goon becomes the one true king. I just hope it doesn’t get pushed back again…

2. Freedom Planet 2

Publisher/Developer: GalaxyTrail
Platform: PC (maybe more?)
Release Date: Spring/Summer 2019

If anything, I’m kind of surprised that FP2 ended up taking the #2 slot two years in a row. You’d think that if I were being even remotely consistent, it should be down near the bottom of the list with Yoshi and Travis. If this list weren’t about my preferences, it probably would’ve been. But alas, the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants a damn sequel to Freedom Planet as soon as possible. We did recently get another update regarding the game, claiming that we can expect 24 stages across four playable characters, so it’s essentially the first game, only bigger. Which is exactly what I wanted in the first place. Still no word on any console versions but considering that the fact that the original game hit Switch this past August, I wouldn’t be surprised if it and the PS4 received the game at some point.

1. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course

Publisher/Developer: Studio MDHR
Platform: PC, Xbox One
Release Date: 2019

It really couldn’t have been anything else. Cuphead was probably my favorite game of 2017 and when Studio MDHR announced an expansion for the game at the Xbox conference this past E3, I legitimately considered calling the entire event for Microsoft right then and there – that’s how strongly I felt about this announcement. The only information we really have on The Delicious Last Course (clever title) is that it will be adding the instantly popular Ms. Chalice as a brand-new playable character and a new isle’s worth of content – or in layman’s terms, a third of the original game’s content – with new bosses, weapons and charms. While that’s the only concrete information we have about Cuphead: DLC, that’s really all I need to get that excited for it. Cuphead is one of those rare 2D games that looks as good as it plays and frankly, a “Cuphead 1.5” is exactly what I need to keep me satisfied until a legitimate sequel shows up. Granted, that probably won’t surface for years, simply due to just how much effort it takes to properly craft the game’s trademark old-school animated aesthetic.

And those are my picks for 2019’s upcoming releases, at least the ones that have been announced thus far. The truth is, I ended up leaving an unprecedented number of contenders off of this list – almost enough to make another full top 10 list on its own and that’s without the honorable mentions. And who knows? Maybe my favorite game of 2019 hasn’t even been announced yet!


But what do you think? Do you agree with our picks for the hottest games of 2019? Or did we leave off some of your most-anticipated games of next year? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

Console Ceasefire

Throughout the history of gaming, console wars have been a constant. Sony versus Microsoft, Nintendo versus Sega, some company’s Pong clone versus some other company’s Pong clone. While people have always argued that gamers have no reason to get involved in contests between corporations, the simple fact is that people are going to get invested in their systems to some extent. If a company and/or their system gives you your favorite games, your favorite gaming related memories, some sense of loyalty is going to develop. I haven’t refused to play non-Nintendo systems since I was a preteen, but it always felt good when they were selling the most, and I hoped it would happen.

Until now.

No, this isn’t some kind of loyalty switch (no pun intended this time, I didn’t capitalize it, those are the rules), I’ve just come to a realization. When it comes to Switch vs. PlayStation 4, I simply don’t care which one sells more. If I was asked to simply choose which sold more I’d probably go with Switch, but other than that I really don’t have a notable preference.

01

Yeah, that would be nice, I guess.

Now this may sound like depressing apathy, but it’s actually the complete opposite. For several years things didn’t feel right in gaming, after 2013’s phenomenal game releases but grim future prospects, things went downhill fast. While Wii U floundered as though it had a curse placed upon it, PlayStation 4 and the platforms sharing most of its lineup went through a painful new generation slump. It felt like I could choose a system with a good present but imminent death coming, or one with few releases that I would just have to hope eventually overcame its slump. I’m not saying there weren’t good or even fantastic games released during this period (Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Yoshi’s Wooly World, DOOM 2016, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse), but for me at least, they were far fewer in number than the feast I enjoyed in the second half of the seventh generation. This came to a head in 2016 when Nintendo basically vanished for the second half of the year while still releasing mobile games and the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X made me anxious about the future of console gaming as a whole.

Then the light came back. All at the same time, the Switch brought Nintendo back in the same phoenix-like manner as the original Wii, developers got over their beginning of the generation slump, and Japanese developers even made a comeback (I always knew you’d find your way home, Capcom). The gloom and negativity disappeared (as much as they can from the internet, at least) and we entered what I consider the good part of the eighth generation. My systems of choice (Switch and PlayStation 4, as is probably obvious) were and are both selling fantastically. PS4 is obviously well ahead in total sales due to releasing three and a half year before Switch, but can Switch catch up? Will PS5’s release cut off PS4 and allow Switch to take the crown? Should we just compare Switch to the eventual PS5 and say it’s already dominating its generation? I have one simple answer:

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What could it be?

Who the hell cares?

Yes, I really, genuinely don’t care what the best selling system of the eighth generation is, and there are a couple of core reasons for that. One is what I’ve been discussing, I’m just happy systems and gaming in general are doing well after one of the bleakest periods for game releases that I can remember. After years of hearing that Nintendo is doomed (for real this time!), the AAA market is and always will be crap, and Japan is irrelevant, it seems extraordinarily petty to deeply care whether Nintendo gets to take that number one spot for internet bragging points. There are more important things to worry about, even within gaming, than who gets to claim the title of market leader.

The second core reason is that Nintendo has been almost completely desynced from everyone else. As a result of Wii U’s market failure (as said before, I blame Luigi), Nintendo was forced to release a new system mid-generation. Now this has been done before, but this is the first time I can think of where it worked. The Switch rebottled the lightning caught by the original Wii, and in a more sustainable way. The anti-motion control backlash may not have been justified, but it clearly happened. However, I don’t see portability meeting the same fate, for obvious reasons (just kidding, leaving home is a dying fad). Nintendo making a successful mid-gen replacement has thrown a wrench into the standard release sequence of the past few generations, where all of the surviving systems launch within roughly a year of each other. By the time we can declare a definite winner between Switch and PS4, PS4 will likely be long retired, so what’s the point in hyping up the contest?

Nintendo also broke convention with the Switch’s very nature. As a console/handheld hybrid, it has likely ended Nintendo’s pattern of releasing one of each every generation (no Nintendo, those ports on 3DS haven’t convinced me it’s not being replaced by Switch, let the system retire with dignity already). So can we even compare it directly to other systems that are solely consoles? While I personally think we probably can, it is up for debate in a way that it never was before. Whether Switch and PS4 are even competitors is a valid question.

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The best 8th or 9th gen console or handheld you will or won’t find.

So for these reasons, I think it’s time for a console ceasefire, at least as far as Nintendo is concerned. I realize that an article about peace between consoles that pretty much ignores the Microsoft Xbox may seem hypocritical, but this isn’t being done out of malice. I don’t currently own an Xbox One (but I plan to eventually, there are several games I want that I can only play on it), so it was a lot easier for me to use the active systems I own as reference points. Xbox One and Switch (or even Steam and Switch) make a similarly effective combination compared to PlayStation 4 and Switch, and I’d love for those to be included in the console ceasefire agreement. I’ll see you next time, and I encourage you to wish for peace between consoles this Christmas. We all have to be united against our real enemies: PC and mobile. Yes, I’m kidding… mostly.

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I haven’t forgotten, someday I will play this.

Mega Menagerie

When I first came up with this concept, I’d originally intended to post it on my sideblog – it seemed like a nice, simple way to pay homage to the end of the Blue Bomber’s 30th anniversary festivities (and usher in the start of the Blue Bummer’s 25th birthday) while itching that pathological itch I seem to have for wishlists. In fact, my original plan was to use that X9 pitch article to cap off my own personal celebration of MegaMan, but I decided I’d rather attempt beating Capcom to the punch, so I moved it up a month. That just left the question how to finish things off. After all, the X retrospective ended up being two articles, although they’re probably about as long as the 4 Classic Retrospective segments put together (if not longer). Still, I wanted to do something special for this unique occasion, bridging the gap between important anniversaries for the first two MegaMan series.

So, if I was so worried about Capcom beating me to the punch with X9 speculation, what topic of similar importance is left to tackle? Well, last December, before Capcom announced MM11 in the first place, they also announced that they would be re-releasing the eight mainline MegaMan X games on just about everything – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and the Switch. That was it, no other details: no mention as to how they would be handling it, no clear footage of the project in progress, just the announcement and various staff members discussing their favorite moments in the X games. Maybe Capcom will make a similar announcement sometime soon. Maybe they already have. The point is that if they do, chances are there will be plenty of wiggle room for speculation.

That’s where I come in. You know by now that I’m a wishlist fiend, so I’ve got a variety of pitches for just how I’m hoping Capcom does the next time they decide to take a stroll down memory lane with the MegaMan franchise. I’ll be breaking things down, one hypothetical collection at a time: starting with the games, explaining why I chose to break things down in certain ways, my guess at potential pricing, various enhancements and other special features I’d like to see included and topping it off with two scores – one for how likely I think it would be for Capcom to go with this breakdown and one explaining just how much I want it to happen – and my reasoning behind them. I will be trying to keep things realistic, using Capcom’s current lines of compilations and re-releases (MegaMan or otherwise) into consideration, so I can avoid asking for things like 12 games in a $20 collection. And with all that exposition out of the way, let’s get into the actual lists. Continue reading

Retrospective: MegaMan X – Part 2

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Welcome back to my retrospective on the MegaMan X series. I’ve covered the best, now it’s time to cover the rest. I’ve long said that MegaMan X was my least favorite sub-series of the entire franchise and these games are a big part of the reason why. Just to illustrate why that is, take a quick skim below of the remaining games headers. Notice how only two of them don’t link playlists from my personal YouTube channel – links which are replete with frustration, anger and plenty of language that’s, shall we say, not safe for work. The two games I present sans video accompaniment are the only ones in this batch that I managed to play through on my own when they first came out, where I didn’t need the incentive of livestreaming to complete them. Of course, I’d only say that I absolutely needed to stream two of these games to actually beat them without quitting, but streaming tends to be a pretty big motivator for me in general – I’d already livestreamed the first two games I never played through, might as well do the rest too, right?

Either way, let’s get started. We’re going to start by easing into this decline but be forewarned: the worst is yet to come. Continue reading

Retrospective: MegaMan X – Part 1

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Around this time last year, I did a retrospective covering the vast majority of the original MegaMan franchise. Given the entire franchise’s connection to the month of December – after all, that’s when many of its major titles were released – it only seems natural to continue the trend with a second retrospective. The logical choice this time around would be the first sub-series that spun off from the original mainline concept: MegaMan X. Making its debut on the Super Famicom on December 17, 1993 – exactly six years after the first game released on the Famicom – MMX was one of the major standouts among other similar releases on the SNES: games that managed to take classic franchises from the NES and bring them to a new level, both in terms of presentation and gameplay. To this day, the original MegaMan X is considered by many to be the absolute pinnacle of the entire MegaMan series, dwarfing its predecessors and yet to be surpassed by future releases.

Of course, while that’s the prevailing opinion, I don’t share it. I’ve made it clear multiple times that I don’t exactly understand the sheer reverence that many people (my fellow Westerners in particular) have for this particular flavor of MegaMan. I’ve written multiple articles in the past where I’ve made it clear that, of all of the existing MegaMan series – i.e. anything with at least two games, meaning that XOver isn’t even in consideration – the X series is my least favorite of the bunch. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy many of the games in that particular line, just that the devotion that many fans have for it unnerves me to at least some extent. The major difference between the Classic and X games is more tonal than other offshoots, which have more obvious mechanical differences from the original concept.

While the X series didn’t have nearly as many games as its predecessor, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Fortunately, due to the fact that it had substantially less in the way of spinoffs, this retrospective will definitely be more complete than the previous one. In addition to the 8 mainline X games that exist at the time of writing, I’ll also be covering the Xtreme titles, which are analogous to the “Rockman World” games on the Game Boy; Command Mission, a turn-based RPG that appears to take place in a non-canonical alternate future and Maverick Hunter X, a 2.5D remake of the original MMX done similarly to the Classic games’ Powered Up. Of course, considering just how many games I’ll be covering this time, I’ll obviously be splitting the retrospective in half. Let’s be honest, you were probably expecting this in the first place, especially after last year. So with all of that out of the way, let’s delve into the games themselves. Continue reading

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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His weakness is everything and nothing.

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.

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.